CrossFit Open 14.4 Strategy Guide, Tips & Tricks

At the bottom of this post, the true 10 foot and 9 foot mark at the gym are revealed! You will be excited :) Also, a clear reminder on judging what is a legit depth “hip crease below parallel” squat for the wall balls.

I really like CrossFit Open 14.4

Since the excitement was sucked out of the room with the re-release of 14.1, the Open has proven this year to be more challenging, more creative, and more fun!

14.4 keeps it rolling with a real chipper with a couple of firsts.

1) We get to row! I do think it sucks that if you don’t have access to a rower, you are out.

2) More than 3 different movements are in a workout.

Overall Strategy – The Big Picture

Here is what we know. You probably will be working hard for 14 minutes and that’s probably the longest workout you’ve done for the Open so far.

Time to turn on your aerobic engine. What I mean is how fast can you work without accumulating H+ ions in your bloodstream, which lowers the pH, and inhibits muscle contractile force and action. How fast can you go without letting the “burn” slow you down?

Muscular Endurance

Long CrossFit workouts are more complicated than just an aerobic engine. Long workouts usually have many different movements and muscular endurance to move through a single exercise is very important as well.

Considering the 50 Toes to Bar, 40 Wall Balls, 30 Power Cleans, and 20 muscle ups, 3 of the 4 movements need your grip. It would be appropriate and smart for everyone to have a partition plan to break up these long sets.

To summarize, shift your engine into economy mode and go for maximum MPG. Manage your sets to avoid weak link muscle failure.

Rowing 60 Calories

In case this is not obvious, do not go all out or “too hard”! Instant mistake.

Too hard would be not being able to jump off that rower and get right to Toes 2 Bar. Trying to save 3-5 seconds on the row by digging deep into the well will cost you 10x that when you are crawling over to the pull-up bar.

You’ll want to go just a bit further than your aerobic threshold and hold that pace. It should feel a bit uncomfortable.

How long does it take to row 60 calories? Depends on your 500 M pace. The faster it is, the faster you accumulate calories. Stroke rate and damper setting does not matter or has slight effect.

We did a test comparing a 115 lb female, 5’2″ to a 6′ 220 lb male. Both of us rowing 30 second at a 2 minute pace, 27-28 strokes/minute. Both ended up with 8 calories.

We changed the damper to 10. Although it felt better for the female, we both ended at 8 calories.

We changed our stroke rate to 20, same speed, 30 seconds. We both ended up with 7 calories.

So in 30 seconds at 2 minutes, I rowed 140ish meters and got 8 calories. I changed my approach and rowed at a 1:25 pace, glided the rower to 140ish meters and GOT 13 calories. Going faster means more calories.

Most of us can reference our 500 M pace. At 1:45/500 M, it is about 1400 calories/hour. Breaks down to 23.3 calories/minute or little over 2:30 for 60 calories.

Assuming you know some of your metrics (500 M row time, 1K row time, or 2K row time), you can start to figure out a pace to hold.

This just started circulating over the web and is helpful. Tells you how long it takes to get 60 calories at what speed.


50 Toes 2 Bar

For most of us, break it up. Small sets determined by your effort level. Instead of a specific #, go by how hard it feels. If you normally glide on these and you start sensing the slightest extra effort being exerted to make a rep, come off the bar. Relax, recharge, and go again.

Now, for some of you, large sets are not possible. Or, you can’t get into a kip rhythm with them. Basically, you look like this. You need a double swing before each T2B.

From the following drill, I’ve seen people pick up the rhythm on their first try. The drill is after the PVC pipe trick. Simply starts with basic kip swings and just add a bit of height on each one…just a bit.

People try to go to Toes 2 Bar from knees to elbows and lose their rhythm because it can be a big jump in skill and effort. Just take it a small step at a time.

Dropping off the bar, jumping back up to do singles, is also faster than holding onto the bar and swinging back & forth. Below is a comparison of 2 reps. You can see how this would add up over 20-30 reps. Singles is also MUCH EASIER on your grip and you can keep going for much longer.

Try the following two tactics to get your first toes to bar.

The first one is super simple. You just need a carrot and positive reinforcement. It’s the PVC trick in the first part of the video.

The second tactic, you are using gravity and acceleration generated from swinging on the bar to your advantage. The key is to jump into the bar so you will swing forward without any effort. You still need some strength but it can get you the first one!

40 Wall Balls

Compared to “Karen” this is a gift. I’m sure it doesn’t feel that way when you get here though! One thing I recommend you try on wall balls is dropping your arms between rep. Just let your shoulders relax for a moment to prevent fatigue.

Also, when you break it up, try resting with the ball on the wall. It’s a little thing but saves you a bit of energy from picking it up again.

The more you break this up, the more you should consider dropping the ball each rep. What I’ve seen is the more you break it up, the longer the rest breaks tend to drag out. Unless you are disciplined, time can get eaten up fast.

Dropping the ball each rep is certainly slower but it can be more sustainable, meaning you don’t have to stop. It can mean more reps in the long run. Below is a side by side comparison.

Dropping all 40 would take an estimated 2 to 2:30 to complete.

30 Power Clean

I just watched the live workout again. It took Josh 2:15 to do 30 singles at the power cleans, Panchik more like 2:30ish. Both guys looked like on the edge of their aerobic threshold.

I don’t think singles is the only way to go here. Just depends on how you feel. However, make sure you don’t blow up your grip and dig too deep before the muscle ups! Each rep on those muscle ups are worth much more than a rep on the power cleans.

Considering the elite level of these two guys, my guess is they had a Long Game plan with the power cleans and knew they were going singles no matter what.

20 Muscle Ups

For many in the Open, the road ends here in this workout. If you are close, this would be a great time to get one! Talk to a coach and get some advice.

For those that are close, its not a matter of strength. In my experience, it is confidence in diving through those rings at the top!

Pace yourself based on muscle fatigue! Most that get here and can do muscle ups will not be getting through the 20. In which case, every rep is a big jump in the rankings. Make every attempt count as a rep!

Drop from the top if you can. What you see fail in competition is the ring dip portion of the muscle up, not the kip up to it. Drop off so you save yourself from doing an unnecessary negative lower on every rep.


It really depends on your abilities. I usually try to have every rep planned out but I think going by feel on your first attempt will be good.

Take all the above advice with the particular movements, put those together with conscious thought about your effort output throughout the workout and go for it!

Gym specific information.

10 Foot Wall Ball target

9 Foot target

Hip Crease Below Parallel

No Rep

Xi XiaCrossFit Open 14.4 Strategy Guide, Tips & Tricks