CrossFit Open Workouts 21.3 and 21.4 Tips For Adaptive Upper Extremity Athletes

Summit Systems Coach Casey Acree shares his best tips for how to take on workouts 21.3 and 21.4

The 2021 CrossFit Open closes with a two-part workout — 21.3 and 21.4. For Upper Extremity athletes, 21.3 and 21.4 consists of the following:

For total time:

Then, rest one minute before continuing with:

  • Round Two
    • 15 single-dumbbell front squats
    • 30 jumping pull-ups
    • 15 single-dumbbell thrusters

Then, rest one minute before continuing with:

  • Round Three

15-minute time cap. Men — 35-pound dumbbell | Women — 20-pound dumbbell

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

Upper Extremity (Men & Women) 21.4

Complete the following for max load:

Seven-minute time cap. Time begins immediately following the completion of 21.3.

Each round of the workout consists of the same two dumbbell movements and one bodyweight movement that gets progressively more challenging as the workout advances. Each progressive round will be preceded by a one-minute rest, making the first portion of this open a very high-intensity interval-like piece.

[Related: 7 Adaptive Athletes To Watch In The 2021 CrossFit Open]

What To Look Out For On 21.3 and 21.4

The greatest difference between the Rx’d version of this workout and the Upper Limb Adaptive version is that skill will not be a great limitation here. For the most part, this workout’s movements are scaled enough that capacity will be the limitation. There are a couple of sticking points that Upper Limb athletes will have to consider.


The use of the dumbbell for squats and thrusters will challenge grip endurance more than a barbell. This, combined with jumping pull-ups and then jumping chest-to-bar pull-ups, will likely be a challenging combination. This increased grip demand may then require lower body recruitment on the pull-up variations. This takes us to our next sticky point.


For many, the result of this workout will depend solely on capacity. The max lift movement is purely squatting rather than the Olympic lifting complex like in the Rx’d version. The conditioning piece’s squatting patterns (21.3) will certainly limit athletes’ ability on the max (21.4).


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[Related: Adaptive Classes Are Confirmed for 2021 CrossFit Open, But Games May Wait Until 2022]

Recommendations For 21.3 and 21.4

Here are some specific tips you can implement into your workout to maximize your time on 21.3 and have enough fuel in the tank for a strong 21.4

Efficient Position

To manage grip, practice the dumbbell movements thoroughly. Find positions that allow for your body to brace the weight rather than your arm. Don’t increase your grip/arm’s demand when you can stay relaxed by finding a more efficient position.

Avoid Burn Out

Make sure you have some energy left for the finish! The one minute of rest may not be enough to reach recovery between each round. If your breathing is too fatigued, the jumping chest-to-bar pull-ups’ dynamic nature will be extremely challenging. Be aware of transitions, and break the first set of jumping pull-ups appropriately.

Plan Your Squats Ahead of Time

Make sure you have a good plan in place for squats. Missing back squats is much more taxing than missing Olympic lifts. Don’t expect to PR your four-rep-max after this getting through 21.3. Make smart jumps, starting with some manageable reps to make sure you have your legs, breathing, and central nervous system under control and ready for a tough lift. I’d recommend three attempts at most — an easy one, a conservative attempt that will be a decent score, and a big final attempt. Use up all the rest time you can! 

As is always the case, the Open will test you not only physically but mentally — and this week is no different. Have a solid plan in place, know yourself, and get after it!

Feature image from Casey Acree’s Instagram page: @coachcaseyacree