The CrossFit Open 21.3 and 21.4: workout tips and strategies

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CrossFit Open 21.3. Oh yea, and .4 

A double-header that’s less straightforward than the previous two Open workouts, it’s got a whole lot of everything involved. So, make sure you are familiar with the rules, tie-break times and your strategy for each portion of the workout and you’ll be all set up for success.

Below you’ll find each movement along with a strategy breakdown that compliments the movements which follow. Get reading and enjoy the last weekend of the Open 2021!

The CrossFit Open 21.3 & 4 warm-up, equipment prep and your judge. 

These are the little things that make all the difference. During the warm-up practice all the movements involved. For the front squats and thrusters, build to your workout weight and perhaps even go 5-10kg heavier than the workout weight (95lb/65lb) so your muscles are primed and the wod weight will feel less heavy. 

Further, all of the athletes who participated in The CrossFit Open announcement wore any equipment they would be using for 21.4 during 21.3. This allowed them to focus on getting their bar set up and resting before starting 21.4. However, if you don’t usually opt for lifters, knee sleeves and the likes during your normal workouts, then don’t bother trying to change what already works for you.

Communicate with your judge before 3,2,1 GO. You’d be surprised how many people forget this crucial point when they’re focused on warming-up and the pre-workout nerves start to hit. Make sure you and your judge are clear on the movement standards, timings and how they should communicate to you throughout the workout. 

21.3 For total time:
15 front squats
30 toes-to-bars
15 thrusters
> Rest 1 minute <
15 front squats
30 chest-to-bars
15 thrusters
> Rest 1 minute <
15 front squats
30 bar-muscle-ups
15 thrusters

Front squats:

Unbroken front squats are ideal. If these are a strength for you, move fast and pull the bar back down to return to the bottom of the squat. If front squats are a weakness of yours, still try to hold on for all 15 reps but go slower and pause at the top if needed. No matter what pace you choose, always breathe out at the top of each rep and keep those elbows pointing forward to ensure your midline stays strong.

Toes to bar/Chest to bar pull-ups

Grip, grip, grip.

30 toes to bar and 30 chest to bar is going to get gassy, sassy and grippy. And while many of you might be used to those rep ranges, if you go big on those sets it will more than likely affect your performance during the bar muscle ups and 21.4. After Spencer Panchik completed it alongside his brothers during the CrossFit Open announcement, he went on to say;

“I regret the complex more than anything. I wish I broke it up early (on the gymnastics)”

He then went onto explaining it was all due to grip, rather than his legs feeling fatigued.

It’s crucial with these movements you don’t just go to failure or ride the line between missing a rep and making it. That plan may lead to hitting some big initial numbers, but with a serious drop off to follow. You’ll also end up spending time trying to recover rather than continually chipping away.

Aim for a rep range you know you can’t fail, have a quick rest and then right back to it.  


Everyone’s favourite, especially after gymnastics. (sarcasm, for any Americans reading this) Again, knowing if this movement is a weakness is important. Can you quickly rep these out by pulling the bar back down after each rep? Or, should you pause at the top of each thruster and take a second to breathe? Play it smart but try to keep moving and work through the discomfort because you get a minute of rest after each set of 15.

Bar muscle-ups

How hard are you breathing by the time you reach these bad boys? Chances are, hard and heavy, so give yourself a few seconds to collect yourself. Once again, failed reps will be equal parts fatiguing and frustrating. Use a rep range you know you can hit every time. Even if it’s quick or slow singles. Because if you get any failed reps on these you will be kicking yourself. 

** Remember, the Open is where the magic happens. Even if you think you can’t do chest to bar pull-ups or bar muscle-ups, you never know what will happen in a competitive, adrenaline charged atmosphere. This is where all your hard work brings out those movements you have been so close to getting. 


1 deadlift
1 clean
1 hang clean
1 jerk

Workout 21.4 begins immediately upon completing or reaching the time cap for 21.3.

So, what weight do you open with for the 21.4 complex after 21.3? Firstly, none.

Take 2 or so minutes to rest. You’ve only got 7 minutes here, but even the elite athletes thus far have used +/-2 minutes to recover and bring their heart rate down. If you rush into the complex, especially after completing 21.3, your technique and grip will be compromised and thus your ability to lift.

So, what should you lift? You don’t want to go too light or too heavy as both will waste energy. The overall recommendation is to have at least three lifts in mind. Begin at 70-75% of your 1 rep max clean and jerk. This will allow you to gauge how your body is responding after 21.3. Your second lift should once more be something you know you can lift with good technique but on the upward trajectory towards 90% of your 1RM. Your last lift? Something that will be pushing it and either at your 1RM or slightly heavier. You’ve got nothing to lose and, whether you make the lift or fail it, if you’ve got the time you get to try again or go heavier.

Lastly, try to maintain your hook grip. The complex will be very taxing, especially if you did big sets on the gymnastics portion of 21.3.

Tie-Break times. 

This Open workout is a double header with lots of strategy involved as well as rules to be followed. And for those of you who love to break down the rules to ensure you get your best possible score, your tie break time will be important. Read below for a great explanation from Ben Dziwulski of WODprep explaining how to use your tie-break time to your advantage: 

“There’s no denying the complexity of 21.3, and the idea of knowing where your tiebreak is can be incredibly useful for helping you place better. For example, let’s say the front squats, thrusters, toes-to-bar, and chest-to-bar pull-ups are no problem for you, but you know bar muscle-ups are your kryptonite. If this you, then you can try something like the following.

Perform the first two rounds as fast as possible to get your best tiebreak score, then on the bar muscle-up round take your time on the front squats and work to get any amount of reps possible for you in the bar muscle-ups, and use the remaining time until the time cap to rest and warm-up.

Since, in this example, the bar muscle-ups will naturally cap this round for you it’s important to build the best score possible in the first two rounds for tie break purposes, then work to get any amount of the movement that you struggle with so you can be competitive with others who got stuck on the same section.”

So, find a strategy, keep it simple and try your best. Pretty simple but the best strategies tend to be.

Oh yea, have FUN and Goodluck!

Check below to read my past CrossFit Open posts and be sure to pop and comments or questions below! @thecrossvicedit 

21.2 Open Strategy
21.1 Open Strategy
The CrossFit Open 2021
16.1 Open Strategy
16.2 Open Strategy
16.4 Open Strategy
16.5 Open Strategy

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