2016 CrossFit Open Recap – Feel vs. Numbers

The CrossFit Open officially began in 2011 with about 13,400 men competing across the world. This year (2016) saw almost that many men (12,000) compete just in the Mid-Atlantic region – wild! I went back through old workout logs and the Games site to find my results from each workout and Open and this is what I came up with:

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Some of the regional and world ranks are missing for specific workouts because the Open site would refresh with new results, so if I didn’t grab that info right away, it was lost in the shuffle. Looking at the overall world rankings though (highlighted in yellow) actually surprised me. I went into this year without having done much training as in the past (e.g. in past years I’ve followed Outlaw/Smolov/Invictus or at least had been consistently training) whereas this year I’ve been very inconsistent mostly due to traveling for work and having an 8 month old. This is by no means complaining (seriously!) – those who know me know I love having a little human to dress up in ridiculous outfits, I’m just stating a major difference in lifestyle compared to past years.

So this is why it was really surprising to see my overall percentages drop for overall rankings. By the end of 2011, I was just around 30% compared to men around the world, then 13.88% in 2012, 27% in 2014, 12.88% in 2015, and 7.88% this year. As many of you know, 2012 was my year of ripping my shoulder of its socket so I took the 2013 Open season off. (It took about a year to get back my pull-ups, handstand push-ups, muscle-ups, etc. so I only had about 6 months of “normal” training leading up to the 2014 Open.) If I had to go simply by how I felt about my strength and conditioning, I would have expected this year to actually be the worst out of all of them. I suspect that in 2011, most of the people doing the Open were fairly seasoned CrossFitters. As Reebok took over as a major sponsor and CrossFit has exploded in popularity, we’ve seen a broader spectrum of athletes participate. I don’t have any data to back this up, so this is merely conjecture. I suppose that you can relate this to why we track workout data – even though you might “feel” tired and lethargic, your weight or time for a workout might say the opposite.

In terms of this year’s workouts, here were my experiences:

16.1 – OH lunges, burpees over bar and chest-to-bar pull-ups – I did this one the night it was announced and only did it once that week. I felt TERRIBLE during the workout, most likely because of an ice cream binge the night before + all-you-can-eat sushi that afternoon. I probably should have repeated it and taken steps in stride rather than the “wedding” style that I did. Pull-ups felt great, burpees felt awful.

16.2 – Toes-to-bar, du’s, and ascending cleans – I did this one the night it was announced and was 7 reps short of getting through the 185# bar. I felt ok on this one, but needed to do it again because we didn’t realize what the tie break was. I managed to squeak through the 185 bar, but then was gasping for air through the next round. With about 30 seconds left, I attempted the 225# bar, but couldn’t catch it right. This actually impacted me later for 16.5, as I probably hyperextended my wrist and didn’t realize it at the time.

16.3 – Light snatches and bar muscle-ups – if there was a workout for me, it was going to be this one as I’m a big fan of bar muscle-ups, especially compared to the ring version. I paced the first attempt way too much, so the second attempt I just went all out. Form was atrocious on snatches – they were essentially stiff legged muscle snatches, but it got me ranked 4.11% in the world for that workout.

16.4 – Chipper of 55’s: Deadlifts, wall balls, rowing, and HSPUs – I cranked out 25 or so deadlifts to start and felt like I could have done 40, but forced myself to stop. Looking back, I probably should have actually done a huge set, instead of pacing it because I needed all the time on the wall balls and rowing. I had not been working HSPUs as much as I would have liked, so the 22 HSPUs I got reflected my current ability. I tried it again, but everything was slower.

16.5 – Thrusters and burpees for time – As I said in 16.2, my wrist was jacked up, so holding the bar for this was tough. I had to be really stiff and hold it off my clavicle – not ideal.  I also only did this once and waited for Monday afternoon to do it. Even if my wrist was healthy, I probably would not have matched my time from 2014 as I felt my legs and lungs were also holding me back.

I was surprised there were not overhead squats nor opportunities for full snatches in 2016. I suppose since these are my goats, I expected to see at least one of them. I was also surprised that we didn’t see box jumps for the second year in a row. Does this mean we might not see them ever again? Maybe. There are a few movements I don’t think we’ll ever see in the Open: hand release push-ups (11.2 was a disaster even with that “standard”), KB swings (just look up “AJ Moore” to see why), rope climbs (too many boxes in retail space with low ceilings), and long distance running (I could see shuttle sprints similar to how we did overhead lunges this year). Box jumps are relatively easy to judge and count, so I do expect that we’ll see them in the future. Perhaps in the form of burpee box jumps to make it even more objective?

Overall I thought the programming was excellent compared to past years. The scaled options made sense (unlike last year), the movements were varied and interesting, and the formats of the workouts were smart. The only complaint I heard from people was that there were not many opportunities for strength – we saw it in the clean ladder, but it was proceeded by toes-to-bar and double unders. I would argue that the stronger athletes prevailed even with the lighter weights, but that goes back to the old “cream will rise to the top” saying.

The best thing about the Open for me was seeing members push themselves to do things they never would do in the daily WOD. These feats ranged from getting more double unders than ever, getting their first bar muscle-up or chest-to-bar pull-up, and even doing the Open in the first place when in past years they didn’t sign up or participate! The 0.022% of individuals that make it to the Games are really exciting to watch, but the other 99.98% of the athletes can make for the coolest stories and really, that’s what the Open is about for me.


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: