CrossFit Star Kelly Stone Shares Tips for Nailing Those Complex Lifts

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Kelly Stone has been a competitive athlete since childhood. The 30-year-old from Lakewood, CO, competed in gymnastics and went on to become a Division I swimmer for the University of San Diego, where she also obtained a bachelor’s degree in biology. Having also completed a doctorate in physical therapy at the University of Florida, Stone carved out a respected career as a pediatric and adult physical therapist. Her understanding of the science, and effort, required to compete at the highest level is what spurs her passion for CrossFit, a discipline that Stone has been crushing since 2016.

M&F talked with this inspirational powerhouse, who boasts snatches of 190 pounds, clean and jerks 240 pounds, back squats 300 pounds, and deadlifts 330 pounds, to find out how she trains for heavy weights that often combine several lifts in order to fulfil a ‘complex’ in CrossFit competitions.

Making every day count

“A typical week for me will have five full training days and one active recovery day,” says Stone, who was also a competitor on Season 2 of NBC’s “The Titan Games.” Her remaining day will be used for lighter exercise and cardio. “My full sessions last three to four hours in total, sometimes broken into two smaller sessions if time allows. My workouts include a combination of dynamic warm-ups, Olympic weightlifting, for example: snatches, clean and jerks, foundational strength movements such as squats, deadlifts, bench, strict press, accessory strength training, gymnastics, metabolic conditioning, and longer aerobic conditioning pieces.”

To be competitive in CrossFit you will need to excel in a wide range of intense activities, which is why Stone must dedicate so much time to the gym. “I am fortunate to have a full-time job in physical therapy that is flexible enough to allow me to train and compete at this level,” she says. “However, I choose to take my performance, training, and recovery very seriously. Sleep, nutrition, and proper hydration are paramount to my success.”

The power of nutrition

As an avid CrossFitter and nutrition coach, Stone’s enthusiasm for fueling her body for those intense workouts is palpable. “I love to educate people on the power of nutrition,” she says. “One of the most important factors to building strength is eating enough food, especially carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are our primary fuel source for exercise. If you want to move heavy weight, you have to fuel your body!”

There’s no doubt that nutritional intake is a huge factor in Stone’s training, preparation and competition. “In order to support my training, I eat close to 3,000 calories daily with that big emphasis on protein and carbohydrates,” says Stone, who is a fan of bodybuilding and has even dabbled competitively. “Outside of my workout times, I focus on eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods. However, pre-, mid-, and post-workout nutrition looks a bit different. I need to be able to get a lot of calories in quickly and efficiently around my workout times, which is where things like supplements come in handy. I’ll have a Fuel for Fire pack pre or mid workout almost every single training day, for quick and easy energy that doesn’t upset my stomach. My daily training regimen also includes a shake with whey protein and fast-digesting carbohydrates (such as fruit), and electrolytes to sustain longer training sessions.”

The difference between Olympic lifts and CrossFit lifts

One of Stone’s favorite ways to train is to engage in Olympic weightlifting. “There is nothing quite like raising up a big weight or hitting a PR at a competition in front of a crowd,” she enthuses. “Olympic weightlifting is actually its own sport, separate from CrossFit. In the Olympic setting, you compete in snatch and clean and jerk at lifting meets. But as a component of CrossFit, the weightlifting can also include a greater variety of lifting “tests.” At a CrossFit competition, you might do single lifts, such as a max snatch or max clean and jerk, or complexes. A complex contains several different pieces of lifting in one, such as a deadlift plus squat clean plus hang clean and jerk.”

Crossfitter Kelly Stone training in the gym with a barbell clean jerk and snatch olympic lift
Renato Macassi @furyphotography/Instagram

Train like Kelly Stone for heavy lifts

Olympic weightlifting is a technical activity, and takes years to master in order to perform smoothly and efficiently. It is essential to understand each separate style of lift before attempting them in a complex. “Olympic weightlifting requires several essential components,” says Stone. “Foundational strength, mobility at every major joint in the body, core and overhead stability, power generation, and motor coordination.” The overall goal is to move the bar as powerfully and efficiently as possible to complete the lift. Stone’s current training regimen includes three days of Olympic weightlifting: one snatch day, one clean day, and one jerk day.

A typical Olympic weightlifting training day includes three to four sections. For example:

  • Clean-grip jump shrugs for three sets of 3.
  • Muscle cleans from the hip for three sets of 3.
  • Power cleans from the hip hip for five sets of 2.
  • Power clean plus hang clean for sevens sets of 1.

“Each of these pieces builds on the previous one but targets slightly different parts of the movement and slightly different movement patterns,” shares Stone. “I also incorporate one day of back squats, one day of front squats, and one deadlift day each week. These movements help build the strength needed to snatch and clean and jerk. Additionally, I include lighter weight lifting in my conditioning pieces, and accessory lifting movements too.”

Ready to try for yourself?

“My biggest piece of advice, if you want to be successful with weightlifting, is to find a good coach,” says Stone. “Many CrossFit gyms now have seasoned coaches with certifications to help assist you with learning the basics. I have also sought out additional coaching from a seasoned lifter to further develop my own skills. If you do not have access to an individual coach, recording yourself while lifting can be extremely helpful. Feedback is invaluable for learning the subtle nuances of Olympic lifting. I learn so much by watching my weekly videos and then breaking them down in slow motion.”

Excelling at weightlifting is no easy feat but your time investment will be rewarded with major strength-gains, and the psychological pride of rising to the challenge. “Prioritize form first, before moving heavy weight,” says Stone. “Practice consistently, and be patient.”



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