Happy St.Castro’s Day!

I’m not gonna lie – I was hoping 16.4 would be our repeat this year. Lucky me!

Much of my approach from last year will remain the same, but with the advantage of hindsight, there will be some small differences in strategy for 17.4.

Output Management

No intensive breakdown this week, for two reasons: (1) most of the strategy recommendations will come from experience with 16.4 rather than any individual performance, and (2) the camera cut away too many times to get accurate rep counts, and I didn’t want to post “best guesses”. Instead, we’ll move to general strategic recommendations for each movement.

I will quote one section of my post from last year verbatim:

“In all movements, bear the following in mind: there is no point in doing a larger set unless it reduces the total number of sets the exercise will take you. There is no appreciable difference between 15/10/10/10/10 and 11/11/11/11/11, except that the first set of the first scheme is more taxing than it needs to be. Whenever you increase the size of a set, it should be in service of reducing the total number of sets, which is useful so long as it doesn’t cause your rests to get too long.”

This is pertinent to any workout, but the more the repetitions climb, the more important it is – especially in a workout with three very systemically stressful movements.

Deadlift: Depending on the athlete, I think sets of up to 11 (5×11) are fine. However, I’m not sure they’re strictly speaking necessary. Even for excellent deadlifters, sets of 5 (11×5) with very short rests (drop, take 2-3 seconds, reset) may pay off by allowing you to keep the heart and respiratory rate down by granting yourself a brief reprieve of muscular tension.

It is, of course, acceptable to break this rule. In particular, if you know that the deadlift for reps is a very strong movement for you, and that you are good at controlling your heart/respiratory rate in fairly high rep sets, it may be beneficial to reduce the number of sets you perform. But keep in mind that it is only worth doing so if reducing the number of sets also reduces the total time. In other words, if the cost of reducing the number of sets is longer rests to the point that the total time ends up being the same, it’s better to perform smaller sets and reduce the accumulative fatigue.

Wall Ball: We’ll see a lot of variance here. Pacing of the wall ball has a very specific goal, in addition to our standard practice of keeping heart rate and respiratory rate in check: sets must be appropriately sized to delay and reduce the onset of local fatigue in the shoulders, lest you reduce your ability to execute the handstand pushups. This is especially important if you are an athlete who struggles with HSPU in general – and in many cases, the athletes who have trouble with them are very proficient at wall ball (relatively tall, and sometimes heavy and long limbed as well), and may be tempted to push the wall ball. While I certainly wouldn’t recommend sandbagging the wall ball, do bear in mind that taking the set to maximum or near maximum may have a detrimental effect on the HSPU, which are likely to eat up far more time.

Here are five possible breakdowns for wall ball, depending on your level of proficiency:


If necessary, reduce further than sets of 11 to save your shoulders. As I’ve said for many years, the key on wall ball is keeping your rest under control. 5×11 with strict (on the clock, not in your head) 5 second rests is a perfectly viable strategy.

Row: Your task here is essentially to (1) avoid burning out and (2) avoid falling back. You don’t need to push the pace hard, but you can’t fall too far off the pace that you set for yourself. Relatively small differences in output have a much more significant impact when rowing for calories than when rowing for meters. This chart should give you a good idea of what pace you should be holding – and it will also illustrate just how much your calories/hour can fall off with a relatively small (5-10 second/500m) reduction in pace.)

I want to make it clear that this does not mean that you need to crush the row. It just means that relatively small drops in your output from the pace you plan to hold can have a big impact. So, be realistic with your goal pace, and hold on!

Finally – I’d advise easing into the row. When you get on, take the first 10-15 seconds at a pace 50-100 calories/hour lower than you intend to hold. Use this time to get your breathing under control (not slow, but rhythmic) before picking up speed.

Handstand Pushup: And so, we come to the end. The best way for me to describe how you’ll pace this: you need smaller sets than you think you need. The first three movements in this workout are driven primarily by some of the heaviest duty musculature in the body. By comparison, HSPU will be dependent on, and limited by, relatively small muscles. If you hit a wall here, you are finished. Your rest times will become untenably long and your pace will fall to pieces.

Many athletes will be best served by sets of 5 (11×5). If you can hold them all the way through, with controlled rest, you will get done with the HSPU in good time.

Some higher level athletes will be able to perform one of the following rep schemes, depending on proficiency with the movement:


A very few athletes, those who possess very high levels of both local and systemic capacity, and who are particularly proficient with and well built for HSPU (short athletes with short levers) will be able to perform this in two sets. You’re probably not that athlete. Pick the rep scheme you think you can hold – and then do the one below it. If it turns out it was too easy, you can always redo, but once you peter out here, there is no coming back.

Finally, you must be willing to adjust your pace on the go. If you need smaller sets, just do it.

Technical Considerations

Deadlift: These are high rep, relatively light deadlifts, and the temptation will be to more or less stiff leg them. Since your reps will mostly be touch-and-go, I think this is fine. However, do bear in mind that the more back dominant your deadlift, the more it will affect your rowing, so a little knee flexion goes a long way in mitigating that. When you drop the bar from the top, try to guide it slightly with your hands, so you don’t have to run around to follow it. If possible, use plates without much bounce.

Wall Ball: Drive hard with the legs. Don’t make your shoulders do the work here – you’re going to need them. Ideally, use a wall rather than a rig for your target. That way, you can take your rests by placing the ball against the wall, leaning on it, and letting your arms hang by your sides. This makes a surprisingly significant difference in how quickly you’ll get back to work.

Row: Nothing fancy here, folks, If you don’t know how to row by now, I can’t help you.

Handstand Pushup: Powerful, technical, efficient kip from the very first rep! Oftentimes, the temptation is to slam through the initial reps of a set as quickly as possible, and this may result in under utilizing the leg drive. If you want to get through the HSPU as quickly as possible, you must delay the onset of shoulder fatigue, and that means you must kip well the whole time.

Pay close attention to the standard. Double check it, and do some reps for your judge before you start the workout. You may want to take your shoes off for the HSPU, as socks slide along the wall more easily. If you choose to do so, make sure that you measure your line with your shoes off! You want to move quickly, but if you’re in too much of a rush, it’s easy to get no repped here, and those aren’t reps you want to waste. Get those heels over the line every time.

Obligatory: Read and reread the standards. Go over them with your judge. Charge your batteries, empty your memory cards, make sure people know when and where you’re filming. Etc. Of particular note on the standards: “Starting at the floor, the barbell is lifted until hips and knees reach full extension with the head and shoulders behind the bar. The arms must be straight throughout. No bouncing.” The head behind the bar rule is new (I think), and be careful with the touch-and-go, don’t slam the bar into the ground like an asshole.


1) Row 45/35 Calories @ 6-7

2) 3 Rounds @ Easy Pace:
10 Russian Kettlebell Swings + 5 American Kettlebell Swings, 24kg/16kg
0:15 Hollow Hold + 15 Hollow Rocks
12 Steps Forward Crawl
5 Squat + Broad Jump

3) EMOM 12, alternating:
a) 8-5 Deadlifts (add weight and drop a rep each set, 95#/65#, 135#/95#. 185#/135#, 225#/155#)
b) 10 Wall Ball Shots, 20#/14# to 10’/9’
c) 4 Handstand Pushups to Standard

CrossFit Games Open Workout 17.4

55 Deadlifts, 225#/155#
55 Wall Ball, 20# to 10’/14# to 9’
55 Calorie Row
55 Handstand Pushups


Snatch + Overhead Squat

65%x1, 70%x1, 75%x1, 80%x1, 85%x1x2-3

If your back is totally shot, keep it down around 75% (or skip if it’s really bad.)

Gymnastics Endurance

3 Rounds:
1:00 Max GHD Sit-Ups
1:00 Max Handstand Walk
1:00 Rest

Allow 10 seconds of transition time between GHD and handstand walk, so that you have the full 1:00 allotted for each element.

Post results to comments.


We are now within the final two weeks of free programming on the TZ Strength website.

As of Monday, March 27th, TZ Strength programming will be a subscription only service. We will offer three programs: the base program, built for all around, even focused fitness, and our two specialized programs: strength & power, and endurance & gymnastics.

If you want to be sure that you are receiving programming from the first day of the off-season (3/27), and that your training continues uninterrupted, be sure to visit this page and fill out the contact form ASAP! Let me know which program you want, and I’ll make sure you’re set. If you’re unsure about which program is right for you, I’d be happy to help you figure it out.

Whether you choose to stick with TZ Strength or not – thank you for following along for the last nearly four years!

By | 2017-03-17T05:15:41+00:00 March 17th, 2017|0 Comments