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THE PROFESSOR PROJECT 
CROSSFIT OPEN 21.3 & 21.4 GUIDE

PACING & STRATEGY

What a way to send off the 2021 CrossFit Open! We have a ton of moving parts to work through in this guide and the goal is to touch on as many different approaches as possible to help all of you reading this.

First things first; if you have not read over the scorecard and movement standards stop reading this and go do that right now.

You will notice that there is a specific floor plan that needs to be followed so be sure you are setting up correctly before beginning the workout.

21.3 is a combination of barbell and gymnastics movements that will put a high amount of demand on the grip and midline endurance. It is very important to not overlook the barbell and its role in this workout. As the workout goes on, the movement economy showcased during the barbell movements will have a direct impact on your ability to express your increasingly complex gymnastic skill movement.

21.4 is a chance to put up some heavy weight! It is important to take into account the accumulated fatigue from 21.3 while planning out your numbers. Since the 7 minute clock for 21.4 begins immediately upon completing 21.3 it is wise to account for 2-3 minutes of rest and set-up before your first attempt. With that said, you are probably only looking at a total of 2-3 attempts at the complex. We will need to make these count!

In the first section of this guide we will focus on the RX version of the workout. We will take this one piece at a time and aim to give all ability levels and approaches some thought and consideration. Please take the advice that most accurately describes your fitness level and apply that information to your plan. The rest can be ignored as it will not be of value to you.

After watching the workout announcement it is clear that managing fatigue through the gymnastics movements to set yourself up for success at the most complex movement you plan on completing needs to be a big part of your plan. It will be like you are reverse engineering the workout to set yourself up for success on the back end rather than worrying about your times in the 1st window of work to be completed. The first round won’t make the workout a success for you but it can definitely break you.

I think it is easiest to go through movement by movement first and then circle back to some more specific approaches.

21.3 SET UP

  • Be sure you are following the floor plan described on the scorecard.
  • Have your grips ready to go and chalk set up at your pull-up bar off the ground. Ideally at hip height on a box or on the j hook so you don’t waste time and energy chasing the chalk around.
  • If you want chalk on your barbell, chalk it before the workout starts then clean it well afterwards.
  • Be sure your pull-up bar is just above your reach or you have plates/boxes/mats set-up to make it so that you don’t need to do a big jump to grab the pull-up bar. This will add up in transition seconds and wasted time in the long run.
  • Put chalk right on the pull-up bar. You can move back and forth 1 hand width to fresh chalk every break you take and you won't waste time re-chalking after each set.
  • Try not to use weightlifting shoes for this part as they are typically much heavier and cumbersome.
  • Knee sleeves may be helpful if they are not too thick but definitely aren’t necessary for this part.
  • If you want sleeves and lifters for 21.4 have them available to you within the camera’s view to throw on while resting after completing 21.3. Make sure they are untied, loose, and ready to slide on quickly. Do not waste time here!
  • Count how many steps it takes to get from the pull-up bar to the barbell and back to help keep you moving intentionally throughout the workout.

Let’s dive into the barbell movements:

FRONT SQUAT

  • It will be important to maintain the best positions as possible while working through these 15 reps. 
  • Use a relaxed finger grip on the barbell.
  • Keep the bar away from your throat by creating a strong shelf for the bar to rest on.
  • Aim to maintain a breath ratio of 1:1 (1 breath per rep completed) - ideally breathing out as you stand and breathing in at the top while your ribcage is open and relaxed. 
  • Use a “short clean” for rep one if you are comfortable with that (don’t do a big pull to the shoulders, just get the bar high enough that you can slip under it into the first front squat rep)
  • If the bar is heavy-ish for you (over 50% of 1 rep max front squat) you should entertain the idea of breaking the set up into 2 small sets (like 8 and 7) to keep reps in reserve and to keep you well below the red line.
  • As always, efficient movement is key in the sport. Maintain your best front squat position regardless of the fatigue level to maximize your movement economy and minimize the accumulated fatigue on the midline. 
  • Be sure to stand up to full extension every rep!


THRUSTER

  • There are many different styles of thrusters that could be used here. Like the front squat, focus on efficient and intentional movement through every rep. Some like to rest at the top of the thruster. Some like to actively “pull” the barbel back down quickly. A combination of both would be great to keep your breathing in check and not waste any time within the reps themselves. 
  • Do not rest with the barbell across the shoulders in the front rack position. This makes breathing more difficult and can make the bar feel heavy. Aim to rest with the bar overhead or on the ground. You should keep yourself on pace by only allowing a specific number of seconds between sets if you are splitting this work up. For example, tell your judge to count you down from 5 once the bar hits the ground to help keep you moving.
  • Use a big leg drive on these thrusters to help save the shoulders.
  • Keep a nice and relaxed grip on the barbell. Let the shoulders hold the weight during the squat and drive then “pop” the barbell aggressively overhead. 
  • Be sure to show full extension and lockout every rep!


TOES TO BAR

If you can complete 1-5 unbroken reps:

  • Singles are the way to go! Make sure you are using a low bar and jump into a big hollow and arch. Make sure you are kipping hard and strong every rep. 
  • Once the rep is completed, let yourself drop passively, walk forward through the rig, turn around and come back from the other side and repeat the pattern.
  • Try not to stand below the bar and jump into a “dead hang” every rep - use the momentum of the hollow hop in to assist in keeping the kip pattern efficient. 
  • Use the clock to keep you on a pace. Are you doing 1 rep every 5 seconds? 1 rep every 12 seconds? Use your judge to help keep you on a pace.
  • Avoid hanging on the pull-up bar while not completing reps. No death swinging or dead hanging! These are wasted valuable seconds and energy!

If you can complete 5-10 unbroken reps:

  • Aim to keep 3-5 reps in reserve (RIR) each set. This means you know you could complete 5 more reps but you drop from the bar to stay at an RPE (rate of perceived exertion) of 5 - meaning you could easily complete 5 more reps.
  • This may mean sets of 5, sets of 3, sets of 2 etc. It is all dependent on staying below that threshold.
  • Remember that this workout is not about completing the toes to bar or chest to bar as fast as possible. It is all about getting as far into the workout as possible or completing all 3 parts as fast as you can. The workout can be lost here by being too greedy with big sets burning out your midline and grip.

If you can complete 11+ unbroken reps:

  • Aim to keep 3-5 reps in reserve (RIR) each set. This means you know you could complete 5 more reps but you drop from the bar to stay at an RPE (rate of perceived exertion) of 5 - meaning you could easily complete 5 more reps.
  • This may mean unbroken, sets of 10, maybe 8-8-7-7, or sets of 5. It is important to know your threshold and yet again stay well below the failure point.
  • Use your most efficient kipping pattern.

CHEST TO BAR

If you can complete 1-5 unbroken reps:

  • Singles are the way to go! Make sure you are using a low bar and jump into a big hollow and arch. Make sure you are kipping hard and strong every rep. 
  • Once the rep is completed, let yourself drop passively, walk forward through the rig, turn around and come back from the other side and repeat the pattern.
  • Try not to stand below the bar and jump into a “dead hang” every rep - use the momentum of the hollow hop in to assist in keeping the kip pattern efficient. 
  • Use the clock to keep you on a pace. Are you doing 1 rep every 5 seconds? 1 rep every 12 seconds? Use your judge to help keep you on a pace.
  • Avoid hanging on the pull-up bar while not completing reps. No death swinging or dead hanging! These are wasted valuable seconds and energy!

If you can complete 5-10 unbroken reps:

  • Aim to keep 3 reps in reserve (RIR) each set. This means you know you could complete 3 more reps but you drop from the bar to stay at an RPE (rate of perceived exertion) of 7 - meaning you could easily complete 3 more reps.
  • This may mean sets of 5, sets of 3, sets of 2 etc. It is all dependent on staying below that threshold.
  • This is a pivotal round of this workout for this group. If you are in this rep range for unbroken chest to bar it could be assumed that bar muscle-ups are a challenge or a work in progress. We need to set ourselves up in this round to preserve some energy to complete as many bar muscle-ups as possible out of the 30 or maybe we are looking for our first ever! Again, we need to be conservative through this round to allow success in the next!

If you can complete 11+ unbroken reps:

  • Aim to keep 3 reps in reserve (RIR) each set. This means you know you could complete 3 more reps but you drop from the bar to stay at an RPE (rate of perceived exertion) of 7 - meaning you could easily complete 3 more reps.
  • This may mean unbroken, sets of 10, maybe 8-8-7-7, or sets of 5. It is important to know your threshold and yet again stay well below the failure point.
  • Aim to regrip as you move through your reps to save the grip a little while doing bigger unbroken sets.
  • Don’t be afraid of a quick drop and reset to keep you below the failure line and keep the grip fatigue under control. 


BAR MUSCLE UPS

If you can complete 0-1 unbroken reps:

  • This is the time for some Open magic! 
  • Take your time with the Front Squats and take a good chunk of rest before your first attempt. 
  • Have fun and try your best!

If you can complete 1-5 unbroken reps:

  • Singles are the way to go! Make sure you are using a low bar and jump into a big hollow and arch. Make sure you are kipping hard and strong every rep. 
  • It may be a good time to use the double box drop in for these reps rather than jumping up to grab the pull-up bar every rep. This gives you time to get a good grip set up and lots of momentum into the kip pattern. 
  • Once the rep is completed, safely lower yourself down as quickly as possible.
  • Try not to stand below the bar and jump into a “dead hang” at any point - use the momentum of the hollow hop in or the double box drop in technique to assist in keeping the kip pattern efficient. 
  • Use the clock to keep you on a pace. Are you doing 1 rep every 10 seconds? 1 rep every 30 seconds? Use your judge to help keep you on a pace.
  • Avoid hanging on the pull-up bar while not completing reps. No death swinging or dead hanging! These are wasted valuable seconds and energy!

If you can complete 6+ unbroken reps:

  • Aim to keep 2 reps in reserve (RIR) each set. This means you know you could complete 2 more reps but you drop from the bar to stay at an RPE (rate of perceived exertion) of 8.5 - meaning you could maybe complete 2 more reps.
  • This may mean unbroken, sets of 5, maybe 8-8-7-7, or sets of 2 or 3. It is important to know your threshold and yet again stay well below the failure point.
  • Aim to catch these reps as high as possible while still maintaining a proper kip pattern and a press out.
  • Open the hands up as you press to give the grip a quick rest. 
  • Staying with smart sets and short breaks is huge in this part of the workout.

 

21.3 STRATEGY SUMMARY

  1. Don’t overlook the barbell movements.
  2. Be conservative and deliberate when planning the gymnastics movements.
  3. Do not waste time “CrossFit procrastinating” like hanging from the bar, chasing chalk around the gym, or poorly planning your hand protection/set-up.
  4. It’s not about how fast you start; it is about how far you can get!  

21.4 SET UP

  • Be sure all the plates are laid out in an organized and clear way during your warm-up (see warm-up guide for details). You are responsible for changing your own weights and telling your judge how much is on the bar before you lift it!
  • This 7 minute window begins immediately following the 15 minute CAP of 21.3 or the time you finish 21.3!
  • Have your shoes, sleeves, wrist wraps, and/or any other lifting gear you lift with everyday ready and within the view of the camera. 

The complex you need to complete is:
Deadlift + Clean + Hang Clean + Shoulder to Overhead

The cleans can be power or squat.


The shoulder to overhead can be whichever variation you are most comfortable with. 

It is important to note that the grip and midline fatigue will be a big factor in this complex. It is very important to focus on bracing the midline and moving well throughout the complex. There will be no room for technical or positional faults if you want to go big here.

Tips:

  • Think about what part of this complex will be the limiter. For most, it will be the hang clean or shoulder to overhead. Base your goal numbers off of this limiting factor, not your strongest lift or PR clean and jerk. 
  • You will only have time for 2-3 attempts!
  • You need to make your first lift. Choose a conservative weight to get one on the board. Plan this out beforehand. It is a good plan to aim for 70-80% of the max of the limiting movement for you. For example, if the shoulder to overhead is the limiter for you and your max is 200 pounds, aim for 140-160 for attempt number 1. 
  • Take the first 2-3 minutes after completing 21.3 to chill out. Grab a quick drink, switch up the shoes if you are doing that, get your area set-up. 
  • At the 2-3 minute mark hit a Power Clean + Front Squat + Shoulder to Overhead at a weight LOWER than your opening attempt to get a feel for the weight and gauge your fatigue. 
  • Make the call on the opening weight, load the bar, and hit that around the 3:30-4:00 mark.
  • Make adjustments based on the success of that lift. You can go down in weight if needed. 
  • Give yourself at least 90 seconds of rest between attempts.

21.3 AND 21.4 SCALED

This division will be faced with the same increasing complexity on the gymnastics movements as the workout progresses. You can use the guide above and replace Toes To Bar, Chest To Bar, and Bar Muscle-ups with Knee Raises, Chin Over Bar Pull-up, and Chest to Bar Pull-ups. The tips and tricks remain the same. 21.4 is the same complex and the guide above will assist you in your planning for that event as well.

21.3 AND 21.4 FOUNDATIONS

Be sure to review all the different movement options for this division as there are a couple options for you! The goal here should simply be to move well with intention and have some fun!

21.3 AND 21.4 EQUIPMENT FREE

21.3:
This division is required to complete double the amount of squatting as the previously covered divisions! Aim to move consistently through these reps. A good trick to stay moving is to get your feet set for rep number 1 then focus on never moving them from that spot. This can eliminate any unnecessary movements or delay in completing reps. The gymnastics movements in this division are a series of challenging strict movements. Aim to move in small sets with short breaks to avoid burning out. It will help to keep 2-3 reps in reserve each set. This means you stop when you think you could complete 2 or 3 more reps, not when you fail a rep.

21.4:
This is a very challenging test of skills. It will be a slow and steady pace through the movements. Think of this as a challenge of skill. Take your time and try your best!

21.3 AND 21.4 ADAPTIVE UPPER EXTREMITY

21.3:
The tips and tricks above will help guide your strategy for 21.3.

21.4:
4 rep max back squat! You will only have time for 2-3 attempts in this window of time. Give yourself 90-120 seconds of rest between attempts. Start with a guaranteed weight for set number 1 - around 70-75% is a good target. A good goal here would be to aim for 85-90% of your 1 rep max back squat for set number 2 then make the call on a big attempt for set 3.

21.3 AND 21.4 ADAPTIVE LOWER EXTREMITY

21.3:
The tips and tricks above will help guide your strategy for 21.3.

21.4:
This is a bit of a different complex than other divisions: 1 Deadlift + 2 Hang Power Cleans + 1 Push Press. Use the guide above to help with percentages based on what you feel is the limiting lift in the complex for you.

21.3 AND 21.4 ADAPTIVE NEUROMUSCULAR

21.3:
The tips and tricks above will help guide your strategy for 21.3.

21.4:
This is a bit of a different complex than other divisions: 1 Deadlift + 2 Hang Clean + 1 Shoulder to Overhead. Use the guide above to help with percentages based on what you feel is the limiting lift in the complex for you.

21.3 AND 21.4 ADAPTIVE VISUAL IMPAIRMENT

21.3:
The tips and tricks above will help guide your strategy for 21.3.

21.4:
The same complex as the RX division is prescribed for this division. See the guide above for strategy details.

21.3 AND 21.4 ADAPTIVE SHORT STATURE

21.3:
The tips and tricks above will help guide your strategy for 21.3.

21.4:
This is a bit of a different complex than other divisions: 1 Deadlift + 1 Clean + 2 Hang Clean. Use the guide above to help with percentages based on what you feel is the limiting lift in the complex for you.

21.3 AND 21.4 ADAPTIVE SEATED WITH HIP FUNCTION

21.3:
The tips and tricks above will help guide your strategy for 21.3.

21.4:
This is a bit of a different complex than other divisions: 1 Deadlift + 2 Lap Clean + 1 Shoulder Presses. Use the guide above to help with percentages based on what you feel is the limiting lift in the complex for you. 

21.3 AND 21.4 ADAPTIVE SEATED WITHOUT HIP FUNCTION

21.3:
The tips and tricks above will help guide your strategy for 21.3.

21.4:
This is a bit of a different complex than other divisions: 1 Lap Clean + 2 Shoulder Presses. Use the guide above to help with percentages based on what you feel is the limiting lift in the complex for you.

21.3 AND 21.4 ADAPTIVE INTELLECTUAL

21.3:
The tips and tricks above will help guide your strategy for 21.3.

21.4:
4 rep max deadlift! You will only have time for 2-3 attempts in this window of time. Give yourself 90-120 seconds of rest between attempts. Start with a guaranteed weight for set number 1 - around 70-75% is a good target. A good goal here would be to aim for 85-90% of your 1 rep max deadlift for set number 2 then make the call on a big attempt for set 3.

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