Crossfit Open 2017 – 17.5 Prediction

At this point in the Open, it’s pretty obvious that we’re going to be seeing Thrusters. They’ve been a mainstay movement in the final workout since the Open started, and as a great test of strength and fitness, I can’t see them not being in the final workout. We also have yet to see double unders, another movement that I can’t see HQ allowing athletes to Regionals without showing their competency on. There’s speculation that ring muscle ups might rear their head, but with the quantity of bar muscle ups in 17.2, I don’t see what extra part of performance they would be testing that hasn’t been covered already, and they would also break the tradition of a nasty couplet to finish on.

Prediction No. 1

My prediction would be the following:

21-18-15-12-9-6-3

63-54-45-36-27-18-9

Of Alternating Single Arm Dumbbell Clusters and Double Unders.

I really think we’ll see dumbbell thrusters in 17.5, but I can’t see them going with double dumbbells. The movement alone is much harder than a barbell thruster, and if we’ll be using the same weights from the previous workouts this year, that would also be 5lbs heavier than the standard Rx barbell thruster weight. For this reason, I think we’ll see single arm dumbell thrusters. And for judging purposes, I think they’ll change them to clusters.

Without the movement being clusters, HQ will need to arbitrarily stipulate that you must complete x thrusters on your right side, and y thrusters on your left. Making the movement alternating will eliminate this. They could just then go with alternating thrusters, with change overs above head after lockout being allowed, but this seems inelegant. Alternating dumbbell clusters however fix this problem, as the dumbell has to touch both ends between the athletes feet before the next rep. They would however need to stipulate that an athlete needs to hit triple extension before going into a squat to catch the dumbell.

I’ve had a little practice at alternating dumbbell clusters and they almost feel fun; probably because of the novelty and unfamiliarity of the movement. This workout will also see the top athletes finishing in the 6-8 minute range. If we don’t have dumbell thrusters, I could easily see them keeping the same rep range with a barbell.

Prediction No. 2

I think it is also likely that we could see a repeat of 15.5:

27-21-15-9

Cals on Rower

Thrusters

Dave Castro likes to throw the odd curve ball, and repeating this workout would do just that. Everybody seems convinced that we’ll see double unders in the final workout (myself included), but it could be his thinking that any athlete finishing high enough in the Open to qualify for Regionals does not need to be tested on double unders; he assumes they will have them. I think it would be an odd choice to go this route as the second movement in the x.5 workouts are usually there to spike your heart rate, something double unders achieves just as well as a rower. We have also just had the rower in 17.4, so this is unlikely to come up.

Prediction No. 3

This is a bit of a wild card prediction, but it could happen:

21-15-9

Man Makers

With 75-50-25 Double Unders after each round.

This is purely speculated on Dave Castro’s ‘clue’ picture of a knife stabbed through a lump of meat. I can’t see man makers making a show in the Open, purely for judging standards. Will they introduce a standard for allowed feet width through each part of the movement? It would also be tough to judge whether an athlete has rotated too much through their hips on the rows.

Asides from the judging complexity, man makers at the current dumbbell weights would absolutely crush a lot of athletes. But hey, who knows.

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Crossfit Open 2017 – 17.4

As speculated in last week’s post, we saw a return of 16.4. Last year, this workout was my worst placed wod as it contains a few of my weaknesses. Wall balls were a major sticking point last year, but the biggest blockade for me were the hand release press ups. Going into it this year I knew the only sticking point would be the press ups, as my wall balls have been feeling pretty good lately.

Instead of busting out a huge set of deadlifts like last year, I followed the same strategy Brooke Wells had: quick sets of 5 with grabbing the bar again as soon as it was resting on the floor. This saved me a huge amount of time and I was done with the deadlifts in 1:24. Going into the wall balls, I followed a descending rep scheme. It was tempting to hit a set of 15 and then stick to 10s, or even go for a huge set of 25 or something and then grind through the remainder, but I know which strategy works best for me. I went 15-12-10-9-9. It’s not wildly different to going 15-10-10-10-10, but picking the ball up for those last 2 sets was mentally a hell of a lot easier.

The row was probably the most highly underestimated part of this workout. For some reason, my mind had decided not to remember how bad the row was in this. I got on thinking I could maintain a 1200cal/h pace, a sensible enough pace that was below what I’m usually used to rowing at. My legs however only could keep me at a 1050cal/h pace, and my lungs were starting to burn. 55 calories is such a hard distance to row for. On the one hand, you know the harder you row for calories, the less distance you actually need to row, but you also are acutely aware that 55 is not a short stint. Pacing this was one of the hardest parts of this workout and it absolutely crushed me.

I couldn’t have been happier to get off the rower at the 7:37 mark, over a full minute quicker at this point than last year’s effort. The last thing my body wanted to do now was to do press ups, the rower absolutely ruined me. I went in thinking that I could hit sets of 5 and see how long I could maintain that. Turns out, 3 sets of 5 was all I could manage. From there out, it was sets of 1s, 2s and 3s. I managed to squeeze out 11 more reps than last year.

Although I should be happy with my improvement, I think it shows that I haven’t really improved on my press ups. If I had come off the rower at the same time as last year, I think I might have only improved by 1 or 2 reps. Sure I should be happy that outside of that weakness, my fitness has improved, but it’s a wake up call to me that I really need to get on with working on my press ups. As soon as the Open finishes, I’ll be hitting that programme, and potentially re test 17.4 in 6 months or so.

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Crossfit Open 2017 – 17.3

overhead

So although I was hoping for something heavy, snatches weren’t at the top of my list. Dave Castro’s mid-week clue of a deck of cards strewn across a table made sense to me as soon as I saw the workout: it’s time to put your cards on the table, and really separate the pack.

Even though I went scaled on this workout, the weights were still fairly challenging. Scaled athletes are allowed to power snatch and then OHS the weight, but that didn’t fill me with too much confidence, as my one rep power snatch was 60kg going into this, with my OHS at just 52.5kg. The overhead squat is a movement I really struggle with, my shoulders just don’t want to have any part in it. This was not going to be my workout.

After showing up to the box, again I was told I would be in Heat 1. I had 10 minutes to get all my plates for my bar sorted, get a stack of plates for the jump pull ups sorted, whilst also trying to warm up. Mentally, I was all over the place when the timer started. I didn’t get a chance to squat anything more than 30kg in the warmup, so not only was I worrying about whether I had all of my plates sorted, but I was mostly worried about how my shoulders were going to hold up

I hit the first rounds at 20kg as squat snatches to try to keep the bar moving as quickly as possible whilst it was still light. I wasn’t worried at all about the jump pull ups (which were a complete waste of time with the standards set as they are), I was completely focused on the snatches. I had also planned to squat snatch the second weight (34kg), but with no prep time, I decided to go with quick power snatches and OHSs. I knew the sticking point would be the rounds at 52kg.

These would be the rounds that would make or break this workout for me. My goal was to get through this weight and then attempt the rounds at 61kg. It would have been Mission Accomplished if I finished these 9 reps. I was comfortable with the power snatch, but then came the hard part. Trying to keep yourself calm when hitting an uncomfortable weight is half the battle. Before the first rep at 52kg, I was trying to convince myself that I’ve done this weight before, I can do it again. I knew that if I could get the first rep, the boost in confidence would carry me through the rest. Although a little bit wobbly, I made it through the 52kg rounds, I now had 4 and a half minutes to see how 61kg felt.

At this point, everyone else in the gym (who were all going Rx) had been timed out of their workouts: the entire gym was behind me. Before I made a proper attempt at power snatching it, I did a snatch high pull to feel the weight a bit, to build my confidence. With a feel for the weight, I went for it. The gym erupted in cheers as the bar was now above my head. I fought the bar all the way down into the squat. My shoulders were shaking, but I hit depth. As I stood the bar up, pure elation swept the gym, and I had surpassed my own expectations. I PBd my overhead squat by 8.5kg, and I knew that one rep would mean a lot on the leaderboard. I still had a few minutes to eek out some more, but my shoulders were absolutely shot at this point. Although I power snatched the bar up another 4 times, I couldn’t stick the OHS.

Even though I wasn’t looking forward to this workout, I got more out of it than any previous Open wod. I’m now looking forward to what 17.4 brings, even if it is a repeat of 16.4.

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Crossfit Open 2017 – 17.2

As it turns out, I was completely wrong about 17.2. I was expecting something heavy and close to 16.2, but instead we got more dumbbells and high level gymnastics. Looking at the workout, it’s easy to see where the sticking points will be, and why this workout is perfect for Crossfit’s mission statement of finding the Fittest on Earth. The majority of Rx athletes (this is true of my gym anyway), won’t have too many problems with making their way to the bar muscle ups, but this movement at the prescribed volume, will separate your average athlete from the Regional competitors. The same is of course true for scaled, with pullups being a high level gymnastics movement.

Inclusivity

Before I get into how I handled the workout, I want to talk about Crossfit HQ’s reasoning behind putting pullups in the scaled division. Now, no one has any problems with bar muscle ups being in the Rx division, they’ve been part of the Open for the last couple of years now, they should be expected. This is also why there has been little debate as to their inclusion. For scaled however, there are numerous threads online (and I’ve also had this conversation with a few members at our gym) about people questioning the inclusion of pullups in scaled, with the argument being about inclusivity. And I can almost see their point. Almost.

Now, no one minds bar muscle ups being in Rx as it’s about finding the Fittest on Earth. If you can’t do them and you aren’t strong enough to move through the lunges at that weight, or don’t have toes to bar, there’s always scaled. But now there are pullups in scaled, where do the athletes who can’t do pullups go? Do these atheletes scale the workout down even more and submit a score of 0, or complete the pre-pull up work and submit a score of 78?

I would argue that they do the latter, and spend that time to try to get their first pullup. Every year in the Open, there are countless videos on Reddit and Crossfit HQ’s Facebook page, showing people achieving their first bar or ring muscle up. And it’s fantastic that once these athletes have been asked to complete this movement which they normally might substitute for something they can do, they rise to the challenge and surpass their own expectations. And I think it’s fantastic to see that happening in the scaled division. You can bet that there are going to be heaps of videos of scaled atheletes finally getting their first pullup. Both movements are high level gymnastics in their relevant division, but as the foundation for so many higher level gymnastic movement, it’s more important for an athlete to achieve their first pull up, than it is their first bar muscle up. So although inclusivity is vital to Crossfit, so many more will amaze themselves and instead of scaling a movement they can’t achieve to ring rows or jump pull ups, they will rise up to what is being asked of them.

The Workout

HQ have done a great job with the programming so far (it would be great if we could touch a barbell though), and this week’s workout feels completely different to 17.1. Although muscle fatigue played a role in the first workout, it was definitely more about engine and lungs. This week however, muscle fatigue was a much larger factor.

My first run at this workout was on friday night. I was feeling pretty fresh all day and was looking forward to having a good go at the workout. I showed up and was told I was in Heat 1 and had less than 10 minutes to warm up. Being in a small box (the length of our gym is barely 35ft), we could only really cater for 3-4 people to go at a time, so getting through everyone was going to be tight with quick turnarounds. As I had been at work all day, I didn’t get much time to study the announcement video for any tricks that might help me through it. The biggest thing I was worried about was how to handle the dumbbells on my shoulders. Death gripping the dumbells was a no-no, so I settled for the technique Ro and Boz used, which helped somewhat, but was a bit tricky to transition into.

I went out pretty quick and hammered my way through the first 2 rounds. I knew the next 2 rounds would be a lot slower, as my pullups are far from great. The plan going in was to pace them and knock out 16 singles to help control my heart rate. I finished round 4 at 8:41. I now had a sprint on my hands to work through these next 2 ‘easy’ rounds as quickly as I could. This is when I realised that my legs might be the limiting factor in this workout, and not my grip. My lunges were slower than the first 4 rounds, and I was desperately trying to convince myself to not put the dumbbells down at the 25ft mark. I nearly finished the 6th round at 195 reps.

I knew I could find some reps in there. Going in the first heat meant I couldn’t see how other people handled the dumbbells. The first heat was also super busy, and I had to swerve on the lunges to dodge others. I also ended up using 3 different pull up bars during the course of the workout as things were that chaotic. With these three things in mind, I knew I could find at least 20 seconds somewhere to finish those next 9 easy reps. Still sore from my first attempt (and also a partner workout I did yesterday that perhaps wasn’t the smartest decision), I had another go this morning. I was in a heat of just 3 this time, I marked out my one pullup bar (yes, just one this time), and also changed my dumbbell position for the lunges.

Out the gate, I knew I was quicker. I knew I could attack the lunges harder. I knew I didn’t need to rest after the cleans, or on the 25ft turn. I stuck to singles on the pullups, and I was a full minute ahead after the 4th round. I cleared the 6th round and wobbled my way through the last set of lunges for 15 seconds to crack through the pullups again. Whilst in the thick of the workout, I jumped up and started doing KTP, completely forgetting it was now pullups. 4 reps in and someone screams ‘PULL UPS!’ at me. I manage to squeeze in one pullup before the timer, taking my score up to 215. I know I could have made a couple more reps without the mistake at the end, but I’m ecstatic about a 20 rep improvement.

I’m now hopeful for something a bit heavier this week. And Dave, please can we have a barbell.

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Crossfit and Nutrition

If you’ve been doing Crossfit for more than a couple of months, you’re probably going to start to think about how you can improve on your diet to help improve on your times. Nutrition is one of those things that when you first start Crossfit, you’ll be bombarded with all sorts of knowledge, but it won’t all be singing from the same hymn sheet.

food

For my first 6 months (it’s worth mentioning that I’m now into my third year of Crossfit), I didn’t worry too much about my diet. I was attending 2-3 classes a week (I was also still training judo and jujitsu at the time) and my main focus was getting used to the new movements. Whilst my diet wasn’t bad, it also wasn’t great. A few years before starting Crossfit I was over 250lbs and couldn’t do a single pressup. I lost a lot of weight through ‘standard’ gym going with a fair bit of running and also just cutting down my calories. Through this experience, I learnt how to lose weight, but I didn’t learn a thing about nutrition.

After the first 6 months of Crossfit, I wanted to make progress, and diet was the limiting factor. I’ve always struggled with vegetables (I’d like to blame my parents for not forcing them down me as a kid, but that wouldn’t be fair), so trying to find something that works for me has been hard. Talking to other members and researching online, it looked like Paleo might be a good diet to try. It focuses on eating whole foods, limiting your carbohydrates to vegetables and sweet potato (with very little of the latter), and completely removing any processed foods and grains, such as oats and pasta etc.

I could only stick with Paleo for 2 weeks before having to knock it on the head. I personally find the diet far too restrictive, especially for people who train. I think it’s a great basis of a diet, with a lot of good stuff in there and some great foundations to any diet, but it definitely didn’t work for me. My girlfriend and I both felt extremely lethargic for the entirety of the time on Paleo, and our workouts were also suffering. We simply weren’t able to fuel our bodies enough. But like I said, there are a lot of good fundamentals in there that you’ll also see in a lot of other diets, so it’s quite a good basis for people who don’t train, who can give it a try for a while and then start adding the odd piece of fruit back in here and there.

For a brief stint, I also had a look at going the Keto Adapted route. This diet is again similar to Paleo in that you want to get as much veg in as possible, and try to stick to whole foods, but emphasises the use of fats as your main energy store. The idea is to move your body away from using carbohydrates and glycogen stores as energy, and instead use your fat stores, thus encouraging fat loss and also sustaining energy throughout the course of longer workouts. This meant cutting sugar intake to less than 20-30g a day, which is actually extremely hard when you consider a single banana has ~12g of sugar. I actually fared better on keto and my workouts went well, but I didn’t get any stronger during this time. I also started to seriously crave some carbohydrates, and the draw was too strong to resist.

My diet now is my diet. I still have carbohydrates such as oats and potatoes with the odd bit of fruit, but I still steer clear of things like bread and pasta (although the occasional meal here and there is fine). I now eat more vegetables than I did before trying the other diets, and I also avoid sugars and ready meals and the like. And that’s really what I want to convey in this blog post. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t following Paleo, The Zone, Keto or whatever. They shouldn’t be the ideals, especially not if you’re training. At the end of the day, what works for you, works for you, and that should be your diet. That said, there are a few basics that really form the basis on all of these diets (mine included), that are a great foundation.

  • Avoid sugar, especially refined sugars (limited fruit is okay by me)
  • Avoid as much processed food as you can like breads and pasta
  • Try and get as much veg in as you can without going completely insane
  • Eat your meat
  • Be consistent
  • Don’t obsess

And really, the last 2 points are the most important here, even though they might be somewhat contradictory. Make sure your diet is pretty good 90% of the time, and don’t get so obsessed that you fret about that burger you had on a Saturday night out with friends. Whilst training is important, you’re probably never going to make it to the Games. So whilst you can eat to improve your performance, life is also about enjoying yourself, and the odd meal once or twice a week, really isn’t going to tip the scales if you’re consistent the rest of the time.

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Crossfit Open 2017 – 17.1

So 17.1 has now been and (almost, at time of writing) gone. Before the announcement, it was pretty clear that dumbells were making an appearance for the first time in the Open this year, but for them to appear in the first workout probably means that we haven’t seen the last of them, I’m certain we’ll see some more dumbell work in 17.4.

The workout itself was an interesting mixture of movements; that whilst on paper looked like it was going to be a punishing workout, it was so much worse once in the thick of it. From a programming point of view, the work is very much full body, but with most of the work aimed at your hips and quads. For the snatches (if you aren’t blowing out your lower back anyway), the movement pivots around the opening of the hips to get the work done. The same is true for the burpees and the box jumps. Hitting the burpee box overs after the set of 30 snatches, my legs ceased firing. My lungs were still there, but trying to get my legs to move at the speed I wanted just was not happening.

It is worth noting that I have gone Scaled again this year. Although I could have achieved a score in 17.1 at Rx, I know that movements such as muscle ups and handstand press ups are on their way, all movements I currently do not have. So although I might be able to get a score on every workout (so long as they don’t start with those movements like 15.3 and 15.4), I won’t be getting a good workout in, nor would I be competitive with the Rx guys at my gym. I think it’s the right thing for me to do this year, and attempting to struggle through Rx would only be for my ego.

My strategy for 17.1 was fairly simple. I wanted to maintain the same pace from the start, right the way through to the end. The weight on the dumbell is relatively light for me (I’ve hit a few comps over the start of the year, where there were dumbell snatches at this same weight), so going unbroken was the aim. As for the burpees and box step ups, the plan was to step up out of the burpees to save my quads somewhat, and then step on to the box as far over as possible, and then turn whilst still on the box. This worked pretty well for the first 3 sets of burpee box step overs, but by the 4th and 5th set, my legs were in pieces.

I set out pretty quick as I was in the same heat as one of my training partners. I got an early lead by getting onto the burpees first, but by the time we cleared our way through all 15, we were then level. I hit the next set of snatches hard again and gained even more ground than the first set. After the next set of burpees I was still ahead, and only extended the lead after every set of snatches. Keeping check on my heart rate was actually one of the tougher parts of this workout. After smashing through the burpees, my heart rate would spike. I managed this by swapping hands on the dumbell on the floor, rather than swapping whilst bringing it down. Once my HR was into a more comfortable range, I then swapped back to switching hands on the dumbell on the way down between reps, rather than on the floor. Hanging on for the set of 50 to go unbroken was brutal, but the end was in sight and I couldn’t afford to lose time resting. I finished far quicker than I expected in 13:13.

After seeing the announcement of the workout, this was always going to be a case of damage limitation. I am now hoping for something a little bit heavier and less body weight stuff. Given that last year also started with a 20 minute workout that was mainly an engine test, it’s probably likely that we’ll also see the second week bringing something heavier. The second week has also been a good choice for a workout repeat. Given this, I think it’s likely that we will see a repeat of 15.1 or 16.2. There was a bit of controversy surrounding certain Teams with 15.1 and 15.1a, so I don’t think we’ll see a repeat, or a 1 rep max Olympic lift. I think however that a repeat of 16.2 is far more likely. It also happens that I really liked the structure of 16.2, and I’d love to have another go at it in the Open atmosphere. I wasn’t able to finish it last year as the final weight was 83kg, but my 1 rep max squat clean at the time was 80kg. It’s one movement that I’ve been working on lately, so I’m really hopeful for a repeat.

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19/02/2017 Training

The last week of serious training before the Open has just ended, and it’s been a good week. On Thursday we had a good go at a complex of a Power Clean, Hang Power Clean, Push Jerk and Split Jerk. My Split Jerk is something I need to work on desperately as I’ve been at the same weight for the last year with no improvement. This has mainly been down to a reluctance on my part to even attempt a higher weight, mainly because of confidence. On Thursday however, during the complex I was only 5kg shy of my clean and jerk, and it felt pretty good too. I’m confident that my clean and jerk has improved and I’m looking forward to re testing it at some point soon, but not until the Open is over with.

Sunday was a chance to re test my strict press and front squat 1 rep maxes. If you’ve been reading these last few updates, then you know that I’ve been working through a progressive loading programme over the last month. It seemed to have done the trick as I improved my strict press from 50kg to 52.5kg. If I could take 2.5kg on my strict press every month, I’d be a very happy man, so I’m delighted with the improvement. Everyone else on the programme with me also improved their strict press by 2-2.5kg, and it was great having the whole gym watch those PB reps and cheering the bar up.

We then moved onto front squat, and again, the programme seemed to have done the trick. I moved up from 100kg to 105kg, with 107.5kg nearly going up. That feels like a huge improvement in such a short space of time. It goes to show that once you train the areas you neglect and commit to training them, they will improve. I’m now looking at a press up programme to follow alongside the Open.

I finished off Sunday with re testing one of the old Open workouts, 16.5 or 15.5. My training partner Matt wanted 16.5 and I would have prefered 15.5. My only reasoning was that at least 15.5 will be over quicker. We decided to flip a coin, heads for 16.5, tails for 15.5. Heads. Balls.

I’ve completed 16.5 twice so I should be well versed in just how horrible it is. For those that haven’t had the pleasure, 16.5 consists of:

21-18-15-12-9-6-3

Thrusters

Bar Facing Burpee Over Bar

The Rx weight for men is 95lbs (42.5kg), and female is 65lbs (30kg). Although I could complete it at the Rx weight (whilst spending a lot of time staring at the barbell willing it to move on its own), I wanted to retest against my time from last year’s Open where I went scaled, which was the same weight as the female Rx. It’s an extremely tough workout, not just physically, but it’s a very mentally taxing workout. Trying to picture an end to the workout whilst you’re still deep in the 15s seems impossible. The best advice I can give to anyone trying this; or if it does come up again this year which I doubt, will be to think about how you’re going to tackle the thrusters and stick to the plan. Abandoning a plan midway through a workout like this is a bad idea. We’ve all done it. You have a plan, the first set feels super easy, so you bin the rep scheme you had in mind and figure you’ll go with you gut. 3 minutes later, the workout seems impossible and you’re scrambling to try to keep it together to get some sort of respectable time.

I managed to cut 127 seconds off my old time in under a year. If that doesn’t qualify my improvements in fitness and strength over the past year, I don’t know what else would. It’s a super tough workout with nowhere to hide if your fitness and engine isn’t on point. Going into the Open confident.

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