The CrossFit Open: A Comprehensive Guide To Its Past, Present & Future

So, your New Year’s Resolution was to hit the gym, build strength and make some serious gains – but now you want to see how you measure up against other athletes in your town, state, or country. It’s time to sign up to the CrossFit Open

But perhaps you’re new to the scene and want to know more about how the Open has adapted over the last decade; well we got you covered with the history of the CrossFit Open so you know exactly what to expect going in.

Today’s CrossFit Open has grown into one of the world’s largest sporting events, drawing hundreds of thousands participants from 175 countries. It’s the first stage in reaching the CrossFit Games, so no matter who you are or what your fitness level may be, every single CrossFit athlete — even those shooting for the Games — has to make it through the Open first. The top athletes from the Open will then move on to the Quarterfinals, Semifinals, Last Chance Qualifiers, and then finally CrossFit Games. 

However, the Open isn’t only for the best of the best to qualify for the Games. Its purpose is multifaceted; it’s a place for CrossFitters all over the world to test their stamina, strength and progress against themselves and one another. It’s also a way to bring the global community together to take part in the event as one — which right now has never been more valuable.


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What is the CrossFit Open?

The CrossFit Open is an online competition held by CrossFit HQ over several weeks. The 2021 CrossFit Open will be different in that it will last for only three weeks, when in previous years it was five or six. Each workout is released every Thursday online during the Open, and are identified by the year and the order which they appear (eg. 21.1). Participants will have until 5 p.m. PT the following Monday to complete the workout and post their best scores online.  

Each week, the workouts will be streamed live from a new location, sometimes offering clues as to what athletes can expect when they reach the Games. Some of CrossFit’s biggest athletes take part in the livestreams, battling it out to earn their spots at the top of the global leaderboard. 


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Taking part in the Open couldn’t be easier, and there are no special requirements — everyone who is interested is encouraged to take part. Registration usually begins a couple of months prior to the release of the first workout. The registration for the 2021 Reebok CrossFit Open can be found here, with the event itself kicking off on March 11, 2021.

The modern iteration of the Open is open to anyone over the age of 14. There are a total of 34 different Divisions for individual competitors — including new Adaptive Divisions — and one division for Teams. You will be allocated your division based on your preferred gender and age. 

The History of the CrossFit Open

The CrossFit Open 2011: The Beginning

The very first CrossFit Open took place over six weeks between March and May 2011. It drew over 26,000 participants in its first year, making it one of the biggest sports events in history. Competitors were ranked by region, and the 60 fittest athletes and 30 fittest teams then earned invitations to one of 17 Regionals. 

2011 was also the first year the CrossFit Games partnered with Reebok. The sponsorship allowed for a significant increase in prize money, with $1 million added to the prize purse, and $250,000 allocated to the male and female Games’ winners. With more money comes more hunger, and now everyone in the CrossFit community has the chance to compete to become the Fittest Man, Woman or Team on Earth

In the early days of the Open there were 4 divisions athletes could compete in; Men, Woman, Masters Men, Masters Woman. In CrossFit, Masters are defined as anyone over 35-years-old.

Competitors could do the workouts in real time when they were streamed live, or post their scores online at a later date once the workout was complete and could be vouched for (through video evidence or your affiliated gym). 

Two men who had never qualified for the Games before (Dan Bailey and Joshua Bridges) dominated the event, which helped establish competitive CrossFit as one of the world’s most accessible sports from the very beginning.

Who Won the 2011 Open?

Men: Dan Bailey (USA)
Woman: Kristan Clever (USA)

Sample Workout: 

11.1 CrossFit Open Workout

AMRAP in 10 Minutes of:

  • 30 Double-Unders
  • 15 Power Snatch (75lbs. / 55-lbs.)

The CrossFit Open 2012

After the success of the first Open in 2011, the 2012 event arrived with increased anticipation. More than 69,000 CrossFit enthusiasts signed up to take part, doubling participation from the year before. It took place for five weeks between February 22 to March 25, 2012.

The inaugral workout of the 2012 CrossFit Open is one of the most memorable in the event’s history — a gruelling 7-minute AMRAP of burpees.

Who Won the 2012 Open?

Men: Rich Froning Jr. (USA)
Women: Kristan Clever (USA)

Sample Workout:

12.3 CrossFit Open Workout

AMRAP in 18 Minutes of:

  • 15 Box jumps (24″ box / 20” box)
  • 12 Push Press (115-lb. / 75-lb.)
  • 9 Toes-To-Bar

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