From the end of February to the middle of March, the CrossFit Open is an opportunity for athletes to test their fitness against the rest of the world in the CrossFit Open Workouts.
Almost every person that signs up will hit a PR.
Many will get that first muscle-up or finally hit their rhythm with double unders.
The CrossFit Open is a time that we, as a fitness community, celebrate and look forward to.
History Of The CrossFit Open
But for many, it’s also a time to show the world what you’ve got. It’s an opportunity to put up better numbers after another year of developing your fitness.
If you have any aspirations of ever competing in CrossFit, The Open is your chance to showcase your skills.
The stakes are high, and the learning curve for each workout is sometimes steep. How can you gain an advantage?
Whether your goal is to make regionals, set a personal record, or simply to sign up this year, this article will walk you through 4 things you should be doing now to get ready for the CrossFit Open.
1. Know What’s (probably) Coming.
The numbers don’t lie. If you look at the data, it’s pretty easy to see which movements are likely going to come out of the hopper.
If you want to be successful in The Open, focus on the almost-guaranteed movements in red and the highly likely movements in yellow.
History suggests most of these exercises will be there on game day. Dave Castro seems to like testing fitness with these tools.
Do you have toes to bars and chest to bar pull-ups down?
Can you land a heavy snatch when you’re short of breath?
Can you string together thrusters and wall ball shots, or do they leave you in a crump on the ground?
Wherever you’re at in your training year, it won’t hurt to take this information and run with it.
Never miss days at your box when these movements are the focus of the day, and even plug them in for accessory work.
Here are some resources for the movements above:
- How To Get Your First Bar Muscle Up
- 11 Thruster WODs To Take Your Fitness To The Next Level
- CrossFit Conditioning: Why You Need It And How To Get It
- How To Do Double Unders
- Breathing and Breath Control for Olympic Weightlifting
- How To Improve Wallballs
This is your cheatsheet. Whether you’re 2 weeks or 6 months away from the next CrossFit Open, use this knowledge to your advantage.
In all likelihood, you’ll be seeing these movements again soon.
2. Set Honest Goals and Be Prepared For Everything.
During The CrossFit Open, it is your job to immediately begin assessing how your skills match up after a workout is released.
Never go into a workout with a clear goal for each individual component of the workout. Back your goals with data and experience.
For example, let’s look at how you might properly set analyze and then set goals for 16.4.
Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 13 minutes of:
- 55 deadlifts
- 55 wall-ball shots
- 55-calorie row
- 55 handstand push-ups
- *Men deadlift 225 lb. and throw 20-lb. ball to 10-ft. target
- *Women deadlift 155 lb. and throw 14-lb. ball to 9-ft. Target
Your thought process should look something like this:
- “13 minute AMRAP? Okay, I’m good at that.”
- “55 deadlifts at 225?” I’ll have to break those up into sets of 15-20. How long will I need to recover between sets? I think 10-15 seconds”
- “55 wallball shots? I’ll be good there. Chip away and keep the heart rate down.”
- “55 calories on the rower won’t be fun. But I have to remember that this is the only real opportunity to recover in the whole workout. Quick transition”
- “Okay, 55 handstand push-ups is a lot. I’m not sure I’ve ever done that many in a workout before… My max set is 18. I have to start slow and never reach failure on these to get through.”
- “How long will the first 3 movements take? 7 minutes? Okay, I think I can get through handstand push-ups if I break them up over 4-5 minutes.”
- “I should be able to get at least 1 full round plus a few deadlifts if I do this correctly.”
Get in the habit of dissecting workouts like this now, setting mini goals based on your understanding of how you’ve performed in the past.
Mentally tear apart the floorboards of every workout you do at your box between now and competition time, so that you’ve mastered this evaluation process when The Open begins.
This process happens a lot faster in your brain. Set goals by attacking each individual piece of the workout, and then compare it to how the WOD is set up as a whole.
There is a lot of compelling research out there about goal-setting.
Some say to shoot for the moon, suggesting that you’ll “land amongst the stars” even if you never reach your goal.
Many people buy into the line of thinking of The Secret, believing that thinking something will happen will help it happen.
In a CrossFit workout, that’s faulty logic at best. You can’t generate fitness through willpower.
If you want to gain an advantage in the CrossFit Open, it’s your job to master the art of being ruthlessly pragmatic.
Self-awareness will help you come up with the right strategies for maximizing performance in each WOD.
This whole thing may seem obvious, but consider this. What will happen if you go into the WOD with no goal at all?
In the CrossFit Open, it means you’ll put out a B performance.
By the nature of things, The Open workouts come with a big buildup and little time to prepare.
You may score than most of the people in your box, but there is no possible way you’ll maximize your performance without turning over some stones.
CrossFit isn’t about other people’s scores.
It’s about becoming a better version of yourself each time. Don’t let that belief get lost in the haze of competition.
Consider these “data” points when analyzing a workout:
- Previous performances with similar movements
- How combinations of movements might sway in your favor
- Where, no matter what, you’re going to struggle in the workout
- How the structure of the workout might play out (long AMRAPs, sprints, etc.)
- Transition times between workouts- can you decrease them without being more fit?
- Don’t be the first athlete to do a CrossFit Open WOD at your box. Ever. Let 6-8 people go, and hope one of them stacks up to you in some way. Consider their performance throughout the workout and see where they lose or gain time. Use those insights to reassess the goals you set.
- Practice this pragmatic goal-setting technique with WODs you’ve already done. If your Helen time is 9:30, dissect the workout and set goals for each individual component of the workout. Try the WOD again and see the difference.
3. Get Your Gear and Set-Up Right.
If you do The Open correctly, the workouts won’t be like the training WODs you do throughout the year.
If you want an advantage on your competition, you should take note of every little detail and equip yourself properly.
Take note of your gear and set-up.
You will give yourself multiple small advantages by simply preparing more extensively and changing your perspective on why it’s important to do so.
Take 17.2 for example. The WOD is as follows:
- 2 Rounds of:
- 50-ft. Weighted walking lunge
- 16 Toes To Bar
- 8 Power cleans
Then, 2 rounds of:
- 50-ft weighted walking lunge
- 16 bar muscle-ups
- 8 power cleans
*Men use 50lb dumbbells for power cleans
Assuming you can manage bar muscle-ups, this WOD doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary, yeah?
There isn’t much you can do other than push hard and try your best, right? Wrong.
It’s a 12-minute AMRAP, so you’ll do a fair amount of walking lunges.
Wear knee sleeves or something to pad your knees.
You may not think this will make a difference, but at least a handful of athletes across the globe will neglect this step, and it might cost them precious seconds pausing between reps.
At least a few of them will probably pause mid-workout to pull their knee sleeves up. You won’t have to do either of these things.
For the bar movements, you’ll want a bar with the right height for both toes to bar and muscle-ups.
Don’t use 2 different bars if you can help it, because then you’ll have to walk further to your dumbbells.
Keep the dumbbells right in front of the bar, lined up properly so you can grip them and go.
You should be able to take 2 steps from your last rep of toes to bar or muscle-ups and be into your first clean immediately..
Think about it this way. The fittest athletes in the world got through around 200 reps in this workout, meaning they did a rep (on average) every 3.6 seconds.
When you approach the workout with this understanding, you can see how milliseconds add up very quickly.
A mere 1 second difference (4.6 sec avg per movement) would give you a score of 156 reps, which is good for around 7000th place.
Remember, The Open is about numbers. It’s a game of inches and nothing else. 1 rep and 1-second matter more here than in an average workout.
Throw everything you have at the WOD to get the highest score possible, even if your technique sounds a little absurd to the average fitness enthusiast.
4. Get Back In The Groove.
Having read through the first 3 tips, I’d like to think you’re at least buying into some of these ideas for dominating the CrossFit Open.
Ideally you’re reading this article before the event starts, and you have a little bit more time to get ready.
You’re looking for the perfect techniques to ensure you arrive at The Open prepared.
The key is to hit the ground running when The Open does start. The last thing you want is to finally hit your groove in week 3 or later.
By then it’s too late to impact the score if you performed poorly on the first few workouts.
The best thing you can do, then, is simulate your own CrossFit Open before the real one starts.
Go back to any of the last few years and pick 2 workouts.
I highly recommend you pick 3 different workouts that align to different indicators of the performance “data” you collected in step 2.
Ideally, pick 1 workout that caters to your skill set, and 1 workout that will either test you or be problematic.
Map out your mini Open over the next 2 weekends, and apply all the techniques in this article.
If possible, do this with a friend. They can help you score correctly and coach you through the game plan you come up with.
Without going through it, you won’t know what it’s really like.
This type of preparation takes effort and sacrifice on your part, but will be worth it when you show up confident in your approach for the first workout of this year’s Open.
Excessive or overwhelming as these ideas may appear to the average CrossFit enthusiast, the CrossFit Open is a game of inches.
Seconds matter here more than any other workout. If your goal is to be competitive in this sport, you must become ruthlessly pragmatic and detail-oriented.
It is the only way to beat someone with a similar fitness level to your own.
The four techniques outlined in this article advise you to:
- Know the movements that are coming. As often as you can, practice the most common movements that have come up in the first 7 years of the CrossFit Open.
- Set honest goals by dissecting the workout. Be self-aware about your strengths and your gaps, and adjust your strategy for every workout accordingly.
- Gain mini-advantages by ensuring your gear and set-up are flawless. Most people don’t think about transition times as being a big deal, but you know better by now. Every second matters.
- Simulate your open CrossFit Open. Even 2 workouts performed in the same state as the real thing will be beneficial, and you’ll be reminded of the small nuances that come from competing in a worldwide fitness competition.
At the end of the day, the CrossFit Open is about having fun and proving your fitness.
These tips will help you go above and beyond, giving you just enough to outscore your closest competition. Good luck!