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:


4 thoughts on “The Most Complete 2014 CrossFit Open Workout 14.4 Strategy and Tips

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