Tommy Hackenbruck's Training

August 14, 2009 7:00 PM

Posted in Competitors »
11 Comments » on this entry

Games09Hackenbruck205UglyButCountIt.jpgTommy Hackenbruck (2nd overall) from Ute CrossFit describes his training. In the picture, he sets a lifetime PR by 10lbs with a 205lb snatch. He presses the weight out, which was fully legal for the Games. In the background, you can see Marty Cej and John Buffone (in the white Media shirts), the guys who have made our "news-style" videos.

Here's a quick history of my training background which I think is similar to Mikko's in that I have been doing constantly varied, functional movements at high intensity for most of my life. Where we differ is the volume of training he is able to endure, the guy is an amazing athlete. I hope this information is helpful to some of you, especially those who have trouble with overtraining like me.

Sevan Matossian caught up with Tommy on Sunday morning, right before the Event 6 Snatch ... [wmv] [mov]

Childhood: Climbed every tree in my backyard, rode my bike all over town, played team sports year round, got really into rollerblading and skateboarding for a while, learned to do backflips and haven't stopped doing them since.

Age 14 to 23: Weightlifting workouts year round, never took more than 10 days off. Power Cleans, Front Squats, Back Squats, Bench, etc. My dream was to be in the NFL, unfortunately it ended shortly after College. I was and still am very dedicated to my training, believe in hard work and the importance of training and preparation if you want to reach your goals.

Along with football I played H.S. Basketball, and did various Track and Field Events (pole vault being my favorite). It's also notable that I missed one year of college football from a torn patella tendon (began as jumper's knee from over-training in high school), and another year from a torn hamstring (which I attribute to under-recovery, pulled it four times before I got smart and let it heal).

The physical strength I developed playing college football was great, but nothing compared to mental toughness I developed. I was very fortunate to play for some great coaches (Urban Meyer, Kyle Whittingham, strength coach Matt Balis), I credit all of my mental toughness to them. Typical college football workouts were M,T,H,F 1 hr strength workouts, along with 3 days a week running or agility workouts and 1 day of 7 on 7 practice. Workouts were periodized, typically 6 weeks focus on building mass, 6 weeks strength emphasis, 6 weeks power and speed emphasis...repeat. Winter time we'd do 2 days a week mat drills, 6-8 stations of high intensity, functional bodyweight movements such as agility and change of direction running, modified bear crawl/burpee stuff, and some 1 on 1 wrestling type stuff (very challenging mentally!).

2005 to Jan. 2008: Stayed in shape framing houses. I also spent about 10 months learning Tae Kwon Do in 2007. Never lifted weights during this time, saw no point because I wasn't training for anything. Instead, I'd go on an occasional run and do lots of push-ups and pull-ups, and that's about it.

Jan. 2008-Present: Did one CrossFit workout, got hooked and worked out 5 days a week from then on. Followed programming at Oregon CrossFit. Once qualifiers rolled around we did lot's of those WOD's to compare times. I started to do an occasional two WOD's a day, eventually had to force myself to take a week off because I was starting to break down a little bit. My body can handle the multiple WOD days just fine, but not day in and day out.

Tentative plans for the future: One month body weight only wods and conditioning, then I'm going to play around with less volume, but quality workouts. Three really tough days a week, 3 lighter, easier "recovery days" and 1 day off. I am going to try some periodization such as strength emphasis for 4-6 weeks, followed by power emphasis for 4-6 weeks, followed by power endurance for 4-6 weeks. My #1 goal is to stay healthy and fit over the next 4 months, toy around with the periodization, see what kind of results it produces for me personally, then re-evaluate my programming around Feb. That will give me plenty of time to figure out what's best for me, and still get 5 months of top notch training in leading into next years games.

I don't have anything bad to say about my training the past 6 months, I am amazed at the results I have gotten, and I credit my "over-training" to my own inability to let myself recover properly. I have never programmed anything out in advance, but I want to give it a shot because I think it will prevent me from overdoing it. I'll be happy to give updates in the future.

11 comments on this entry.

1. Mitchell Cox wrote...

August 14, 2009 8:13 PM

That a boy Tommy! Next year, i'm looking to see you add the "World's Fittest Man" title. Thanks for all the help at the gym!

2. nick wrote...

August 14, 2009 9:14 PM


thanks for the generous insight into your approach and my congratulations on everything you achieved at Aromas.

I have two questions for you if you read this.

Comparatively, how fit were you vs your football teammates at college? I guess I'm interested in the untapped Crossfit potential out there on colleage campuses - it's a brilliant outlet for the many top athletes who don't make it to the NFL.

Second, as much as it's possible to compare, do you think you are fitter now or were you fitter then?

thanks so much Tommy

3. Richard Vanmeerbeek wrote...

August 15, 2009 3:31 AM

I love how Steve Willis congratulates him after he nails the snatch. Awesome.

4. bingo wrote...

August 15, 2009 6:08 AM

Really interesting stuff. Tommy, like everyone I spoke with, had trouble falling asleep post Saturday, and slept poorly. Isn't it wild how much a charged up neuro-endocrine system messes with sleep even in an athlete who has been blasted by work volume?

If we listen carefully to the competitors who have shared their preparation with us it seems like the more successful among them (Annie included) did rather high volumes of rather typical CF met-con work, doesn't it? I am curious about Tommy's plan to add periodization given his success this year doing Crossfit on top of a clearly strong athletic background, both in terms of genetic gifts and prior work. Will his plan produce a better result in the next Games? Will it produce better results on benchmark CF workouts over the course of the year?

Crossfit is relatively young, especially Crossfit as a competitive sport. I've heard Coach say both publicly and privately that he is curious about different approaches to CF as a sport. Is there a CF Box whose programming consistently beats other Boxes? Is there a non-CF or non-CF-like program that will produce superior results in a competition measuring work capacity like the Games? In Tommy's case, will the addition of periodization with CF training (CF->CFSB->CFFB->CF, etc.) turn out to produce superior results to straight CF, or straight CF with increased volume of work (a la Jason Khalipa)?

Years 1-3 of the CF Games would suggest that THUS FAR that the greatest general fitness is produced by doing Crossfit, albeit more Crossfit than only that to be found on the Main Page if you can handle the volume. Is there something better?

Tune in next year, sports fans...

5. Karl Eagleman wrote...

August 15, 2009 9:23 AM

This kid's a stud. Great insight. Keep these profiles coming!

6. Tommy Hackenbruck wrote...

August 15, 2009 1:15 PM

Mitch, thanks and nice work on your fist muscle up Friday!

Bingo, always appreciate your comments and insight. As far as sleep, I believe that's part of being the fittest man. You have to know when to turn it on and turn it off, next year I need to be better at turning it off, gearing down and recovering for whatever comes next. I'm with you on evidence supporting CrossFit WOD's as the frontrunner for optimal training...I guess I'm as curious as you and that's why I am going to experiment on myself until Feb. then re-evaluate. It's always good to question and search for the ideal, I think that's what CrossFit was founded upon.

Like the comment Nick and I've been wanting to touch on this for a while. In college I wasn't the "fittest" by crossfit standards. I don't think any linbacker could be...I couldn't run 400m w/out a sideache and I think if I ran a mile I couldn't have done it under 7:30. That being said, I had one strength coach tell me he thought I was the strongest on the team pound for pound...I thought I was about 4th on the team. I do however think I was in the top 3 best suited for CrossFit on my team...that's a team that went 12-0 and produced 10+ NFL caliber players. I couldn't ever get fast enough at my weight to play in the NFL, worked my ass off to get faster but injury set me back and I didn't have the genes for it (this is strictly my opinion). I don't agree that any NFL guy could crush CrossFit with minimal, or even a year of training. I believe some guys could, but not most. I don't think sprinters make the best crossfitters, but they do make good running backs, receivers, and DB's. I have always been good at a lot of stuff, picked up skills quickly, and have had good all around athleticism. However even in high school I worked so hard on speed and was the 7th or 8th fastest guy on my track team. But I was stronger than the other guys and would have been good in a heptathalon or decathalon.

I'm not quite sure if there is an ideal for CrossFitters...I do think certain things help though, I think average stature is a plus (appx 5'9" 175-185lb), I'm on the taller end and it is evident with overhead lifts and handstand push-ups being a weakness of mine. I also think a well-rounded background is better than perhaps a great 100m time or a huge deadlift. Lastly, am I fitter now??? without a doubt, no question. I am 30 lbs. lighter and my max squat has only gone down about 50 lbs., clean has dropped about 40 lbs. I can run short and longer distances better, and I can move my bodyweight way more efficiently, and feel 100x better.

I'd love to hear more discussion on professional athletes and potential as crossfitters, as of now my opinion is that the ideal is Mikko Salo. I'm not going to train like him because I can't, and I'd warn people to be careful of volume, really listen to your bodies. It works for him though and he's the best! Ladies, pay attention to what Tanya, Charity, and Carey do, amazing athletes.

7. chad mckay wrote...

August 15, 2009 4:01 PM

wow great comment tommy.

My brother and i debate football player applicability to crossfit all the time. It is great to hear the opinion of someone who played with future NFL players evaluate their potential as far as xfit. very well written and thought out too!

great job in the games!

8. nick wrote...

August 15, 2009 10:24 PM


many thanks for taking the time to add your thoughts - it's much appreciated and very interesting. As an NFL nut (albeit based in Australia), I love the physical prowess of the players and constantly think it's a waste for so many of the great college athletes to be almost lost to sport at 22

either way, good on you again Tommy and please stick around in Crossfit!


9. John Cintron wrote...

August 16, 2009 9:03 AM


That was a great reply. I have been doing crossfit on and off for about a year on my own.I wasn't getting the results I wanted by just doing the one workout of the day. Even though I was working out very hard and watching my diet the fat wasn't coming off.Then I started to add the cf football because of the strength training with the WOD and I was getting stronger but still not losing fat. So then I had to see why I wasn't losing fat since my diet was pretty good. I added what I hated doing the most 30 minutes of running and the fat started to come off and I mean running not just looking at the clock.Then I read Mikko's training we are about the same size but I am older I am 39 going to be 40 next month.Running everyday is to much for me with work family and training. What I have incorparated is 4 strength workouts like doing 5x3, 5x5 and 5x10 like Mikko for six weeks each cycle to see how that goes,two WOD and Running every other day I will adjust according to my recovery needs. I need at least two rest days in a week.I don't know if this will make me elite but I know it is what my body can handle at this point considering my age and lifestlye so I can be fit and not get injuries.


10. Ian wrote...

August 16, 2009 8:21 PM

Thanks for sharing all of that, Tommy - very interesting stuff

11. dan wrote...

August 17, 2009 10:51 AM

congrats glad to have the opportunity to train with you and bobbie. thanks!