By DaKari Williams, Special to espnW.com
On September 20, a group of elite athletes from different sports called the DC Brawlers solidified their status as the best and only undefeated team in the National Pro Grid League after a grueling championship match against the Phoenix Rise.
What’s the NPGL? It’s the newest sport on the functional fitness landscape — and it makes CrossFit look like child’s play.
What is GRID?
GRID is a fast-moving sport that brings in elements from sprinting, gymnastics, weightlifting and strongman. Each team gets a list of exercises to complete as fast as possible, progressing through four segments of “the grid.”
An example: In the sprint relay, the team could get this assignment: a handstand walk of 80 feet, throwing a 50-pound stone to a target 10 feet away, three rope climbs and 12 freestanding handstand push-ups. They must complete it as fast as possible, selecting a team member for each task. Each match has 11 different races.
The GRID team
Each team has seven men and seven women, and one man and one woman must be at least 40 years old. NPGL teams select competitors, often former pro athletes, in a yearly draft. They can also pick up free agents throughout the season. Salaries range from $1,500 to $20,000 per athlete.
Former NFL player Willis McGahee, former NCAA basketball standout Jamie Hagiya, Argentine Olympic weightlifter Nora Koppel, Olympic weighlifting silver medalist Dmitry Klokov and Cirque du Soleil performer Ryan Elrod are all now GRID athletes.
Teams are a mix of generalists — players who can be used in many different situations — and specialists, who excel at a specific role, such as moving an extremely heavy object.
How is it different from CrossFit?
CrossFit rewards well-rounded athletes who can complete many different types of workouts and exercises. GRID searches for athletes who excel at one or two aspects, then builds a team to complete the race in the shortest amount of time. GRID rewards specialists and showcases their gifts by building a group of all-stars from different areas. GRID is also a more intense version of activities from CrossFit and newly added elements. Don’t believe me? Check out some of the hardcore elements of GRID.
5 Reasons Why GRID Is Tougher Than CrossFit:
1. They Leave It All On The Floor
In GRID, athletes cannot pace themselves during a race. Each race has a short time span, so there’s no time to catch their breath and regroup. They only have one gear: full throttle.
2. Complicated Moves
GRID goes beyond the basics. Instead of just dips using Olympic rings, a GRID athlete has to perform a backward flip on the rings and then hold the end position. Ever heard of burpees? Of course. But in GRID, a burpee is done into a one-legged squat.
3. Recovery Time
Athletes often have mere seconds to recover before the next grueling race. In one race format called Echo, they perform the same race back to back with less than two minutes in between. The entire match takes a little less than two hours, making rehydration and focus key. In the CrossFit Games, most events are separated by several hours.
4. Clutch Performances
Just like a pitcher at the end of a game, GRID requires closers. At the end of every match there is a sprint relay that uses all members of the team to complete the task. The last task includes a movement that is heavy or highly skilled. Having a reliable athlete who can handle the stressful situation is crucial.
Transitions from one quadrant to another are crucial, as races are won or lost based on seconds. Teams practice special changeovers, which take concentration to perform effectively.
DaKari Williams is a licensed physical therapist assistant, massage therapist, chiropractic assistant, a CrossFit Level 1 certified trainer and worked as a massage therapist at NPGL events.