Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Thoughts on Reebok CrossFit Open WOD #12.4

Deadlifts. Double unders. Squat cleans. Muscle ups. Pistols. Pull ups. Wall balls. These were all things being predicted as movements for Workout 12.4 and three made the cut. Let's take a look.

Workout 12.4
Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 12 minutes of:
150 Wall balls (20lb. to 10' for men, 14lb. to 9' for women)
90 Double-unders
30 Muscle-ups
For warming up, be sure to get that body temp up and blood flowing with some jogging, rowing, etc. Once you are warm and breaking a sweat (sometimes it takes me 20-30 minutes!) you'll want to work on your mobility for squatting, jumping, and muscle ups. Luckily Kelly Starrett has covered wall balls and muscle ups in the following video. (If we're lucky, he'll do another awesome video specifically for 12.4)

Here is last year's video from 11.1 where K-Star mobilizes you for snatches and double unders. Ignore the snatch prep unless you really want to reflect on 12.2. 

Overall, I think warming yourself up to be steady on the wall balls is key. Going out too fast or losing your lungs quickly is NO BUENO!

Wall Balls
Everyone that's met "Karen" knows that she kicks the crap out of you. Squatting (loaded or not) sends a lot of blood and oxygen to your legs and away from kind-of-important things like your lungs. The wall ball is a standard 20lbs. to 10ft. target for men, but for some ladies, you may be used to an 8ft. target. This is a 9ft. target whether you like it or not. Here's a few important notes:
1. The ball must touch the target or hit ABOVE the target. Any ball that misses below or doesn't hit the wall at all does NOT count. 
2. you CANNOT catch the ball off the bounce, it must be in a resting state if you drop it before you pick it up
3. you CANNOT use a box, ball, etc to check your depth. This is huge for those with mobility issues that usually use depth checkers. 
Don't get no-repped by not getting depth or not hitting the target. You're essentially doing the same amount of work and no-reps add up.

"Karen" is 150 wall balls for time. The important difference between that and this workout is your intensity level at the end. If you are pretty sure you are not going to complete 150 wall balls in the 12 minutes, then yes, go all out, especially in the last 60 seconds. Every rep counts and could mean a few hundred spots on the leaderboard. However, if you are confident you'll be under 12 minutes and will attempt double unders, you don't want to expend all energy to get a few seconds faster if the cost is laying out on the floor unable to recover for double unders. Strategy and pacing will be different from person to person. Some will do a big set (of let's say, 50) and then have smaller sets to do. Others will start and end with consistent sets of 20 or 30. This is something to play around with before you do the actual workout to see what works best for you. I think for most, smaller sets is better from the start.

Double unders
For those that don't know, double unders are jumping rope where the rope passes under your feet twice. You may do double unders with any single unders or rest in between, but only the doubles count. Don't have them? Take a look at the Mic'd instructor, Jon Gilson as he teaches the double under. 

Secrets to good double unders? Relaxed shoulders, arms in front of body, quick wrists, soft knees, and easy jump. Downfalls to double unders? Tight shoulders, windmill arms, stiff knees, donkey kicking, and hard landings. Practice, practice, practice. I was too lazy to try and get du's until a workout came up with 500 double unders. Instead, I had to do 1500 single unders and couldn't walk right for a week. After that I practiced everyday for a week and got double unders. Now I have 226 consecutive. 

Right after wall balls, see how much time you have. If it's a few seconds, do EVERYTHING you can to get SOMETHING. At this point I don't care if you jump 4 feet in the air in order to get a double under. Get one. If you have a decent amount of time, compose yourself and focus on breathing while jumping rope. I like to focus on a point on the wall in front of me or slightly above. Get through the 90 and move on to muscle ups. 

Muscle ups
This will be a game changer for most people. Even if you have muscle ups, your shoulders will be smoked from the double unders and lungs will be grasping for air. At this point, you might only have a few seconds or at most a few minutes to do what you can. You must start from the HANG with feet clearly not touching the ground. You do NOT need to turnout, but arms must be straight. Once at the top of the muscle up, you must demonstrate clear extension of the elbows into straight arms. No acrobatic uprises or variations are allowed. (If you don't know what those are, then you're probably not doing them). The biggest faults we'll see here are not hanging fully at the bottom and not locking out at the top with straight arms. You should have a really good judge to watch you do muscle ups since there are a TON of grey areas at the bottom and top of the movement. Of course what would this post be without instructions on how to get a muscle up. Here you go, again from the Mic'd instructor, Jon Gilson from Again Faster. 

If you are a member of the CrossFit Journal, they recently posted two great videos on components of the muscle up, as taught by gymnast coach Laurie Galassi. 

Before the workout was announced, I thought for sure it would be a couplet ladder. Something like 1 deadlift/1 wall ball, 2 deadlifts/2 wall balls, etc. in a time domain of 5-7 minutes. Clearly I was wrong.

This workout models itself off last year's 11.4 workout which was:
AMRAP in 10 minutes of:
60 bar-facing burpees
30 overhead squats, 120#/90#
10 muscle ups

Interestingly, they kept muscle ups as the third movement. I would have to assume this is because HQ wants many people competing and getting scores, and each movement acts as a gatekeeper of sorts for the next movement. Everyone can do at least one wall ball. Many will recognize the first part as "Karen" (150 wall balls for time), so they will have a good idea of where they will land. While most people have double unders, the preceding wall balls act as a gatekeeper to even reach the du's. As for muscle ups, your lungs and shoulders will be smoked, so only the efficient and strong will move on. Personally I wish it was 150 double unders and only 90 wall balls, but that's because I hate wall balls. This is a workout that won't necessarily please anyone, but will allow them to go hard and get work done, even if they don't move past the wall balls. 

The kicker is that it doesn't matter how fast you do Karen and/or double unders if you can't move to the next step. Much like the snatch workout, points are not given to doing the same amount of work faster. In other words, even if you complete 150 wall balls and 90 double unders with 4 minutes to spare, if you can't get a muscle up, you'll be equal to someone who finished 240 reps at 11:59. 

It's almost ridiculous that they call this an AMRAP, but I bet we see more than a few multiple rounds. For the elite, most will finish wall balls in the 5-6 minute range with the double unders as an afterthought. Muscle ups will allow gymnasts and efficient athletes to shine. Graham Holmberg, 2010 CF Games champion, got 265 reps (5 mu's short of a full round.) I'm going to call Rich Froning Jr. to the stage again with 300 reps. (1 full round + 30 wall balls). For women, Julie Foucher has this one. With her gymnastics background, she will excel at the muscle ups and get 260 reps. (150 wall balls, 90 du's, and 20 muscle ups)

UPDATE: here's some words of wisdom from two friends who did the workout:

-Mike C. - "Just a heads up dude. 12.4 is a nasty mother. Your quads will hate you."

-Pat B. - ""Haha, IT WAS AWFUL! Sooo, have a good steady rep scheme planned out for the wall balls and I would break them up into smaller sets with short rests in between them so you're fresh for double unders. Stay nice and loose on the double unders and break them up into 3-4 sets as needed. 30-30-30 or 30-20-20-20 which is what I had to do. Make the last set smooth and relaxed so you can feel fresh in the shoulders to hit muscle-ups. Have fun brotha!"


  1. Camille might be a contender w/her gymnastic background as well...I think she's more well known, but I've seen Julie work in person and she's also ahead of Camille in the standings right now. I also wouldn't be surprised if Clever pulls another 1st place finish out

  2. Watching Clever in 12.3 made me want to quit. Round 15 was as fast as round 1!

    I am convinced she will own this wod.


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