CrossFit Open 14.4 – Tips and Suggestions

A chipper! I love chippers. not because I am good at them but because there is work to be done. I might keep going until I get to muscle ups, even if the time cap elapses, just to finish the cleans!

Here are my suggestions including recovery from 14.3. I have also included links to the movements I have written about in the past.

The 14.3 CrossFit Open Workout can be found at

MEN - includes Masters Men up to 54 years old
Complete as many rounds and repetitions as possible in 14 minutes of:
60-calorie row
50 toes-to-bars
40 wall-ball shots, 20 lb. to 10-foot target
30 cleans, 135 lb.
20 muscle-ups

WOMEN - includes Masters Women up to 54 years old
Complete as many rounds and repetitions as possible in 14 minutes of:
60-calorie row
50 toes-to-bars
40 wall-ball shots, 14 lb. to 9-foot target
30 cleans, 95 lb.
20 muscle-ups


Recovery from 14.3

I think some people will still be fatigued in their back depending on when they did 14.3 and whether they did it twice or not. I am just an average CrossFit competitor (I won't even call myself an athlete). I did 14.3 on Saturday morning, got the expected DOMS but was back to training Monday without any problems. I rested Tuesday. Wednesday was hell. It was a 1RM Thruster (It was 10mins EMOM 1 thruster) from the floor (90kg = PB!!) then 16mins AMRAP of 10 thrusters at 50%/10 power cleans at 50% (alternating rounds), 10 deadlifts, 400m run. I haven't felt my back go into muscle cramps like that in such a long time. I had to go to front squats and no deadlifts... So. Much. Pain. That was 5 days after was still affecting me. If you did 14.3 again just before the closing time, you may want to recover better and hit that workout later in the weekend.

My recovery suggestions from 14.3:

1. Get some treatment to the following areas

    • Ribs - your abdominals, shoulder muscles, neck muscles, back muscles, and even your diaphragm (for breathing) attach to your ribs. Not only that, your accessory breathing muscles - the ones you use when you are "gassed" - are all to do with your ribs - between them, on top of them, attached to them. Neglect your ribs at your own expense. Work your ribs to get an extra boost in performance. Roll them out on the front, sides and back of the ribs. Get someone to go over all your ribs - between the ribs as well as on top of them. Realise that the ribs go all the way around your body and you can trace them out - they take angled paths. For the girls, lying on your back will allow you access to the ribs in the centre of your body. Lie on your sides to allow access under the breast and pecs with you arm above your head. The most sensitive places to find will be right behind the breast (on the ribs) behind where the nipple would normally be. This is around rib 5. It doesn't get a lot of attention but your external obliques attach here. Your pec minor attaches there. Even your 6 pack rectus abdominis has an effect up here. Your erector spinae attaches here too at the back.
    • Back - The nerves from your back supply the muscles of the back AND the whole pelvis and lower leg muscles. Try to get the joints moving nicely here, let the nerves be free to move. Help the muscles relax. If they aren't relaxing, then you have some stability work to do. Be very careful, we Physical Therapists (Physiotherapists) go to uni to study this stuff for a reason...get professional help and advice.
    • Abs - they attach your rib cage to the spine and pelvis. If you want a good performance from your body, your abs CANNOT be steel all the time. Release them with a kettlebell or massage
    • Hips - Forget your hip flexors...Only a very small % of people have real problems with this and it won't really affect you in 14.4. Get the back of the hip sorted. Get more internal rotation. Stretch into flexion and INTERNAL rotation by bringing that knee to the opposite shoulder while trying to keep the back perfectly is not easy to do properly unless you are a Yoga or Gymnastics devotee! Opening up the back of the hip will allow the hip joints to sit back in the socket and your hip flexors will magically improve!
    • Quads, hamstrings, calves, soleus, sole of foot - get these done to mop up any leftover tightness.
    • TEST/RETEST everything! Between sides, between regions etc. Don't spend more than 30-90secs in a region before retesting - if it is going to help, it will help within that time!

2. Keep flushing the system with water and fueling up in preparation for this workout

3. Massages, rolling out and whatever your favourite loosening up movements will be helpful

4. I am actually considering wearing a compression garment for this workout. If you have done this in the past, it might be helpful for you. I would recommend a short sleeved or vest style top for this workout.

Warm Up:

This will be an interesting workout. I know for me, If I can hold out until the 12mins mark, I get a burst of energy and can steady state for a while...not really helpful when the workout is only 14mins

  • Get on the rower or airdyne for 10-15mins if least 5mins is ok.
    • I like to row about 2:30/500m pace at about 20-23 strokes/min. It isn't that hard to maintain that pace and gets me warmed-up nicely...My best 500m row time is adjust your pace accordingly...I suppose just add up to a minute to your 500m sprint pace.
    • You can add running or skipping if you like but I find these much more intensive...I am after a really low load, low rise in heart rate workout. You should be able to chat quite easily.
    • Really take the time to practice perfect technique - you will lose form during the WOD but in warm-up, be perfect.
    • Listen to Krista. I met her at the 2013 CrossFit Games and she gave me great advice. What she taught me that isn't on this video is how to start the return stroke from your arms, then hips then knees...and to pull from the legs, then hips, then arms.

Krista - Olympic Silver Medalist - with some tips on Rowing

  • Grab a kettlebell (12-16kg for guys, 8-12kg for girls) and consider something like the following as a warm up routine
    • 1-3 rounds NOT for time, for quality and mobility of 6 - 10 deadlifts, 6 - 10 goblet squats, 6 - 10 kettlebell swings, 5-10 push ups, 5-10 scorpions to either side
      • The deadlifts will help warm up the hamstrings and back from the rigours of 14.3
      • The goblet squats will help warm up for the rowing, wallballs and cleans
      • The kettlebell swings will help stretch you out for the TTB
      • The push ups will get your elbows greased up for the muscle ups
      • The scorpions will help loosen your back and get any remaining cobwebs freed up
  • Now it is time to go through the movements
    • You have done the rowing in warm up - make sure you know what damper setting you want and that the screen is set up to show calories.
    • Toes to bar - start with some kipping drills to work into that movement. Progress into knee raises and then toes to bar. I would chalk the bar at this point
    • Wallballs - Make sure you have a 20lbs or 9kg ball. Make sure you know the distance that the ball will bounce off the wall and find that perfect distance you want to be from the wall. Make sure you can string a few together and double check the height of that line
    • Cleans - Get your bar and start with something like the bar or have already done some work in the warm up above. For many, 135lbs/61kg is a warm up weight. Go through the motions and ensure everything is set there. Do NOT chalk that bar...clogging it ruins the knurling and will make it even more slippery
  • Your warm up routine can take up to 30mins or more...that is fine. You should be relatively sweaty (at least in Australia)...that is fine too. You will be good to go and explode out of the blocks.

The Workout

This is probably going to be very variable for most people so I am going to classify things along the way for the elite, the average and the beginner. Click on the movement to also read about my tips on improving each...I haven't done one for rowing yet...


Elite and Average: 60 Calories is about a 3mins row for me (I am basing this off my TABATA this results). The idea is to just keep moving but not exhaust yourself. Set yourself a pace that you can sustain and not drop off over time...for me, I will be seeking to row at 1:40-1:45/500m because I know I can sustain that for 3-4mins and not be too gassed and will be able to move onto the TTB. *update - I rowed at 22 strokes per min on damper 8 and finished in about 2:40. For the last 10 Cal, I took it easier to get ready for TTB

Beginner: It is worth considering this like a warm-up row. Your nervous tension will be high and you will be excited to get so but don't burn out in the row...there is a lot of work coming!

Toes To Bar:

Elite: Break these up into sets you know you can do. You might suck at other things but you can bang out 20 TTB without thinking about it...then do 2 lots of 17 and a 16 set...but for most, sets of 10 should be achievable...minimise your rest because your cardio requirements should be taxed yet. The breaking up of the sets is to save your grip. AVOID RIPS in your hands...the longer you stay on the bar, the more likely you are to tear so take care of those hands, especially after 14.2's new skin is still thin.

Average: For most of us, our sets will be somewhere between 1 and 10. That is ok. For me, I will probably do triples, doubles and singles. Again, read the advice above about tearing...the tear usually comes when you are trying to hold on...if you feel like that, drop off early and jump back on. Short sets with small rests will beat bigger sets with longer rests...just keep moving. For me, this will be where I achieve my goals or not. *Update - I decided to go with a singles strategy right off the bat. It is actually quite fast because you drop off (no eccentric work) and jump back on. I wasn't gassed, just tired and struggled with the last 15 reps. I watch a guy do singles like me. He got on the bar last and was up against guys knocking out 5s but they got gassed really fast. My friend finished the TTB at the same other words, he was FASTER than the athlete who made it to muscle ups!

Beginner: Do the best you can. Some beginners can do TTB without problems...get through the work as for the average attention to your body though. This amount of hanging and pulling can be taxing on your shoulders so rest as needed.


Elite: You should be able to do these in 2-3 sets. By now, you will be tired and the heart rate creeping up. If it is going too high, break up sooner and get back on sooner. I am personally not a fan of resting on the wall with the ball...seems like extra hard work to me and harder to breathe.

Average: If you have been going hard, then sets of 5-10 will be appropriate. If you like to walk away, then mark out a point BEFORE the start...walk to it and then come back and straight on the ball to go again. *update - I had 20 Wallballs by 10:00 and finished them about 11:40

Beginner: I would suggest sets of 5 would be good to aim for. You will be breathless by then so keep at it gently and stay safe.


Elite, Average and Beginner: Josh Bridges and Scott Panchik are NOT slouches. If they broke up the cleans into singles, then I am going to guess that this will get ugly. It will be a balance between controlling the weight down before dropping it vs dropping from the front rack. The higher you drop your bar from, the longer it will take to settle. So even if you clean it, try to bring it down to the high hang before dropping it or guide the bar down. Set your back on each rep. Even if you can get doubles or triples out, you will benefit and catch up time. My prediction is that this will be one area where you can really make up some time. *update - it was every bit as hard as it looked. A triple then singles for me

Muscle Ups:

These are for the Elite...and some average CrossFitters. The bottom line is that if you don't have a muscle-up, you have no business being in the individual regionals. Your team may be able to carry just one person without a muscle up but it won't be good for your overall result. I, I LOVE that Dave Castro has done this. Long enough to let those with muscle ups to fight it out and get back to the rower to see who wins but also long enough that those without Muscle Ups will stand there and develop the fire that will drive them to practice more this coming year. My hint is simply NOT to fail a rep. If you are looking or feeling dicey, take the extra rest. Once you fail a rep, the time taken to recover the strength will be much longer than if you just took an extra 5 secs before the rep. Once you get the work done, it is a race on the rower...stay strong and keep moving. It may even be worthwhile to change your damper setting down a few levels so it isn't as taxing...that may not help your score may be brave and put it up!

General Hints:

  • Management of your heart rate is the key. The last thing you want is to hit the wall too early. Go at 85% - a pace that you can maintain for some time. It will feel like you are going too slowly...that is ok in a chipper...the idea is to chip away at the work. You can save the sprint for the last few minutes. Just make sure you don't regret your don't really want to do this twice do you?
  • For the Elite - Getting the Cals on the rower will be the key to winning this thing. Get those muscle ups DONE! There are easy "reps" in the rowing.
  • Whatever your weakness is, develop a strategy to attack it. My weakness will be the TTB. Last year, I did triples and then doubles then singles. A lot of singles. I have developed a strategy where I do the TTB, drop off, walk forwards, turn around and do another one. That way, the momentum and rhythm is maintained *Update - this worked SPECTACULARLY!. For some of you, it will be the wallballs. Or the cleans might be heavy for you. Whatever it is, break it down into manageable sets and KEEP MOVING
  • Having said all that, if you don't have Muscle ups, work hard to finish the cleans as fast as will affect your ranking via the special tie break. Then, take your time and have a go at getting your first muscle up! Get some tension in your shoulders. I have one patient I was working with and I had her do some strict ring dips immediately before attempting her muscle ups - then...BOOM! She got one so easily!
  • Chalk? Don't be the nervous chalker. I rarely chalk during a workout. Prepare the pullup bar early. Have your chalk close by but train yourself not to need it after EVERY time you drop off the bar.
  • Shoes? Nanos/innov8s etc. I think the balance of the work will favour them. However, if you struggle for depth in the Wallballs, consider wearing them.
  • Belt? Geez, if you REALLY need to on the cleans, I guess so. Otherwise, it begs the question..."Should you be competing". Assess the situation and make smart decisions.
  • Gloves/Grips: These may be helpful, especially if your hands looked like they went through a mincer during 14.2!

Cool Down and Recovery:

  • Get back on the rower or airdyne for 10-15mins at a nice slow pace. I don't rate walking because the range of motion for the joints is so limited. Keep that blood flowing. Given that all the rowers will be used for the heats, grab one just after someone gets off in the first part of the next heat 😉
  • Compression garments. This chipper isn't too long...but it will still hurt. Keep the compression gear on overnight to wake up feeling better.
  • Nutrition and Hydration. Drink according to thirst. Eat what you need to. If you don't know what to do, ask your coach. I personally find eating and drinking water always helps...sometimes eating dirty also makes me feel better 😉 hahaha. I drink water called Unique Water which has Magnesium in always seems to be helpful. Do what you know helps you the best.
  • See my tips above. All of those things apply to after this WOD as well.

Good luck everyone. It is a FANTASTIC workout...really smart I think. Let me know what you think of the workout and the tips above...ask me anything below 🙂

2 Responses

  1. Ant – thanks for all the help with 14.3 and 14.4 – you’re the man and the stuff you prescribe is the best around!!!
    Hopefully I’ll be able to get “down under” and visit you in the not to distant future!!!

    1. Thanks Steve. Your effort in 14.3 was great.

      My strategy for singles worked well 🙂 I watched one heat where 2 guys were knocking out at least 5s. They had gotten off the rower before this third guy.

      The third guy was knocking out singles like a metronome (better than me). Really minimal rest. He finished about 10secs after the other 2 athletes.

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