How to Survive 19.3, the Latest CrossFit Open Workout

This one is all about shoulders. And by the time you’re done with it, you may not be able to move yours.

Welcome to CrossFit 19.3, the third workout in this year’s CrossFit Games Open. This one is one that’s meant to fry your shoulders. It’s a “chipper” workout that starts out by setting your legs on fire with weighted lunges and step-ups, while also stealthily fatiguing your shoulders by forcing you to use the overhead position for those lunges.

Then it flips the script and hones in on the muscles in your shoulders. For the first time in the nine-year history of the CrossFit Open, you’re doing handstand pushups with strict form. That means none of those momentum-generating kips that have saved so many handstand pushups in the past.

Your biggest key to this workout: You need to move. Even elite-level CrossFitters are struggling with this one: Lauren Fisher and Alessandra Pichelli went head-to-head after the announcement and both failed to finish the workout. This is all about your handstand pushup; expect to reach that stage of the workout but know that plenty of people simply aren’t finishing the workout.

I battled through the workout on Friday morning and also didn’t finish. I made it to 33 reps on the handstand pushups before time ran out. If you want to survive, keep these tips in mind as you’re going through:

The Workout

You have 10 minutes to finish the workout. For the workout to qualify for the Games, you must use a 50-pound dumbbell and step up onto a 24-inch box.

Your Big-Picture Game Plan

My best advice on this workout: Come out of the gates hard and fast and really attack the lunges and box jumps. You need to get uncomfortable here and try to push at 80 to 85 percent of your capacity for the 6 to 8 minutes it will take most of us to get through the early parts of the work.

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Don’t pace this and hope to be fresh for the handstand pushups later. Why? First off, you’re completely done with legs after the lunges and box jumps. Those leg moves will have your heart rate jumping off the charts, but it’ll have chances to get back down to resting in between your sets of handstand pushups. Secondly, if you don’t finish the handstand pushups, the time you took completing the lunges and step-ups becomes your tiebreak time. Racing through the early part could earn you a few hundred (or thousand) places on the leaderboard.

Tackling Each Exercise

Here’s how you should take on the movements in 19.3 Beware, too: This might start out easy, but it’ll get to you really quickly.

Dumbbell Overhead Lunge

Switch the dumbbell from shoulder to shoulder every 25 feet

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You’ll be tempted to do hero sets of lunges early while your shoulders are fresh. But don’t take the bait; it’ll haunt you come the handstand pushups. Switch hands every 25 feet. Don’t switch hands overhead, either, Bring the dumbbell to the floor, quickly shake out your arms, then bring it back overhead with the opposite arms.

This will keep you balanced, and take tension off your shoulders and core, and allow you to get a couple quick breaths.

Start it all with your weaker arm, too, because then you get to finish the lunge sequence with your strong arm.

Step through on your lunges

There are two ways to lunge: You can bring your feet together after every rep, or you can “step through,” skipping that and immediately striding into your next lunge. Don’t waste time. Step that back leg into the next lunge.

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If you struggle with lunges, however, step your feet through from the start. My strategy of stepping through worked for me early, but later on, I started to step my feet together.

Big step to finish

If you are within a few inches of the 25-foot line, try to finish strong. Take bigger steps to get clear of that line — and thus fewer steps. Let’s not waste steps or precious time under tension for your shoulders.

Dumbbell Box Step-Ups

Let the dumbbell rest on your shoulder

The rules say you can hold the dumbbell in any position, so let’s save our shoulders and upper body as much as possible for the handstand pushups. Choose a shoulder and let the handle of the dumbbell rest across it. Support it gently with one hand. The goal is to be as passive as possible with the upper body so your shoulders and biceps don’t tense up.

Step up facing the corner of the box

By lining up with the corner of the box instead of the side, there’s less box in the way of your feet each step-up. You can step straight-up rather than having to swing your foot around the box as you get tired.

Chase big sets

Try to go as unbroken as possible here without resting and putting the dumbbell down. Keep the feet moving and invite your friend lactic acid along for the ride!


I found these easy, but you need to have a stepping pattern! My legs weren’t taxed by this, but i found myself constantly second-guessing which foot I was supposed to lead with (you need to alternate). This slowed me down and caused mental fatigue and a few no-reps. I honestly could have saved 45 seconds to a minute here if I’d practiced a pattern beforehand.

Handstand pushups

Plan ahead so you don’t fail reps

Know your strict handstand pushup game and plan accordingly. For the majority of people, I would strongly recommend doing one rep at a time. Yes, really. After each rep, kick off the wall, shake out your arms, and kick back up. This will allow you to keep moving without failure.

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Plan your rest time too. It’s easy to rest too long or too little in between sets of handstand pushups. Make sure you have a plan for that too.

No hero sets!

Yeah, it’s tempting to kick up and bang out a big set to start. For most, this will come back to haunt you and lead to failed reps later. Don’t take the bait.

Wide hand position

In order to shorten the distance you need to press up, take a wide hand stance, as wide as possible within the rule boundaries. If you’re not used to this, play with different positions in your warmup. (Editor’s note: One caution: A wider hand position does place your shoulders in a more vulnerable, injury-prone position.)

Chalk your hands before you get started and place your palms exactly inside the outer boundaries of the box so you know where your hands should be. I didn’t do this, and it lead me to have my hands too narrow for many sets, making my reps harder and leading me to fail earlier.

The Handstand Walk

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Congratulations on making it this far! You likely won’t be able to feel your shoulders. But if you get to this point and can walk on your hands, fight like hell to get every five-foot increment possible. If you’re a proficient handstand walker and can do big sets, do it. If not, shoot for five to 10 feet at a time, then come off and shake it out.

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