July 1, 2021 by John Newby
Photo Credit: John Newby (instagram.com/johnhnewby)
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The CrossFit Semifinals tested athletes with a variety of movements, both new and old, as they attempted to lock up spots in the 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games.
One of the additions was the Torque TANK, a sled on wheels that provides increasing resistance the harder the athlete pushes. This new device took center stage during several events, including a remix of the iconic Push-Pull event from the 2014 CrossFit Games.
Remind me: The TANK M4 made its CrossFit debut at the Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge. The unique sled on wheels provided three resistance levels and tested the athletes in an entirely different manner than the traditional sleds. The implement also played a role at the Granite Games and West Coast Classic and showed that the difference in competition surface does not provide advantages to certain athletes.
There have been several sled events in past CrossFit competitions, especially in the 2014 and 2019 Games. These events seemingly showed that certain athletes could perform better than others based on leverage or the dampness of the artificial turf. However, Torque Fitness created the TANK in an attempt to level the playing field.
“The traditional sled gains momentum as you push faster, so it gets easier,” said Sarah Dettinger, VP of Marketing for Torque Fitness. “With the TANK, it’s actually the opposite. The faster you push it, the harder it gets. It’s a much more challenging workout.”
Following the Sprint Couplet event at the 2019 CrossFit Games, discussions took place that focused on how top-tier athletes performed poorly. Mat Fraser, Patrick Vellner, and Brent Fikowski all placed outside the top 20 while Cole Sager, Noah Ohlsen, Matt Mcleod, and Will Moorad all placed inside the top six.
The common factor in these outcomes is that the athletes that performed the best were in the same lanes, albeit in different heats. The same appeared to be true for those that performed poorly. Whether certain lanes were faster remains unknown, but the critical comments have continued in the years since this event. Now, however, the Torque TANK removes the appearance of outside advantages.
“The Torque sled is a cool new tool that’s available to competitions and for training,” Alessandra Pichelli said after the Granite Games. “The obvious benefits are that you can use it on any surface and it alleviates the controversy about faster lanes.”“The one drawback — especially for me as a more explosive athlete — is that you don’t get rewarded for explosive strength as the resistance increases. Therefore, the distance you can make up becomes less significant and in most cases you just want to push or pull at a steady pace.”
First-hand comparisons: There are several athletes in the 2021 CrossFit Games field that have previous experience working with sled events at various competitions. Noah Ohlsen, the second-place finisher in 2019, took on the Push-Pull event in 2014 and faced off with Josh Bridges, Rich Froning, and Ben Stoneberg among others. He then tested out the 2021 version that featured the TANK instead of a traditional sled.
“If I remember correctly, what was tricky about the pull in 2014 was being able to get the proper footing to be able to pull as much weight as was on that sled,” Ohlsen explained after the West Coast Classic. “A lot of us would sit down and push our feet against sandbags but I remember my sandbags slipping and sliding, so it wasn’t necessarily a true test of pure pulling strength.” “The Torque TANK was definitely more steady and stable and allowed you to focus on pulling (or pushing), with no other factors involved. It’s a unique type of resistance in which it doesn’t seem like you can gain too much ground by pushing and pulling faster, but can certainly lose a lot of ground by not doing enough.”
The athletes had to adjust their strategy on the fly during Semifinals. Several walked up to the Torque TANK and tried to shove it with considerable force, but they ran into a virtual wall. Many had to step back and reapproach the implement. When they pushed steadily, the TANK began to move across the competition floor. Some athletes learned this approach early in the event while others took more time. Ultimately, all of the competitors figured out that the TANK responds differently than a traditional sled.
Prepare for every test: The CrossFit competitors had several different reactions to the Torque TANK and how it impacted certain events. Some pointed out the level of resistance while others explained how the resistance settings can force athletes to adjust their strategies. Scott Panchik, on the other hand, looked at the new implement in a very different way. He actually compared it to a real-world experience that he had prior to Semifinals.
“You think about what CrossFit is, it’s constantly-varied, functional movements performed at a high intensity,” Panchik said about the switch from sleds to the Torque TANK. “The sled is just constantly varied, and you have to be ready to push whatever it is. That’s what we train for in life.”“I was joking with my wife because before the Mid-Atlantic event, I was driving home. A lady was — her car was broken down in the middle of a pretty crazy road, and no one was getting out of their car. I pulled off and was like, ‘get in your car, I’m going to push it up the road.’”“She got in, and I pushed it. You’ve gotta be ready to push anything. But I told [my wife] ‘I got some Torque TANK practice in here this afternoon right before we left. I pushed this lady’s car off the road. It can’t be any harder than that.’”
The real-world experience, as well as considerable preparation throughout the year, benefited Panchik. He took third in Need for Speed 2, which prominently featured the Torque TANK, and locked up 92 points in the process. This event helped propel him to a second-place finish in Semifinals and punch his ticket to the CrossFit Games once again. Ohlsen and Pichelli also used their experience during their respective competitions and locked up their own trips to Madison.
Bottom line: The Torque TANK only appeared at the in-person competitions in the United States, becoming available to only a limited number of athletes. Those that experienced the new implement expressed the opinion that it provided a more balanced test than the sleds from years past. There is no clear answer as to whether the TANK will appear at the CrossFIt Games in Madison, but it would provide Dave Castro with a new tool to test the athletes in front of a massive crowd.
Torque Tank Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge West Coast CrossFit Classic Granite Games
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