January 12, 2012
A Veteran at 21: Ben Smith
By Zach Miller

Ben Smith has been the youngest CrossFit Games competitor for the past two years. He’s also only been competing for the past two years. 

As a 19-year-old, Ben competed in the 2009 CrossFit Games. Disappointed with his performance, he returned to the Games in 2010, finishing in an impressive 8th place overall. At 5’11’’ and 180 pounds, he is not as physically imposing as other elite CrossFit athletes, but at the end of the 3-day competition of the 2011 Mid Atlantic Regional, Ben stood taller than his competitors at the top of the podium.

For a young athlete, Ben’s profile boasts some freakishly strong numbers. His 360-pound overhead squat and 265-pound snatch, along with his sub-5-minute mile and 70-plus max pull ups are some seriously impressive CrossFit stats. Despite these heavy lifts, Ben says his success  in the sport comes from other places. “I think its more technique and efficiency,” he says. “My numbers aren’t that great for deadlift, back squat, or bench press.  I’m not a big guy, and I don’t have a lot of muscle strength. I can just move the weight more efficiently.” 

In his training for the Regional, Ben says he was averaging three workouts a day.  “In the morning, I would do a 10 to 25 minute workout. Midday, I would work some strength and maybe a skill exercise, and my third workout would be sprint intervals,” he explains. “I would do a met-con with running, rowing, or swimming. Something like three minutes on, one minute off, and repeat.” 

In regard to the speculation that there may be a swimming workout at the Games, Ben says he would be prepared. “I swam my senior year in high school. I hope that main site swimming WOD was a clue, because it would be fun."

Ben does not plan on changing much in preparation for the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games, and is mainly focusing on staying healthy.  “I can’t really get that much better before the Games. I just want to stay healthy, not have any injuries or any problems," he says. "I had a couple injuries going into the Open, but I’m over that." 

Many elite CrossFit competitors have been joining forces and training together. Neal Maddox and Jason Khalipa are now training partners, and many of the top CrossFitters coming out of the North East Region report that they frequently visit each other’s gyms. Ben, however, still does most of his training alone, or in the company of his friends and family. “I like pushing myself, not having the competition of someone there,” he says. “You’re just trying to beat yourself. If I can just push myself harder than I think I can go, I know I can push myself in a competition to try and beat the guy next to me.”

Many competitors may be frantically training their weaknesses right up until the last few days before the Games, but Ben says his mental preparation is just as important. “CrossFit competitions are more mental than physical. I just have to think these workouts will be like workouts that I’ve done before that were just as hard, if not harder,” he says. “I’ve got to push myself, because you only get one shot at it. But don’t make it a big deal, and don’t make it more than it is. Once you start making it a big deal, start thinking ahead, it starts beating you down mentally, and then you can’t do your best physically.”

He says his expectations for the Games are simple. “I just want to go out there, stick to my game plan, do my workout, and do my absolute best.”