The CrossFit Open is upon us! Top CrossFit skills to sharpen if you want to bring your ‘A’ game

By Ismana Webster
Jan 23 2023
Woman at CrossFit Open

The CrossFit Open is upon us! Top CrossFit skills to sharpen if you want to bring your ‘A’ game

It’s that time of year again. New Years, Valentine’s day, and then, kicking off on February 16th, the ACTUAL most important event of the year – the CrossFit Open! As thousands of athletes get ready to participate in THE event of the season, let’s look at some of the skills you should be devoting a little extra time to over the next couple of months. Remember these are just guidelines, but you just know some or all of these exercises will appear in the open..

Olympic Lifting

One of the core areas of CrossFit, you can guarantee there will be Olympic Lifting of some sort in the open. Now’s the time to clean up your Clean, scrutinize your Snatch skills, and get jiggy with Jerks. Practice pushing some heavier weights, smooth up your barbell cycling skills, and work on that front and overhead squat mobility. Have a look at your programming, where your strength is now, and where you’d like it to be by February. If you’re finding scaled weights easy breezy, now’s your time to train smart and get strong enough to give RX a go. If you’re already at RX weights, you’ve got time to focus on work capacity and form. If you’re new to the Olympic lifts, repetition is your friend, get really comfortable cycling the scaled weights with good form.

Don’t forget to give the dumbbells and kettlebells some love too – single arm dumbbell Snatches and dual dumbbell Cleans are a great place to start. 

A good place to start with programming for strength progression might be to find your 3RM in each lift, including Front Squats and Overhead Squats, spend a couple of weeks doing 3-5 sets of triples, then bump the weight up 5-10% and spend a week or 2 doing doubles. After that bump the weight up again and spent a week on singles, then take a few days off to deload before starting with your new 3RM. Throw in accessory work as required such as extra shoulder work (dumbbell Arnold Press is a firm favourite), Sumo Deadlift High Pulls, and Snatch Balances,

Toes To Bar

Another CrossFit classic, there’s every chance that Toes To Bar will feature at some point in the open. Work on your kipping, work on your core strength, work on putting it all together. Focus on that lat strength and pushing down on the bar on the back end of your kip, this is relevant for Muscle-Ups as well as TTB. If you haven’t mastered the kip yet, work on your hollow and arch on the floor, then on the bar, then start incorporating TTB progressions. You may also want to work on your GHD Sit-ups and Butterfly Sit-ups. If you want a real ab killer, one of my favourite core WODs is ‘Gut Buster’, for time – 150 Butterfly Sit-ups, 1k row, 150 Butterfly Sit-ups!

Some accessory work to support your TTB dreams includes: Seal Rows, Knees-To-Elbows, Pull-Ups, Bent Over Rows, and kipping drills. 

Pull-ups/Muscle-ups

The Open is renowned for being the time of year you’re most likely to get your first Pull-Up or Muscle-up, so it’s a pretty exciting time! There’s always something to work on with these movements no matter your level. If you can already do Muscle-Ups, you rock! Work on fluidity and stringing more reps together. If you can do a Pull-Up, work on your Chest-To-Bar, start practicing kipping for your Muscle-Up, throw in some banded Muscle-Ups, and if you can’t do a Pull-Up yet, do lots of negative reps (jump to the top of a pull-up bar, lower down as slowly as you can until your arms are straight), Dead Hangs, Barbell Pull-Ups (Set a bar around shoulder height in the squat rack, kneel under it and use your feet for some assistance to get your chin above the bar). 

I’m a fan of adding weight at most stages to increase strength and reps, so you could incorporate a weight vest while training negatives as well as Pull-Up or Muscle-Up reps. To monitor your progress, set a timer for 2 mins in which to do as many of your chosen Pull-Up variation as possible. Note down your score and try to improve on it every few weeks.

Wall Walks/Handstand Push-ups

Love them or hate them, gymnastic skills are here to stay in CrossFit. Wall walks in particular seem very popular at the moment. Start your shoulder mobility work now, get comfortable being upside-down, and double check that you’re hitting the measurement standards. For those who can Handstand Walk, now’s the time to have a laugh with your mates over an upside-down obstacle course. If you’re working on Handstand Push-Ups, start dedicating a little more time to shoulder work. For Wall Walk practice, you can start by doing Walk-Ins with your feet on a box (get into a plank position with your feet on a box, walk your hands in so you are in pike, walk back out). This allows you to get comfortable using your hands to move your bodyweight and going upside-down with a little assistance. Once you’re good with these, go get on that wall! You can practice for Handstand Push-Ups with your feet on a box, too.

Double Unders

Ahhh. Double Unders. My personal nemesis. Unfortunately for the open I can’t make my partner do all the dubs, while I do all the heavy Dumbbell Thrusters, like I do for pairs comps! While we have so far managed to avoid TRIPLE Unders, we have had Double Under Crossovers at the games (say that 10 times fast), and there’s really no excuse for not practising the Double Unders as it’s an accessible skill that can be practised anywhere you have space and a skipping rope (someone should probably remind me of that). So get jumping…I will too, I swear….

Other Barbell Skills

Thrusters, Clusters, Dusters…wait no that isn’t one (yet), Front Squats, Back Squats, Deadlifts, Push Presses. Any of them could show up, so give them all a bit of love in the lead up to the open. Practice cycling reps with grace and finesse, practice dragging your sorry butt through reps immediately after doing 20 Bar-Over Burpees (just in case). 

In conclusion

The list of stuff to practice before the open could be endless if I kept going, so let’s focus on the exercises that have consistently come up before, some of the core movements of CrossFit. While overall strength and fitness will make your performance better, training the CNS by practicing specific exercises is important too for skill progression. For example I can Bench Press 1.5 x bodyweight, but if I don’t practice Push-Ups consistently (a similar movement using similar muscles), the amount of them that I can do in one set declines dramatically. Even just a couple of sets of each exercise per week will help keep everything primed and ready to go! The open is the time to smash Personal Bests, see how you stack up to everyone else, but most importantly have a lot of fun sharing an experience with hundreds of thousands of people Worldwide. Go, enjoy every minute of it! Except maybe not the burpees!

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