2014 CrossFit Open Workout 14.5 Strategies and Tips

2014 CrossFit Open Workout 14.5 is:

21-18-15-12-9-6-3 reps for time of:
95/65-lb. thrusters
Bar facing burpees

Thrusters and burpees were all the talk in all CrossFit circles, but very few people predicted a task priority workout. Another first in the history of the Open, this workout is for time – no clock saving you from doing another rep. Let’s talk about gear, prep work, and tips for 14.5.

Knee sleeves like Rehbands will help you bounce out of the hole in your thruster, plus provide a nice cushion for your knees on the burpees. Weightlifting shoes will help your bottom position in the thruster and shouldn’t be a question unless you have Froning-like dorsiflexion.

Some people will want to wear wrist wraps if you’re used to your wrists hurting in a front rack position. Wraps may hinder mobility though, so use them wisely.

Row if you can (e.g. 1k @ 60%, 500m @ 75%, 250m @ 85%, 250m @ 90%), or work squats in your warm up. Work thoracic mobility to have a comfortable overhead position for the thruster. Get those wrists mobile and do some front squats so you don’t complain in the middle of the workout. Grab a kettlebell and do some goblet squats to work your bottom squat position. You don’t want immobility to get in the way of your workout. Work up to a medium-heavyish thruster so 95 or 65 lbs. seems light when you give it a go. Be warm before you start because you’re definitely going to GET warm during it.


hanging out with Annie


getting coached by Annie on….THRUSTERS

Rich Froning and Sam Briggs did this workout in 8:26 and 8:31, respectively. You and I are NOT going to do that, so we need to think of this workout in terms of a 15-20 minute workout.

Break It Up – If you watched the face off among the 5 champions (Froning, Khalipa, Holmberg, Briggs, and Thorisdottir) you noticed that they pretty went unbroken in their thrusters. This is not the strategy for mortals. In training and daily workouts, we want you to go hard and push that lactic threshold. In terms of competition like 14.5, you need to hold back from that redline and break reps up so you can keep moving. So whether that’s three sets of seven for the 21’s or eleven and ten, break the thrusters up.

Watch Your Rack – Get the bar on your shoulders in the front rack position and use your body to carry the bar down in the bottom of the squat and throw it off on the way up. Holding it with your hands will not only put a lot of strain on your wrists, but it also makes you use your arm muscles to hold the weight through the full range of motion. When you are in a front rack position, you don’t need to be in a full front squat position with triceps parallel to the floor, but if you can them at a 45 degree angle, it’s probably your best compromise.

Relax on the Burpees – this might seem like a contradiction, but since we don’t need to jump and clap with arms overhead, try to relax your arms while your jumping over the bar. Even jump the minimal height necessary to get over the bar. Don’t waste energy jumping from 4 feet away and 3 feet high when you can step up to the bar and hop the 9 inches or so required. Also, DO NOT speed through the burpees unless it’s your last 6 or 3. Going slightly faster on burpees only to have to rest 10-30 seconds on the bar is not worth it.

Jump Your Feet Out – Many people doing burpees tend to jump their feet in between their hands, but this makes you ball up in a very compressed position. If you can jump your feet outside of your hands, you’ll notice that you’re less compressed and use less energy to stand up, especially valuable quad strength. At some point you may need to walk your feet in due to fatigue and that’s fine. Just keep moving.

Breathe – while obvious, think about take a breath in when you descend into your front squat and then exhaling while the bar is on the way up overhead. This will keep you breathing and possibly allow you to keep a rhythm doing thrusters. On burpees, continuous breathing is a must and like I said before, try to relax and get your heart rate down from those dang thrusters.

Squat Clean the Bar – you are allowed to squat clean the first rep into your thruster, so do it. If 95/65 is a heavy weight for you, then of course power clean it and then front squat it (assuming that your squat clean form is less than perfect compared to power clean)

Communicate with Your Judge – Many everyday CrossFitters still have trouble finding the right depth in a squat, so make sure you and your judge are on the same page in terms of what counts and what doesn’t. For burpees, make sure you know what number you’re on because doing extra reps of either is costly for both time and energy.

Have Fun! – This is the last workout of the 2014 Open season so have fun! Get a cheering squad or your favorite fellow athletes to go in the same heat as you. Stay at your gym to socialize and cheer others on. Since this for time, people will be grinding reps out and need all the support they can get!

If I find other useful videos, especially from Athlete Cell, Outlaw Way, Carl Paoli, etc. then I’ll post them here at a later date. For now, go get a lax ball and mobilize!

Any tips for 14.5?


The Most Complete 2014 CrossFit Open Workout 14.4 Strategy and Tips

2014 CrossFit Open Workout 14.4 is:

Complete as many rounds and repetitions as possible in 14 minutes of:
60-calorie row
50 toes-to-bars
40 wall-ball shots, 20 lb. to 10-foot target
30 cleans, 135 lb.
20 muscle-ups

If people thought 14.1 and 14.2 were not very inclusive due to the skill movement of the du and then the OHS, then we can’t ignore the fact that the rower requirement will keep thousands of people from competing due to lack of equipment. With that said, I DO like this workout because it is a “classic” CrossFit chipper. Do a bunch of reps of one movement and then move on. It’s the longest workout of the 2014 season and it’s the first Open workout ever with more than 3 movements. And as stated, it’s the first one that includes a row for calories. If 14.3 was all about the transitions (esp. loading plates), this one is all about the work and reps. Let’s get into the strategies and tips.

You should wear weightlifting shoes if your squat depth is not great on wall balls. If you have lightweight weightlifting shoes, then it’s no question, however, you must weigh your options if you are concerned about the toes to bar. (pun intended)
Think about using tape, gloves, or gymnastic grips if you think you’ll rip on the toes to bar. The rocking motion can definitely give you some gnarly tears, so you’ll want to prepare for the worst before the workout, not during. Have chalk nearby if you need it.

Since this is a longer workout and the weights are light, you will most likely be working in an aerobic capacity. Warm up on the rower at a moderate pace and then work your squat depth and thoracic mobility. Get a lax ball and mash your forearms because they will certainly feel this workout. Do a few reps of each movement so your body is primed and even think about doing a shortened version of the workout if you have the time (e.g. 10 calorie row, 10 toes to bar, 10 wall balls, 5 cleans, 1 or 2 muscle ups) This will give you a sense of pace and timing.
When I was training to run a marathon, I remember that it would always take about 18-20 minutes into a run before I felt a burst of energy and eased into a really good pace. I’m going to warm up enough to get right on the edge of that feeling so that I can move at a good pace the whole workout.

ROW: This workout will not be won on the rower, but it can definitely be lost. Going out too hard to gain 10 seconds isn’t worth it if you’re recovering and resting before your t2b, but you DO want to move faster than normal which I’ll explain in a minute. For your start, do a few quarter pulls to get the flywheel going, then into your normal strokes. It may or may not be obvious, but different people will row different distances to get to 60 calories (see chart below). Since we are measuring a theoretical amount of “work” put into the machine, you do want to row hard, but not so much that you can’t start your t2b right away. Thinking about a walking/running analogy, you’ll burn more calories faster if you sprint than if you walk. So while you don’t want to sprint per se, you should think about “jogging” with intermittent sprints. For instance, you may want to do a 4+1 rhythm, where you do 4 normal strokes and then 1 hard pull. This may help mentally and get you to 60 calories faster. You can play around with a 3+1 or even 2+1 strategy as well. As for damper setting, higher does NOT mean better. You should be rowing a damper setting that is best for you and that is usually in the 4-6 range. How can you find out? Look through the menu setting to find “drag factor” and see where your drag factor is around 120. This is your best setting for rowing and it actually will not change based on how hard you pull (go ahead and try it!) The fast rowers will get to 60 calories in 2:00-2:30 and the rest of us from 2:30-5:00.

TOES TO BAR: Your grip will be feeling the row a bit, so try to relax on the bar and not death grip it. Going to failure on these is a mistake; keep it 2-3 reps short of failure each set. There are a bunch of you who can string many toes to bar. Go for it, but stay short of failure. Then there are others who can only do 1-3 at a time. That’s fine, just keep getting up on the bar and even get a half running start to use momentum off the ground to hopefully propel your legs up. For the more advanced, there are several techniques out there about using your lats vs not, throwing your head back or keeping it forward, etc. Do what works for you, but again, keep the sets manageable.
We’ll probably see the most variation of times on the t2b. For the elite/advanced, these can take 1:45-2:45. For everyone else, it can be anywhere from 3:00-end of workout!

WALL BALLS: Is anybody else really happy there are “only” 40 wb and not 150? Not that you’re going to feel fresh when you get there, but 40 is a number you can wrap your head around. Be sure to hold the ball high in front of your face, not down at your chest. Doing the latter will make you drop your chest and it makes your arms do more work on the way up. I see a lot of novice people do this and it just causes more work than they need.
Make sure you get deep enough to avoid the “no rep” and hit that 10 ft. or 9 ft. target. Our folks at KoP are used to getting the bottom of the ball OVER the line, but for the Open, do just enough to meet the standards. Again, break these up into sets of 10 or 5 so that your lungs don’t scream at you to rest a lot. Also, try to lower your arms quickly while the ball is in the air so that you’re not fatiguing them by holding them up. Obviously stringing in sets is going to be faster, but for those who can only do a few at a time, consider doing singles and letting the ball fall to the ground. Just be sure to keep a rhythm and pick it right up since a grounded medicine ball is an enticing invitation to rest. For the elite/advanced, these wb’s should take 1:30-2:30. For those who rest more, it can be anywhere from 3:00-5:00.

CLEANS: For 14.4 there are two special tie breaks – the time that you finish the cleans and the time that you finish the muscle ups. If you know that you are not going to get any muscle ups, the cleans should be a sprint to the finish. I was astounded that Bridges and Panchik did singles on these, but this was probably an intentional decision on their part knowing that muscle ups were coming. I’m not as concerned about stringing vs. breaking up sets, but again, the priority is to keep moving and pick up the bar. Since these guys did singles, I imagine a lot of people will follow suit. Most will be doing power cleans where the bar starts on the ground and you get it to a rack position with elbows in front of the bar in quarter squat and stand up. If it’s heavy for you, then do a squat clean. For the elite/advanced, the cleans will take 1:30 (strung sets) -2:30 (singles but keep moving) and the rest will take 2:30-5:00+ depending on rest and how heavy the bar is for them.

MUSCLE UPS: If you have gotten this far, now it’s a matter of calming yourself down and using technique. Your midline is going to be shot and your forearms are going to be blown up. Even if mu’s come easy to you, these will most likely be some of the hardest you’ve ever done, simply because of the previous work you just put in. Bridges did sets of 4 while Panchik did singles. This is going to be completely based on how you feel and how proficient you are at the movement. A fast transition and roll of your torso over the rings is going to be key, but this is also a place where you might want to rest a bit more than usual to “guarantee” a good rep.

If you can do the 20 mu’s and get back to the rower, well, you are most likely the type of athlete to get to Regionals. I imagine there will be a set of people who get stuck on the large set of t2b, and then the cleans. I don’t imagine there will be a lot of people who end on wall balls because if you can finish the 50 t2b, you probably have enough time to get the wb’s done and get on the bar for cleans.

For specific tips from Carl Paoli, check this video out on his 14.4 prep:

BarBell Shrugged 14.4 Prep:

Outlaw Way 14.4 Prep:

Athlete Cell 14.4 Prep:

2014 CrossFit Open Workout 14.3 Strategies and Tips

14.3 aka Quasimodo

Edit: I did this workout Friday night and scored 130 (tiebreak 7:50) which means I got the box jumps done but did not load the bar in time for 315# reps. I did not do well on 14.1 or 14.2 for my standards, but I felt pretty good on this one. Below are some edits based on what I experienced. 

This is the heaviest workout we’ve seen not only this year, but EVER in the history of the Open. Deadlifts and box jumps are staples of CrossFit and luckily are low skill movements so everyone can truly do them (unlike 14.1 and 14.2 which quickly weeded people out) Although I’m surprised it’s ANOTHER couplet, I like this workout because it is inclusive and allows most people to do the full 8 minutes, even if it means pulling singles on the deadlifts. Let’s dive into strategies and tips.

If you love your olympic lifting shoes, prepare to take a break a la Ross and Rachel. Although the lack of compression is a good thing for oly shoes, the fact that your heel is raised is NOT a good thing in this case. At heavier loads it will only promote a forward lean and coming onto your toes in a deadlift is no bueno. Stick with flat shoes – Inov-8s, Reebok Nanos, Chuck’s, etc. This will also help with box jumps.
Use a weight belt if you have one and have used it before. Don’t use one if you’ve never used one before. Make sure you know how to correctly wear one too; I see too many people just slap a weight belt on and have no clue how high or low to place it or how tight to cinch it. It’s not there for looks, there’s actually function to that thing! If you have one with velcro, you should be able to tighten it for the deads and loosen it up for the box jumps. If you don’t, then just keep it tight for the 8 minutes.

Rowing is your friend since it’s almost a deadlift action turned 90 degrees. Slow at first then some hard rowing to simulate max efforts on the deads. Mobilize with a lax ball, bands, good mornings, etc. to wake up that posterior chain. Do some heavy deads (sets of 1-3) so that you can prep your CNS and get used to heavier weights. Don’t go crazy though: warm up is not the time to go for a 1RM. Also think realistically as to what weight you’re going to hit. A small percentage will get to the 315 and only the elite might get to the 365, so why should you pull 405 in warm up when you’re “only” going to be lifting 275 or 225 in reality? Lift something heavy, but not crazy.
For box jumps, do some jump rope and banded mobility to loosen up your calves and Achilles. As we’ll talk about later though, you may want to do step ups and might not have to spend extensive time on these areas.

Both athletes and judges must note that there is a special tiebreak for this workout. At the end of every set of box jumps, the time should be noted by the judge. This will be used if two athletes are tied rep-wise where the athlete who got the most recent set of box jumps done quicker will place higher. This means if you only have a few minutes left and are going to the box (for most likely your last set) then go all out to get the faster time.

-Transitions are Crucial – It will take most people around 10-15 seconds to do their first set of deadlifts, but more like 20-30 seconds to change their weights. Make sure you have everything lined up (not stacked) so you know exactly what you need. Collars are a waste of time unless you have plates that tend to slide very easily. Practice changing plates quickly because it’s quite different than what you’re used to. When I competed in Regionals, we did the team “Diane” and had to change plates from boys to girls and vice versa. Between the excitement of the workout, knowing which plates to take off and put on, and actually doing it, things can EASILY get messed up as we saw with Alessandra Pichelli who put the wrong weights on and Stacie Tovar actually pointed it out. As a judge, you cannot help athletes with weights, but make sure you know how much is on the bar.

For girls using a 35# bar, you’ll need two 45# plates, two 25# plates, two 15# plates, SIX 10# plates, and two 5# plates:
1. Start with 35# bar plus 5# plates on the INNER side, plus 25# plates on the OUTER end (for 95#)
2. Take 25# plates OFF, put 45# plates ON (for 135#)
3. Leave plates ON, add 10# plates ON (for 155#)
4. Leave plates ON, add 15# plates ON (for 185#)
5. Leave plates ON, add 10# plates ON (for 205#)
6. Leave plates ON, add 10# plates ON (for 225#)

For guys using a normal 45# bar, you’ll need six 45# plates and two 25# plates:
1. Start with 45# bar, plus 45# plates ON (for 135#)
2. Leave plates ON, put 25# plates ON (for 185#)
3. Take 25# plates OFF, add 45# plates ON (for 225#)
4. Leave plates ON, add 25# plates ON (for 275#)
5. Take 25# plates OFF, add 45# plates ON (for 315#)
4. Leave plates ON, add 25# plates ON (for 365#)

For guys, I actually recommend using a 35# bar to save their grip, especially if you have smaller hands. You’ll do everything as above, but just start with the 35# bar plus 5# plates on the inside and keep them on.  Edit: after doing this workout and seeing the collars, I realized that the girl bars do NOT have enough width for 315# worth of bumper plates on them. So unless you are using competition width bumpers, this strategy doesn’t work

-No Walking – This workout is a short, yet grueling 8 minutes and every second counts. If you are someone who tends to drop a deadlift and walk around or even take a few steps back, your results will suffer. If you drop a deadlift, simply stand there, recover, and pick it back up. Also make sure your box is easily accessible and close. Same goes for chalk bucket.

-Make it Count – Tovar got no-repped on a few box jumps and she lost precious time. This is a fast and dirty workout with lots of room for error, so both athletes AND judges need to be on their “A” game. Open hips completely at the top of the deadlift and the box jump, and make sure you are balanced on top of the box to show control. I think we will see a LOT of suspect video submissions with semi-open hips and not-so-great control on top of the box. Do your best to make each rep count.

-Step it Up (especially if you’re a girl or tall) – you may step up and down for the box jump portion and many people have found that step ups are not only an energy saver, but also almost just as quick as box jumps (you can test it yourself by doing 15 “regular” box jumps and 15 step ups and time each of them). If you’re a girl and have the 20″ box, there is almost no reason to not do step ups. If you’re a short guy, 24″ might be a bit high to do step ups, so you’ll have to experiment and see what it’s like compared to box jumps for you before the workout. If you’re taller and 24″ is easy to step up on, then do it. Step ups also ensure better stability on top of the box since you have to show control. Alternate legs if you can to not be imbalanced. You can also consider doing step up/jump downs which might be a good compromise. Edit: I just did this workout and found the step up/jump down method works best. Doing this prevents your knee from flexing again on the way down. Also, I found that using your hands to push off your knee on the way up was an excellent way to maintain balance and save leg fatigue.

-Use a Mixed Grip – most of you know this, but use a mixed grip on deads. Again, if you don’t know what that is, or have never used it, this might not be the time to start.

-Do Singles or Doubles When it Gets Heavy – This workout is not won in first or second round, but it definitely could be lost. As we saw with Tovar and Pichelli, they came out of the gate and got an incredible amount of work done in 3-4 minutes. However, the pace for the last 4 minutes was the complete opposite. Yes, singles are going to be slower, but by avoiding that eccentric movement (lowering the deadlift) you’re going to save your back a great deal. Yes, everyone is different and the people going to Regionals should try to string more, but for “normal” people, I think singles is the way to go especially at moderate to heavy weights. Doubles will give you a better stretch reflex on that second deadlift, but make sure you aren’t grinding it out. Edit: I did a set of 10 at 135#, 3×5 at 185#, sets of 3-5 at 225#, and mostly singles with some doubles at 275#. This worked for me at bw 160# and not deadlifting in my programming for months. (lots of cleans though)

-Watch your Form (if you care) – if CrossFit haters took note of people’s snatch technique, there’s no way they’re going to miss these deadlift videos. Rounded backs galore, this is not necessarily the time to record a technique video. If you are doing CrossFit for fitness and fun, go slower and do singles to ensure flatter backs. If you’re a competitive athlete or don’t care about your body, a rounded back is probably going to happen. If it’s in the upper back (thoracic spine) then the rounding is at least going with the kyphosis nature of the spine (rounding forward). However, if you’re rounding in the lower back (lumbar), you are going against the lordosis nature (curving away from your belly button) and this is a dangerous situation. Just be safe and smart so we don’t give outsiders more ammunition to say “CrossFit is dangerous.”

-Use your Legs – Tovar had pretty straight legs while Pichelli was using more legs in the beginning, and I think that difference contributed to Pichelli pulling ahead in later rounds. This is obviously a back fryer, so let’s use our legs more! Drop those hips and use more of your quads, kind of like a clean vs. a max deadlift.

-Pogo in the Last Minute – If you have 30 seconds to go and you’re on box jumps, pogo away if you can. Rebounding is more taxing, but it also can be faster depending on the athlete. For those looking to get every rep possible, this might be an option, although I feel like most people will be so smoked from the deads that they will not even be able to pogo. Edit: Once I got done with the last deads at 275#, I only had 40 seconds left, so I pogo’d the first 7 and then did step ups/jump downs for the last 8 to keep moving. 

Overall, this workout comes down to the second half, not the first. Move smooth and fast, do not be inefficient and aim for no “no reps.” Make sure you are setup and have practiced transitions. Use your legs and just know that your back will be on fire at some point. Considering this, there will probably not be many “redo’s” or second chances, so give it all you got in the first go around. Oh yeah, and HAVE FUN!

Edit: I used a belt and did singles when I felt the bar get even slightly heavy and this worked. I did not feel like my back was compromised at any point, even if I did not have perfect form. Post workout, I felt tight for about 10 minutes, but then felt fine. We’ll have to see how the next few days feel. 

What other strategies or tips are you going to use?