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.