Matt Okonsky was one of our original Firebreathers at the old CrossFit Alexandria. He was a former powerlifter who had crossed over to CrossFit after serving a stint in the Marine Corps. He joined our gym right after we had opened, & was instantly a beast. He was our first 500 pounds deadlifter, the first athlete to break 3 minutes on Grace, & basically killed anything that didn’t have burpees. He also had a knack for being fast on WODs where he shouldn’t have been fast. He is a big dude, & was even bigger back then (6’1″ 230lbs). Despite his size he had muscle-ups, handstand pushups, & could do pullups & pushups all day long. He was basically a bigger Greg Amundson.
A switch to enlisted Army had taken Matt away from our box for 6 or 7 months, & when he returned he was 10 pounds lighter & his numbers had gone through the roof. It seems that while Matt was in communications school he had done nothing but eaten well, & worked out. He told me he had squat cleaned 275, & had broken 2:45 on Fran. We had just had a video of one of our clients (Lauren Parker wmv/mov) featured on CrossFit.com, & they asked me for any other cool videos we had shot. A light bulb went off in my head – I would video Okonsky doing a WOD that would be nearly impossible for anyone that didn’t have the combination of strength & skill that he did.
CrossFitters haven’t always had 680 pound deadlifts, & 350 pound clean & jerks. In fact, in the first competition I participated in – a mere 2 years ago – most of the deadlifts were in the 425-450 pound region. A big clean & jerk was 225, & a 400 pound back squat was almost unheard of. When I decided on the 250 pound squat cleans, & the 455 pound deadlift for King-Kong, I thought these would be at the 1rm end of the spectrum for almost every elite CrossFitter on the planet. We knew Josh Everett had huge numbers, but there was no one else on the radar that had a combination of maximal strength & bw skill. All the strong guys were too fat, & all the bw guys were too weak.
When I wrote King-Kong it seemed almost ridiculous.
3 rounds for time of:
1 Deadlift 455lbs
3 Squat Cleans 250lbs
4 Handstand Pushups
When I edited the video I put a line in the intro about us being skeptical about whether or not any human could finish the WOD. That wasn’t hyperbole – I really didn’t think Okonsky could finish it, & didn’t know if anyone else could. This was a prophecy that came true when Jason Khalipa, the 2008 Games champion, tried the workout a few weeks after the original video premiered, & couldn’t finish. I figured if the champ couldn’t finish, we had probably gotten it right. That was, of course, with the exception of Josh Everett’s absolute destruction of my easy little workout (Josh Everett’s King-Kong wmv/mov). After Everett’s obliteration, there would be a new version that would pop up every few weeks. David Morgan, a former British Olympian, has something like a 2:04 King-Kong (even though some of his ROM is suspect) & I’m sure Rob Orlando could break 2 minutes if he really wanted to.
The point of the WOD & the video was to show that big, strong athletes could do more than just move weight. It seems that over the last 2 years everyone has gotten as strong as hell, & consequently everyone has gotten fast as hell. Contractile force equals speed – no matter what the task. There is no substitute for strength, & there is no way to articulate lung capacity without it. You may have the VO2 max of Lance Armstrong & the bw control of a 12-year-old Chinese gymnast, but when I load your barbell with 250 pounds & tell you to clean it through a full squat if the mitochondrial function to support the load is not there – you’re screwed. King-Kong was, & still is, a great test of the ability to function at both ends of the spectrum where CrossFit athletes need to be proficient – I dare you to try it.