Okay, welcome to part two of my post, “Why 2016 was the best CrossFit Open yet”. In the first part, I discussed the first two workouts, now I’ll go over the last three workouts. Let’s dive right in!
click on the tab for each week as you scroll from week to week in my post in order to follow along.
The first two weeks were long workouts (well, week 2 was for better athletes). In week 3 we had a short little burner. 7 minutes of pain cave. You start out fast, you end fast… there was only one gear in this WoD! And they introduced another new movement to the Open! For the first time, they did Bar Muscle Ups (BMU) in a workout. This workout was extremely simple in what it tested – your ability to go hard for a short period and efficiency of movement. You were pulling and holding a bar the entire time, so grip would become an issue for those who don’t often work on that. One thing I really liked about this one is that at no point should better athletes be close to failing either of the movements – the snatch was light, nobody will ever fail a 75/55# snatch, and the BMUs were in small enough sets that you should be able to go unbroken the entire time. You’ll only fail if you don’t pick up the barbell, or if you just aren’t that skilled with BMUs. Now, because each round was so short (<1 minute), transition time was crucial in this WoD – every couple of seconds left waiting around added a significant amount of time to each round. I like this design because the shorter each round is, the more important each second is – if your rounds are lasting ~50 seconds adding an extra 5 seconds of rest between each movement every round significantly slows you down. Over the course of 7 minutes, you’re stripping yourself of an entire round! You had to ignore your body telling you to take a few extra breaths in between each movement, and just walk up the bar and start ripping. Now onto what I didn’t like about this workout.
I understand that HQ just wanted people to go, go, go… But I think even mediocre athletes are able to do 3 BMUs in a row at almost any given time. It doesn’t accurately test a skill that they had never tried to test before! Even bumping that number up to 5 would have been a better separator between those who can just get away with BMUs and those who truly are proficient with them. Small gripe, but I think it would have made a BIG difference near the top! More people would have had to come off the bar, which would have resulted in more time lost to rest. I suppose HQ didn’t want people resting, but I don’t think it would have altered the plan of attack for the top, top guys, which is who they’re testing for anyways!
Next up, the chipper!
Every year, Castro throws in a long chipper disguised as an AMRAP. And more often than not, it’s in the 4th week of the Open. I think maybe HQ is becoming a bit predictable! And right on time, here it is again!
I think the lovely number 55 will be seared into everybody’s brain for a while after this one! Deadlifts, Wall Balls, Rowing and Handstand Push Ups (HSPU) OH MY! I have one simple thought on this workout – AWESOME. I enjoyed pretty much everything about it. Well, except for when I was actually doing it. But, minor details. I enjoyed the seemingly random amount of 55 reps per movement. I enjoyed each one of the movements in conjunction with one another. I enjoyed the (un)lucky time cap (I finished a full round about 10 seconds before time expired!).
The flow of this workout was simply beautiful. Lower body pull. Lower/Upper body push. Lower/Upper body pull. Upper body push. I really like how they isolated it that way. I also like how the first and last movements were not necessarily cardio intensive, but the two middle movements were. It’s rare that my lungs are so on fire that I can’t perform a deadlift or HSPU, but you definitely can’t say the same for wall balls and rowing. The large number for each movement rapidly broke apart the pack on this one. I like that you had to go into it with a game plan. You don’t just start by picking the bar up until you no longer can. You know in advance how many reps you’re going to do in each set. And, realistically, you probably should have a backup plan in case your Plan A goes to shit. I feel like I was one of the few who had it broken down two ways in my mind in case I needed a Plan B. And, wouldn’t you know, I did. Like Tyson said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
I think similar to Week 3, rest time was crucial (and, let’s be honest, it is with every WoD), but in a much different way. Instead of limiting your rest between transitions, you had to know what your body is fully capable of in order to not be forced to rest too much between sets of each movement. AKA, you needed planned rest, but you had to be able to pull yourself out of it. The biggest separation came on the rower and then of course the HSPU. I’m not a particularly good rower, but I’ve worked really hard on it over the past couple years and have learned a couple tricks that I think would have saved everybody some time. Stay tuned for a future post on some of my tips while working out! And I think for most athletes (save elites), the HSPU were basically just ‘get done what you can.’ It was a fun finish to the workout, as for most people every rep truly counted once you got off that rower.
And finally, let’s discuss the behemoth of a workout: 16.5 AKA 14.5.
This workout is awful, terrible, horrible, terrifying and any other negative adjective you can think of, all rolled into one. That said, it’s an amazing test of fitness. 21-18-15-12-9-6-3 of thrusters and burpees (facing the bar). Just a guess here, but if you were to poll crossfitters of their least favorite movements, I think these would be the top two. And here they are in one WoD. AND it’s a couplet, so there’s simply no escaping them. We have a phrase at Steel Furnace CrossFit (borrowed from Reebok CrossFit 5th Ave when I dropped in there) specifically for WoDs like this: “#DBAP.” I’ll let you figure this one out for yourselves.
There is simply no planning for this WoD, you have to will yourself through it. I don’t care how much you try to break it down, it will not go to plan and at some point your heart is going to have to take over from your body. Both movements are completely exhausting, both accelerate the heart rapidly, and both movements won’t really be failed except for lack of trying. If 16.2 and 14.2/15.2 are the most frustrating workouts I’ve ever done, this is definitely the least favorite one I’ve ever done. And maybe 1A for most frustrating simply because of my lack of progress since the last time is was presented in the Open. I had an improvement of :01. That’s nothing! To be completely honest, I think the less said about this workout, the better. You just had to grind through it and hold on/find that dark place toward the end. The one saving grace is that there’s always light at the end of the tunnel because the rep scheme descends. Get through the first 2 rounds and you’re already almost halfway home. Then get through the next 2 rounds and you’re down to single digits. At least that’s how I looked at it, and told my gym members to look at it.
Okay, so there you have it. My thoughts on all five workouts from the 2016 CrossFit Games Open. Let me know in the comments if you have any additional thoughts and stay tuned for my final impressions on the Open as a whole!