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?



Inov-8 FastLift 315/335 Review

Inov-8 recently came out with their own Olympic Lifting shoe – the FastLift 315/335.* The FastLifts are Inov-8’s answer for the CrossFitter who wants an olympic lifting shoe to squat, clean, and snatch in, but also use it for WODs involving running, rope climbs, and box jumps. I’ve had the Again Faster versions for about three months, using them three to five times per week and have had a great experience with them. Here are some pictures and a candid review of the shoes.

*The numbers indicate the grams each shoe weighs (women’s are 315g/11oz each, men’s are 335g/12oz each).

The first thing you’ll notice about the shoes are that they are LIGHT. I had the Rogue Do-wins which were fine, but a bit cumbersome when it came to CrossFit workouts involving box jumps and running. At 12 oz. per shoe for men’s size 9, the FastLifts are the lightest weightlifting shoes on the market. (for comparison, Nike Romaleo I’s were 22oz PER SHOE and their Romaleo II’s are 16.8oz each…Reebok’s are 13.4oz at time of writing) The FastLifts are made with a synthetic upper and a “Power Truss” heel cage made of cylindrical tubes which I’m sure saves on weight. Other weightlifting shoes may have a wooden heel which is great if you don’t want compression, but not so great if you want to keep it light. Although the upper may feel thin and fragile compared to other oly shoes, so far they have held up, although I haven’t tried driving any spikes into the tops of the shoes yet. One thing I did notice was the creasing in the toe box as you can see in pictures. These pictures were taken after only wearing  them for a few times, so I was disappointed that they would crease so easily, but after three months they haven’t gotten much worse than the initial creasing.

Aesthetically, I like these the best out of any other weightlifting shoes, especially the Again Faster versions that are black and navy blue. The shoe is sleek and looks more like a sneaker than a weightlifting shoe. In terms of color, I know some people love the colorful Adidas AdiPowers (construction cone orange), but these are more subtle and don’t scream “LOOK AT ME!” Rogue sells a red and black version if you prefer that scheme.

The fit is very similar to Inov-8’s running shoes. I have a few of their 195’s and I find the fit very similar. Sizing is also consistent and is true to size for me. The heel is 3/4 in. high which is standard for an olympic lifting shoe. The Rogues I had were 1/2 in. heels which were a hybrid for powerlifting and olympic lifting. The extra 1/4 in. allows for just a bit more dorsiflexion in the ankle which allows you to achieve a deep squat more easily.

In terms of usage, I feel very stable in these, despite them being more narrow and lighter than other weightlifting shoes. Whether I’m squatting, cleaning, or snatching, the shoes are snug enough and feel like a very stable sneaker.

The only consistent problem I have encountered over three months of solid usage are the laces. They are smooth, which on one hand means they don’t get stuck in the hook-and-loop strap (my Do-Wins always did that and the laces got frayed easily), but the smooth surface also means they don’t stay knotted easily. In fact, most times I knot the FastLifts and the knot immediately becomes loose. This actually is not a huge problem since I tuck all of the laces into the strap anyway, but you will probably notice this when you get the shoes. If it’s a huge problem for you, just double knot.

The other most recent development is the rubber bottom of the shoe. Some of the rubber in the heel is chipping and I’m not sure if that’s from normal usage or a one-time incident. It’s at the very end of the heel and about 1/16 in. deep and 1/4 in. wide, so not a huge deal right now. Just something to note since I have not done much running in these and so you might have more dramatic wear and tear if you do run in these often.

Price: $150 – this is a fair and reasonable price for weightlifting shoes. Adidas Powerlifts are around $90 and a great value for someone just starting out with weightlifting. Rogue Do-Wins are $120 for those looking to save a few dollars and want the option of a 1/2 in. heel (they also now sell a 3/4 in. version of the Do-Wins). Reebok weightlifting shoes are the same price at $150, and Nike Romaleos are $190 and a fantastic weightlifting shoe, but not a great option if you are including box jumps and running. The same goes for the Adidas AdiPowers at $200. I would save the last two for the serious weightlifter who is ONLY squatting, cleaning, and snatching.

The Inov-8 FastLifts are a great hybrid for the CrossFitter that needs a stable shoe for weightlifting, but a light and flexible shoe for running, box jumps, and rope climbs. The advantages of having a light shoe may also turn into disadvantages, particularly when it comes to durability, however three months of consistent usage has seen minimal wear and tear. Some people might find the laces to be bothersome to tie, but the hook-and-loop strap will keep them in place. Overall, this is a great pair of shoes at a solid price if you are a CrossFitter or hybrid athlete.

-flexible for running and box jumps
-aesthetically pleasing (at least to me)
-sneaker-like fit
-smooth laces = not getting caught in hook-and-loop strap

-smooth laces = easily undone knots
-questionable durability of rubber bottom

Where to buy:
Again Faster (blue and black for guys/pink, black, and green for girls)
Rogue Fitness (red and black/black and red/pink, black, and green)
Inov-8 (all of the above plus some limited editions)


Weightlifting Lessons from Natalie Burgener

Back in November, the coaching staff at CrossFit King of Prussia had the pleasure of Natalie Burgener’s presence to help us become better weightlifters and coaches. Natalie is an Olympic weightlifter and yes, I mean the actual Olympics and not just an “olympic lifter.” If you CrossFit, then her last name is familiar. That’s because she is married to Casey Burgener, son of Mike Burgener of CF Olympic Lifting Seminar fame. Natalie grew up as an avid gymnast, but then was introduced to weightlifting by her dad. At the age of 25, she competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and placed a respectable 12th in a very competitive field (63kg). At 138 pounds, her best lifts are 105kg (235 lbs.) in the snatch and 120kg (265 lbs.) in the clean and jerk.  I think you would agree that if you wanted to learn weightlifting from someone, an Olympian is most likely a good choice.

The private seminar consisted of both lecture and hands-on teaching, but most of the time was spent on the latter. Natalie went over the snatch and the clean and jerk, and went over everything from the setup, to the finish, to assistance exercises. As someone who runs his own clean and jerk seminar for KoP athletes, I was extremely interested to hear what she had to say. I didn’t participate in the physical movement because of my shoulder surgery, but I didn’t take copious notes. Here are just some of the notable things that I learned from her. (These are more intermediate and advanced tips and cues, as there are a plethora of beginner tips out there.)

“Keep the bar over your base”

There are two parts to this phrase. The first refers to the bar staying over your feet in the first pull. Since you’re driving through the midfoot and then back through the heels, the bar ideally is being swept back towards the body to prevent your balance from being in the balls of your feet the whole time. We see this a lot with novice lifters as the bar gets away from them in the first pull off the ground and their heels are pulled up off the ground as their body lurches forward.

The second part is in the catch of the snatch or clean and jerk. When the bar is locked out overhead, make sure it is stacked over your shoulders. If we look at it deeper, the bar is stacked upon the wrists which are stacked upon the elbows which are stacked upon the shoulders which are connected to the torso which is stacked upon the hips, then knees, then eventually ankles and feet on the ground. (and you do the boogy oogy and you turn yourself around…) The whole system is a base that must be locked out and strong at each joint, otherwise failure is imminent.

“Jump, not extend”

We talk about hip extension or triple extension all the time, but the word “extend” simply implies an opening of the hip. Speed is not accounted for. By loading ourselves and jumping weight, we can understand the idea of jumping with a barbell in hands. That loaded, athletic position is something I emphasize especially to beginners because it’s something they are probably familiar with from other sports. They just need to be reminded that the jump is straight UP (not back) and that they shouldn’t be leaving the ground in a lofty manner, but rather pulling themselves under the bar as quickly as possible.

“Feet and hands at the same time”

Whether it is catching the snatch in a full lockout or catching the clean on the anterior delts (shoulders), your feet and hands should be finishing at the same time. Doing so establishes your base when your feet land on the ground at the same time as locking your arms out in the snatch or receiving the bar in the clean. Timing is a big deal with this sport, so practice it!

“Ankle flexibility matters”

Dorsiflexion is when you flex your ankle so that the top of your foot comes closer to your shin. (plantar flexion is the opposite) This might be a bigger factor in people’s squats than even hip mobility. I think people focus on the hip a lot because it’s a major joint in a lot of movements, but looking at Natalie’s dorsiflexion (see below) makes you realize how helpful ankle flexibility can be for the squat. Kelly Starrett has some nice resources over at mobilitywod.com for everything including ankle and hip mobility and he just came out with a book “Becoming a Supple Leopard” which you can find in my Amazon Store.

Assistance Drills

There were other drills that are harder to explain, so I will just list them and if you’re curious you can Youtube them: Sotts press, drop snatch, snatch balance, three position snatch, jerk press, jerk push press, jerk balance, and jerk step. These drills are all meant to help speed and coordination through certain parts of the snatch and clean and jerk.

Overall, this was a great seminar and just goes to show that you can never stop learning. Coaches have different ways of saying things and different cues, so if you want to become a better coach or athlete, I suggest experiencing different coaching styles! I want to thank Natalie for taking time out of her crazy busy schedule to come help us at KoP. At the time of the seminar, she was a couple months pregnant, so now she is only a few weeks away from having a baby! Here’s wishing Natalie and Casey have a healthy baby that will summon the power of two very strong parents and be in the 2032 Olympics!