The Fittest Man on Earth

Rich froning_teaser

After coming in second in 2010, Rich Froning Jr. became the Reebok CrossFit Games champion in 2011 at the age of 24. He sat down with Men’s Fitness to talk about how much running sucks, the pros and cons of CrossFit and the three most important pieces of fitness equipment. Check it out and watch Bob Harper’s hardcore CrossFit workout to get started on your own.

So Rich, how did you get involved in the sport in the first place?

I started CrossFit in 2009. I played baseball for a bit in college and decided it wasn’t for me. I was getting my undergrad done at Tennessee Tech and one of my professors introduced me to it. I was into working out and my undergrad was exercise science. Me and my cousin started doing CrossFit in my barn; I haven’t looked back since.

So you’ve only been in it for about two years, give or take, but your physique (5’9″, 195 lbs.) is similar to a running back, not the average wiry, lean CrossFit guy. What’s your diet like?

Surprisingly, my diet isn’t that great [laughs]. I eat a lot of peanut butter and drink a lot of whole milk. I’m working on a deal with BSN nutrition. They supply me with pretty much whatever I need protein wise. A lot of supplements, just because it’s easy. I eat normal meals, too. I don’t really document how many calories I eat or anything like that. I try to listen to my body.

Too bad the rest of us can’t pull off that diet. So you look good, but is it just for show? What are your numbers like on the big three (Bench, Squat, Deadlift)?

I try to stay away from doing a lot of the max effort stuff, but once in awhile, I’ll lift some heavy stuff. Deadlifts are like 525. Around 425 for squats. Bench 335, clean and jerk 335, snatch 270.

Well that actually leads into our next question quite nicely. You’re putting up great numbers, some that are close to competitive powerlifting numbers. But you’re not really training for a sport. Do you think you can use CrossFit to train into a sport?

Instead of using [CrossFit] as a GPP (General Physical Preparedness) program, we know what the sport demands. Like football, we design CrossFit workouts for movements specific to their sport. We’re not going to have them go out and do a 5k. They don’t need that. We’ll do intervals of cleans and burpees so we can get their heart rate going timed to the demands of a football game. We modify CrossFit to their sport.

OK, but what about those Cross Fit-ters that take it to the level where it’s CrossFit or nothing? You’ve got to admit, there is sort of an uneasy divide between CrossFit trainers and those that train more traditionally.

It’s tough because I see the benefits. I know it’s the way to go. I know that literally everybody could do—should do CrossFit. As long as they’re getting out and moving around—we try to show them that it’s not a waste of time, but they could be spending their time a lot better. But you don’t want to be that guy who says, ‘You’re an idiot, you don’t do CrossFit.’ I wouldn’t shun anyone that doesn’t do CrossFit.

Another big knock on CrossFit is the lack of periodization—it’s just a bunch of random workouts. What do you say to that?

Does real life have programming? That’s the whole idea behind CrossFit. It’s real life. Real life causes you to do things that weren’t in your plan. Your body is an amazing machine that adapts to just about anything. If you’re constantly changing what your body needs to adapt to, it’s amazing what your body can do.

What about the Reebok Crossfit Games? You came in second in 2010 and first in 2011. What was it like overcoming that hump?

The first event was miserable. It’s a 250-meter swim, one mile run, 50 pull-ups, 100 push-ups, 150 squats, and then run another mile, all in soft sand. I [found] out a lot about myself.

What was the hardest part?

Anything running, long distance running—I’m not too keen on it. I can do it, it’s just not my favorite thing.

What are three pieces of equipment that every guy should have in their gym, CrossFit or otherwise?

A barbell with bumper plates, somewhere to do something suspended—muscle ups or pull-ups—and a kettlebell.

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