How to Prepare & Program for the CrossFit Open

How to Prepare & Program for the CrossFit Open

Spring is just around the corner, and as the first months of the new year pass, the functional fitness world starts to think about one thing.

The CrossFit Open.

The Open is a time of year where your competitors can put their fitness to the test and see how they compare to other athletes worldwide.

But this year, The Open is only 3 weeks long, and with that comes new opportunities and challenges. Here is how to prepare your clients for the new CrossFit open.

The information in this blog was provided by Big Dawgs Coaches, Sam Smith and Henry Toraño, who work with multiple high level functional fitness athletes. If you are serious about functional fitness and need a coach, head over to The Big Dawgs

The New CrossFit Open

Unlike previous Opens, this year the event is only 3 weeks long, starting on March 11th going to March 29th. Each week, one workout will be released on Thursday with scores due by Monday afternoon, 5pm Pacific time. During this time period, you can perform the workout as many times as you wish.

The large majority of people, especially those who are serious about their placing, will redo the workout once leading to them competing 6 total workouts.

Further, this year features a minimized equipment list, including a barbell, box, pull-up bar, dumbbell, and a jump rope, allowing for at-home participation.

While the competition looks different this year, your clients need your guidance more than ever. So let’s look at how to create a program to get them through the CrossFit Open successfully.

How to Prepare for the CrossFit Open

First, let’s get a disclaimer out of the way. If The Open is less than 2 months away, you will not drastically increase your clients’ performance. 

It takes months (or years!) of specific program design, alternating between accumulation and intensification to increase ability. If you want to learn how to create better programs to increase your clients’ capabilities, check out this free coaching course

With that being said, here are some tips to help your clients perform to the best of their abilities.

1) Look at Lifestyle and Psychological Factors

Before you start preparing for The Open, take a minute and think about lifestyle and psychological factors that might affect your clients’ performance.

Ask yourself, is my client sleeping well? How are their nutrition habits? How are their stress levels? Are they happy and healthy? Take the time to dial in their lifestyle. It will dramatically improve their performance. 

Then ask yourself about psychological factors. How does your client view The Open? How do they handle the pressure? These things will impact how they perform when the clock is running.

How your client eats before a workout is a simple lifestyle factor you can control. Here is how we recommend clients eat before The Open.


2) Use the Equipment

Leading up to the event, only use the equipment that is on the list. Practice the skills associated with each implement so when competition rolls around, your client is familiar with the equipment and how to use it. 

3) Use a High-Low Split

In the weeks prior, use a high-low weekly training split.

This involves alternating between simulations, easy training days, tough training days, and rest days.

An example training split could look like this:

Monday - Open Simulation 

Tuesday - Easy Training Day

Wednesday - Tough Training Day

Thursday - Rest

Friday - Open Simulation 

Saturday - Easy Training Day

Sunday - Rest 

Exactly how this will play out depends on the goals of your client. In this video, Big Dawgs coach Sam Smith explains how training in this pre-competitive phase will differ depending on whether the athlete is likely to move onto the Quarterfinals.

During these weeks, vary the simulations as much as possible. The variance will prepare them for whatever workout gets thrown their way. Thankfully, these workouts are more predictable than they seem. Check out this article by Morning Chalk Up that shows how likely a workout is to be repeated.

On easy and rest days it is a good rule of thumb to include MAP 10 recovery work

4) Drop the Volume

Reach your max training volume 2 weeks before the competition. Then, drop the volume entirely and take it easy until The Open. Use this time to refine skills and do a lot of high-volume low-weight contractions

Gains Are Made in the Off-Season

Watch your athletes closely this year.

How did your programs prepare them for competition?

We’ll be the first to tell you that random programs get random results. A one-size-fits-all WOD works… until it doesn’t.

It’s time for you, as their coach, to address your client’s individual needs. Download our free athlete development blueprint and learn the components necessary to train an athlete for competitive functional fitness. 


Fitness Assessments for New Clients