The 2019 Open has begun, and the first workout is about as simple as they come. This is generally the case, as it’s all about creating community and getting as many people as possible signed up. All workouts are painful in the world of “AMRAP” and “for time,” and the concept of PACING is always something I spend a lot of time covering in these write-ups. For THIS workout, pacing is literally the most important variable. I think this is actually a pretty easy workout to achieve your personal “best score” if you approach it properly.

AMRAP 15 min:

19 Wall-Balls (20/14# to 10/9 ft)
19 Row (calories)

Preliminary Thoughts:

This workout favors an athlete that is a bit taller on BOTH movements. This taller athlete can be powerful on the rower and have to exert less energy on each rep of Wall-Ball than a shorter athlete.

All athletes will be aided by understanding the difference in rowing for calories versus rowing for meters. I will discuss this more later on.

Going unbroken on the Wall-Balls is NOT a good idea for the general population, though probably a near requirement to go unbroken for anyone trying to be competitive. Unless you are capable of performing 100 unbroken Wall-Ball reps, you should have a pacing strategy in mind.


  • General warm-up (get heart rate slightly elevated) + mobility work on hips, ankles and shoulder girdle.
  • Next we need to do a heavier lifting portion, which will prime the CNS for the work ahead by activating the fast-twitch muscle fibers of the muscles involved in these movements.In this case, I really like a build to heavy single in Squat Clean Thruster.  Keep reps and sets low, as to not fatigue the body too much. But feeling a heavy weight pulled off the ground and then through the squat will make you a more powerful athlete for the Row and Wall-Balls that ensue.
  • Get the heart rate elevated so that it is not a shock to the body to go from 0 MPH to 60 MPH when the workout starts. A good way of doing this would be to do a couple short intervals back and forth. Maybe something like:3 Rounds:

    5 Cal Row
    5 Wall-Balls

    You should increase the pace each round, so that the final round is a difficult pace to maintain. Then rest 60-90 seconds, and do 1-2 more rounds at a feverish pace, which will really spike the heart rate. Then rest a few minutes before starting the workout.

The Workout:


First off, you must have good rowing technique. Do not get a really big lean-back at the end of the stroke. This will drastically increase fatigue. You must understand how to drive through the heels and put the load into your hamstrings. If your heels elevate too much, the row will become a quad dominant movement, and this will drastically effect your ability to push through Wall-Balls  (a very quad dominant movement).

I briefly mentioned the difference between rowing for meters versus Calories. I will try to explain this in a way that makes sense. The more powerfully that you pull, the more cals you can accumulate without accumulating as many meters. If that doesn’t make sense, follow me here – One person could row 19 calories and accrue only 200m (or less) with extremely powerful strokes, while someone that is rowing slower, could take 350-400m to accrue the same 19 cals. Obviously you want to accrue less overall meters. However, you also have to be careful not to go too hard on the rower that you redline when you get into the Wall-Balls. This is a delicate balance.

The knowledge you should take from this, is that your strategy should NOT be to crush Wall-Balls and then recover on the row. If this is your strategy, you’ve already lost, because the row will become the black hole of lost time. Instead, you should pace the Wall-Balls AND PACE THE ROW (within limits of your own capacity). Due to this aspect of calories, the workout can actually be won (or lost) on the rower.

If this is confusing, here’s another way of saying it (credit to Jacob Tsypkin for his eloquence) – “Keep in mind that rowing for energy (calories) is different than rowing for distance (meters.)  When rowing faster, the increase in output for energy is exponential. For distance it is linear. In other words, when you row for calories, there is a higher return-on-investment for pushing harder.”


To be competitive on a regional or world stage, you must do Wall-Balls unbroken AND keep a strong powerful row pace. For the majority off the world, we will need to break the Wall-Balls into manageable chunks (especially so that we can push the row and get more return on investment). For this reason, you must have a plan for the Wall-Balls.

Think of it this way. If you were told you had to do 120-150 Wall-Ball reps, and you had to do the SAME NUMBER OF REPS ON EVERY SET and KEEP YOUR REST PERIODS SHORT, what would be your breakdown?

I can see ranges here. Some athletes may be able to sustain output by doing 10 reps, take a 3-5 second rest, and then finish 9 reps. This is fine, and only loses you a total of 3-5 seconds versus going unbroken (but saves you tons of energy to make your row more effective).

Others that are new to CF, or not very good at Wall-Balls, (especially when tired), may need to break 5-5-5-4 to ensure short rest periods.

The last thing you want is to get crushed on the Wall-Balls, and then waste time transitioning to the rower; or just as bad to go directly to the rower but then start rowing at an effort that requires multiple strokes just to accumulate a calorie. When you get to the rower, you need to be feeling decent and ready to create some power and accumulate calories.

Regardless of how you slice it u, you just need to make sure that you stay within your own abilities, and do not approach the redline while on either movement. Once you reach the final 2-3 minutes, you just gotta turn off your brain and push to the finish.


Final Thoughts and Considerations:

REMEMBER TO BREATHE! If the Wall-Balls are easy for you, you can breathe through it, and it shouldn’t be too terribly challenging. If the Wall-Ball is heavy or challenging for you, you will need to hold your breath through the squat and explosive portion, and should try to breathe while the body is fully extended and the ball is out of your hands. Stay consistent with breathing on the rower. Short and fast breaths. Big gulps of air mean you are approaching the red-line point.

You can do this workout twice, for sure. Especially if it is a test of capacity, and not strength. If the Wall-Ball is hard, you will need to be cautious how many times you do this workout, as it will impact your CNS recovery much more drastically.

Doing this workout fasted would not be a terrible idea if you are a higher level athlete. It is essentially a cardio workout for you. If you are going to have to break stuff a lot, this becomes much more of a Glycolitic workout, and therefore requires carbohydrates to be flowing freely through the body.