Coaching Roundtable: CrossFit Open 13.4 Tips and Advice

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Coaching Roundtable: CrossFit Open 13.4 Tips and Advice

After the dust of 13.3 has settled, many of you correctly predicted that we would see a ladder… but you probably did not think that CrossFit Open 13.4 would be a clean & jerk and toes-to-bar ladder, a wicked little weightlifting and gymnastic couplet. With only seven minutes on the clock, this one does not seem to leave a lot of time for resting — you’re going to go big or find that you have run out of time. But never fear, as we have a returning team of coaches and athletes at the ready to offer their guidance. Read it all, take what you need, and get ready for an intense seven minutes. You saw Graham and Chris, right?

We also welcome two new voices to the coaching panel this week: Kane Greene of CrossFit Fairbanks and Stephen Flamm of Cincinnati Strength & Conditioning.

MobilityWOD Dream Team (MobilityWOD, San Francisco CrossFit)

Kane Greene (CrossFit Fairbanks, MoveFastLiftHeavy)

This type of workout HURTS, like a long version of Fran.
I want to start by saying that I’ve been really stressed out all week about giving strategy advice on such a large scale this entire week, regardless of the fact that I’ve been a CrossFitter since 2006. Upon watching the 13.4 release video and Graham and Chris go at it, I feel entirely relieved.

I have always excelled the most at WODs that involve a barbell, light-moderately heavy weight, and a sub-10 minute time domain. This shit is right in my wheel house.

So we know our rep scheme is 3-3, 6-6, 9-9, 12-12, 15-15, etc… and a 7-minute time cap. This type of workout HURTS, like a long version of Fran. Did you see Graham? His fitness level is likely leaps and bounds ahead of you, and this workout broke his ass off.

Rules for Open WOD 13.4

Men’s Weight 135, Women’s 95 — this should be a light weight for those hoping to take it to the next round. This workout is designed to break apart the “competers” from the “completers,” and my strategy is intended for the first of the two.

Rule #1: POWER CLEAN + POWER (push) JERK

Do NOT muscle clean and DO NOT half ass press it with a little bounce from the toes, no matter now light it feels. It’s a short workout, but not that short. With the overhead + toes-to-bar combo, your shoulders are very likely to fatigue. Use your hips and get under that barbell. Taking that extra time in the beginning when you are fresh will pay off in that last 4 minutes. Smooth is fast.

Rule #2: Stop to shake it out momentarily before muscle failure on C&J and toes to bar.

Shake it out momentarily before muscle failure

This is the type of workout where you will feel like you are about to burn out with muscle fatigue CONSTANTLY after only 2-3 minutes. That’s the time to stop and shake it out.
A break is better than a no rep. Getting no repped on this workout is for suckas, and you don’t want to be a sucka. Even though 7 minutes is short, it’s not short enough to compare it to a 100-yd dash. This is the type of workout where you will feel like you are about to burn out with muscle fatigue CONSTANTLY after only 2-3 minutes. That’s the time to stop and shake it out. That doesn’t mean stop, shake it out, walk around, grab a water, chalk up, get more water, chalk again… That means if you are on toes-to-bar you drop off, continue to maintain eye contact with the bar, count in your head 3…2…1.. and get back at it. If it’s on C&J you drop it and start counting that 3…2….1 in your head as soon as you let go of the bar — don’t even wait until it starts bouncing. Even better, have someone cheering you on know about your strategy beforehand and do that counting for you. The psychological  effect of someone counting that down for you is HUGE! Try it with any CrossFitter in any workout, and I guarantee whenever you are on 1 they are already trying to start back up again. Ideally, try to utilize a training partner or coach who really knows your ability and capabilities to be your counter/cheerleader. They can pace that 3-2-1 count over 2 seconds, 4, or 6. Whatever keeps your mind positive, your body pushing forward, and you doing better than you normally would.

Rule #3: KIP THE S**T OUT OF THE TOES TO BAR.

Yes it is a little harder on the lungs, but do you know how much slower it is to do the weird double swing (and super slow) toes-to-bar vs efficient and smooth toes-to-bar?! It’s like watching someone walk a 100m sprint against a D1 collegiate sprinter! I know that sometimes it is hard to keep that kip going under fatigue, but keep your mental game tight and ride that train as long as possible.

Rule #4: Transition wisely.

Your transition from CNJ and T2B after the round of 9-9 is really important to your success. This is the time to chalk your hands if you need to. I would put 6-8 feet between my bar and my pull-up bar with a chalk bucket right in the middle. This gives you just enough time if you stop to reach in the bucket to re-chalk and keep walking to move forward. WALK from bar to pull-up bar; there is no need to jog or hustle. It is like preplanned rest. Just don’t linger or overdo it.

The Ladder Rep Scheme

The Ladder Rep Scheme

This workout, along with any other couplet including moderate weight, boils down to one thing: your pain tolerance.
Let’s break this down into advanced and intermediate. If you’re a beginner, this year you should be concerned about getting a baseline, not doing workouts over more than once to move from 15,115th to 14,967th. That’s not important.

For intermediate athletes, your goal is to make it through 6-6 without taking your hands off the barbell or pull-up bar. For advanced men and women, your goal is to not take your hands off of the barbell or off the pull-up bar until you are finished with 9-9.

From here we just go by feel for both levels. Your mission is to work in triples, doubles, singles. Work my 3…2…1 method based on however you feel. For example, let’s say you are advanced and after completing 9-9 that sense of “uh-oh…I’m getting moderately fatigued” starts to set in. You may decide to work 12-12 in triples or doubles. That means you do your best to do the number you think you are capable of then do the 3..2…1 countdown before repeating it. Start with triples and work down. You may go from triples to singles in one round, or maybe you do triples to doubles on 12-12 and then doubles to singles on 15-15 and beyond. (For the record, Spealler would do a triple to start these higher rounds and immediately move to steady singles after that.)

This workout, along with any other couplet including moderate weight, boils down to one thing: your pain tolerance. This one will definitely hurt…and if you think it was easy when you finish, you obviously did not push yourself in the least!  The only thing holding you back from a better score is pain tolerance and your desire to be better than everyone else.

Get after it!

Stephen Flamm (Cincinnati Strength and Conditioning)

Even if the load is relatively light and you are proficient at touch-and-go reps, this isn’t “Grace,” and treating it as such can leave you crushed very early into the 7 minutes.
Though it may look eerily similar to the thruster & chest-to-bar pull-up ladder from the last two years, 13.4 will likely yield dramatically different results in both scores and feel for most competitors. The selection of two grip-intensive movements with greater ranges of motion and a heavier barbell will yield lower scores than on 12.5 across the board. The end result will be a tighter range of scores in which each repetition could be worth 50+ points in some of the larger regions. Truly maximizing your score and jumping those extra spots on the Leaderboard will require operating at the fastest possible pace without red-lining on either movement. What that will look like, of course, will vary significantly from person to person according to individual strengths and skills. A few considerations:

Clean & jerk

Clean & jerk

Even if the load is relatively light and you are proficient at touch-and-go reps, this isn’t “Grace,” and treating it as such can leave you crushed very early into the 7 minutes. Delay grip and low back fatigue — as well as big spikes in heart and breathing rates — as long as possible by breaking these up before absolutely necessary. The rep scheme lends itself nicely to sets of 3 with short breaks before moving to quick doubles or singles as needed when you get into the bigger rounds. Limiting rest between reps is critical here, but so is limiting the cycle rate of each actual rep. For many, a hybrid power clean into a push press will be very quick and effective. If you have to reset at the top of the clean before going overhead, do so as quickly as possible while still allowing for a successful jerk, as resting in the front rack is really no rest at all. Regardless of the relative weight and your ability to string together reps, using the hook grip throughout will delay grip fatigue and allow the forearms to be as fresh as possible for the gymnastics piece.

Toes-to-bar

Efficiency and avoidance of absolute failure is everything here. Again, break your sets a few reps before you absolutely have to, rest as little as possible between sets/reps, and limit the time you are hanging from the bar without actually doing a rep. A tight, fast kip will be greatly rewarded here, and if you have it you can push the limits more to get back to the barbell. If, on the other hand, you lose rhythm under fatigue, be willing to drop off the bar and hop back on under control to reset for the next rep. I’ve seen singles with short rest be much quicker and less taxing than resetting the kip while still on the bar between reps. Often when these go they go for good, so avoid absolute failure at all costs until the closing seconds.

Warm-up, set-up, and other notes

Though it may look eerily similar to the thruster & chest-to-bar pull-up ladder from the last two years, 13.4 will likely yield dramatically different results in both scores and feel for most competitors.
Give the lats, pecs, and shoulders special attention, as they need to be warm and loose to achieve good positioning and ease of movement in both the front rack and the overhead positions of the jerk and toes-to-bar. The hips will need a big warm-up here as well, since they’ll going through both loaded extension and flexion. Set up your barbell as close as possible to your toes-to-bar station. Again, every extra rep will mean a significant jump on the Leaderboard, and you don’t want the clock to stop as you’re transitioning between stations. Mentally, you’ll be walking a fine line for all 7 minutes, as breaking and recovering too frequently and for too long can be just as detrimental as forcing maximal sets on either movement.

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