14.4-Reactions and Recommendations

Written by:

Damect Dominguez

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We knew it was going to be different. We knew it was going to be new. 14.4 doesn’t disappoint. On Thursday evening, CrossFit Bellevue played host to the live announcement of the fourth Open workout of 2014. The previous day, the CrossFit Games Instagram account had posted a video of Dave Castro being asked if he had any clues for what 14.4 would be—to which he responded, “not really”, before tossing a branch into a wood chipper. Understandably the CrossFit community was abuzz, although it was obvious 14.4 would be a chipper, there was still some debate on what movements we would see tested. However, an overwhelming majority of people put their money on muscle-ups making an appearance:

AMRAP of some sort…100 burpees/50 Wall Balls/25 MU….18 minutes
-Ariana Sorenson

“100 burpees – 50 MU. Time cap 10 minutes”
-Marvin Joosten

Before Scott Panchick and Josh Bridges had even entered the competition floor, Castro wasted no time in announcing that for many of us, “14.4 will end on the muscle-up”. Not a huge surprise, but the rest of the workout left a lot of people doubting whether they would even make it to the rings:

14 minute AMRAP:
60-calorie row
50 toes-to-bars
40 wall-ball shots, 20 / 14 lb.
30 cleans, 135 / 95 lb.
20 muscle-ups

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Castro’s and CrossFit’s intention with 14.4 was quite clear. As Castro explained in the cool down following the end of the workout, the inclusion of muscle-ups was essential in ensuring that the athletes who make it to Regionals deserve to be there. There is no doubt that a lot of people will struggle on this skill, but once again, we have to remember that this is a competition, and the workouts have to include a diverse set of movements to ensure that the absolute best athletes make it to their respective Regionals.

However, watching Panchik and Bridges tackle 14.4 left no doubt in my mind that the goal for many athletes around the world will be to simply get to the muscle-ups. When you see two of the fittest men on the planet break up their set of thirty 135lb cleans (a light weight for them) into singles, you know that this workout is going to be challenging.

So, with that being said, here are some helpful tips to ensure you get the best score possible in 14.4.

Take the time to warm up PROPERLY
As with any workout, warming up and doing mobility is important to prepare the body for action and reduce the risk of injury. With the amount of work that needs to be completed in 14.4, proper and accurate preparation is of paramount importance. Warm up with movements that you will see later—jump on the rower, do a few wall balls and throw in some light kettle bell swings to open your hips. This is a full body workout, so spend a good amount of time attacking every area—shoulders, hips, hamstrings, back etc. When it’s time to start, you should be warm and feeling loose, but not too fatigued.

Pacing is key
What may have been lost in the excitement of seeing muscle-ups in 14.4 is the fact that this is the first Open workout ever where the rower has been used, and the first time that there have been more than three movements. As such, solid pacing, mental toughness and good preparation will be integral factors when completing this WOD.

This may only be a 14-minute workout, but there is a lot of work to complete. On the toes-to-bar, drop before you think you have to. As many of us know, once you fail and build up lactic acid on the toes to bar, it becomes that much more difficult to string one or two together. Also, if you tax your forearms too much on the toes-to-bar, you’ll pay the price on the cleans and muscle ups later.

Don’t go balls to the wall on the rower right off the bat—you want to have strong, solid pulls utilizing your legs as a driving factor as much as possible. Find a pace that feels comfortable but bearable, and when you hit 50 calories try to ease off a little bit so that you allow yourself some extra time to recover before you switch to the toes-to-bar.

Have a rep scheme in your head that you can adjust
14.4 will be a huge test of muscular endurance, and judging by Bridges’ and Panchick’s performance on Thursday, knowing when to break up your rep scheme (and by how much) will play a big role in saving some seconds—or losing them. As I mentioned above, the initial row should not be a sprint, but it should be a strong pace with enough left in the tank so that you only need a few seconds before grabbing the bar for the toes-to-bar. Once you get going there, you can start to gauge how you are feeling, and build up a rep scheme in your head.

What’s important to note is that this is adjustable! Your coaches and fellow athletes might be screaming at you to hit one more rep and take a rest, but only you know your body and your engine. Josh Bridges has an excellent tactic for this. For example, when the time comes to hit the 40 wall balls, Bridges doesn’t think about hitting 40-he thinks about hitting 5. When he completes those 5 reps, he’ll determine whether he feels good about going for another 5 before taking a break, and so on and so forth. Before you know it, you’re at 35 reps and thinking about those cleans. So, have an idea of the reps you would like to hit, but adjust accordingly in the moment-don’t be afraid to go for more (or less, if you want to save for a bigger push elsewhere).

“I don’t really game plan workouts anyway. I tend to go on feel. I hate anticipating workouts with all my heart.”
-Josh Bridges

No missed reps!
This will be the easiest way to add undue fatigue to yourself and waste valuable time. There’s not a lot that needs to be said here-make every rep count, hit the target with the wall balls, and save yourself the agony of doing more work than you really need to do-it will pay off big time.

It’s all about mental fortitude, yo.
Ok, there is obviously going to be a lot of skill and athletic ability that will decide your score for 14.4. But underestimate the power of mental resilience at your peril. How do you feel when you go for a PR attempt with a heavy lift? Scared, or psyched and confident? No doubt those different attitudes generate different results. It’s the same thing here. Make no mistake; your lungs will be burning, your muscles aching, your stomach churning. How quickly you move on to the next element of 14.4 will largely depend on what your telling yourself in your head. It’s ok to rest, but tell yourself to keep going. Always ask for one more rep. Keep an eye on the clock and demand that you push yourself to your limits so that when it’s finally over and you collapse on the floor in a convulsing mess of tears and sweat, you’ll know that you gave absolutely everything you had and you won’t question yourself later. Plus, it’ll save you from having to answer that question and try it again later.

So there you have it, our tips for success with 14.4. As a friendly bit of inspiration, at the time of this article Rich Froning is currently the worldwide leader with 277 reps.

Be safe, enjoy yourself and give 14.4 everything you’ve got.


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About Damect Dominguez

Co-founder of BoxLife Magazine. Author: Training Day: 400+ Workouts to Incorporate in Your Training.

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