Just when you thought this year’s CrossFit Open couldn’t get more hellish, here comes 19.5. And this one is a nasty as it comes.
For the last few days, everyone’s been speculating that this workout would contain thrusters and chest-to-bar pull-ups in some capacity, and all that buzz was right. What none of us could have predicted was the insane amount of volume we’d face for both movements. This workout is a long burner that doesn’t just reward strength and power and execution. You also need strategy, discipline, and trust in your own personal plan.
CrossFit workouts 19.3 and 19.4 brought their own challenges. This one at least feels familiar, especially if you’ve done Fran, one of CrossFit’s most legendary workouts, and a blend of thrusters and pull-ups. Still, 19.5 tests your mettle in new ways.
I ran through it last night and finished in 15:14, with no set plan in place and very little warm-up. I highly advise against both of these things. I did break up the early rounds into many sets, but I did not have a rep scheme. And I ripped both of my hands toward the end the round of 21, which made the final 2 rounds of pull-ups murderously hard. I’m going to rest up over the weekend and redo the workout Monday, aiming to shave 60 to 90 seconds (or more!) off of my time.
Here’s how you can dominate 19.5:
You’re goal is to complete 5 rounds of the following circuit as quickly as possible. In the first round, you’ll do 33 reps (yes, really) of each movement. You’ll do 27 reps in the next round, 21 in the third round, 15 in the fourth round, and 9 in the fifth round. You must finish in less than 20 minutes.
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WORKOUT #19Point5 • 33-27-21-15-9 reps for time of: • Thrusters Chest-to-bar pull-ups • Time cap: 20 minutes • Make sure to visit games.crossfit.com for 19.5 the movement standards and scorecard before attempting the workout. #CrossFit | @crossfitgames
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Barbell Thruster: Start standing beside a barbell loaded with 95 pounds. Clean the bar to your shoulders. This is your start position. Now bend at the knees and hips until your thighs are at least parallel with the ground, essentially performing a front squat. Straighten your legs, pushing you through your heels to stand up; use this momentum to press the barbell directly overhead. That’s 1 rep; repeat as needed, trying to stay fluid throughout the motion.
Chest-To-Bar Pull-up: Hang from a pull-up bar with an overhand grip. Pull up until your chest makes contact with the bar. You may do this either using strict form, or using the classic CrossFit kip swing, producing momentum with your hips to lessen the load as you pull up.
Your Big-Picture Game Plan
19.5 is a classic couplet, something we’ve become accustomed to seeing in the final workout of the CrossFit Open. What we couldn’t have prepared for was the sheer volume of this workout, 105 reps of each movement!
This workout may look brutal at first glance, but take a step back. 19.5 is more about strategy and pacing than it is about attacking. In order to do well you have to come prepared with a solid Plan A and have a Plan B ready in case things go off the rails (which they likely will).
Don’t try to come out super-hot. Break early and break often. This workout is a marathon version of Fran (21-15-9 on thrusters and pull-ups). Don’t get deluded into thinking it’s a sprint; if you do, you’re in for a rough ride. Your key: Break up the rounds of 33, 27, and 21 into small, manageable sets with short, calculated rest periods that’ll allow you to keep moving. If you survive those big sets and have room left in the tank, then attack the rounds of 15 and 9. I was able to do the final round of 9 unbroken for both movements.
The people who will score the best on this workout will be those who stay disciplined to their rest windows and stick to their plan.
Make a Plan You Will Stick To
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Even if you don’t use my plan, you need to go into this workout with a detailed plan that’s somewhat like it. Figure out what a reasonable time is for you to do one thruster and one pull-up. Also figure out an appropriate rest time between sets and between movements. Adding 2 to 3 seconds of rest isn’t bad. Once you know these numbers, you know how and where you’ll be able to finish the workout.
Ask your judge or coach to keep you accountable to your plan. When you are in the heart of the workout, it will be impossible for you to keep track of your times, so you need someone in your corner who can count rest and make sure you’re not going too fast, but not slowing so much you stop pushing, either. If things feel too aggressive, add 2 to 3 seconds to your breaks between rounds and moves.
Don’t Rip Your Hands!
With a whopping 105 pull-ups on the menu just a week after you did 30 bar muscle-ups in 19.4, our hands are going to be ripe for rips. Do whatever you can to insure that doesn’t happen, especially in the early rounds of this workout. Ripping your hands will slow you down significantly as you struggle to grip the bar, forcing smaller sets and more rest. Use gymnastics grips if you can. If not, be sure to trim calluses and excess skin from your palms before the workout.
Don’t Be Afraid to Do Singles on the Pull-Ups
If you are a beginner and not proficient with stringing together large sets of chest-to-bar pull-ups, consider doing your sets in quick singles. This means jumping into a kip swing and pulling your chest to the bar, then dropping and immediately jumping back up to do your next rep with little to no rest. It may seem slow, but it’ll keep you moving with very little rest, save your grip and keep your heart rate lower.
The Round-by-Round Strategy
Round of 33
Want proof that you need to break this round up? Last year’s CrossFit Games champion, Mat Fraser, broke his Round of 33 into two sets for both his thrusters and chest-to-bar pull-ups during Thursday night’s Open announcement. He also finished the workout in a blazing 6:53! Mat, of course, is the fittest man on earth, and his break was strategic and planned.
For the rest of us mortals, we need to know our capacity for both movements and break each up into 4 to 6 sets. Think of getting a short 5-second rest between each set. For example do your thrusters in sets of 7-7-7-7-5, resting 5 seconds between each set. If each set takes you 15 seconds, you’ll be done with that first round of thrusters in about 1:30 or 1:40. Just as importantly, you’ll have stayed around 75-80% of capacity and be ready to immediately start your pull-ups. If you use a similar scheme on pull-ups and each set takes 10 seconds, you’ll be done with this brutal first round in a little over a minute. That’ll put you at 2:35 or 2:50; even if you factor in a transition between movements, you’ll be out of this hell round in around 3 minutes.
Round of 27
Similar to the Round of 33, keep playing the long game. Try to keep your heart rate down as much as possible and let your shoulders relax. I recommend thinking of completing each move in 4 to 5 sets here and again trying to stick to 5-second rest periods between sets.
Think of breaking your thrusters down, 6-6-5-5-5; that should take you about 1:15-1:25 to finish. Then the pull-ups will take you around a minute to finish; this should put you at 2:10 or 2:30 for the round. If you factor in a 10-second transition from the Round of 33 to this one, and another 10-second transition between moves, you’re now at 5:15 to 5:45. Best part: You’re more than halfway done with your reps!
Round of 21
One more round under control. Stick with your original game plan and shoot for 3 to 4 sets. If you aim to for a 6-5-5-5 rep scheme on the thrusters with 5-second rests between sets, you’ll finish in around 1:00 or 1:10. Using that same rep scheme on the pull-ups, you’ll be done with those in 45 to 50 seconds. Taking into account our 10-second transitions between rounds and moves, and we’re now at 7:20-8:05 with just two rounds of work to go.
Round of 15
Now it’s time to drop the hammer. This is where you find out what you’re made of and go to that dark place! Careful strategy in the first three rounds has hopefully left you with something in the tank for these final two rounds, though. I recommend trying to do the round of 15 in 2 to 3 sets. Break up the thrusters into 5-5-5, and it should take 45 to 55 seconds; the pull-ups, handled similarly, should take 30 to 40 seconds.
Factoring in transitions, that’s putting you around 8:55 or 10:00.
Round of 9
Now, you’re almost all the way through, so now you push. Think of doing each move in this round as an unbroken set. It should take about 20 seconds for the thrusters, and 10 to 15 seconds for the pull-ups. Factoring in transitions, this will have you finishing the workout in 9:45 to 11 minutes. Mat Fraser? No, but it’ll likely be a score in the top five percent worldwide.
The key to success for almost everyone is going to be how they break up their sets. Do your best and find a way to finish this year’s CrossFit Open on a high note. Hit me up on Instagram and let me know how it goes.
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