Stupid Human Tricks: Burdick Loves CrossFit

By Jesse Burdick

I don’t do CrossFit. I’m a powerlifter, and a pretty damned good one. For the past seven years, however, I’ve been associated with CrossFit in one form or another. I’ve worked in CrossFit-affiliated gyms, I’ve trained athletes for the CrossFit Games, and I’ve even done a little bit of “competing” myself. Sort of.

For every one of those seven years, I’ve been asked by my various gym owners to compete in the CrossFit Open workouts, on the off chance that I can contribute something to score big points in the team competitions. Their working theory here is that if some kind of max effort deadlift, squat, or bench is included, I’d be able to give them a shitload of points by lifting at a world-class level. This, in turn, would vault our team past a bunch of other teams, putting us in better standing in regional competition.

This sounds very nice, but it never happens, so you don’t need to start spouting off about how cheap of a way this is to earn points. The CrossFit Open workouts never include anything even close to what people think I’d be able to help with. Instead, they’re always filled with CrossFit-style stuff I don’t want to do. You know the drill. Having me on your team won’t mean much, unless you’re looking for moral support while you kip your way to euphoria.

Sometimes, however, I’ll give it a shot anyway. Last year, for example, the first open workout entailed seven minutes of burpees—i.e., you start the clock and see how many burpees you can do in seven minutes. I did one.

This year, one of the workouts was a combination of burpees and snatches. I did two. If you’re keeping track of the performance analytics here—and you should be, because I’m very proud of this—that’s 100 percent improvement. It took a lot of work to register this level of progress, and I’m looking forward to continuing to build on this success next year.

What generally happens during these workouts is this:

jessePLI’m a 275 pound powerlifter, so I don’t take any of this stuff seriously. I’m doing it because I’m asked to do it, and I like to joke around and have fun with things. This, however, doesn’t stop people in my various gyms from getting cocky and chirping at me.

What they fail to understand, however, is that I’ve always been an athlete—and that I’m still one. I was a 3-4 sport athlete in high school, and I played a Division I sport on scholarship in college. When people start getting lippy about this shit, nothing makes me happier than proving them wrong.

This year, the first time I had the opportunity to do this was during a combination clean and jerk/toes-to-bar workout where the rep pattern went something like 3-3, 6-6, 9-9. I had just finished the sixes when Kirian Fitzgibbons, who owns the gym I’m working out of, saw what I was doing.

“You done already?” he asked.

“Eh,” I replied. “I was just playing around.”

“You know what? I don’t think you can do nine reps of toes-to-bar unbroken.”

Unbroken, in CrossFit parlance, meant I’d have to complete nine reps of toes-to-bar hanging leg raises without letting go of the pull-up bar. In other words, you have to do them continuously, without stepping down and re-gripping.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” I said. “That’s fucking easy.”

“I would piss myself right now if you’re able to do it.”

“Well, drop your trou, motherf****r,” I said, “because it’s about to happen.”

I did nine clean and jerks with 135 pounds (yawn), followed by nine clean, unbroken reps of toes-to-bar. Kirian’s jaw was on the floor after that. There were 30-40 people in the gym watching me do this, and none of them—including my girlfriend, who’s a high-level CrossFit athlete—expected me to be able to get it done. In fact, most of them couldn’t even do it themselves.

Fast-forward to the following week, where the workout included 15 thrusters—a front squat to an overhead press—followed by 15 chest-to-bar pull-ups. Again, I didn’t give a shit about the rest of the workout. I just wanted to see what I could do with the so-called “hard” part.

And again, Kirian challenged me.

“If you can do fifteen unbroken chest-to-bar pull-ups,” he said, “I’ll shave my head and my beard.”

“No problem,” I replied. “I’ll even get it on video.”

Carl Paoli is a friend of mine who lives in San Francisco. He’s also a great gymnast who really knows his shit, and he was there the day I accepted this challenge.

“Carl,” I said, “I need to do this so Kirian shaves his head. What’s the trick to doing chest-to-bar pull-ups?”

“Just lift the shit out of the bar,” Carl replied.


“Just grab it as hard as you can, and pull.”

“Are you serious?” I asked. “That’s what I do already.”

“Yeah, that’s it.”

“People seriously pay you a hundred bucks an hour to tell them that?”

“Pretty much,” he said.

“That’s fucking great. Good for you.”

I did my 15 thrusters, then walked over to the bar and did 15 chest-to-bar pull-ups, getting my chest all the way up, and not just pulling until my chin cleared the bar. Here’s the video:

Yeah, I know I’m kipping, but remember: I was playing by CrossFit’s rules here, so it counts.

When I finished, Kirian turned out to be a man of his word. He was cornering a fight for someone that night, but the next day, he shaved his head. I think he looks a lot better now: