Use These Tips To Dominate CrossFit Open Workout 21.2

Here is how you can best attack the second workout of the 2021 CrossFit Open.

With last week’s test, which included the wall walk, a movement that had previously never been done in the Open competition, we enter week number two using one of the important CrossFit training mantras: observable, miserable, and repeatable.

Workout 21.2 is a repeat of workout 17.1 — the 2017 Open’s starting event. It consists of the following:

Workout 21.2 (Rx’d)

For time:

  • 10 dumbbell snatches
  • 15 burpee box jump-overs
  • 20 dumbbell snatches
  • 15 burpee box jump-overs
  • 30 dumbbell snatches
  • 15 burpee box jump-overs
  • 40 dumbbell snatches
  • 15 burpee box jump-overs
  • 50 dumbbell snatches
  • 15 burpee box jump-overs

Women — 35-pound dumbbell, 20-inch box | Men — 50-pound dumbbell, 24-inch box. There is a 20-minute time cap.

Scores are an athlete’s time. If an athlete fails to complete the workout within the time cap, their score is the number of reps they finished within 20 minutes.

This event is simple on paper, but that doesn’t mean easy. 21.2 will almost certainly push you into some very uncomfortable positions. It will ultimately come down to how bad you want it.

Check out BarBend’s coverage of the 21.2 announcement for the Scaled, Foundations, Equipment-Free, and Adaptive versions of this workout. 


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Keep a Steady Pace

Workout 21.2 is a task-priority workout using alternating single-arm dumbbell snatches and burpee box jump-overs. The first aspect to consider when attacking this event is pacing. As with every event, there will be a particular pace based on the event’s length (time cap) and intensity level. 21.2 is high volume and lightweight, so there really is no reason to go slow. However, because of this, many will be lulled into attacking the first two rounds at a breakneck speed. The problem is that that is only one-fifth of the event. If you go too fast, you’ll likely be struggle doing the next 60 reps.

Don’t let the rush from your pre-workout influence your pace. Ideally, you will be able to hold your starting pace throughout the entire event. To do this, throttle down for the first two rounds to stay fresh. The rep sets aren’t too big in the early rounds, so it will seem like you are sandbagging, but in reality, it’ll allow you to have more energy as you get into the longer sets of dumbbell snatches. The race truly begins when you get into the set of 40 reps. Even at the start of that round, you will have only done one-third of the work. This is not the place to feel beat up.

Many people don’t realize that pacing isn’t always just how fast you do a certain number of reps. Many people sprint through a particular set and then have to rest for a long time to recover. If you slow your reps down, you drastically decrease the rest time between active sets.

Many people will see a 10-minute event, sprint, and rest throughout the workout to the point where they end up working for four and a half minutes straight and resting for the other five and a half. For 21.2, if you can keep moving non-stop in a controlled fashion, there will be less need for rest time. The less rest there is, the faster the reps will come and go. It may not seem like it in the first three minutes, but it will become very apparent towards the event’s end.

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Don’t Waste Energy

Since pacing so important and the moves are relatively simple, there are a couple of ways you can magnify the efficiency of each of 21.2’s movements.

Even though this is a snatch, it shouldn’t be performed as a heavy barbell snatch. The dumbbell is relatively light, and the volume is high, so it is smarter to spread the work out across the body and use opposing muscles from what will be used for the burpee box jump overs. If you drive your hips back, instead of squatting, you utilize the hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and hips to move the dumbbell rather than squatting the weight up.

To do this, make sure the dumbbell lands behind your feet. That will ensure your hamstrings’ stretch can give you a good pop with the hips to really move the dumbbell. This should take out any use of your arm other than just following the weight overhead.

Strategize Your Range of Motion

Consider the range of motion of the dumbbell. If you are a taller athlete, the dumbbell has a farther distance to travel from the ground to overhead. There are ways to get around this disadvantage: 

Widen Your Stance

Setting up in a wider stance effectively makes you shorter. This decreases the distance the dumbbell has to travel on each rep. There isn’t a set standard on the width of the feet. However, don’t go too wide otherwise, you might concede your power position for the hamstrings and hips. The best position is balancing the shortest travel distance possible for the dumbbell while still being explosive. If you are totally unfamiliar with this strategy (i.e., you’ve never trained it before), don’t go crazy on the width. A good stance will likely be somewhere in the range of your stance during a Sumo deadlift high pull — feet outside of the shoulders.


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Keep Transitions Tight

Finally, the transition of the dumbbell is different than it was the last time. In 17.1, you had to make the switch at or below your face. Upon watching Samuel Kwant and Justin Medeiros go head-to-head for the 21.2 announcement, as well as looking over the workout description, it appears you can switch hands anywhere after you get the rep. That means the fastest switch is with your arm stretched out overhead. While staying safe and in control, let go of the weight with one hand and grab it with the other as it’s free-falling. It’s fast but requires coordination.

Another surefire switch is bringing the dumbbell down to one shoulder and then push it into the other hand. It’s not as fast, but the coordination isn’t as taxing, and the chance of dropping the dumbbell is reduced. Additionally, it relieves some time under tension.

The slowest method would be to bring the dumbbell all the way down to the ground and then switch hands. If you can avoid this strategy, it is likely best to do so. However, even though this method is slower than the other two, if your aerobic capacity cannot sustain a consistent movement, this switch on the floor actually gives you a tiny break on every one of the 150 reps. Of course, you can always switch from one method to another as needed. Your pacing will dictate the best transition method or combination of methods.

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Burpees The Right Way

Burpees are everybody’s movement if you are younger than six years old. Unfortunately, for those of you older than that, you need to strap in, put your head down, and go to work. With 75 reps of burpees with a box jump over, efficiency is the make or break factor.

Try to keep your legs as straight as possible throughout the burpee. To do this, hinge at the hip and put your hands to the floor. Once they hit, throw your legs out, drop your hips to the ground, and lower your chest. There’s absolutely no reason to do a squat into the plank position. Likewise, there is no reason to do a strict push-up on the way back up as it’s the same movement, just in reverse. Raise your chest and hinge at your knees to lighten the push-up load (and take some of the tension off of your back). Once your arms are locked out, pop your hips up and step up and forward with one leg. This step will bring you closer to the box. Then bring the other leg up, and you’ll already be in position for the next jump.

The jump on top of the box is not a vertical leap. In fact, you may even see athletes with a great jump bound really high and land with almost straight legs on top of the box. This takes too much energy and explosiveness out of your body. Instead, think about pulling your legs up just high enough to get on top of the box. This is a pull of your legs rather than a jump. When you land on top of the box, your legs should be in a crouch position with your chest up so that you can breathe. Spin yourself by rotating on one foot to step off the box and immediately go back down to the ground for the next burpee. Again, the objective here is to be efficient and consistent throughout the 75 reps — not to be the world’s fastest in the set of 15 or 30.

Have Fun With It

Workout 21.2 is a fun addition to the 2021 Open competition. It’s one that everyone can do, and we’ll have that common thread of feeling like you’re going to pass out but loving every moment of it. Embrace the pain, embrace the suck, and have some fun! 

Feature image via CrossFit Games’ Instagram page: @crossfitgames