May 2, 2012
The Technical Competitor: Zach Forrest
By Melisa Angelone
Games vet Zach Forrest talks about training with John Welbourn in the off season.
Games vet Zach Forrest talks about training with John Welbourn in the off season.

"Last year was an eye opener, kind of like, 'I can hang with these guys if I really try.' So this year, I'm trying."

Former Navy SEAL Operator Zach Forrest is used to being a target. Trained by the Navy to be the elite of the elite, Forrest is skilled in outrunning and outgunning the enemy, which just might come in handy during the 2012 South West Regional where Forrest has suddenly become a different kind of target. After placing 1st overall in the region during the Open, Forrest is one of the guys to beat. He knows his competition is coming for him and he is prepared.

Forrest was introduced to CrossFit by Dave Castro. “I was in the Navy at the time and all we were doing was the regular – run, push-up, pull-up, sit-up, dips and rope climb,” he says. “I wanted to get stronger because I’m a small guy and I knew I needed more strength. I would do a strength routine and I would always end the workout with a CrossFit routine.” 

Before long, however, Forrest began focusing solely on CrossFit. “I realized I didn’t need to do all the body building with it, so I just went straight CrossFit and I actually saw a performance increase.”

Forrest says placing 12th overall in the 2011 CrossFit Games was a turning point for him. “Last year was an eye opener, kind of like, ‘I can hang with these guys if I really try.’ So this year, I’m trying,” he says.

But first, Forrest knew he had some work to do. “I’m pretty realistic when it comes to my abilities. I don’t have the best engine … and I’m a smaller guy. I consider myself to be a technical athlete, and I’m pretty well rounded but I’m not super awesome at anything.”

In order to prepare himself for the 2012 Games, Forrest began working with John Welbourn, founder of CrossFit Football. “’Who can help me with my weaknesses?’ I thought, ‘CrossFit Football is very strong, let’s go talk to John.’”

Welbourn created a four-month long training plan for Forrest which focused primarily on strength with the added bonus of gaining mass. “I could not get stronger without getting bigger. There are two types of strength, once your nervous system burns out, once you aren’t able to increase your neurological adaptation, your efficiency with your movements, to increase your strength, the only other option is to make your pipes bigger.”

Welbourn’s plan included a lot of pure body building movements, heavy complex dumbbell work, short term sprints and sled work. Pull-ups, dips and muscle-ups were done with a 20-pound vest or weight belt. “I was eating more and doing high hypertrophy work. I gained mass. And my numbers went up,” he says.

All the added work seems to be working as Forrest’s numbers are continuing to improve. “I’m hitting strength PRs that I haven’t hit in years. My shoulder press was stuck at 165, but three weeks ago, I got 175 and it wasn’t even that hard,” he says. “My push press is 240. Overhead strength has been a huge issue for me so that is something we hit. My squat is definitely up.”

Forrest admits going into the Open he didn’t have a strategy per se. “My goal was to do them tired, so every time I did one of the Open workouts, it was my third day of training. I just went in and tried to do the best I could. [The Open workouts] just played to my strengths,” Forrest says.

As impressive as his performance was, Forrest concedes that Chris Spealler’s performance might have been even better. “He’s the guy I’m always chasing. That’s the first competition that I’ve ever beaten Chris,” he says. “Anything I do, he can do a little bit better except maybe for pure strength things. I might be a little bit stronger than him, but he’s going to be the guy to watch, definitely.”

There is no doubt the entire CrossFit community will be watching both of these competitors closely come opening day at the South West Regional. But while the competition has their eyes trained on Forrest, it is unlikely he is going to be doing the same. “I’m not worried because their performance is not going to dictate my performance, I’ve got to go out there and do the best I can,” he says. “If you need someone else’s score to motivate you, you’re never going to be the winner. I don’t think anyone who is a true champion is going to be motivated by looking at someone else’s score first. You either have that or you don’t.”

And if the 2012 Open Workouts are any indication, it seems that Zach Forrest most definitely does.  

“If I come out of the events not injured, but gasping for air and totally spent, then I know I did what I was supposed to do,” Forrest says. “I’m going to do the best I am going to do. If that let’s me win, then perfect. That’s what I want.”

​Zach Forrest will be competing at the South West Regional this weekend, May 4-6, 2012, at the Douglas County Fairgrounds in Castle Rock, CO. Find more details here