How a Hong Kong crossfit team was declared fittest in Asia – thanks to their 300kg ‘worm’

Coastal CrossFit, comprising three men and three women, rise to the challenge after competition organisers throw a worm into the works

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 June, 2017, 4:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 August, 2017, 2:00pm

When you hear crossfit, you think barbells, dumbells and pull-ups, not makeshift weights in duvets and duct tape. But the Coastal Crossfit team were forced to prepare for the regional championships with home-made equipment when the organisers surprised everyone by introducing a 300kg ‘worm’.

The unusual preparation worked, and Hong Kong-based Coastal CrossFit team emerged as the fittest team in Asia at the gruelling regional three-day competition in Australia at the end of May.

Crossfit is a fitness sport combining high intensity workouts with heavy weightlifting. The exercises include a spectrum from handstand walks to Olympic weight lifting movements like a snatch, clean and jerk.

Competitors are only given two weeks’ notice for the exercises that will be included in the competitions, and even then, not in detail.

“There was a piece of equipment called the worm. So three out of six workouts had the worm in it. It’s like a six-person sandbag, so there had to be teamwork, communication and synchronisation,” said Coastal captain Ed Haynes, 29.

Former Hong Kong rugby international Haynes said the regional competition always included a barbell and heavy lifting, but this it was replaced by the worm – and the change threw a lot of teams into disarray.

When the news came out that they’d have to lift this huge sandbag, Haynes got to work building a replica.

“We wrapped deadballs [weighted balls] in a duvet and covered it in tape. It sort of held together, but the duvet would slip and people were getting yanked everywhere.

“The second one we made, we bought sandbags, and we attached them together with chains. But the chains were getting stuck in girls’ hair, and cut peoples’ ears. It was really funny,” Haynes said.

“Oh god! The first week, we were all awful,” said Alistair Reece, 26, one of the six Coastal team members. “We kept falling over.”

But the trial and error paid off. It forced the team to practise communication and queueing systems, so when they got to Australia and visited a gym that had a standard worm it all came together, Haynes said.

In the first event with the worm, even the teams who had previously competed at the CrossFit Games in the US, considered the pinnacle of crossfit, were “awful”, said Reece.

Watch: Teams compete using the worm at this years regionals

But even for the honed Coastal team, communication was difficult, , with music playing and other teams shouting.

Reece was at the front of the worm, with his back to his teammates. Between Haynes at the back, and Reece at the front, there was Julie May, 29, Steph Vo Cong, 34, Emily Crutchley, 30 and Shingo Moromasa, 30.

“During the push press, I just couldn’t hear anything said from the back,” Reece said.

They worked for over a minute before Reece realised that one of his teammates had her foot off the mat, so the reps were not counting.

How is crossfit structured

Teams and individuals qualify for regionals by first entering the open. Any crossfitter in the world can enter the open, and in 2016 it had over 300,000 competitors worldwide, according to CrossFit Games. That number increased to over 400,000 this year, said Haynes. The organisers announce a workout each week over five weeks and competitors have to time themselves and upload their scores. The top athletes have to prove their times with videos, and then are invited to regionals.

Asia competes in the same region as Australia. Haynes admits that the Asian-based teams are playing catch-up with the Australian teams but are improving.

When the two regions were first combined three years ago, out of the 30 teams, the 20 Australian teams placed first to 20th, and the Asian teams occupied the bottom 10 spots. But now, Coastal was pushing the top 10 teams in a number of events, and ultimately finished 19th overall and as the first Asian-based team. Out of the six events over three days, their highest place was 10th, and their lowest 24.

The top teams and individuals in regionals progress to the CrossFit Games in the US.

The teams consist of three men and three women. This is Haynes’ fourth year at regionals. Reece is in his second year, and admits that last year he was fast-tracked to make up numbers for the regional competition.

“I was blown away with it, the scale and the famous crossfitters walking around. And also, how far behind I was, even my own teammates,” Reece said.

“There is no comparison between the athlete I was and the athlete I am now.”

What did they have to do with the worm?

The athletes had to do six different workouts over three days. The three worm workouts were:


40 squat thrusters with the worm (squat as a team with the worm, and then lift it over the heads of the team).

40 burpees (chest to the floor, stand up and jump over the worm).

30 squat thrusters with the worm.

30 burpees.

Must complete within 15 minutes.


30 push press with the worm (lifting the worm over head and placing it on opposite shoulder as a team).

1 team member climbs a rope.

Repeat until all team members have climbed the rope.

Must complete within 15 minutes.


50 worm clean and jerks (the team must lift the worm from the floor, onto their shoulders, then over their heads onto their other shoulders, and down onto the floor).