Strategy for CrossFit Open 16.5

Black Star Strategy for CrossFit Open 16.5

Another year of the CrossFit Open is coming to a close. I would say this year marks the best (the most well rounded in testing the strength-endurance continuum) year of programming ever. I would even say that after the somewhat disappointing announcement of the 16.5 workout. Not because I don’t like the workout. I do. It’s challenging and a burner. I simply don’t like the fact that bar facing burpees has already been tested as a movement. Why not test a CrossFit staple movement like box jumps? Or something new, like a short shuttle run (they’ve presented that move in the Judge’s Course)? But that one flaw aside, I think the programming for the Open, particularly for the past two years, is far and above what it used to be. Congrats HQ.

In the spirit of repeat workouts, I’ll just repeat the video I did for 14.5, since the advice is virtually the same for 16.5. The one thing I would change from the original video is… go faster than you did two years ago!



M 95 lb.
F 65 lb.

Strategy for CrossFit Open 16.1

Black Star Strategy for CrossFit Open 16.1

Another year of the CrossFit Games series is upon us. Thursday evening, Workout 16.1 was announced. One new movement – overhead walking lunges. This movement shouldn’t be a challenge for anyone following this program and neither should the workout be much of a challenge either. We haven’t seen a workout this long in a while with this many moving parts, however, it shouldn’t present much of a problem. Which unfortunately means, I predict, you will have a lot of scores bunched on the Leaderboard. So your movement and efficiency are paramount. Consider doing this one multiple times as well. It won’t be very taxing but allow at least two days in between your efforts. Good luck and make sure you check out the strategy video below.


Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 20 minutes of:
25-ft. overhead walking lunge
8 burpees
25-ft. overhead walking lunge
8 chest-to-bar pull-ups

Men lunge 95 lb.
Women lunge 65 lb.

How To Load A Wheelbarrow

Event 2 in the 2015 CrossFit Games is a throwback to the 2010 Games. Moving a bunch of heavy sandbags from one side of the tennis stadium at the Stub Hub Center to the other. Transporting the bags is done in part by simple human effort and partially with the use of a wheelbarrow. This workout, probably along with the debut of “Amanda”, was the most interesting and fun event at the 2010 Games.

This is a quick guerrilla style video I did for Elisabeth Akinwale before we knew the exact details of the event. I did not have a wheelbarrow at home or at the gym so I had to infiltrate my local hardware store and “borrow” one of theirs. I got as much in as I could before we started getting disapproving stares. Enjoy.

This also kicks off a series of “How-To Do Stuff” videos we hope to do continuously over time. We will tag them “how-to”. Convenient right?

“Sandbag 2015”
For time:
Move 720 / 480 lb. of sandbags across the stadium

Men move 4 100-lb. bags and 4 80-lb. bags
Women move 4 70-lb. bags and 4 50-lb. bags

Athletes begin on the stadium floor and will run to the top of the stairs on the north side of the stadium, then must move all the sandbags down the stairs, across the stadium floor, up the wall and to the top of the stairs on the south side of the stadium. Each athlete will have access to a wheelbarrow to use in moving the bags across the floor. The event is complete when all bags have been piled on the opposite side of the stadium.

Strategy for Open Workout 15.4

This is a first in the storied five year history of the CrossFit Games Open series: handstand push-ups. Many of you have asked for this. Some of you newbies have been dreading this. But this movement, at this point in the season, is long overdue. And IMHO, another “win” for HQ’s programming. We should be seeing this movement in the Open (and heavier weight). It’s a staple, and those folks advancing to subsequent rounds (Regionals, Games, Masters Qualifier) should have virtuosity with it. So even with the new standards (which I think are a great improvement over “the box”) those folks who are serious about this sport, shouldn’t have any problem with it.

Another win is that HQ has gone with the heaviest clean, 185lb for the men and 125lb for the women, we’ve seen in the Open to date. Not exactly what I’d call absolutely heavy, but certainly heavy enough to separate the wheat from the chaff. So on to the video:

Strategy and tips for Open Workout 15.4

Strategy for Open Workout 15.3

CrossFit Open Workout 15.3 had some familiar tones to it. We’ve seen these movements – muscle-ups, wall balls, and double unders – in combination before in the Open series. However, this year the muscle-ups are coming first. For most of you who follow this site, this won’t be much of an issue. Muscle-ups aren’t the obstacle they once were. Teaching techniques have greatly improved over the years. I imagine we will see many people have no issues with at least the first round of muscle-ups.


15.3 was a little special for us at Black Star, simply because one of our athletes, Lauren Brooks was one of the athletes (along with Julie Foucher) invited to the announcement workout. I thought she did great. Congrats LB.

In terms of strategy, where going to keep it video based again this week. Trying a little different approach with the screencast video. Much faster, and less hassle uploading. Let me know what you think of it.

Strategy for Open Workout 15.2

Remix! Open Workout 15.2 is 14.2, which is cool because I really don’t need to spend a lot of time with a new strategy write up. Everything said for 14.2 still applies. The only thing I would add is expect about a 7% improvement in scores over last year. That seems to be par for the course on Open repeat workouts. So if a top 20 score were let’s say 200 reps last year (actually that’s pretty close on the women’s side), this year expect the average to be 214.

Like I said, there’s no new info from last year’s strategy. So I’ll just repost it. If anything new comes up, I’ll be certain to add it later.

From Strategy for Open Workout 14.2

So, down to brass tacks. The second workout of the 2014 CrossFit season is a “death by” overhead squats and chest to bar pull-ups. In other words it is a work/rest piece where the work increases but the rest decreases. This isn’t much of a surprise as the same format was presented in last year’s 13.5 with thrusters and chest to bar.

Followers of Black Star should feel comfortable with 14.2 however. We have done plenty of work/rest pieces with many of those coming in the form of 2 minutes of work and 1 minute of rest. Just about what we see here. We’ve also done a high volume of a single movement in a continuous effort. 14.2, for top scores anyway, is going to call on possibly 100 or more pull-ups and overhead squats each. Well, we’ve done this as well. Most recently with “Roided Angie” where we performed 100 consecutive chest to bar pull-ups and 100 consecutive front squat with a 95lb (and 65lb for women) barbell. Again, you should feel prepared.

Now on to the points of performance:

Be the tortoise, not the hare: By now I sound like a broken record. But pacing is proving to be the most important yet under-respected aspect of doing well in CrossFit style competitions. The old school mentality of “go hard as hell until you pass out” way of competitive fitness competitions dies hard. But the idea needs to die.

We have a limited supply of energy. And studies have shown although a “fast start” in physical activity is an incredible training tool and positively affects VO2 max, it also does an incredible amount of (temporary) damage to our ability to replenish energy in a short amount of time.

By sprinting out in a fast start, blowing right through the squats and busting out the pull-ups unbroken, you’ll put your body in a state where you rely solely on your alactic anaerobic system for energy, particularly on the pull-ups. This source is only useful for 15-30 seconds at a time and takes about 3-5 minutes to fully replenish with full rest. So in the context of this workout, once it’s gone, you won’t be able to use it again. Then your body will shift to relying on the lactic system. And you’ll definitely feel that.

The rounds of 10 and 12: Best to execute a “slow start” where you keep your anaerobic energy stores in reserve as long as possible. This is best done by simply breaking up the pull-ups and moving slow between movements. Use the time you have, particularly in the rounds of 10 and 12. You want to finish with no more than 30 seconds left on the clock, before you have to begin the next round. Sit down on a plyo box or something between rounds.

Sets of two or three (or four): Managing the pull-ups is probably the most effective thing you can do in this workout. As I mentioned above, since it is such a ballistic movement, it will likely call on your anaerobic energy to complete them. You have a limited supply. The only way to reserve this energy and still get the work done is to break the pull-ups in to small sets. On the round of 10, perhaps 5/5 or 4/3/3 or even 2/2/2/2/2 (yes, reps of 2!). The same should be done on the round of 12. You will have time to do this on the later rounds as well, but your breaks must be managed well.

Butterfly is preferred but kip is fine: Butterfly pull-ups are fine but don’t think you must rely on them to complete this workout. Mikko Salo famously performed all his pull-ups with the traditional kip in last year’s 13.5 and turned in one of the top scores in the world. So if your kip is proficient, by all means use it.

Grip: You may run into issues with you grip. Consider using a chin-up (underhand) grip or a mixed grip (one hand over, one hand under). Either will save your forearms by putting a little more stress on your biceps. Also, make sure to wrap your thumb around the bar. It will give you more control when executing butterfly pull-ups.

Proper pull-up station: For God’s sake, set up correctly for pull-ups. There is no reason to have to execute a max effort vertical leap every time you want to get to your pull-up bar. If need be, set a box or a stack of plates near you so you can just step to the side and rest between pull-up efforts. (I wish I had my own video for this, but I’m going to steal Hack’s. Hope he doesn’t mind.)

Slow and steady: This may seem counter-intuitive but you will want to use the overhead squats as rest for the pull-ups. Most of the athletes that went through a trial run reported more difficulty with the pull-ups than the OHS. Consequently you will feel the urge to rush through the OHS. DON’T! Reserve your energy on the OHS to perform on the pull-ups. Although it may not seem like it, these movements will affect each other. You can not compartmentalize them. Like with the pull-ups, break up the squats into smaller sets, HOWEVER…

Never drop the bar to the floor: You’d be much better served by holding on to the bar for the duration of the rep scheme. If you want to rest, gently lower the bar to your back, take a few breaths and then continue on. In the video you’ll see an athlete execute this very strategy at about the 4:20 minute mark. This can be done easily in the rounds of 10 and 12. In later rounds, you’ll need to watch your time carefully and assess on the spot if you’ll be able to break up your OHS sets and by how much. Remember, it’s all about the pull-ups.

Grip, stance and breathing: You will want to narrow your grip for this workout. Somewhere between a snatch grip and a clean grip. You want to balance the stability of a narrower grip with the flexibility of a wider grip. You’ll also want to widen your stance. It provide you balance in the bottom position while having the added benefit of shortening the range of motion. Also take a deep breath in at the top of the movement. This will lower your heart rate, calm you down and also provide stability in the bottom of the squat.

Strategy for Open Workout 15.1

So the 2015 CrossFit Games season is upon us. The first workout, 15.1, is,

9 minute AMRAP of:
15 toes to bar
10 deadlift @ 115/75#
5 snatch @ 115/75#

Ah, but there’s a twist. Immediately following 15.1 is 15.1a, which is,

Within 6 minutes:
Find a 1RM clean and jerk

My hope is this is a trend in the CrossFit Open series. We have never seen a heavy single lift in the Open series. Albeit under the condition of fatigue and duress. But I’m certain you will see many people still PR even under fatigued conditions which seems to be a regular occurrence in CrossFit. I like the idea that HQ may be testing other things beside long duration and light load. Of course, like I said, this heavy lift is purposely meant to be performed under fatigue. Not an ideal environment for displaying maximal strength. But it’s the closest we have ever been. Perhaps an indicator of an overall broader test of fitness in the Open going forward.

In terms of strategy for 15.1 and 15.1a, we’re going straight video on this one.

Thank You And More To Come

Thank you all for visiting the site over the last couple of years and trusting me to guide your journey on your quest to realize your fullest athletic potential. This has been a labor of love for me. It’s been very fulfilling to see the growth in the folks who have followed consistently.

Over the last couple of years Black Star (follow on Instagram and Twitter) has seen some modest growth. And it’s become clear to me I have to make some changes to the site and the program to keep up with that growth. So there will be some changes in the coming weeks.

First, and probably most important to you if you’re reading this, the daily workout which as you know is designed around competing in the CrossFit Games season, is moving to a paid membership. Because of the changes HQ has made to the format of the season, that workout will also now morph into two levels – one designed for those who simply want to crush the Open and another designed for those with an eye on making the Regional. Based on feedback I’ve gotten from followers, it will be priced extremely reasonably. The target for the start of the memberships is January 1 2015.

In the meantime, all the workouts that have been published on the site will remain free and available for the foreseeable future.

Secondly, I will be adding at least two other programs to the membership, for Masters athletes and for those who are preparing to try their hand at the National Pro Grid League (NPGL). Being both a Master athlete and having gone through the inaugural year of the NPGL with the Boston Iron as a 40+ athlete, I think I have some insight into both of these areas.

You should know however, this is not the end of the free stuff on the site. Along with those changes to the programs, I’ve been in the process of putting together a podcast, tentatively called Barbells and Bagels (website coming soon). Also, I have a group of coaches who are also writers who will be adding to the content of the site. And I’ve hooked up with a video production company to put together a series of instructional videos. All those things will be free on the site.

Oh, and the dedicated programming and coaching will continue as per usual on the site.

A lot of these changes (along with some changes to the look of the site) will be rolled out over the next month or so. I want to thank you again for being a part of Black Star to this point. And good luck to you all in the upcoming CrossFit and NPGL season.