February 3, 2014
Trading Posing for Performance
By Josh Bunch

"If you're too concerned with being successful, and you never test yourself, you'll never get better."

Photos courtesy of Ken Snow.

While watching Rich Froning’s symmetry, Dan Bailey’s muscularity and Scott Panchik’s definition at the 2013 Central East Regional, it hit him.

“The best bodybuilders in the world aren't bodybuilding anymore,” professional bodybuilder Rich Lauro realized. “They’re (doing CrossFit.)”

Lauro dabbled in CrossFit before attending the Regional as a spectator, but after that weekend he went all in. After 11 years of bodybuilding, the 32-year-old had gotten sick of the injuries and image-focused training.

“I kept getting hurt bodybuilding,” he said. “I couldn’t squat, but I could do box jumps and burpees and power snatches.”

Drug-free bodybuilders “have to use big weights to build muscle,” and don’t have enough variety in their training style to avoid irritating lingering injuries, Lauro explained.

It isn’t heavy weights alone that do the damage, he said. It’s the inability to train heavy one day, quickly the next and then focus on skills after that.

Since he started CrossFit, Lauro has been able to rehab his nagging hip injury. He can now front squat 280 lb. again, and back squat 390 lb. The difference is he now has a 3:05 Fran time to go with it.

“I feel better than I ever have. Without the dynamic movements, the big weight just takes a toll,” he said.

“I realized I wasn’t in shape at all when I started CrossFit. You can be a great bodybuilder and poor CrossFitter,” Lauro added.

Before CrossFit, he focused on deadlifts, squats, presses, and isolation movements that rarely make it into boxes like hammer curls, tricep extensions and flies.

Now, he’s doing all of his own programming at Beyond Limits Training in downtown Columbus, Ohio, and working on all the movements he missed over the years. Muscle-ups and double-unders aren’t easy on him, but he’s not letting that prevent him from signing up for the Open.

“I just want to go out and have fun,” he said.

Over the five-week competition, he’s sticking to his standard programming and adding in extra skill work. Working on the snatch, clean and jerk and gymnastics movements could pay dividends on the Leaderboard.

Jared Stace, his training partner, said Lauro is still a “stickler for form,” and he works just as hard at CrossFit as he did bodybuilding.

“Watching him during the workouts is pretty exciting because he's so intense and works so hard,” Stace said. “It's like watching a well-oiled machine. He puts these blinders on and just goes to work.
Sometimes it's hard to keep up but it pushes you to work that much harder. He's like that kid on your high school football team that the coach always points out for always out-hustling everyone.”

After the skill work is out of the way, he works on strength. Typically, he front or back squats a percentage of his one-rep max before finishing with a metabolic conditioning workout.  

“I believe accessory work strengthens pieces that can make you a better CrossFit (athlete),” he said. “(Hammer curls) help me hang on the bar longer.”

And if it’s not bicep day, he might do a 5x5 bent-over row supersetted with bench press, also at percentages of his one-rep max.

“Isolation lifts can make you a better athlete. As long as your workouts are based in compound lifts, you’ll get stronger,” he said.

In less than a month, Lauro will test his fitness for the first time in the fourth worldwide CrossFit Games Open. He doesn’t plan on winning; he plans on improving.

“If you’re too concerned with being successful, and you never test yourself, you’ll never get better.”


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