2014 CrossFit Open 14.1 Strategy (11.1 repeat)

Dave Castro announced the 2014 CrossFit Open 14.1 workout as a repeat of the very first Open workout back in 2011:

AMRAP in 10 minutes:
30 double unders
15 snatches, 75#/55#

Rich Froning Jr. took first place in 2011 with an incredible 448 reps, just shy of 10 rounds. Tonight, Marcus Hendren and Garret Fisher went head to head to start the season and posted scores of 358 and 373 reps, respectively.

I’m actually surprised they would have double unders as the first movement of the Open. Many of the 172,000+ registered athletes already have double unders, but I’m willing to bet there are a whole lot that don’t. While it would be exciting for them to get their first one in 14.1, chances are they would have to scale the rest of the workout and post scores of 1, 2, or 3. The reason I was expecting burpees was for the same reason they put them in 12.1: practically EVERYONE can do them, no skill required. But I digress….

Let’s talk strategy:

Prep: Get two lacrosse balls, tape ’em together and work that thoracic mobility. Foam rollers are fine, but the lax balls will dig deep into that tissue to loosen you up. You don’t want to lose reps on a bar that isn’t over your head. Hamstrings will be used for both the snatch and the dubs, so warm them up as well. You want to be fairly warm by the time this workout starts for you aka don’t go out there cold otherwise you’ll get smacked in the face. (you’ll probably get smacked anyway around minute 5)

10 minutes is a long time. This is a simple couplet that is incredibly deceiving if you’ve never done it before. Your lungs and shoulders will be burning in the first few minutes and you’ll think about how 10 minutes can go so slowly. Pacing is key, but not too slowly.

If you have du’s, it should go without saying that you should do them unbroken. 30 UB du’s takes about 20 seconds or less, whereas a couple of sets can extend out to a minute. Stay relaxed, keep your elbows in, fling those wrists around, and keep your jump composed. I like to focus on a single point in the distance about 5 ft. up from my horizon, but that’s just my thing. Find a way to stay focused.

Snatches for most people will be light. You should NOT use the same form as you would a 1 rep max snatch. In fact, most people should be muscle snatching: a movement where you do not rebend under the bar to catch it in a power position. Hips are generally going to be higher in the start, legs are straighter, and lower back is used more for these light, high rep snatches. Keep the bar close, explode up, and lock the bar out quickly overhead. Hook grip will save your forearms just a bit.

Bringing the bar down, be smooth and keep the bar close again. By pausing a fraction of a second at the hip, you can descend back to your original starting point and retrace the way you came up. Try to keep the bar on the ground for as little as possible; Marcus and Garret both tapped the bars and brought them back up.

If you do need to power snatch, make SURE that you stand up with it for it to count. Nothing worse than shorting a rep and it not counting.

If you have to rest, do it intentionally. Don’t go crazy on the snatches if it means getting 10 reps, taking a 30 second break, and needing 5 more. Break it up in either 3 sets of 5 or 8 and 7. I like 8 and 7 or 9 and 6 because mentally you can say to yourself that you’re more than halfway and the next set is less than what you just did. Obviously in the last rounds, you may be doing singles or doubles to get reps in and this is fine.

Transition is key. These are quick movements that can earn a lot of points on the leaderboard and the difference between even one point could equal hundreds of spots due to ties. Don’t walk 10 feet from rope to bar if you can walk 5. Don’t throw your rope in dramatic fashion because you’re just going to have to pick it up again. Don’t ghost ride the bar and toss it somewhere because you’re either going to hurt someone or you’re going to have to hunt for the bar or both.

Every rep counts, but the dubs are so efficient in that it takes very little time to get a bunch of reps and therefore a bunch of points. 10 double unders takes 4 seconds, but 10 snatches can take 25-60 seconds! What does this mean for you? If at 9:30 you’re in the middle or starting snatches, you have to do everything in your power to get back to that rope. Because if you do, there’s a great chance you can rack up 10-30 reps in the remaining seconds.

Those are my candid thoughts, I didn’t even edit. I may add more, but I figured people are googling “CrossFit 14.1 strategy” in hopes of beating Rich.

ADDENUM: you MAY clean and jerk and although I said snatches were the way to go, I looked back to my notes from three years ago and I improved my score from 266 to 302 by clean and jerking when I felt like I could only do singles on snatches. I may or may not try this strategy, but it’s something to think about. The reason is that although C+Js are slower, if you can string them, then they make up over time


Observations and Predictions for the 2014 CrossFit Open (and more)

The 2014 CrossFit Open begins when the first workout (14.1) is announced this Thursday night. With that said, I thought I would offer some observations on past Open workouts and make some predictions for this season. These are strictly guesses as we never truly know what HQ will throw at us!

K.I.S.S. – (to a point)
Let’s start with the premise that the Open is designed to allow everyone to participate. By everyone, I mean your stay-at-home mom working out in her garage to the Navy Seal in Afghanistan to the elite CrossFit Games athlete with access to Eleiko bars and bumpers and 10,000 sq. ft. of space. Yes, the RESULT of the Open is a ranking of the top competitors to move on to Regionals and then the Games, but the PURPOSE of the Open is to foster an environment in which anyone can participate.

With that said, the movements in the Open will be common and the equipment will be minimal. As CFG Analysis has broken down, there have only been 14 movements in 3 years’ worth of the Open and 10 have been used each year. Equipment-wise, a barbell, some bumpers, rings, jump rope, box, and pull up bar are all that’s needed. This is not the time to introduce atlas stones, rowers, prowlers, and Airdynes. The K.I.S.S. method is the name of the game for the Open.

This is not to say that high skill or heavier movements won’t be in the Open. However, you probably will not see muscle ups or a snatch ladder until the 2nd or 3rd workout. Even when they do show up, they will be preceded by an accessible movement to allow the majority of people to post a score. For instance, Open workout 12.4 included 150 wall balls, 90 double unders, and then 30 muscle ups. Most of the world can do a number of wall balls, but then the higher skill double under and muscle up will separate the mediocre, advanced, and elite athletes. 

AMRAP has and will be the timing format for the Open. As a coach, I’m a big fan of AMRAPs because it’s neat and tidy: everyone starts and ends at the same time, but the amount of work done can differentiate performances. Last year’s 13.5 saw a slight variation of AMRAP where athletes had to do a certain amount of work in a time cap. If they made the time cap, they continued. I wouldn’t be surprised if they repeat something like this, but save it for the last workout again. 

The shortest and longest workouts have been 4 minutes and 20 minutes respectively. I don’t think they will go longer than 20 for logistical reasons (especially if people are uploading to Youtube), but we may see a workout that is in the 3 minute domain. The only problem with short workouts is that movement can become sloppy from the intensity, but it’s not like we haven’t seen sloppy performances across all time domains! I would expect the majority of workouts to be in the 7-14 minute range this year with two straying in either direction.

There are a few things we won’t see, based on equipment issues or movement issues.
-We’ll never see a rowing workout given that not everyone owns an erg.
-We also will never see a kettlebell workout if AJ Moore has anything to say about it.
-Similarly, although 11.2 had hand release push ups in it, I don’t think we’ll ever see push ups in an Open workout again. There simply is too much snaking and bending of the rules (pun absolutely intended).
-And although I would love to see HSPU’s in the Open, I think it’s just too hard to judge considering some people will be videotaping and feet will be coming off the wall at all different points. The angles just don’t seem to work, but maybe HQ will prove me wrong.
-REALLY heavy weights: while it would be fun, a deadlift ladder won’t happen, mostly because of logistics. Not everyone has 500# or more of weights and we would definitely need that for a deadlift ladder.

Burpees: They’re simple, require no equipment, and have been in the Open every year.
Snatches: We’ll see some variation, but not sure if they will be light a la 11.1 (75#) or a ladder a la 12.2 or 13.1. Either way, every year should be a wake up call to work on the snatch! Since they have done a heavy snatch ladder for the past two years, I think they will be more CJ or thruster focused this year with lighter snatches in the mix.
Squatting movements: wall balls, squat cleans, front squats, overhead squats. We will see a bunch of these, but not necessarily all. We’ve never had an air squat in the Open and I don’t expect it to be in this year (they didn’t even appear until the 5th CF Games in 2011!)
Overhead pressing: most likely a shoulder to overhead, allowing for people to shoulder press, push press, push jerk, or split jerk a weight.
Pull ups: no explanation needed.
Midline test: this will most likely come in the form of knees to elbows or toes to bar. GHD’s are rare outside of a CF box and sit ups are harder to judge standards (do we touch the toes, the ground, what if someone has long arms, etc)
-double unders: these have also been in every Open and at the Games level we may see some triple unders (mainsite has programmed it)
Muscle ups: same as above. Addenum:  I forgot to put the bar muscle up, but I think there’s a good possibility to see it in the Open. Why? 1. It’s a movement we’ve seen programmed on mainsite 2. It’s fairly easy to judge (get over the bar and get shoulders in front of pull up bar with extended arms) 3. It’s a variation of the ring muscle up. 4. It will expose weaknesses.
Box jumps: I didn’t necessarily like the fact that step ups were allowed, but they did prove to be more efficient. We’ll see some sort of “get on top of the box” movement. Another thought is that we’ll see a “jump on and over box”, perhaps paired with a burpee. If you thought 7 minutes of burpees were awful, how about 7 minutes of burpee box jump overs?

If they Open is supposed to be simple and straightforward, the Regionals and Games are where HQ can have their creative fun. We have seen the weights get heavier and heavier every year (The 2007 Games had a “heavy” 135# push jerk for reps whereas the 2013 Games had 405# deadlifts for reps), but I think we are going to see a focus on high skilled gymnastics and odd objects. Free standing handstand push ups and/or strict HSPU’s instead of relying on the kip, possibly back flips (although I don’t think so), and maybe even America Ninja Warrior-style stuff like rope traverses may be in the mix. Maybe some strong man stuff like atlas stones over walls or odd objects like fire hydrants (have you ever tried to lift one of those? Crazy hard since all of the weight is in the cap) Since the Winter Olympics also just ended, I think it would be fun (and definitely varied) to have some winter sports mixed in: ice skating, skiing, etc. The one thing we have not seen in a CrossFit-endorsed event is bench press, so I’m thinking we will see some sort of bench workout: maybe not a 1RM, but an NFL combine including 225# bench for reps?? Or maybe a heavy bench combined with a bodyweight movement like burpees?

In the spirit of the Open, 14.1 should be a workout that is accessible to the most amount of people. Last year surprised me when they threw in a snatch ladder first thing, but the couplet format just works. For this year, I think 14.1 will be an AMRAP for 10 minutes of 20 burpees and 15 thrusters (or squat clean to overhead), 100#/65#.

What do you think 14.1 will be?? How about other workouts we will see, or thoughts on Regionals/Games?

see also: CrossFit Open: Bringing Out the Best (and Worst)

What Makes a Great CrossFit Member?

At Crossfit King of Prussia, the coaches select an “Athlete of the Month” and feature that person on our workout blog. I believe a good amount of CrossFit gyms do something similar and even the CrossFit Games has a special award called the “Spirit of the Games” to recognize a particular athlete. I’d like to take some time and go over some of the major characteristics that I believe embody an Athlete of the Month, Spirit of the Games awardee, or simply a great CrossFit member.

First, let’s go over what this is NOT. This is not “What Makes a Great CrossFit Athlete?” It is not necessarily a recognition of the “best” athlete as it pertains to performance, or the most outgoing, or the most technically proficient. This recognition actually has nothing to do with absolute performance and everything to do with who the person is in the context of a CrossFit environment.

CF Mid-Atlantic Regionals high res-7142

Emily Pale of CrossFit Explode smiling during back squats at the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Regionals

A good CrossFit member is positive. Not necessarily in an always-smiling-cheerleader way, but certainly not a negative Nancy. They realize that fitness should be fun and enjoyable, and they spread that fun to people around them. No one likes to be around a grouch, so let those endorphins do their work!

Very simply, a great member doesn’t cheat. People who shave reps (I’ve seen particular individuals cut as much as HALF of their reps off) are insecure and typically feel like they need to appear better than they are. A great member is secure in himself or herself and realizes that although we are measuring fitness in a group setting, at the end of the day only their personal performance matters. They also know that cheaters are found out very quickly by coaches and other members and no one likes a cheater.

A solid member doesn’t brag about their results or numbers. I want to make clear that being excited about hitting PRs or progressing to a new level is ABSOLUTELY worthy of telling people and I do not consider that bragging. However, we all know those people who can’t stop talking about themselves, whether it’s how good they are at metcons or worse, telling others that they got bumped down the PR board. In other words, it’s not about what you’re saying as much as how you say it (or act). One of the most fun things to see is someone excited about their new PR. I just don’t need to hear about it every day. And if you are in fact “elite,” then your numbers will speak for themselves.

This goes along with being humble and from my perspective as a coach, this is one of the biggest factors when thinking about Athlete of the Month. I can have a “firebreather” walk in the gym, but if they bring their ego in with them and are closed off to correcting their technique, no bueno. If Olympians have a coach and are constantly looking to improve, then we all should be. In CrossFit, we do so many different movements that everyone has a “goat,” or a weakness to work on. I realize some people might take criticism worse than others, but you must absorb it and decide if it’s advice worth taking instead of immediately disregarding it.

2012-05-05 CrossFit Mid-Atlantic Regionals WOD 4-95

Brian Quinlan and Steve Pinkerton congratulating each other after a brutal workout at 2012 Mid-Atlantic Regionals

CrossFit is about community. There are very few other venues where you are expected to cheer on your “competitors” anywhere from Saturday morning WODs at your local box to high levels of competition such as the CrossFit Games. Supporting fellow athletes in class can mean helping a new member learn the 400m route, introducing yourself to out-of-towners, encouraging someone to pick up the bar in the middle of the workout, or going over and cheering them on as they finish a workout. It also means helping them celebrate their successes as much as you would your own.

Hard work. It’s something that everyone at all levels of fitness can accomplish. Giving it your all in a workout, working on technique every day or week, doing “extra” work such as pull ups or push ups after a workout: these are all examples of hard work. If you take a look at any top performer in any field, they have put in thousands of hours of work. I even wrote about the 10,000 hour rule in my post “What Malcolm Gladwell Has to Do with Olympic Lifting.” I’m not saying you have to be a master at CrossFit, but the journey of improvement is more important than the destination. I like this quote as it describes exactly what I’m thinking: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

2012-05-05 CrossFit Mid-Atlantic Regionals WOD 4-98

Women exhausted after a long workout at 2012 CrossFit Mid-Atlantic Regionals

Angela Lee Duckworth is a psychologist who left a high paying consulting job to teach 7th grade math. She has since become a professor at University of Pennsylvania and is the leading expert on “grit” and self-control as it pertains to youth. Instead of focusing on standardized test scores or grades, Duckworth takes a look at a more subjective characteristic in people: grit. She defines grit as “perseverance and passion for long term goals.” (2007) A great CrossFit member is gritty. They ignore the short game of “winning” today’s WOD. Instead, they focus on the long game of improving their technique, strength, and metabolic conditioning. They don’t let a bad day ruin their attitude toward fitness. They don’t let obstacles get in their way of at least trying. A great member does not give up easily because they know a big piece of CrossFit is mental fortitude.

These are just a few of the main characteristics I consistently see in our Athletes of the Month. Typically these characteristics have been ingrained in our stellar members even before they joined CrossFit. However, I think the context of the CrossFit environment allows for these characteristics to really shine. I also think that that they are malleable. In other words, if you think you can work on being more humble, or practice technique more, then do it! There’s no time like the present to start being a great CrossFit member.