Strategy for Open Workout 13.3


After 13.1 gave us a 17 minute test of let’s see who can keep their lunch down and 13.2 provided a 10 minute exercise in step aerobics, I had hoped HQ would bless us with something that would put a bit more hair on our collective chests. Don’t worry ladies, without pharmaceutical aid, your chest will gain no more hair than it has now. Anyway, since HQ is known for repeating workouts, I was looking for something along the lines of 11.3 or anything with a heavy-ish barbell complex. Well, heavy-ish for the Open at least. I mean, let’s be real, a 165# squat clean thruster isn’t exactly heavy. But it would keep some of the burpee-heads at bay and allow the barbell boys to move up the Leaderboard.

Instead, what we got in 13.3 was a repeat of 12.4 – 12 minutes of 150 wall balls, 90 double under and 30 muscle ups. “Karen” with some BS at the end. My first reaction was of course was what you might expect. I was not all too pleased with Mr. Castro. Once again, he did not give me my heavy barbell. But after my moment of melancholy passed, I have to say I became pretty pleased with this workout.

After all, if you’ve been following this program, you’re pretty friggin’ prepared. You’re definitely familiar with the workout. We performed the workout just a few weeks ago. We’ve done back and front barbell squats multiple times per week throughout the year, both the heavy-low-rep and light-high-rep varieties and all the variations in between. In fact, 13.3/12.4, is the reason (one of many) we squat – ’cause it makes wall balls easier. Speaking of wall balls, didn’t we just do those Monday? And double unders Tuesday? We have also done muscle-ups and double unders, at least once, every single week, all year long. Dare I say, you’re ready.

Now, how do we approach this beauty?

Note: If you’ve done 13.3/12.4 previously, and achieved a score of 270-280 reps or more, you obviously know what the heck you’re doing. Carry on. For the rest of you, keep reading.

You will notice that pace is common theme with me. Once you have attained a competitive level of strength, endurance and skill, how you approach the workout is the only thing that will separate you from your competition. And the “how” is almost always in pacing the workout and moving effieciently through it. In 13.3 pacing is most important in the wall balls in that you go fast enough to give yourself enough time with the muscle-ups without totally depleting your aeorbic capcity tank. The double unders are there mostly to mess with your head.

If you’ve been doing this long enough, you know that wall balls are simply easier for taller individuals. Isn’t everything? Additionally, with something like “Karen”, aerobic capacity is key. So like, 13.2, I believe your pace should partly be determind by “who” you are. The table below suggests how you should approach the wall balls, based on your type:

Capacity Tall Woman Short Woman Tall Man Short Man
Ninja tank, long rest long int, short rest tank, long rest long int, short rest
Beast long int, long rest short int, short rest long int, long rest short int, short rest

The following suggestions will each allow an athlete to complete “Karen” somewhere between 6:00 and 6:30. While not a world-class time for the workout, you must ask yourself, do you need to do this portion of the workout unbroken? Better yet, should you? If you expect to get a score beyond 280, you may need to. However, even an unbroken Karen does not guarentee such a score. Spencer Hendel reported a 5 minute Karen, essentially unbroken, and unbroken double unders and only completed 266 reps. On the other hand, we had athletes complete Karen in over 7 minutes and achieve similar scores. Bottom line is, the wall balls must be managed in a way that will allow you to get the most muscle-ups possible.

Each pacing style can be broken down as follows:

a) One-In-The-Tank/ Long Rest: Basically, this style is simply to put together as many reps as possible but stopping short of “failure”. Lactic acid buildup will be a major factor on wall balls. Thus, remaining just shy of muscular failure throught the workout will be a key strategy. The upside of this method is that you will complete the most reps possible at a time. The downside is the cost to your aerobic stores. You will likely have to rest more. So long rest breaks of 15 seconds or more are required. This is probably the method most likely to yield a Karen of less than 6:00, and potentially faster for women since their target is set at 9′ instead of the 10′ for men. Tall women, 5’8″ or up, can nearly touch the target with their fingertips in a pair of sttiletos. Thus this strategy is best employed by TALL-WOMAN-NINJA and TALL-MAN-NINJA.

b) Planned Long Interval / Long Rest: There are inherent risks involved with using the method above. Foremost of which is that you may overestimate your capcity, redline, crash and burn and have nothing left for the muscle-ups. If you are confident in your capacity but less so of your ability to gauge your redline, you will need to pre-plan your rep and rest intervals and each will likely be shorter than in the One-In-The-Tank method. This method will work best with a descending rep scheme. For example, 25-25-20-20-20-15-15-10 with rest periods of 10-12 seconds yeilds a time 6:10 to 6:20.

c) Planned Short Interval / Short Rest: This method is the one where folks will be the most resistant to use but likely offers the best tradeoff between speed of completion and energy conservation. Last year I personally tested a rep scheme of 3 rounds of 5 sets of 10, interspered by 3-5 second breaks. Essentially, just allowing the ball to drop to the ground, taking a breath and immediately beginning the next set of 10. The rounds were separated by longer rests of 12-15 seconds. This would yield a Karen of about 6:15. (In my test I did a 5:38.) You’re resting more but actually achieving similar times as the above two methods. I was unable to employ this method during 12.4 as the flu bug ravaged my workout. But in a practice run, employing a similar rep schematic, with even longer rests, I was able to PR 12.4 by several reps. I had some of my athletes test run this method with similar success.

The idea here is much the same as doing singles with the 135# bar in 13.1 or performing step-ups in 13.2. Going fast and hard is not always the best way to approach these events. What you’ll find is the tortoise nearly always beats the hare. Be quick but don’t hurry. The speed gained in stringing reps together is lost in aerobic cost and paid in longer rest periods. This method keeps your heart rate low relative to the other methods and mitigates the risk of muscle fatigue/lactic buildup to a greater degree than the others. Remember, your objective is to get to the muscle-ups as quickly as possible with the most energy possible. This method seems to do this the best.

Take a look at this video from last year. Remember this is just me playing with pacing. I performed 50 walls balls in about 1:45. There are definitely some no reps here: video.

As I said earlier, in most of these events, in similarly equipped athletes, the difference is made in pacing and movement efficiency. I bet you never thought much about wall ball technique but there are a few salient points you need to keep in mind. In no particular order:

a) Be Weightless: As much as possible, be weightless. What I mean by that is to be without the ball in your hands for as long as possible. The primary way to do this is to, after you have hit the target with the ball, begin your descent before catching the ball. As a result you’ll have done 40% of the squat without weight. Do not wait, catch, and then descend. This takes some practice and timing but it’s well worth the effort.

b) 3 Points of Contact: Do not let the ball drop to your chest or below (unless you’re letting the ball drop to the ground for rest). Keep three points of contact on the ball at all times. Use your chin/face as the third point of contact.

c) Footwork: The ball will not drop to you in the same exact position each time. You may have an uneven wall or a ball that isn’t smooth and the ball will drop in odd locations. Move your feet. Do not be stuck to the ground. A small shuffle left or right makes all the difference.

d) Footwear: Wear Oly shoes. It makes squattin’ easier because it puts your torso in an upright position. Essential for a front squat which a wall ball is. Wear ones that have a flexible toe. Think Reebok Oly Lifter not Nike Romaleo. It’ll make double unders easier.

e) Aim & Shoot: Project your hands to the target. Don’t just throw the ball up and hope you’ll hit the target. Actually aim and shoot.

f) Squat Right: Your wall ball stance is wider than your barbell squat stance. And remember, when in doubt, knees out. This will employ much more posterior chain work than a narrower convential stance. Also, employ the bounce at the bottom of an ass-to-ankle squat. We’ve practice this throughout the year in our front squat barbell work and this technique is useful here.

g) Rest Right: If you saw the Clever vs. Fortunato video, Clever rested with the ball in her hands. I can’t figure out for the life of me why someone would do this. Let the ball hit the ground. Be weightless when you’re resting.

The strategy on the double unders is this. Keep calm. Don’t rush right into them. Break them up into at least three long sets. Simple. They are here just to mess up your head. Don’t trip.

Whatever you’re muscle-up technique – false grip, conventional grip (preferred), kipping, strict – make sure you perform as many in a row as possible with one left in reserve at all times. Do NOT overestimate your ability. A failed muscle-up attempt costs in both time and fatigue to a greater degree than any other movement we do in competitive CrossFit. Even if at this point you need to do singles, do so. Overall you will get more reps than you would by attempting to string muscle-ups together and failing.

Know the standards. Particularly for the wall ball. Remember only half of the ball needs to be above the 10/9′ target line. This is considered a direct “hit” on the target. Muscle-ups must be at full extension with feet off the ground but you do not have to flash your hands out as in years past. Meet the standard, but do not give more than is needed.

Good luck,

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