We’re nearing the end of it, friends… it’s week 4 of 5 of the Open!

Open Athletes - if you haven't already, please watch the 19.4 standards video above, and read the workout details here on the CrossFit Games website.  This will ensure that everyone is on the same page with movement standards and expectations (both Rx and scaled) prior to every athlete and judge starting their workout/heat. In particular it’s important that everyone understand the burpee standards since they have essentially “gone back” to the way we used to do them pre-2018 Open (AKA the split-step version and related varieties are allowed, as long as the athlete jumps over the bar with a two-foot takeoff).

As with every week, expect to do the workout AND judge at least one heat as well — and feel free to hang out as long as you like to cheer, judge, high five, and generally enjoy the energy in the gym. This will not be a standard Saturday class but rather rolling heats of Open workout 19.4, so the warm-up will once again be self-directed (and written out for those who like some structure), and you’ll need to sign-up for a heat time once you arrive at the gym during the class hour you for which you signed up.

OK, with that out of the way… how should you approach 19.4?

Well, that depends. How big is your engine, and how good are you at bar muscle-ups? The answers to those two questions will guide your strategy and approach…

1) I eat bar muscle-ups for breakfast and my engine can handle being pushed. Cool, have at it FULL SEND. Do the snatches largely unbroken and the burpees fairly fast in the first couplet and repeat the same for the second couplet. But when I say “fast” I mean “smooth”… because, well, you know.

2) I can do bar muscle-ups but I’m not exactly a ninja at them. You should be doing the first couplet with the second couplet in mind. Yes, a faster “tiebreak time” for completing the first couplet can be enticing — but a fast tiebreak time doesn’t matter if your shoulders are so smoked you can barely do the bar muscle-ups that you would otherwise be fairly decent on. And every successful bar muscle-up rep jumps you ahead of literally tens of thousands of people on the leaderboard (if you care about such things). In other words:

IT’S A TRAP. You’re familiar with traps in workouts. We do it to you fairly regularly at AR (with the best of intentions of course)… “oh that doesn’t look so bad”… “the start was so simple and felt great, but the order of the movements was deceiving”… “the wheels started to fall off and I knew I had started too fast”… etc, etc, etc. Do the first couplet with the second couplet in mind (AKA a little more paced than you might initially think) and you’ll be better set-up to accumulate more bar muscle-up reps thanks to fresher shoulders and a little more gas in the tank. Here’s another way to look at it — the first couplet is a “buy-in” and not a “workout”… don’t shoot your WOD on the buy-in.

3) I can do A bar muscle-up, as in I’ve done ONE ever (or been very close, or have done a few singles here and there). The same general concept described in #2 above applies here, with the understanding that your goal will be getting one, two, or three total bar muscle-ups versus 10 or 10+ (i.e. back around to the bar muscle-ups after burpees). That means you can either speed up the first couplet a little knowing you’ll be taking much more rest during bar muscle-up attempts versus someone with more ability on the movement OR you can slow down the first couplet a little if you really think that ONE REP of muscle-ups is the goal and you want to be fresh enough to give yourself the best shot possible. Just remember that the overall time cap is 12 minutes, including the 3 minutes of forced rest, so you’ll need to be done with the first couplet by at least 8:30-ish to have any shot… and more realistically under 8:00 to give yourself more than one or two attempts.

4) I can’t do bar muscle-ups and I’m not close. Can you snatch 95/65 lbs safely for 30 reps? If you can’t then do the workout with the scaled weight (65/45 lbs) to start. Many of you can snatch 95/65 fairly well, and if so I would do the first couplet Rx with the goal of finishing it and/or finishing it as fast as you can with good technique. If after the 3 minutes forced rest you have time remaining I recommend continuing the workout in an “unofficial” manner by banking & recording your official Rx score, and then continuing the workout with the scaled movement (chin-over-bar pull-ups in place of bar muscle-ups) until completion OR the until 12-minute cap.

Now that the general approaches are covered, how about the movements themselves?

1) The snatches. For nearly everyone these should be power snatches. Yes, I know you’ve seen very very fit people on the interwebs do muscle snatches (i.e. no re-banding of their legs) but these athletes are generally snatching 250+/175+ lbs and are fitness-ing as their job — AND, if I were their coach I’d still be telling most of them to cut it out and just do little baby power snatches instead. The muscle snatch doesn’t save much time at all, it fatigues the shoulders far more (which you’ll need for the burpees, and especially for the bar muscle-ups), and the payoff just isn’t that great for nearly everyone. So, if you can, power snatch with as little re-bend as you need to efficiently pull under.

Should you break them up? Yes, for most of us we should. You get no extra points for going unbroken on snatches and then having to slow down a lot on burpees or bar muscle-ups — in fact you get less points, because most of the time it just means you went slower overall. SMOOTH IS FAST. And if you’re disciplined on breaks you could even do something like 4-3-3 or 3-3-2-2 with 2-3 second breaks between sets (o more if you need it) and you’d still have an incredibly fast round. Conversely if you go unbroken on the snatches but then have to stop 1-2 times during the burpees to breathe a few extra breaths you’re looking at 12-15 extra seconds AT LEAST — so it may look cool to go HAM and unbroken on the snatches but with the exception of the very very fit among us it’s a mistake in strategy.

Use the hook grip so you have some grip strength left for the bar muscle-ups. Release the hook at the top for a brief/micro-break from tension each rep, re-hook on the way down.

2) Bar facing burpees. Ah, you know them and love them. The standard has returned where you can step down/back and step up/forward on the burpee itself if you like, the only “jump” requirement is to jump over the bar with a two-foot takeoff. It’s a much better standard I think, and it actually allows for far more strategy and approaches by athletes of varying levels.

If you’re a burpee ninja with a big engine then you’re probably not going to step back or up much, if at all, and at most you might use a stagger-step pop up (i.e. turning as you’re getting up from the burpee) before jumping over the bar. Cool, you know your wheelhouse so have at it. Just don’t get so far into the redline that you have to actually stop during your set — because then you may as well have just started by stepping because the time would have been the same or maybe even a little faster, and with less effect on your metabolic state.

For most of us some form of a step back, step up, or split-step up is going to help keep the movement efficient (less wasted total displacement of your center of mass). keep the pace sustainable and consistent, maintain our breath during the movement (find a pattern to your breathing), and set us up for potentially speeding up in the 3rd round of burpees and switching to a non-step variation to gain a little bit of time on the first couplet.

For nearly all of us you cannot win this on the burpees. But you can certainly lose it on the burpees. So find the movement pattern and pacing cadence that allows you to move briskly without stopping, and then speed up a little in the third round.

3) Bar muscle-ups. Ah, the Open. This is literally one of those movements that makes for some of the most memorable moments in the gym. Someone will get their first bar muscle-up, likely several people. Someone will get their first ever in a workout. Someone will get their first multiple reps in a workout. It’s all so damn fun to watch, and cheer, and high five to celebrate that sort of elation and accomplishment. It’s what the Open is all about — celebrating doing things you once could not do, measuring how far you’ve come in the journey, and seeing how far you have left to go (it wouldn’t be fun if were just all good at these things instantly and everything just came naturally).

So, where do I start with bar muscle-up technique. Well, I have some potentially bad news for you. Those of you who are close to getting one probably already know it, and you’ve probably been working at it for some time — either through pulling/pull-up work, pushing/dip work, kipping/beat swing work, lat activation, shoulder/thoracic mobility, plain old bar muscle-up practice, or some combination of these things. And I probably know who you are because I see you doing said things at Open Gym or before/after class fairly regularly. This is my one time of the year when I take the opportunity to state that Sarah and I (and usually many other coaches) are at Open Gym nearly every Sunday throughout the entire year, and are ready and willing to help you with drills, strategies, progressions, and “homework” to get you moving toward your goal of higher skill movements (e.g. HSPU, muscle-ups, T2B). Two-and-a-half years ago Steven came to me at Open Gym (all Six Feet & Three Inches of him) and basically asked, “hey, can you help me with HSPU and muscle-ups?” Fast forward to 2018 when he finished 4th in the Open for men at AR, and then this year where he currently stands in 3rd looking to move up — and he definitely knows how to do bar muscle-ups, so watch out. He’s dispelling the myth that “taller/bigger people can’t learn and do gymnastics skill movements well.” Hogwash.

Anyhow, if you’ve been working at your bar muscle-up but just need a little something to get you over the hump, here are 3 great (and SHORT) videos that explain the concepts/shapes/timing/technique succinctly:




If this year is not your year for bar muscle-ups then let’s make it happen next year. We’re here to help, so celebrate where you are right now, cheer for your friends this weekend, make a commitment and formulate a plan, and let’s crush some fucking bar muscle-ups before the calendar says 2020.

Sorry for the swearing.

WOD For 03-16-19:

“Open 19.4”

For Total Time (Including Forced Rest):

3 Rounds of the couplet:

10 Snatches @ 95/65 lbs

12 Bar Facing Burpees


3 Rounds of the couplet:

10 Bar Muscle-ups

12 Bar Facing Burpees

*There is a 12 minute cap (including the forced rest).