March 6, 2013
Trading Rugby for CrossFit: Phil Hesketh
By Jane Holgate

“I pretty much knew that I wouldn’t be returning to rugby. I loved CrossFit too much and wanted to focus on it exclusively.”


In 2012, Phil Hesketh finished the Open in 198th place in Europe, reaching his goal of top 200. This year, with only one year of CrossFit training, he is aiming for a top-48 finish to earn a spot at Regionals.

Prior to CrossFit, Hesketh was a semi-professional Rugby Union player for Blackburn, in Lancashire, England.

“I tried CrossFit initially to complement my rugby training, but I was immediately hooked,” Hesketh says.

He enjoyed the variety and the coaching. When he became aware he could compete in CrossFit, Hesketh told his rugby coaches he was taking time out to recover from injuries.

“I pretty much knew that I wouldn’t be returning to rugby,” he says. “I loved CrossFit too much and wanted to focus on it exclusively.”

Hesketh joined CrossFit Clitheroe, where he is now a full-time coach.

The 2012 season was a time to learn for Hesketh. He learned new skills and was forced to recognize how important it is to work on weaknesses.

“I failed to qualify for a popular competition in the UK in the summer because at the time, I couldn’t do double-unders,” he says. “I had been working on my strength and ignored some other skills, but now I have double-unders, as I don’t want to make the same mistake twice. It’s embarrassing if you don’t tackle your weaknesses.”

Hesketh trains with some of the top UK competitors including Steven Fawcett, Chris Templeman and Jonathan Bullough. He also attends advanced-training sessions run by Samantha Briggs.

“I am lucky that I am surrounded by top athletes and I have learned a lot from them,” Hesketh says.

Hesketh has also learned from Strongman, Rob Orlando. Last year, he was invited to join Orlando’s Strongman Seminar team as an instructor.

“I met Rob, who is Chris Templeman’s friend, at CrossFit Clitheroe. Joining his team was an excellent opportunity for me to learn from one of the experts,” Hesketh says.

Hesketh will be joining Orlando’s team, touring Australia in late February for 12 days.

The tour commitment means Hesketh will be in Australia for the first Open workout.

“I will be in Perth, and it will be hot and I will be jet lagged, so I am hoping the first WOD will be more of a strength challenge, rather than a ton of burpees,” he says.

With a Grace of 1:41 and a Fran of 2:41, Hesketh is currently focused on Olympic lifting and bodyweight movements.

As the Open nears, he plans to decrease his strength training and lifting volume to focus on metabolic conditioning. Currently, he deadlifts 506 lb., and clean and jerks 264 lb.

“I’m also trying to get in plenty of burpees in case the dreaded seven-minute AMRAP comes up again,” he says. “This was by far my weakest performance in last year’s Open.”

Determined to make Regionals, he trains up to six days per week.

“I’m doing everything I can now to give myself a fighting chance to be amongst the top athletes in Europe.”