Tackling the Top 5 Hardest Workouts from Past Opens

Written By Charleh Dickinson  |  Open 

CrossFit® has been pushing athletes to their limits year after year with challenging Open workouts. In this article, we'll dissect the strategies and scaling options for the top 5 hardest workouts from past Opens, providing detailed technique recommendations for each to help you conquer these insane workouts.

These are our top 5 hardest workouts - do you agree?
Let us know in the comments at the end of this article.

1. CrossFit® Open 20.1

Workout:
Time cap: 15 minutes.

10 rounds for time.

  • 8 Ground-to-Overheads at (95lbs/65lbs)
  • 10 Bar-Facing Burpees

Strategy:

20.1 demands a steady pace with efficient transitions. Break the ground-to-overheads early to conserve energy and maintain a consistent rhythm. Focus on smooth burpee execution to avoid burning out.

This workout will really hurt at round 5. If you expect it, you know you’re in for a good time. To meet the time cap, aim for completing one round approximately every 90 seconds. Start at a moderate pace and maintain consistency throughout.

Barbell Options:

When tackling the Ground-to-Overhead (G2O) workout, consider opting for clean & jerks if the snatch weight proves challenging. For those finding the snatch weight daunting, it's advisable to stick to clean & jerks.

Experiment with hand positioning and foot stance to find the most stable and efficient approach, avoiding unnecessary foot movements during snatches.

Technique Recommendations:

Snatch Tips:

If the Ground to Overhead weight is fairly light to you, try a narrower grip for snatching and adopt a wider foot stance for added stability. This technique may be particularly helpful for maintaining control during the workout.

Clean & Jerk Tips:

If the snatch weight feels too heavy, favor clean & jerks. Focus on minimizing the time the barbell spends on your shoulders.

A successful clean & jerk involves catching the bar in a partial dip and promptly transitioning it overhead, ensuring a fluid and efficient movement.

Burpee Tips:

Maintain a steady pace throughout the burpee portion of the workout, avoiding the temptation to start with turbo burpees. Consider the two suggested burpee options: stepping up and down for a smooth pace, or adopting the "splat down, step up" method to conserve arm energy. 

Incorporate a turn over the barbell when jumping to save time, and steer clear of prancing burpees for Rx. Utilize chalk marks for hand placement, remembering to clean up after completing the workout to keep the gym tidy and coaches happy.

You can read our full workout strategy by clicking the link here.

2. CrossFit® Open 22.3

Workout:

Time cap: 12 minutes

For Time:

  • 21 Pull-Ups
  • 42 Double-Unders
  • 21 Thrusters (95/65 Lb)
  • 18 Chest-To-Bar Pull-Ups
  • 36 Double-Unders
  • 18 Thrusters (115/75 Lb)
  • 15 Bar Muscle-Ups
  • 30 Double-Unders
  • 15 Thrusters (135/85 Lb)

Strategy:

This high-intensity workout is designed for elite athletes who can complete it in under 5 minutes, particularly excelling in unbroken sequences.

Identify your weakness, whether it's thrusters, gymnastics, or double-unders, and strategize accordingly.

Strategic Tiebreak:

If completion within the time cap is doubtful, focus on maximizing reps and achieving the best split time on your last set of thrusters. Minimize rest between thruster sets to optimize your overall performance.

Scaling Options:

Reduce thruster weights and adjust pull-up variations. Start with ring rows for the pull-ups, banded pull-ups for the chest to bar and finish on kipping pull-ups for the bar muscle ups.

For Thruster Weakness:

Avoid reaching the barbell fatigued; break up thrusters into quick sets, ideally no more than 3 sets. Use descending rep schemes (e.g., 8-7-6) to ease the mental load and transition smoothly to the next movement.

For Gymnastics Weakness:

Opt for small, quick sets, especially if pull-ups, chest-to-bar, or bar muscle-ups challenge you. Quick singles may enhance overall speed. Tailor your approach based on your proficiency, considering larger sets for easier movements and singles for challenging ones.

For Double-Under Weakness:

Although double-unders are limited, manage grip fatigue and breathing effectively. Explore tips and tricks below for mastering double-unders and efficiently completing reps.

Technique Recommendations:

Hone pull-up and double-under efficiency and perfect thruster technique for each weight.

You can read our full article about this workout here.

Tackling the Top 5 Hardest Workouts from Past Opens

3. CrossFit® Open 15.5

Workout for time:

 27-21-15-9.

  • Row (calories)
  • Thrusters at (95/65 lbs)

Strategy:

Maintain a consistent pace on the rower. Break thrusters early and strategize breaks to avoid burnout. The trick to this workout is writing out how you’re going to break the reps up on the Thrusters in advance and create a “game plan”. For a solid time on the row, you want to be pulling 1000 to 1200 for women and 1100 to 1300 for men.

Scaling Options:

Adjust thruster weights to an option that is achievable to you. You want to keep the rowing calories the same so that you can feel the stimulus.

Technique Recommendations:

Focus on efficient rowing technique and pacing for thrusters to maintain stamina. For the rowing, sit upright on the rowing machine, maintaining a straight back and engaging your core.

Start the rowing motion by pushing through your legs, focusing on using them primarily. Drive through the balls of your feet and extend your legs fully. Simultaneously, hinge at your hips, leaning slightly backward while keeping your back straight, finishing the stroke with a pull from your arms. 

Want the full workout and strategy? You can read more here.

4. CrossFit® Open 23.3

Starting with a 6-minute time cap, complete as many reps as possible of:

  • 5 Wall Walks
  • 50 Double-Unders
  • 15 Snatches (Weight 1)
  • 5 Wall Walks
  • 50 Double-Unders
  • 12 Snatches (Weight 2)

*If completed before the 6-minute time cap, add 3 minutes to the time cap and complete:

  • 20 Strict Handstand Push-Ups
  • 50 Double-Unders
  • 9 Snatches (Weight 3)

*If completed before the 9-minute time cap, add 3 minutes to the time cap and complete:

  • 20 Strict Handstand Push-Ups
  • 50 Double-Unders
  • 6 Snatches (Weight 4)

♀ 65 lb, 95 lb, 125 lb, 155 lb

♂ 95 lb, 135 lb, 185 lb, 225 lb

Strategy:

Balance intensity and pacing. Break up snatches wisely and manage fatigue during strict handstand push-ups. Prepare for fatigued shoulders. While any snatch style is permitted, avoid rushing with a "grip it and rip it" approach.

Opt for power or no-contact power snatches, not muscle snatches. Aim to complete snatches between 1:30 - 1:45 by maintaining a pace of 6-9 seconds per single rep. Keep a continuous movement without stopping.

With four weight changes in the workout, set up multiple barbells in advance or have someone assist with loading. Utilize breaks to let your judge and partner/friend adjust the weights, allowing you to lower your heart rate before the next round.

Note: Many won't reach the final bar; however, if your PR is near the top weight, attempt it for a potential leaderboard jump. Even landing one lift can significantly boost your ranking.

Scaling Options:

Modify wall walks, reduce snatch weights, and adjust double-under counts.

Technique Recommendations:

Perfect wall walk technique, refine snatching skills, and practice strict handstand push-ups.

To get the full workout, standards and strategy, continue reading here.

5. CrossFit® Open 18.3

Workout:

Time cap: 14 minutes

2 Rounds For Time Of:

  • 100 Double-Unders
  • 20 Overhead Squats (115/80 lb)
  • 100 Double-Unders
  • 12 Ring Muscle-Ups
  • 100 Double-Unders
  • 20 Dumbbell Snatches (50/35 lb)
  • 100 Double-Unders
  • 12 Bar Muscle-Ups

Strategy:

Identify your "choke point" for RX'd workouts. If double unders are challenging for you, prioritize them in your training. Similarly, if ring muscle ups pose a hurdle, concentrate on them rather than worrying about bar muscle ups.

Be realistic and focus on improving the most significant factor affecting your score. In short, pinpoint potential obstacles and optimize your efforts to overcome them.

Scaling Options:

Modify ring and bar muscle-ups, adjust overhead squat and dumbbell snatch weights.

Technique Recommendations:

Perfect double-under form, refine muscle-up technique and focus on stability for overhead squats.

Want more in-depth strategies, techniques and workout standards?
Read more in our article here!

So, what’s next?

Mastering these challenging workouts requires a combination of strategic planning, efficient movement execution, and mental resilience.

Tailor your approach to your strengths and weaknesses, and remember that scaling is a valuable tool to ensure a challenging yet achievable workout.

Good luck, and now it’s time to hit the Open with determination and skill!

Want to crush every CrossFit® movement?
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Disclaimer: WODprep is not affiliated with CrossFit®, Inc nor is it endorsed by CrossFit®, Inc or any of its subsidiaries. CrossFit® is a registered trademark of CrossFit®, Inc. We are an independent group of functional fitness athletes trying to help people like us perform better in their WODs and everyday lives.

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