The Ultimate Guide to Scoring Functional Fitness Competitions

All the different ways you can score your leaderboards, workouts and tiebreakers.

Athlete doing a handstand pushup with judge watching

Take a look at the CrossFit Open vs. CrossFit Games women’s leaderboards for 2022. Aside from rankings, do you notice anything different in regard to the scoring?

CrossFit Open 2022 Leaderboard

CrossFit Games 2022 Leaderboard

Hint: the scoring formats are different. While both the Open and Games leaderboards show each individual’s workout score and placement in the event, the final rankings are calculated differently. But how are those rankings calculated? And how were each of the workouts scored? 

In this article, we’ll take a look at everything to do with scoring, and how you can apply it to your next fitness competition:  

Table of Contents

Ready to get scoring? 3-2-1, let’s go!

Types of Leaderboards

As we saw above, there are different options for scoring formats to calculate ranks in a competition.

Placement

How it’s used: Points are based on the athlete’s placement in an event. So 1st place = 1 point, 2nd place = 2 points, 3rd = 3 points, and so on.

Who wins: The athlete with the lowest overall cumulative points wins the competition overall.

Who uses it: This is the most common CrossFit scoring method and also the scoring that the CrossFit Open uses.

Cons: If you have small divisions (say less than five athletes per division), the chance of an overall points tie increases significantly.

Points Table

How it’s used: Athletes get points after completing an event. The number of points they get are based on a sliding point system where each workout has a maximum potential of points.

For example, in a points table of 100 points, 1st place = 100 points, 2nd place = 94 points, 3rd = 88, and so on. Every placement below that receives fewer and fewer points.

Who wins: The athlete with the highest overall cumulative points at the end of competition wins the competition overall. .

Who uses it: The CrossFit SemiFinals and Games use point index scoring. Point table scoring reduces the chance of an overall points tie, rewards consistency and is more exciting to follow on your leaderboards.

Cons: Points tables can be a nightmare to calculate manually, and the room for error is great if you’re using a spreadsheet to do so. However, Strongest Compete’s leaderboard scoring software is pre-populated with point tables of 50, 100 or 200 points per event, and will calculate point allocation automatically for you.

Strongest Compete points table settings

RX Tip: Strongest Compete also lets you create a custom points table, where you manually establish the points spread. This is useful in scenarios like a “Winner-take-all” scenario where the winner of the last “Final” event is the winner of the competition overall. (This scenario is rare, but sometimes used.)

Max and Min Points

How it’s used: Max and Min points are both raw-points scenarios. They determine placement based on the sum of all the points earned from the workouts. If your score for three workouts are 3, 12, and 5, you final score would be 3+12+5 = 20.

Who Wins: In a Max Points scenario, higher total points are placed higher. A total score of 101 would beat any score of 100 or less.

In a Min Points scenario, lower total points are placed higher. A total score of 101 would beat a score of 102 or greater.

Because it uses raw-points, “lower-is-better” workout policies (which use a time format) will default to number of seconds. (Example: 1:23 will become a score of 83)

Who Uses It: This format is rarely used, but is an option for unique scoring.

Cons: It’s confusing to set up and keep track of, but Strongest Compete can help automate the max or min points scenarios with one click. It’s sometimes confusing for athletes and spectators.

RX Tip: the key to great programming is simplicity. The easier it is for athletes to understand the standards and how scoring works, the better!

How to Score Your Workouts

High vs. Low

When it comes to scoring each of your workouts, you have two choices:

  1. A higher score value, like an AMRAP or max effort lift
  2. A lower score value, like a for-time workout

Strongest Compete scoring settings for individual workouts

While you’re programming your workout, you’ll also want to consider the following:

Minimum Work Requirement

Having a “minimum amount of work required” brings clarity to your standards as well as the effort that athletes are expected to make.

For example, you might have an AMRAP workout for your RX division with 15 dumbbell snatches followed by 7 chest-to-bar. You want to ensure your RX athletes can at least do one chest-to-bar, so the minimum work requirement would be 16 reps (15 DB snatches + 1 C2B).

Failing to meet that requirement would mean a DNF (Did Not Finish) on the workout.

Strongest Compete scoring entry scaling a workout

Time Cap

You’ll want to test your workouts beforehand with different-level athletes to get a better sense of time caps.

Elite Tip: while you’re testing the actual workouts, you’ll want to test transition times and equipment changes too to get a more accurate time allocation for your events.

Failing to finish the work within the time cap would mean a CAP score on the workout, and the points table/placements would be adjusted accordingly.

Strongest Compete scoring entry time cap a workout

Scaling a Workout

Sometimes, you’ll offer the option to scale a movement in a workout.. For examples, say the athlete isn’t able to do chest-to-bar pull-ups and is only able to do regular pull-ups instead. They can still participate in the workout and you’d still enter their score in, but with an “(S)” indicating they scaled part of the workout – and that they should be penalized for doing so.

RX Tip: Functional fitness competition software like Strongest can automatically rank and adjust scores based on if the minimum work requirement was met or if an athlete chose to scale. If, however, you’re manually entering or using a spreadsheet, you’ll need to pay very close attention to this to ensure fair scoring.

Tie Breakers

There’s plenty of ways you can resolve tiebreakers on the leaderboard. It’s best to figure out ahead of time how you’ll manage workout ties. You don’t want to be worrying about this during the day of the event or worse – while everyone is waiting for the final results!

You’ll need to think about how you resolve tiebreakers in both:

  1. The overall leaderboard
  2. Individual workouts

Overall Leaderboard Tiebreakers

You can use the following parameters to unbreak a tie on the overall leaderboard:

Best Placement Wins: the athlete with the best individual workout placement during the entire competition wins.

Worst Placement Loses: the athlete with the worst individual workout placement during the entire competition wins.

Most First-Place Wins: the athlete with the most first-place finishes wins.

Head to Head: the Head-To-Head tiebreaker ranks athletes by the number of wins against only the other athlete(s) involved in the tie.

Most Highest Placements: the athlete with the most highest placements across all workouts wins

…or you could just have it that a tie is a tie, and that’s that.

Once you decide on how the overall leaderboard tiebreaker will be done, it is important to communicate this to your event team (especially your scoring team) and athletes.

You’ll also want to consider using scoring software to facilitate tiebreaks. For example, tiebreak policies can easily be set in Strongest Compete, automating leaderboard rankings in the click of a button:

Strongest Compete tiebreaker policies example

Strongest Compete tiebreaker policies leaderboard

Individual Workout Tiebreakers

Individual workouts also need a tiebreaker policy. Some ways to do this are: 

  • For Rounds, Reps, or Weight
  • For Time
  • Ties Stand (Max Points)
  • Ties Stand (Average Points)
Be clear to your athletes and team how tiebreakers will be resolved on the leaderboard.

Best Practices for Entering Scores

Here are some general best practices to follow when it comes to score entry:

Limit the number of people who have access to your scoring system

To minimize scoring entry errors, limit who has access to your scoring system. Designate specific members of your team to be the scorekeepers. They will be the ones whose sole responsibility is to input, verify and then publish the scores.

Have a verification process in place

Make sure to have a system in place that checks the initial score entry, and then verifies it again. You might want to ask that any scores that change after initial entry be highlighted and re-verified, just in case.

Clear scorecards

Your scoring team should be able to focus on just scoring. Taking time away from that to try and decipher scorecard information creates room for scoring entry error – and the potential for delays and backlogs. Make sure that your scorecard clearly states the athlete’s name, their division and their heat, along with the judge’s name.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to use pre-made labels for each lane assignment that you can stick onto scorecards. Strongest Compete can generate these labels automatically from your heat and lane assignments:

Strongest Compete scorecard label automation

Clear workout standards

Make sure your judges are crystal clear on the workout and movement standards, including the minimum work requirements, time caps and total rep count you might need to break ties. Go over all of this scoring info during your judge’s briefing, and again before the event starts. This ensures they are consistent in scoring – and marking it down correctly on their scorecards.

Create intrigue

As with the big events like the CrossFit Games, many competitions prefer to have a “big reveal” at the end of the overall competition, just before the awards ceremony. The ability to preview your leaderboard before publishing to the public is super helpful here.