What An Equipment-Free Open Might Look Like

January 12, 2021 by
Courtesy of CrossFit LLC
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With a global pandemic shutting down gyms and hundreds of athletes moving to workout from the comfort of their own home, equipment-free workouts have become exponentially more popular in the last year. So much so that this year, the CrossFit Games announced that the 2021 Open would feature an equipment-free division. While athletes cannot qualify for anything beyond the Open in this division, it will give thousands of athletes the opportunity to compete and feel like part of a community at a time when we all need to feel a little closer.

What does it look like: The equipment-free version of the Open is where we could really see big changes to the movements classically featured in the Open. While Castro has been known for his propensity to repeat movements and workouts, since 2011, we’ve only seen five movements that could be classified as “equipment-free.”

  • The burpee, the handstand push-up, handstand walks, push-ups, and pistols are the only equipment free movements in the Open since 2011.
  • Given CrossFit’s goal to make the Open more accessible to all, especially in the equipment free division, it’s unlikely that we will see the more advanced bodyweight movements like handstand push-ups, handstand walking, and pistols in the Open.
  • This effectively leaves only burpees and push-ups to be done as repeat movements for the equipment free version of the Open in 2021.

New movements?: Since it’s unlikely that Castro will program the entire equipment-free Open around burpees and push-ups, we have to look at other equipment-free movements from CrossFit.com.

  • Shuttle sprints have been featured several times in the past few weeks on CrossFit.com. Because they require no equipment and minimal space, they are a strong candidate for the equipment free open.
  • The inverted burpee has made one appearance in the past 3 months on CrossFit.com. This movement has long been a part of CrossFit.com’s movement library but has never been featured in competition or the Open. However, the need for equipment-free  movements might result in its inclusion in 2021.
  • Though typically performed on parallettes, the L-sit can also be performed from the floor and has been featured several times on CrossFit.com since August of 2020. CrossFit also has a large repertoire of L-sit exercises that don’t involve parallettes. 
  • While we usually see them complimented by barbells or dumbbells, bodyweight walking lunges have been featured on CrossFit.com and could make an appearance in the equipment-free version of the Open.
  • Air squats and jump squats have been featured on CrossFit.com in the workout of the day a number of times in the past three months, but have never made a formal appearance at the Open level. Based on CrossFit’s desire to make the Open more accessible for everyone, it would be likely that they would include what is largely considered CrossFit’s foundational movement in the equipment-free version of the Open.

Same same, but new: While it’s likely that we will see some new movements make their debut in the equipment-free open, it’s also like that we will see some modified versions of previous movements.

  • Double-unders have appeared in every Open since 2011, while it is difficult to perform the movement with no rope, line hops have long been considered an acceptable equipment-free substitute.
  • Toes-to-bar have also been featured in every Open since 2011. It is likely that we will see sit-ups in place as an equipment-free substitute.
  • Bear crawls were the scale for handstand walks in the Open for the last 3 Opens. It is likely that we will see their return to the equipment-free division as CrossFit pushes to make the open more accessible for all.
  • Overhead lunges, whether with a dumbbell or a barbell have been featured in 40% of Opens since their introduction in 2016. It is likely that an equipment-free version of the Open will feature some sort of bodyweight walking lunge.
  • CrossFit has long been known to test an athlete’s strength and explosive power in the Open through one-rep maxes. If we were to see another one-rep max in the Open this year, it’s likely that power and strength could be tested in the equipment free version with something like a one-rep max broad jump.
  • While the handstand walk is technically considered equipment free, it also requires a significant amount of space and would go against CrossFit’s push to make the Open (especially the equipment-free version) more accessible. Instead, we’re more likely to see some sort of in-place hold, whether that is a plank, a wall supported handstand or a freestanding handstand in place.

What can be repeated?: While nearly every Open workout has required equipment, there has been one workout in the last 10 years that has required no equipment. In 2012, Castro announced the first workout of the Open as seven minutes of burpees to target. 

  • This has been the only Open workout to feature no equipment and serves as a strong candidate for a workout that could be repeated across all divisions, seeing as it is extremely accessible to all levels and abilities.
  • While it won’t be a direct repeat, we could see the repeat of 17.5, which featured double-unders and thrusters, movements that could easily be scaled to air squats and line hops for an equipment-free version.
  • Another workout that could easily be scaled and poses as a strong candidate for a repeat, because of its appearance two times already in the Open, is 14.5, which later reappeared as 16.5 and featured thrusters and burpees over the bar. Two movements that could easily be scaled to air squats and burpees for the equipment-free division.
  • While hard to imagine, workout 18.1 and 18.1A could see themselves being repeated with dumbbell squats becoming air squats and the one rep max clean becoming a one-rep max broad jump to test explosiveness and power in an equipment-free way.

The big picture: Based on previous trends, it seems that we will see a mixture of both new movements as well as scales of classic CrossFit Open movements. Based on the previous ten years, it’s clear that Castro and his team have no bottom to their creativity and their ability to make the Open a fun and challenging experience for all levels and abilities of fitness. 

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