5 Crossfit Lessons to learn from Sara Sigmundsdottir


Sara Sigmundsdottir works closely with Weightlifting 101 coach Erik Lau Kelner, and this productive time has clearly improved her strength, speed, technique and ability to lift well – under pressure – across a variety of different conditions.

One method that is used by Erik is to no-rep his athletes if they step forwards or backwards when they stand up out of a lift. This strictness forces the athlete to develop an even tighter form of technical proficiency, which, over time, clearly pays off.

sara sigmundsdottir barbell work crossfit boxSource: Bjarni Sigurðsson
Sigmundsdottir perfecting her barbell work

Take the Snatch Ladder from Event 1 in the Meridian Regionals for example.

The workout consisted of the following:

  • 10 Squat Snatches 60 kg (135 lbs)
  • 8 Squat Snatches 65 kg (145 lbs)
  • 6 Squat Snatches 70 kg (155 lbs)
  • 4 Squat Snatches 75 kg (165 lbs)
  • 2 Squat Snatches 80 kg (175 lbs)
  • 11 minute time cap

Sara finished the event in 06:21, and took first place. Annie Thorisdottir was right behind her and completed the 30 Snatches in 06:24. The race was a ferocious display of two incredibly talented and driven athletes battling for the win. But it clearly demonstrated Sara’s ability to lift well under pressure, even with an intimidating and iconic 2 x Games Champion breathing down her neck.

There is never a point at which you stop learning, with any lift or movement. If you feel you have reached a point where you cannot do more, or are unsure about progress, then go back to the beginning and start again. Be strict on yourself, and always strive for technical excellency.


One of Sara Sigmundsdottir’s favourite exercises is the Strict Handstand Push Up, and she excelled in these during the Regionals in Event 2 (Regional Nate). Kipping movements are undoubtedly faster that strict, so if the aim is to complete a certain WOD in as short a time as possible, then Kipping an exercise will of course be more effective for achieving your end goal. But just because most WODs are generally designed to be completed in as quick a time as possible, or to fit in as many reps as you can, doesn’t mean you should only do kipping movements and neglect strict exercises in your other workouts and training.

Sara makes use of many strict exercises in order to build strength, control and power. You cannot fake strict movements, and done properly, they are tough. This is a great thing, because the right kind of stress and resistance obviously makes you fitter and stronger.


‘1000 Burpees for time sound good to anyone? I thought not.’

But that is just one of Sara Sigmundsdottir’s workouts that she does to build an iron mind. There is absolutely no skill involved whatsoever, no equipment needed and it is just you against you. It isn’t pretty and won’t make a flashy instagram post, but IF you complete it, you will become a stronger person mentally.

These types of WODs also will shift your perspective, and make other WODs then look smaller and more manageable. Sara is now an athlete that knows it takes her 83:40 to do 1000 Burpees, and she understands what that feels like. So when they crop up in another form in her next WOD, they won’t look at daunting as before, and mentally she can readjust herself to complete them.

Ernest Hemingway once wrote that certain things in life ‘burn the fat off our souls.’ Doing 1000 Burpees for time is one of those things…

Workout from Sara Sigmundsdottir called KETTLEBELL HELL!

Sara: ‘If you want to work on your mental side I recommend this workout: Kettlebell Hell

4 Rounds for increasing load:

  • 10 Double KB Clean
  • 10m Double KB FR Carry
  • 10 Double KB STOH
  • 10m Double KB FR Carry
  • 10 Double KB FR Lunges
  • 10m Double KB FR Carry
  • 10 Double KB FR Squat
  • REST 3 minutes b/t rounds

Recommended starting weights 16/12kg (35/26lbs) or more if you dare.. Take it with someone who pushes you! Thanks BK Gudmundsson for the competition’


One thing that you notice from watching Sara Sigmundsdottir compete is that she is highly efficient when it comes to transitioning between exercises within WODs. Her coach, John Singleton is a fierce advocate for effective movements for all exercises, but it is also apparent how his great coaching has fed into her transitions as well.

For example, Event 6 at the Regionals began with 1000 metres on an assault bike. When the Event began, most athletes sprinted forwards, sat down on the seat, adjusted their feet on the pedals and started. Sara, on the other hand, had positioned her pedals (before the Event began) in such a way that she was able to step straight onto the bike pedals and use her downward momentum as she sat on the seat to start the wheel of the bike turning. Once she was seated the pedals were already spinning, and she didn’t have to generate any momentum from scratch.

This is only a tiny detail, but it was a more effective way to transition onto the bike, and small details add up to create larger advantages. In events where winners can be separated by hundreds of a second, they can mean the difference between positions on the leaderboard.

sara sigmundsdottir crossfit female pull ups on bar in crossfit boxSource: Bjarni Sigurðsson
Sara perfecting her Pull Ups

Transitions in the Live Open Workout against Katrin Davidsdottir

Another example is the way that Sara Sigmundsdottir approached Handstand Push Ups in this live Open workout. Here she used the momentum from her walk (from the rower) towards the plexi-glass screens that the athletes balanced against for the HSPUs, to throw herself onto her hands and straight into the movement. Instead of stopping, taking a step back, then another one forwards when she was ready to progress into the HSPU, she wasted no unnecessary movement, time or energy. Again, this is a tiny detail, but it is important in its own way.

Think about the transitions you will have to make during a WOD and plan the most effective way to do this. It will help you avoid unforeseen problems, and quicken your pace.


Sara Sigmundsdottir competes with her almost unrivalled determination and desire to win. She is switched on, focused and serious before each WOD begins. But watch her afterwards and you see a beaming smile light up her face, and an Icelandic girl that loves to compete and to better herself.

As she walked down the middle of the Caja Magica (the Magic Box) stadium in Madrid after a first place win at the Meridian Regionals (after the other athletes had left the floor), you could see the passion she felt for what she was doing. The applause, chanting and respect from the crowd was electric, and her flashing smile signaled that at that moment, she was exactly where she was meant to be.

Roll on the CrossFit Games. 2016 is going to be an exciting year.

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