March 20, 2014
Who's Steven Platek?
By Jeremy Ridgeo
The world’s second-best performance on Open Workout 14.3 was set by a 39-year-old athlete from Buford, Ga., who’s currently in 606th place overall in the South East.
The world’s second-best performance on Open Workout 14.3 was set by a 39-year-old athlete from Buford, Ga., who’s currently in 606th place overall in the South East.

"I am never the guy telling everyone I am going to crush this workout, but when I saw this (14.3), I knew it was in my wheelhouse," Platek said.

The world’s second-best performance on Open Workout 14.3 was set by a 39-year-old athlete from Buford, Ga., who’s currently in 606th place overall in the South East.

Steven Platek completed the same number of reps as worldwide winner Austin Malleolo, but fell behind on the tiebreak time. Malleolo finished his last set of box jumps in 7:07, while Platek finished them in 7:17.

While most competitors who come anywhere near the first page on the worldwide Leaderboard are bound for regionals, Platek assumes that ship has sailed. In 606th place in the South East after far lower-ranked performances on 14.1 (301 reps) and 14.2 (137 reps), he most likely will not be able to work his way into the top 60 in the region.

At 39, the professor of neuroscience at Georgia Gwinnett College and co-owner of CrossFit Gwinnett missed the age cutoff for the youngest masters division by just two days. This is his last year in the open men’s division, and he’s taking the top spots from the younger guys whenever he can.

The increasing weight and reps in the deadlift and box jump couplet this week played in his favor.

After getting 179 reps on 14.3 the first time he tried it on Friday, Platek realized that he had a chance at winning the event worldwide and taking home the prize money of US$2,014. He rested until Monday at 3 pm ET, and tried to beat Peter Egyed’s score of 180 reps. With two more reps than Egyed, he got his name at the top of the worldwide Leaderboard—until Malleolo posted his score and tiebreak time.

“I did the workout a second time the exact same way as the first because I wanted to win the money, so I knew, at the time, I had to pass Peter Egyed,” Platek said. “Honestly, it is an honor to be up there with those names like Austin and Peter.”

Four years ago, Platek wouldn’t have been excited by a workout with a lot of deadlifts. The former self-described meathead hurt himself deadlifting in his old globo gym, and thought his heavy lifting days were over.

“I was lifting like a meathead and found myself out for a week and afraid to lift anything heavy for four or five months,” Platek said.

It wasn’t until a friend suggested he try CrossFit that he eventually started to lift again and work on correcting his technique.

“The first CrossFit workout I tried was Randy, but I did it in a Gold’s Gym with metal plates,” he said. 

From that moment on, he was hooked and began following while still a member of Gold’s Gym. 

“I would walk in with rings, AbMats, kettlebells, and slowly, as others grew curious about what I was doing, they moved me to a tiny corner of the gym,” Platek said. 

Eventually, he felt unwelcome and decided to open an affiliate in his garage. Fellow professors, neighbors and friends would come over to work out with him, but one day, while at work, Platek received a phone call from a man who was outside of his house, interested in working out in his garage gym. Platek decided it was time to open an actual gym. 

Platek remembers the day the main-site workout called for a one-rep-max deadlift and for the first time since being injured, he was able to pull a 445-lb. personal best.

“You always hear form follows function, and I for one am a firm believer that this is the case because for me, after my injury, the compound complex movements were corrective in nature,” Platek said. 

He was so excited about his return to lifting after finding CrossFit, he posted a thank-you note on the message board. Much to his surprise, he received a return note from CrossFit Founder and CEO Greg Glassman himself. Now, after years of deadlifting and focusing on technique, his deadlift one-rep max is somewhere in the range of 625 lb.  

Platek refers to CrossFit as his “jealous mistress” because “when not otherwise occupied, you’re always thinking about training.”

He followed CrossFit Football for a while and then befriended its creator John Welbourn, who now provides him with programming. The two also co-host The Power Athlete Podcast together.

Platek’s strengths are pulling movements like rowing, deadlifts and pull-ups. His programming typically calls for squats and Olympic lifts twice each week, in addition to three to 12-minute metabolic conditioning workouts that are typically heavy and include “nasty pieces” like the airdyne bike. 

“Frequently, we will do Tabata deadlifts with 315 lb., and I will get 75 reps. But once I decided to do it with 440 lb. and was able to get 39 reps, so I knew (Open Workout 14.3) could go well for me,” he said.

“I am never the guy telling everyone I am going to crush this workout, but when I saw this, I knew it was in my wheelhouse,” he continued, “and I honestly felt like my CrossFit experience was coming full circle.” 

Open Workout 14.3 gave him the opportunity to showcase the movement that once left him wondering if he would ever lift heavy weight again. 

He went unbroken on the deadlifts through the round of 225 lb. and then started breaking the 275 lb. in sets of 12 reps, eight reps and five reps. 

“Box jumps sucked, but they allowed step-ups which really helped,” Platek said. 

At 315 lb., Platek started with five repetitions and switched to threes when needed. 

“The 365-lb. deadlift felt like 600 lb., but the beautiful part was you don’t do it in the absence of the community, and even though I had my doubts, I had 10 people telling me I could do it, so I kept picking it up for singles,” he said.

“I am convinced CrossFit increases our hormonal response and produces the natural conditions of our species in a group or community,” he added. “It is the same as the hunter-gatherer working together to reach a final goal to feed the community—with CrossFit, the common goal is to make people better.”

Platek recognized that without the help of his athletes and fellow coaches, he might not have been able to hang onto the bar or to push himself to try to become No. 1 in the world on 14.3. 

“At the end of every workout, people will say, ‘That WOD sucked.’ But what they truly mean is, ‘It was amazing and I finished it,’” he said. 

Platek’s performance on this workout was good enough for first place in the South East and second in the world, but that is not what is important to him. 

“It is confirmation that with CrossFit, my jealous mistress, as my rehabilitation, I made the right choice.”