2018 Reebok CrossFit Games Open

CrossFit Games Open 18.2 And 18.2a Strategy By TZ Strength

CrossFit Games Open 18.2 And 18.2a Strategy By TZ Strength

Here is a breakdown of 18.2 including analyzing Patrick Vellner's performance, a useful strategy for everyone, and a full warmup.

Mar 2, 2018 by Armen Hammer
CrossFit Games Open 18.2 And 18.2a Strategy By TZ Strength

This one is very similar to a 4-mile run, if you don’t think about it.

18.2 is:

1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 reps for time of:

dumbbell squats (50s/35s)

bar facing burpees

18.2a is:

1RM clean

You have 12 minutes to complete both.

Analysis & Output Management

For this workout, I chose to track Patrick Vellner. The reason? I tracked him for a workout last year. Don’t ask questions.






































  1. Split times for each movement are taken when the athlete completes each set. Transitions are therefore accounted for at the beginning of each movement. i.e. the time for the burpees includes the time it takes the athlete to set down the dumbbells and get to the barbell.

  2. Vellner's mean time for burpees does not include round 10, which was anomalous due to numerous no-reps. 

  3. This is all hand timed and imperfect, but sufficient for our purposes.

Nothing particularly unexpected here, but something worth noting is the pattern in Vellner’s per rep pace:


Time Per Squat

Time Per Burpee































We can see here that Vellner “eased” (relatively speaking) his way into the workout. The first two rounds of squats were slower than the third. His pace increased again in the fifth, again in the seventh, before dropping back a bit in the ninth.

The pattern on burpees is even more stark. His burpees got faster every round up until the sixth, and that was because he got a no rep, causing his average to drop. In the eighth he sped up again, and the 10th was, as noted above, anomalous due to several particularly time-consuming no reps.

I’m not sure if this was intentional, and this pattern does nothing to tell us how we should approach the workout. But I wanted to highlight because I think Vellner took the exact right approach to this workout: he more or less acted as though the clean did not exist, and went as fast as he could, even pushing himself to a faster pace in the most punishing rounds of the event. If you are angling for a spot at Regionals, this is the only reasonable option. Doing the event 15-30 seconds slower in order to try and clean more will do almost nothing in terms of reducing fatigue. It’ll do a whole lot to reduce your standing on the leaderboard. Do not fall into this trap. Push the pace hard, eke every second out that you can, and then take a long rest before cleans — again, like Vellner did. He completed 18.2 at 4:17, per the current standings on the Leaderboard. He took his first clean at 6:45.

If you’re in serious contention for Regionals, you’ll have so much time for cleans, it makes little sense to hurt your score on 18.2 in order to have an extra 15-30 seconds of rest before 18.2a. Being able to get seven attempts instead of six might be nice, but it’s not necessary if you plan your attempts accordingly.

Dumbbell Squat: Many athletes will be perfectly capable of performing the squats unbroken. Differences on the leaderboard will come from the pace at which the athlete executes each rep. Therefore, if you’re elite (let’s say that’s the 99th percentile), you need to be pushing the actual speed of your squat sets.

If you’re not quite there, it’s highly likely that performing the squats unbroken is still the best strategy. However, you should work at a controlled pace — a reasonable strategy is to pause for one brief exhale at the top of each rep. The slower you need to go, the longer the rest at the top.

If you do need to break your later rounds into two sets, my advice is to aim to always try to get more than half of your reps out of the way in the first set (e.g. the set of 8 would be 5/3, set of 9 would be 5/4, set of 10 would be 6/4.) There seems to be something psychologically beneficial about getting past the halfway mark that will make you get back on the dumbbell more quickly for the second set, knowing it’s a smaller one than the first. As always, go in with a specific rest time you want to have between sets, and stick to that time, on the clock, not in your head.

Burpee: Unlike the dumbbell squat, not a lot of athletes will go “unbroken” on the burpee. “Unbroken” in quotes, because that’s a kind of slippery concept here. I consider a set of burpees to be broken if the athlete stops at the bottom at all, or if they stop at the top for more time than it takes to adjust their feet for the next rep. Vellner and Ohlsen both went “unbroken”.

If you’re not going unbroken, you want to have a work-rest strategy. Vellner was working at an average pace of about 2.5 seconds/rep. Maybe for you it’s going to be 4 seconds/rep, or 6 seconds, or 8 seconds. Either way, there are a few things you can do to help mitigate fatigue and stick to your pace:

  1. Commit to not resting at the bottom. I know it’s tempting to take a nap in a puddle of your own sweat, but I promise you this is the worst way to do it. Not only do you lose whatever momentum you may get out of a fast rebound at the floor, it’s also very easy to lose track of time down there. Rest on your feet!

  2. Of course, have a rest between reps time picked out before you start the workout, and then measure that time – say it with me – on the clock, not in your head.  It’s completely fine if your rest time needs to increase during the workout, but it needs to increase via a conscious process: make the decision to increase rest, decide how much to increase it by, and then hold yourself to it, until you need another increase, and then repeat the process.

  3. Take advantage of your rest to control your breathing. As you watch the clock, aim for slow inhale/exhales. You’ll be amazed how much being aware of your breathing, and working to slow it down just a bit, can help keep you calm and on track.

Transition: This workout comes with an interesting secondary event – you get to make a fashion decision!

If you’re an elite athlete performing this workout in four-odd minutes, you have more than enough time to sit down, get a sip of water, and change your footwear. Doing so won’t take up any time that you’d be spending on cleans anyway, because you’re going to want to take a hot minute before getting on the barbell.

For most of us, however, time will be a lot tighter. So the question arises: is it worth doing 18.2 in your favored weightlifting shoes in order to not have to change for 18.2a?

This is largely a personal decision, and should be guided by your day to day habits. If you regularly perform WODs in lifters, but don’t feel comfortable going for heavy weights in your Nanos/Metcons/whatever you kids are wearing these days, then lifters are probably the way to go. Vice versa if you frequently go for heavy weights in your WOD shoes but have never done a burpee wearing a three quarter inch heel. It is worth noting, however, that the negative impact of weightlifting shoes on 18.2 is likely to be quite small, whereas the negative impact of non-weightlifting shoes on 18.2a at least has the potential to be moderately large.

There’s the third option of taking the time to change anyway. Depending on how many attempts you are likely to take in the clean, that may be just fine. So let’s talk about lifting some heavy weights.



Percentage of 1RM




















  1. Percentage of 1RM is based on Vellner’s reported 355# 1RM clean & jerk from his CrossFit Games Athlete Profile. Entirely possible his clean his higher, but I think these numbers are sufficiently close to be representative, given how large the jumps he took were.

Having completed the workout at 4:17 and perform his first clean at 6:45, Vellner proceeded to take a lift every 60-75 seconds for the remainder of the event, with the exception of the final attempt at 11:50, which was done with only 35 seconds of rest, for obvious reasons (the obvious reasons being that time is linear.)

Regardless of how much time you have for cleans, an on-the-minute style approach is probably a good way to go. While it’s true that this may mean less rest between attempts, it also means you’ll get to build up in weight more gradually, rather than starting high and struggling from the get-go. It will also help keep your head in the game if you miss an attempt – you can’t stand there thinking about it, the clock is running down and you’ve got to get back on the bar!

Regarding load selection: there are two strategies here, and while I prefer one over the other, both are fairly reasonable. The first is to start with a very light weight – probably somewhere in the range of 65-70% of 1RM – and build from there. The advantage is that you get a lift in, remind your brain and your legs what heavy weight feels like, and smooth the path for your heavier attempts. There is not likely to be any meaningful fatigue incurred by a lift in this load range, so that’s not really an issue.

While it doesn’t cost you energy, it may cost you time. If you are not willing to give up that time, you can start heavier, in the 75-80% range. Personally, I think the costs of this approach outweigh the benefits compared to starting lighter, but if you are determined to make every lift as valuable as possible on the leaderboard, it’s not insane to start out with a 75-80% lift.

Fractional plates are your friends here. Going 156 or 157 instead of 155 will likely bump you up quite a bit on the Leaderboard, and there is functionally no difference in load. 

Finally, a note on mindset: don’t be afraid to go big. You should absolutely be smart with your attempts, but don’t reign yourself in by convincing yourself that you will be limited by time and fatigue. We saw plenty of PRs on the clean & jerk in 15.1a, even from advanced and experienced athletes and I’m fully expecting to see lots of people set PRs here. You could be one of them!

Technical Considerations

Dumbbell Squat: This is a simple movement, but there are a few things to pay attention to.

First of all, the way you grip the dumbbells can make a big difference. With last year’s dumbbell walking lunges, we found that the least fatiguing way to hold the dumbbell was with a “reverse” grip – dumbbell resting on the shoulder, hand around the handle, but with the wrist flexed and hand inverted so that the elbows sit above the dumbbell, allowing them to sit flush without adding fatigue to the shoulder girdle and arms. For this workout, which is much shorter and in which most people will spend considerably less time with the dumbbells, this won’t be as relevant – nonetheless, any fatigue saved is a good thing.

Second, consider the position of the dumbbell relative to your center of mass. As it sits on your shoulder, you want the dumbbell as far back as it can be without making your rack position awkward or uncomfortable. This will allow you to be more upright and let the load sit in your quads, minimizing fatigue to the upper back.

Third, and particularly important if you’re pushing the pace: it will be VERY easy to miss lockout at the top. Don’t get no repped! You can move fast and hit lockout every time.

Burpee: It’s always a good idea to have your judge check your reps ahead of the start. However, with new burpee standard this is doubly important. Have your judge take a look at multiple reps performed at a pretty fast pace at least a few minutes before starting, so that misunderstandings can be cleared up and you can get on the same page.

Other Notes

Set-Up: Pretty marginal here, but I think it makes more sense to place the dumbbells next to your barbell, rather than a few feet behind it, as Vellner and Ohlsen’s set up was. This way, you only have to take one lateral step after each set of burpees, and you don’t have to turn around. It also means you won’t have to worry about the dumbbells being behind you in the middle of a heavy clean.

As Always: Read the standards. Read them again. Watch the videos. If they’re relevant for you, make sure you fully understand the filming standards and make sure that you have a time established at your gym where you can expect to perform the workout uninterrupted. Don’t force yourself into an unnecessary redo because you didn’t do your homework.

Here’s to heavy weights and a high heart rate!

18.2 Specific Warm-Up

Note: This is only the part of the warm-up which is specific to the Open workout. It should not replace your general warm-up routine.

  1. Assault Bike 5:00 @ 6, 3:00 @ 7, 2:00 @ 8

  2. 3 Rounds:

    1. 10 Goblet Squats, slow eccentric, pause at bottom

    2. 5 Perfect Burpees

      1. A Perfect Burpee is as follows: Kick the feet back and place the hands flat on the floor. Perform a pushup, then kick the feet up so that you are sitting in a squat. Pause in that position, then stand and jump.

      2. 5 Hang Power Cleans, 4 Front Squats, 3 Hang Squat Cleans (empty barbell)

  3. EMOM 12, alternating:

    1. 3-6 Dumbbell Squats @ RX (start at 3, add one rep each round)

    2. 3-6 Bar Facing Burpees (start at 3, add one rep each round)

    3. 4-1 Squat Cleans (start at 4, subtract one rep and add weight each round, final rep should be at or close to your starting weight for the workout)

Jacob Tsypkin is the owner of TZ Strength. He began CrossFit in 2005, owned a gym for seven years, and switched to programming and remote coaching full time in 2014, after realizing he was just truly bad at mopping floors. In his free time, Jacob can be found battling fellow wizards at Magic: The Gathering, pontificating at the intersection of epistemology, ethics, sport, and training on his blog Exercise Philosophy, or practicing his Pajama Fighting in preparation for his final battle with Armen.