Yesterday the 2020 CanWest Qualifiers were announced so I found myself in the gym practicing the most efficient way to get through 10 Devil’s Presses, a movement that I’ve seen but never done before because CrossFit has never programmed it.  But the Sanctional events are not run by CrossFit and their programmers have creative license to program what they will.  And if you’re fit, it doesn’t matter because you should be ready for anything.  In this regard, the Devil’s Press is a fair test.

This doesn’t mean that the Devil’s Press is a safe, effective or efficient way to develop fitness.  It’s a bit more like tossing athletes down a flight of stairs to test their fitness.  If they’re fit enough, they’ll survive.  The fittest might even walk away unscathed.  Fair test, but not something you want to incorporate into your daily training.

This is where competition and training diverge.  Tests do not necessarily reflect training and your training should certainly not be based on tests.  In Crossfit we train for the unknown and the unknowable.  The Devil’s Press fits the bill.  Just as I don’t train the seated press but am fit enough to press the 240lb stack for 5 reps, my fitness, if complete, should be transferable to the execution of bicep curls, calf raises, the thigh master and the Devil’s Press.

Athletes vying for spots at the CanWest Games don’t get to complain.  Remember, tests are not designed to make you fitter, they’re designed to test your fitness.  Whatever the test is, suck it up and get after it all the while praying like heck that the Devil’s Press doesn’t blow out your knee, back or shoulder.  The fittest will get through uninjured.

“What’s wrong with the Devil’s Press?” you argue, “It’s certainly difficult!”  So is back squatting while perched on a Swiss ball, difficult doesn’t mean good.  “But it’s full body.”  Sure, but functionally, it isn’t exactly the movement pattern you’d use to move the most load the fastest.  Snatches and Clean & Jerks are both more effective and efficient ways of moving load from ground to overhead.  Not to mention safer.

You might argue that the Devil’s Press is at least intense.  Performing a burpee with two 50lb dumbbells is moving my body weight of nearly 200lbs plus 50% so 300lbs per rep which sounds impressive.  Except that each rep takes me 9-10 seconds.  In 9-10 seconds I can easily complete 2-3 burpees meaning I can do 400-600lbs of work in the time it takes to complete a single Devil’s Press so, relatively speaking, the Devil’s Press is not the most effective way to create intensity either.  So by every metric CrossFit uses to determine the effectiveness, efficiency and safety of a movement, the Devil’s Press comes up short which is why you’ve never seen it programmed in your training and hopefully never will.

So, am I bummed out that the CanWest programmed the Devil’s Press?  Not at all.  I’m an athlete and if I think I’m fit enough to deserve a qualifying spot then my job is to get through the test whatever it is.  If I’m fit enough, I will prevail.  And so will you.  But if you’re not a competitor, don’t mistakes tests for training.  Testing for fitness and training for fitness are two different things, however bad ass it looks, do not go copying in the gym what our competitors are doing in competition.