Remember Your Roots
The CrossFit Open has been an annual occurrence since 2011. The inaugural year had six workouts over the course of six weeks. Every year since then there have been five workouts over five weeks.
Workouts have been released Thursday evenings (Pacific Time) and you have until Monday evening to complete them.
The number one piece of advice, I’d have for a coach or athlete looking to get a competitive edge, is studying the past Open workouts.
There will always be unknowns when looking into the future. There will always be a new movement to introduce or new pairing or style or workout.
What has been shown to be consistent is CrossFit’s celebration of its roots…
Benchmarks, Girls & Repeats
“Murph” | “Fight Gone Bad” | “Nate” | “DT” | “The Ghost” | “Tabata This”
“Fran” | “Grace” | “Karen” | “Diane” | “Nancy” | “Helen” | “Kelly”
12.5/11.6 | 13.3/12.4 | 14.1/11.1 | 15.2/14.2 | 16.5/14.5 | 17.4/16.4 | 18.5/11.6 | 19.2/16/2 | 20.3/18.4
If you’re looking to optimize for the Open or other similar online qualifiers, start by mastering the movements and pairing in these workouts.
If you put together a program that consisted of Weightlifting strength development, gymnastics progressions, and Open-style MetCons, you’d be well on your way to a solid Open performance.
Obviously that is far from “the perfect program,” but nonetheless I’d recommend pulling from past open workouts or constructing similar types of workouts in your training during Open Prep.
Limitations on Variety
While CrossFit’s methodology has preached “Constantly Varied, Functional Movements executed at High Intensity,” that hasn’t necessarily been 100% accurate for the Open.
Turns out creating a standardized test of fitness for hundreds of thousands of people imposes limits of variety.
Remember, everyone has to have the same equipment for the competition to be fair.
As a result, we haven’t seen GHDs, Rope Climbs, AirBike, Running and countless other movements just because either (1) logistically it wouldn’t work to make every person or affiliate get a piece of equipment (e.g. Assault Runner or a 15ft ceiling for Rope Climbs) or (2) the movement is extremely hard to standardize (e.g. AirBike Metrics or Kettlebell Swing).
Turns out variety -for Open tests- isn’t all that high.
Let’s remember some of the points I made about past Open tests in my Common Movement Pairings article:
- Average Workout Duration of 16:00
- About 70% are AMRAPs
- About 20-25 of the Same Movements
- 80% are Couplets & Triplets
So again, if you are preparing solely to crush the Open, most of your training would fall within these constraints.
The majority of your time should be focused on developing Barbell and Gymnastics proficiency. And most of your cyclical conditioning should be on the rower and/or involve bounding activities.
After all, if you largely know what will be tested, you have to prepare for those things.
The Utility of Non-Open Movements
While other movements might be good for developing certain athletic or fitness qualities, they are only useful if they carry over to Open movement performance.
Let’s take running as an example. Running can be a great tool for developing the overall aerobic system for performance in moderate to long Open tests, since it is a bodyweight-supported cyclical modality that often results in a higher heart rate than most other erg-based movements (e.g. SkiErg).
You can also use running to improve your rebound and elasticity in the lower body for a carryover to other bounding movements found in the Open like Double Unders or Box Jumps.
However, when running volume reaches a point where it is taking time away from developing other Open movements, or it is causing irritation to joints and restricting mobility, then it has lost its utility for the Open athlete.
You can go through the same auditing process for programming any movement into Open prep training whether it’s rope climbs, AirBike, swimming, and sandbag / odd object work.
5 Types of Open Workouts
While the Open -at first glance- appears to be finding the fittest athletes, it’s really finding the best athletes in Open-style MetCons.
The Games is really where all the stops get pulled out, and true variety and novelty are on the table.
That being said, there has been a rather consistent theme across each year’s five weeks. Specifically here I mean consistency in terms of the type of MetCons you can expect to see in a given year.
Note: These 5 types of workouts are themes. Sometimes, two themes might be in the same workout. Sometimes a workout won’t fit cleanly into any of these themes. Yet -over the years- these types of workouts consistently show up in some form.
(1) The Heavy Workout
Open Workout 20.4
For Time (20 Minute Time Cap)
-30 Box Jumps 24/20″
-15 Clean & Jerk 95/65lbs
-30 Box Jumps 24/20″
-15 Clean & Jerk 135/95lbs
-30 Box Jumps 24/20″
-10 Clean & Jerk 185/115lbs
-30 Alternating Pistols
-10 Clean & Jerk 225/145lbs
-30 Alternating Pistols
-5 Clean & Jerk 275/175lbs
-30 Alternating Pistols
-5 Clean & Jerk 315/205lbs
Of all the Open workouts to date (2011 through 2020), there has only been two max lifts tested in the Open: 15.1a and 18.2a.
Both have been at post MetCon where fatigue is already present.
15.1a was a Max Clean & Jerk.
18.2a was a Max Clean.
However, there have been various workouts where athletes have been limited by their strength (and/or) their battery.
The most common occurrence of this is ladder format. Basically, each round of the workout, the weight on the bar increases (e.g. 16.2. 17.3).
In these test, an athlete’s expression of strength is largely dependent on their broad endurance qualities, movement specific fatigue resistance, and positional strength.
The athletes with the highest one rep maxes rarely win the barbell ladder.
(2) The Chipper
Open Workout 16.4
-55 Deadlifts 225/155lbs
-55 Wall Ball | 20lbs, 10ft | 14lbs, 9ft
-55 Calorie Row
-55 Handstand Push-Ups
It’s called a Chipper because you have to chip away at each movement, before moving on to the next.
To perform well at a Chipper, you must be able to have a good understanding of your ability for Movement Density in each specific movement.
For example, if you know you completed the 45 Deadlifts of “Diane” in 4:25, you shouldn’t expect to finish the deadlifts in sub 3:00.
Or, if you know if you can do 100 Unbroken Wall Balls in a set, you know sets of 11 with short breaks should be highly sustainable.
Chipper performance is largely based on an athlete’s knowledge of their movement specific capacity and how that fits into the larger picture of the workout.
(3) The Circuit
Open Workout 20.2
-4 Dumbbell Thrusters 50/35lbs per Hand
-24 Double Unders
This workout theme is basically the opposite of the chipper. Rather than big sets where movement-specific fatigue is likely to slow you down, in the circuit sets are kept very small, which inherently accelerates the overall pace of the workout.
Success in The Circuit requires the athlete to maintain cycle speeds and quick, efficient transitions. Heart rate and blood pressure shouldn’t have dramatic undulation throughout the event, allowing for consistent, rhythmic movement. This is what allows for sustained output.
(4) The Engine Workout
Open Workout 19.1
-19 Wall Ball | 20lbs, 10ft | 14lbs, 9ft
-19 Calorie Row
With no heavy barbell or complex gymnastics to slow athletes down, The Engine Workout becomes all about conditioning. Often athletes who “hide” behind their efficiency in barbell cycling and gymnastics get exposed by a fit “everyday” gym goer in this type of test.
It’s very important that as a functional athlete strives to improve their Weightlifting and Gymnastics, that they don’t neglect to do workouts with ‘simple’ movements.
Simple movement workouts are often devastating for higher level athletes who have not prepared for them.
Kari Peirce has way more potential to damage herself on a workout like “Mary” than an athlete who can only do doubles consistently on the pull-ups.
After all, capable, detrained athletes are the ones who get rhabdo.
(5) The Burner
Open Workout 18.2
For Time // 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10
-Dumbbell Squats 50/35lbs per Hand
This is the type of workout that leaves the fittest athletes rolling around in pain.
To be competitive, top athletes must adopt sprint variations of all movements and hope to hold on through the finish of the workout.
One of the most important determinants of success in a workout like this is if an athlete can actually reach the power output needed for the event.
For example, if a Male athlete has to hold 1800 Cals/Hr on the rower to be elite in 15.5, then better be able to flash sub 1:15/500m on a max pace test.
Or, if a female athlete wants to place in the top 500 on 16.5, she has to be able to hold sub 3.0s / rep for her Bar-Facing Burpees without it being a problem.
There is no real way to prepare for the intensity of a workout like this; there is no way to replicate the dark places athletes will be willing to go on game day.
The bottom line is athletes have to be powerful, fit and they have to want it.
Like true strength, raw conditioning, and any other fitness quality, you can’t fake it. You either have taken the time to develop it or you didn’t.
Simplifying the Training Process
For those of you trying to distill this information into something tangible and actionable, here you go.
Step #1: Work on Any “Chink in your Armor”
If you can’t do Ring Muscle-Ups or 100 Unbroken Double Unders, it really doesn’t matter if you can row or do burpees faster because that’s not what’s holding you back.
Work on your obvious weaknesses, since they will likely contribute the majority of your Open points. The way the Open is scored (1 place = 1 point), you could literally win 4 of the 5 workouts and if you can’t do 1 Bar Muscle-Up, you aren’t going to the Games.
Step #2: Get Strong Enough to “Play the Game”
If you can’t snatch the fourth barbell weight in 17.3, you’re not going to Regionals that year. The only people offended by that are the ones it applies to. A very important part of the Sport of Fitness is maximal strength development, specifically for Weightlifting (i.e. Snatch + Clean & Jerk).
Step #3: Practice Common Movement Pairings
As a Pro member you have access to almost all the secrets I use with my individual design athletes. I’ve already done all the research for you here. Remember, certain movements are way more likely to appear together in a workout. You would be foolish not to prepare thrusters & chest-to-bar or deadlifts & handstand push-ups during Open preparation.
Step #4: Prepare Yourself for the Open’s Functional Volume
While people often look at the final barbell of 19.2 as their obstacle to a higher place on the leaderboard, it could just as likely be the Toes-to-Bar volume. To finish the workout, athletes had to 125 reps of Toes-to-Bar. Without that capacity to tolerate that volume, you can’t be elite.
Open workout 19.5 had 105 Thrusters and 105 Chest-to-Bar Pull-Ups.
Frederik Aegidius performed 186 reps of Toes-to-Bar in 20.2, and Noah Olsen did 800 Double Unders in 18.3, and Emily Bridgers lunged 675ft in 16.1.
Now, what volume is “functional” is based on your fitness level, but you still have to prepare.
Step #5: Prep for Intensity by Building a Big Base
Too often CrossFit Athletes only want to do intense workouts. And while if you avoid intensity it’s a sure way to be ill-prepared for the Open, if you only ever do intense workouts, you’ll likely be equally ill-prepared.
The key is doing work that is both easy and intense. Think of it as the yin and the yang, which ultimately allows for balance and consistent progress over the long haul.
Need ideas on how to go easy?
Check out the concept of Aerobic Accessory.