'Geezer CrossFit’ Will Kick Your Ass, According to Mike Burgener
If you’re a regular CrossFitter, it’s safe to assume you are familiar the Burgener Warmup. “Down and up,” into “elbows high and outside” … that’s the one.
But you might not be as familiar with the man this warmup is named after.
Olympic weightlifters, we know what you’re thinking. Who doesn’t know one of the longest standing and arguably most successful weightlifting coaches the world has seen?
But with more than 13,000 CrossFit gyms globally, it seems time the masses were introduced to the warmup’s namesake.
Mike Burgener , who is 71 years old, has been coaching weightlifting for more than 50 years. He has been named “Coach of the Year” by United States Weightlifting and is a Level 5 senior International Weightlifting Coach.
But it was an unexpected friendship that led Burgener to CrossFit.
“Greg Glassman [the founder of CrossFit] calls me up,” recalls Burgener. “He asked if I was the guy holding courses for Olympic weightlifting and I said ‘yes.' He said, ‘I’d like to bring my athletes down at this gym that I have in Santa Cruz, and I’d like for you to get them certified for USA Weightlifting.”
This was 2005, the early years of CrossFit, but Olympic lifts were already at the core of the workout’s philosophy.
“Glassman liked what I did with the athletes. We struck up this friendship,” says Burgener.
Glassman liked what I did with the athletes. We struck up this friendship.
Soon after, Glassman again rang Burgener, this time inviting him to teach the Olympic weightlifting portions of a CrossFit Seminar in Colorado for military and first responders. From there, a more regular relationship took off.
“Once a month, I’d drive my motorcycle up to Santa Cruz, do a 3-hour seminar,” he says. “My wife thought I was a genius. First time in my life I’d ever been paid for coaching.”
And she may not have been far off.
Glassman decided to make CrossFit Weightlifting its own specialty course and put Burgener at the helm as head coach, strengthening his ties to the growing workout regimen.
“There’s only a small number that are going to go to the Olympic Games. There’s only a small number that are going to go to the CrossFit Games,” he says. “The masses need me.”
There’s only a small number that are going to go to the Olympic Games. There’s only a small number that are going to go to the CrossFit Games. The masses need me.
As proof, Mike’s Gym – the legendary 600 square foot gym Burgener built in his two car garage in 1985 – now also offers a daily CrossFit WOD, and Burgener even participates in the WODs himself.
“My own group of guys get together every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and we do Geezer CrossFit,” says Burgener.
“We will scale the workouts accordingly to whatever we can do and at our age.”
A post shared by Coach Burgener (@mikeburgener) on Feb 15, 2017 at 12:53pm PST
Burgener wants one thing to be clear, though. Regardless of scales, his ‘geezers’ are no joke.
“We still work out very, very hard,” he says. And he’s not exaggerating.
“I have an 82 year old that has us do birthday challenges,” he says. “Last year I turned 70, and my challenge was 300 pull ups in an hour. I did 355 geezer strict pull-ups in 60 minutes.”
I have an 82 year old that has us do birthday challenges. Last year I turned 70, and my challenge was 300 pull ups in an hour. I did 355 geezer strict pull-ups in 60 minutes.
“We have a guy on his 73rd birthday that did a 173 burpees in 60 minutes. We have fun and we give each other a hard time.”
Watching Burgener coach a class that includes both Reebok CrossFit Games athletes and beginners, his attention to and enthusiasm for all athletes rings true.
“He can teach anyone,” says Conor Murphy, a 2017 Reebok CrossFit Games athlete, as he watches Burgener command the room.
Sitting next to Murphy, six-time Games qualifier Austin Malleolo nods.
“Coach B has the in depth knowledge, that of a PHD, but has the ability to communicate with you like you are in high school gym class,” he says.
Coach B has the in depth knowledge, that of a PHD, but has the ability to communicate with you like you are in high school gym class.