February 20, 2014
The Coach's Pick: Josh Miller
By Matt Potak

"You know how old football coaches say stuff like, 'That boy is willing to run through a brick wall'? Well, I'm not kidding when I say that if somebody told Josh that by running through a brick wall (it) would improve his chances of qualifying for the South East Regional ... let's just hope nobody really needs that brick wall anymore," Young said.

Photos courtesy of Ben Robi Photography.

With only five months of CrossFit under his belt, Josh Miller, 23, decided to register for the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games Open. The former college baseball player was hooked on the Sport of Fitness and having the time of his life while training at CrossFit Spartanburg.

“I didn’t know much about the Open,” Miller said. “I spoke to my coaches, and they filled me in on the Open, regional and Games qualification process. It seemed like fun, and I was excited to try it out.”

Miller finished the Open in 57th in the South East, missing the cut for regionals by nine spots. During the offseason, Miller has made improvements to his weaknesses and hopes to be a major contender in the South East.  

“I have only witnessed a handful of athletes that possess the natural ability and the passion to reach an elite level in their sport,” said Miller’s coach Aaron Johnson. “Josh has the hunger that you often read about but few athletes are willing to consistently display.”

Early Years

Miller has been an athlete all his life, playing youth sports early in life. While in high school, he was a three-star athlete on the Lake View High School football, basketball and baseball teams. He accepted a scholarship to play baseball at Erskine College in South Carolina.

“I made baseball my life,” he said. “I practiced all the time and wanted to be the best.”

Miller said his weightlifting background is partly responsible for his success in sports.

“I started lifting weights to get better in sports ever since eighth grade,” Miller said. “I was always focused on doing everything I could to get better.”

Introduction to CrossFit

When Miller’s baseball career ended in 2011, he wanted to continue to be competitive.

“I messed around with bodybuilding and some other commercial gym stuff,” he said. “I needed something that was competitive and exciting.”

Miller joined CrossFit Spartanburg in September 2012. He had a good amount of strength, endurance and agility due to his past athletic background but had very little gymnastics and Olympic weightlifting experience.

During his first few months of CrossFit, body-weight movements became easy for Miller, who stands at 5-foot-9 and weighs around 180 lb. He learned how to do butterfly pull-ups while excelling in the muscle-up variations, burpees, handstand push-ups and box jumps. He was also able to improve his numbers on various lifts.

“I did very well with heavy deadlifts, presses, handstand push-ups, pull-ups and the rest of the body-weight movements,” Miller said. “I was progressing fast, and once I learned about the Open, I was excited for something to compete in.”

“He has strong squat mechanics and quick-twitch fiber,” Johnson said. “He is built short and compact with longer than average levers.”

The 2013 Open

As the 2013 Open got closer, Miller continued to have problems with two movements:  the snatch and the clean and jerk.

“I was familiar with the clean from training for baseball,” he said. “The snatch took a while to figure out and so (did) the clean and jerk.”

When Dave Castro announced Open Workout 13.1, Miller had a feeling his problems with the snatch would catch up to him. At the time, his one-rep max was 170 lb. During the workout, Miller breezed through the first several sets of burpees and snatches at 75 and 135 lb. Things changed when Miller loaded the barbell to 165 lb.

“I had a lot of time with 165,” Miller said. “I completed 12 reps with 165, but got no-repped 10 times.”

Miller finished the workout with 162 reps, placing him in 236th in the South East and putting him in a hole early in the Open.

“(Workout) 13.1 really messed me up,” he recounted. “My efficiency wasn’t there and neither was my technique. I just vowed to get back to work and perform better in the next four workouts.”

Miller cruised through Open Workouts 13.2 and 13.3 with 30th- and 23rd-place finishes in the region, respectively. After week three, Miller found himself ranked 64th overall in the South East and inching closer to the top 48.

Unfortunately, Miller’s other weakness, the clean and jerk, showed up in 13.4. Miller completed a disappointing 104 reps, which was only good enough for 106th in the South East.

Though Miller finished 45th on the final workout of the Open, it wasn’t enough to move him up the rankings for a regional bid.

“I had a great time competing in the Open but was disappointed about not qualifying for regionals,” Miller said.

Miller stayed positive and made it his goal to get better.

2014 Open Training

Miller went right back to work on his weaknesses and had a lot of fun in the process.

“I train six days a week and sometimes twice a day,” he said. “I have fun doing all of it. I love improving and getting better.”

“The constantly varied element of CrossFit keeps Josh humble and willing to learn,” Johnson added.

He has worked mostly on his Olympic lifts, adding 45 lb. to his snatch (220 lb.) and 45 lb. to his clean and jerk (285 lb.) in less than one year. He credits his coaches, Johnson and Tal Young, owner of CrossFit Spartanburg, for helping him improve his lifts, as well as teaching him how to be more efficient during metabolic-conditioning workouts.  

Recent Stats
Back Squat: 390 lb.
Front Squat: 335 lb.
Snatch: 220 lb.
Clean and Jerk: 285 lb.
Unbroken pull-ups: 60 reps
Unbroken handstand push-ups: 35 reps
Grace: 1:39
Diane: 2:08
Fran: 2:21
Jackie: 5:22
DT: 6:04

“Call Josh's work ethic whatever you want,” Young said. “He's literally willing to do whatever it takes to compete at the highest levels of CrossFit. You know how old football coaches say stuff like, ‘That boy is willing to run through a brick wall’? Well, I'm not kidding when I say that if somebody told Josh that by running through a brick wall, (it) would improve his chances of qualifying for the South East Regional ... let's just hope nobody really needs that brick wall anymore.”

Miller, who just welcomed a new child in the spring, does not allow the competitive side of CrossFit to stress him out. He knows that CrossFit is still about community, friendships and, most importantly, having fun.

“My goal is to make the South East Regional,” he said. “No matter what happens I’m still just having fun.”