Get ready to go to a dark place! Again!
Are you ready for CrossFit Open workout 19.4? The latest workout in the annual CrossFit Games Open pits you against three of the most legendary moves in the annals of CrossFit, burpees, muscle-ups, and snatches.
If you’re a CrossFit veteran, you know all these moves. But do you know yourself, and your strengths and weaknesses? Because thriving in 19.4 is all about understanding your own abilities, playing to your strengths, and camouflaging your own weaknesses as best as possible. Your biggest key in this workout: going hard when you can go hard, and finding ways to save your energy for the 30 muscle-ups you’ll have to do.
If you want to own this workout, keep these tips in mind.
Start with three rounds of this circuit, done for time.
Rest three minutes. (This rest is mandatory and you’ll need it.)
Then three rounds of this circuit, done for time.
You have 12 minutes max to finish the entire workout (or do as much of it as you possibly can).
Your Big-Picture Plan
This workout is unique in that it’s not really one workout. Think of it as two mini-workouts, separated by a three-minute rest period. Both workouts are different, so it’s critical that you understand your own strengths and weaknesses and plan accordingly. Only one type of athlete is going to finish this workout; everyone else needs to take aim at a different goal. Here are the three types of athletes I see in this workout.
People with strong bar muscle-ups and snatches: If you can do 10 to 20 unbroken muscle-ups and have a snatch max of 225 pounds or above, you can expect to finish this workout. Come out fast but controlled with unbroken sets of snatches. The burpees will get your heart rate down.
People who are OK at muscle-ups and snatches: If you can do 5 to 10 unbroken muscle-ups and have a snatch max over 185 pounds, you may not finish this workout, but you will go deep into the second block of work. You’re hoping to get deep into the workout and possibly finish. Break up the snatches early to save your shoulders.
People who are just getting used to muscle-ups or snatches: If you can’t do a muscle-up and struggle with the snatch, there’s a good chance you just won’t finish this workout. Especially key for you is to get to the second workout as quickly as possible.
Not sure where your muscle-up is? Hone your form with the hardest version of the move, shown here.
Managing expectations is key in this workout. But even if you’re not expecting to finish, you still want to come out hard and fast. Your heart rate is going to go through the roof thanks to those burpees, and it won’t feel good. The key here is not to panic; don’t forget you’ll get a three-minute rest after you finish the first workout. That’ll help get your heart rate down. Pat Vellner, who finished second in last year’s CrossFit Games, sprinted the first part of this workout and finished in a little more than 2 minutes. Aim to work at 85-90 percent capacity and don’t hold anything back, because you have that breather coming.
Tackling Each Phase
Here’s how you should tackle each block of 19.4. Remember: Come out hard, because you get three minutes to catch your breath. Play to your strengths. Hit the gas on movements where you know you’re efficient, and pull back on movements you struggle with.
The best CrossFitters will muscle snatch all their reps, pulling the bar from the floor to overhead without dropping under the weight. You shouldn’t do this! It taxes the shoulders and requires more use of the arms and will spike your heart rate quickly. Let’s stick to power snatching all reps, squatting and dropping under the bar after the first pull to save the shoulders and keep the heart rate down.
Also, cycle the barbell. You want to move fast but you can’t afford to get sloppy and create extra work. So move one rep at a time and focus on keeping your feet as “quiet” as possible. Try to keep the feet in one position with a wide stance so we are not dancing all over the gym with the barbell. Keep the bar as close to your torso as possible on the way down. I recommend doing a “quad graze” – allowing the barbell to make slight contact with the quads as you lower it to the floor. This will allow you to keep better control of the barbell as you cycle through your reps and will be much safer on your lower back.
Think ahead with your grip
Finally, use a hook grip on the barbell to save your grip for those muscle-ups. Haven’t done a hook grip? Time to learn. To do a hook grip, wrap your thumb inside your middle and index fingers. It’ll feel weird but help you secure the bar.
Think About the Rep Scheme
If you’re terrific at the snatch, aim to do your snatches unbroken, but for everyone else, aim to be strategic. If you know that cycling snatches jacks up your heart rate, I’d recommend breaking each set into sets of 5 reps. If the bar doesn’t feel super-light, break them up further, doing each set in two blocks of three, then two blocks of two. You could even do quick singles so we can save our shoulders and attack the burpees.
Use the New Standard
We knew we weren’t getting through the entire Open without the burpee rearing its ugly head. This is a CrossFit staple after all.
There are a host of ways to do burpees, but this year’s bar-facing burpee standard allows you to step up from the floor instead of jumping with both feet at the same time. You need to face the barbell when you hit the deck, but after that you can jump or step toward the bar. You must jump over it with both feet leaving the ground at the same time.
Use these standards to your advantage. Unless you’re trying to make the CrossFit Games, I recommend every single athlete step up from the bottom of the burpee instead of jumping up and then jumping over the bar. This will slow you down just a hair, but it’ll keep your heart rate significantly lower.
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That’ll let you push harder on your next set of snatches (and later, bar muscle-ups). And we want to be fresher for the more technical movement in each stack. In addition, let’s do a quarter-turn as we jump over the bar. This will make our transition faster and let momentum carry us to the floor for our next burpee rep.
Save Your Triceps
Let’s be strategic and try to save our triceps as much as possible for the bar muscle-ups. You should know how to do a proper burpee (and this video can teach you that), but in this situation, we want to make a minor tweak. Instead of doing a full pushup to get off the ground, essentially, you should do a three-quarters pushup. Then use your core and glutes to raise your torso off the ground before you stand up. No, this isn’t classic form, but it’ll prevent you from fully flexing your tris. That’ll save your triceps and shoulders for the final leg of bar muscle-ups.
The Rest Period
These three minutes will fly by, but don’t waste them. Rest is work too! Take advantage of the rest to bring your heart rate down, but stay focused. I recommend you sit down with your torso upright to allow for deep breaths. Once you catch your breath for a minute to 90 seconds, get up and walk around. That’ll get the blood flowing and prevent your body from getting into too much of a parasympathetic state. You need to mentally prepare for the second workout now.
The Second Workout
By this point, the 3 minutes of rest probably felt like 30 seconds, and your shoulders and tris feel dead. But press on! Almost done!
The Bar Muscle-Up
Be sure take lots of time to warm-up your shoulders in advance of this workout. Let’s work on kip swings to warm-up by hanging from a bar with the entire body flexed and use our shoulders to push down on the bar into our hollow position then pull ourselves forward into an arch position. Aim for 3 sets of 8-10 kip swings as you warm-up for the workout.
Jumping into your first Muscle-up
Those who are proficient with muscle-ups often find the first rep to be the hardest one. This is because they have much less momentum and velocity than they do when lowering themselves down from above the bar. In order to generate strong momentum on the first rep, line up 1-2 feet behind the bar and jump into your first kip swing. This will result in a much stronger arch position and will generate more force as you move into your hollow position and pull yourself up and over the bar.
Choose the Right Rep Scheme
Even one more muscle-up can make a big difference on the leaderboard. We need to break up these up into manageable sets. Let’s not start out with a big set of 6 or 7 if that means we can only muster 1 rep at a time by Round 2. Know your muscle-up capacity! Even top-tier athletes should shoot for 2 to 3 sets per round, breaking each set into 5 reps, or even a set of 4 followed by two sets of 3. Everyone else should aim for 3 or 4 sets. If you’re new to the muscle-up, work singles.
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