Reebok CrossFit Open 18.1 Strategy Guide

Welcome to yet another year of the open. As expected Dave Castro (Director of the CrossFit games) came up with yet another grueling, long, and painful workout.

This year the first Open workout is:


  • 8 Toes to Bar
  • 10 Dumbbell Clean and Jerk
  • 14/12 Calorie row

First of all, feel confident going into this workout, as we have worked with the dumbbells, along with toes to bar and rowing in our OPCF workouts.  There is no secret to the strategy of this workout. The biggest thing to think about is setting a good pace and sticking to it. 20 minutes is a long time to keep your motor running and the only way you will get your best score is to pace it.

Start with a good warmup:

Look to prime your body for the movements and get your heart rate up.  Make sure to play around with the dumbbells and see if you can find an efficient movement pattern for the hang clean & jerks.  With both movements, you’ll want to use your lower body to generate power.  Hit some hollow holds/superman holds to prepare especially for toes to bar.  Some quick rowing intervals at your expected workout pace is a good idea as well.  This workout will be very taxing on your grips.

Strategy Considerations:

20 mins will require a steady pace.  Try to relax and settle in for the first 5 minutes or so, avoid going out too fast – then settle in to a consistent pace, staying in motion.

Consider breaking up the toes to bar into small sets, just like in past Open workouts.  Remember that 7+ rounds of this workout will require 56+ total toes to bar.  How do I know how to set a good pace?  Great question.  The best place to start is by thinking about how you deal with these movements in similar workouts.  Luckily we just did a max effort set of toes to bar.  We can use this to set a start range of reps for each set of the toes to bar.  For everyone but games and regional athletes I would recommend breaking your sets, even on the first set, you will thank us later.  If you are very proficient at toes to bar, i.e. can do 25+ in a max rep set, I would recommend breaking these into 2 sets of 4 or a set of 5 and then a set of 3. You may feel like this is overkill on your first set, but breaking up even the first set will help you out not only mentally, but physically, in the future rounds.  This doesn’t mean you should take a big break between sets.  All you need to do is jump off the  bar, shake out your shoulders, then jump back on.  For those of us that don’t quite have 20 unbroken toes to bar, break the reps up even more. 4 sets of 2 or 3-2-2-1 is a good rep scheme. No matter what you choose, you want to pick something that will allow you to take small breaks and not get too fatigued on the toes to bar.

Now that we have the toes to bar figured out, on to the dumbbell clean and jerk.  For most of us, this is not a movement that we are super comfortable with.  For this reason, I would highly recommend coming in and doing some reps of the clean and jerk, even if the weight is less than what you plan to do for the workout.  What we are looking for is to feel as comfortable with the movement as possible without getting fatigued before the actual workout. Once you have a feel for the single arm hang clean and jerk, you will be able to get a feel for how you should pace.  Since you have to do 5 reps on each side, try doing all 5 before putting the dumbbell down.  If you think your grip can’t handle that,  break it up into 2 sets.  Again, try not to take big breaks when switching.  The biggest tip that I can give for this movement is to use your hook grip. It may feel a little odd on a dumbbell,  but it is doable and will absolutely save your grip in this grinder. If you have never used the hook grip with dumbbell, add this to your list of things to go over before the workout starts.   Another tip would be to utilize a push jerk motion, as opposed to a push press, which will help save your shoulder endurance.

The final movement in each round is the rower.  The row is something you will need to simply grind out, but not overdo. Hopefully, as you have been doing the recent OPCF workouts, you know what a comfortable pace is for you to be able to easily maintain a consistent pace and also be able to jump off the rower and jump right into the next movement.  It’s not going to do any good to have a super fast row and then stand there waiting to catch your breath before the next set of toes to bar. If you don’t know what a good rowing workout pace is, I would recommend jumping on a rower before the workout and going all out for 5-10 strokes.  As you are doing this, look at your calorie per hour. A good pace that I try to stick to is 50-60% of this max number. This will probably feel slow, especially the first few rounds, but you should feel as fresh as possible when you jump off the rower. Remember the difference between a 900 cal/hr pace and a 1200 cal/hr pace for 14 calories is 14 seconds. This may sound like a long time, but your slow walk over and break before the toes to bar can easily be over 14 seconds.  Relax your grip on the rower, especially moving back to the catch/flywheel.  Once again, the power on the rower comes from the legs and hips.

Even though you have come up with an awesome game plan for this workout, things always change when you get into it. You might find that you need to break up the toes to bar in smaller sets, that’s ok. Just try and keep moving. The enemy for this workout is going to be standing still and not doing anything.  Transitions will be important: 10 rounds = 30 transitions.  A few wasted seconds here and there will multiply quickly into significant lost time.   Avoid this at all costs. Remember to push yourself, as you probably aren’t going to want to do it again.

Don’t forget a short cool down after the workout, especially for the forearms!

Most of all, have fun, support each other and celebrate your fitness!