Finish the 2021 CrossFit Open Strong With These 21.3 & 21.4 Workout Tips

The final workout of the open is really two workouts. Here's how to dominate both.

And just like that, the 2021 CrossFit Open has come and is almost gone. One March 25, 2021, Dave Castro announced the final workout, 21.3. But then, in typical Castro fashion, the Director of the CrossFit Games appeared back on camera to declare 21.4. Before the announcement, Castro teased a picture of a screen that read “21.4.” It’s not unusual for Games mastermind to tease fans, but he wasn’t joking in this case. Right after completing a high-rep barrage of front squats, a gymnastic movement, and thrusters for three rounds for time, athletes will have to work up to a one-rep max (1RM) for a four-move barbell complex. 

Just like that, heavy barbell movements are back in the Open. The thing is, while these are technically two different workouts, 21.4 is done right after 21.3, so it’ll feel like a consecutive workout. Combined, these two workouts will test your conditioning, power output, and strength — and probably leave you wrecked afterward. To help you get the most out of your final Open workout (or, shall we say workouts), I outline some tips below. 

[Related: How to Qualify for the 2021 CrossFit Games]

But first, here’s a look at what Open participants will tackle this week in their home gyms or at their local box:

21.3 Rx’d

For time:

*Athletes take a forced one-minute rest between each round.

Men — 95-pound barbell | Women — 65-pound barbell. 15-minute time cap.

Athletes begin workout 21.4 as soon as they complete 21.3. Athletes who don’t finish 21.3 within 15 minutes begin 21.4 at the 15-minute mark.

[Related: Find Your Perfect Barbell for 21.4]

21.4 Rx’d

Perform the following complex as many times as possible in seven minutes to work up to a max weight:

*Each athlete’s score will be the heaviest weight completed within the seven-minute time frame.

[Related: Here are the Scaled, Foundation, Equipment-Free, and Adaptive Open Workouts]

21.3 & 21.4 Workout Advice

Technically, 21.3 and 21.4 are separate workouts, but they’re done together. Here are the tips you need to survive 21.3 and then finish strong with 21.4. 

Don’t Rush the Barbell Movements

21.3 is a three-round interval event consisting of front squats and thrusters for all of those rounds. The weight is light and doable for the majority of people participating in the open. The key is to remember that you won’t win the workout by crushing the front squats or the thrusters. However, you can definitely lose it if you push them too hard and fast. The light weight will lull people into a false sense of security and a desire to rush these two movements. Don’t do it.


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The object during these two movements is to keep yourself moving at a consistent pace to where you keep your heart rate below the red zone. If you push too hard, you’ll be pulling all the oxygen to those big muscles in your legs and glutes, and, as a result, your smaller muscles won’t have enough for the gymnastic movements.

There are a total of 90 reps broken into three sets of 30 in which you will be hanging from the bar. This is a taxing activity on your forearms and grip alone. But if you use all the oxygen in your blood for your legs and glutes, then your forearms will just be gasping for air as you’re trying to hold on to the bar.

Strategize for the Pull-Up Movements

It’s important to understand your capacity for each of these three movements. You might be able to go unbroken on the toes-to-bar, but can you do the same for the chest-to-bar pull-ups? And, even if you can, will that wreck you for the muscle-ups?

For all three pull-up bar movements, you must understand your abilities. Taking a few quick rests during the toes-to-bar and chest-to-bar pull-ups may feel slower, but those pit stops could save you from longer delays later in the workout when it really counts. Be diligent in tracking your rest time, too. Have a partner count down your time so you don’t get lost or disengage from the workout. Don’t walk away from the bar, either. Do your set, release the bar, then hop right back up for the next set.

Keep Your Blinders On

The forced one-minute rest between rounds of 21.3 is interesting…and deceptive. You may think that’ll allow your muscles to recover, but it doesn’t work like that. That single minute gives you just enough time to realize how hard your heart is pounding and how labored your breathing is. For many, the rest may be a mental disadvantage.

Stay focused during your rest. Don’t worry about what other people are or how fast they are going. Everyone will be on their own rest time since it starts after the final thruster of each round. Keep the blinders on and get fired up for the next round.

For the Complex…Warm-Up, then Shoot Your Shot

After that grueling three-round circuit of gymnastic movements and volume, you’re going to transition into a heavy barbell complex. Once you’re finished with 21.3, the clock starts for 21.4, and you’ll have seven minutes to work up to a one-rep max for a deadlift to a clean, to a hang clean, to a jerk. The transition will be jarring, so you’ll want to immediately throw some weight on the bar and do a few clean and jerks. This will prime your nervous system and ensure your muscles are coordinated for the task at hand. Keep in mind that you’ll probably have three good attempts at the complex in you.

Have a goal weight in mind, and then warm-up quickly and accordingly. 


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[Related: Everything You Need to Know to Build Your First Workout Program]

Choose Your Hang Clean Technique Wisley

The weight you use will be dictated by your weakest of the four exercises, which, for most folks, will be the hang clean or jerk. The hang clean doesn’t have the momentum that a full clean provides, and so you will probably be forced into a hang squat clean movement. You may not want to complete a full squat, especially if you don’t have to, but it’s probably a smart move. The reason being that you can use your legs to lift the weight rather than trying to swing it and do some crazy “limbo-starfish” maneuver under the bar. The squat will put you in a better position and not cause you to bleed a bunch of power unnecessarily.

Don’t Hesitate On the Jerk

Seven minutes to work up to a 1RM for a four-move complex is not a lot of time. Once you clean that bar to your shoulders, hoist the barbell overhead. You have three movements before the jerk, which, for many folks, will dictate the load they’re using. Knowing that you can (most likely) jerk the weight overhead should give you confidence. Don’t waste 10 to 20 precious seconds prepping your feet, positioning your hands, and catching your breath. As soon as you can get out of your hang clean, jump that bar off your shoulders and drive yourself down into that locked arm position to catch it. If you have a good split jerk, then fully commit to that move. If you are better with a push jerk, then attack that with full gusto.

Have Fun and Finish Strong

Yes, we’ve included this tip into each of our Open workout tips articles — but it’s important. Even though the 2021 CrossFit Open was shorter than past years, it’s been a fun test, and the entire CrossFit community has rallied behind it. This is the last workout(s) of the year, so put a big smile on your face, a ton of chalk on your hands, and get after it! Oh, and congratulations for making it this far.

Featured image: @spencer_panchik on Instagram/photo by Dan Ball