21.3 and 21.4 Workout Analysis

April 3, 2021

Beyond the Whiteboard

21.3's gymnastics movements proved to be roadblocks for many but also gave athletes the opportunity to celebrate exciting firsts as part of the Open magic we all know and love. 

The final week of the 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Open gifted us with two workouts, 21.3 and 21.4, performed back-to-back. This is similar to what we saw in 2018 with 18.2 and 18.2a (the lift that year was a max clean). 

Open Workout 21.3 contained up to 15 minutes of 3 rounds of 15 front squats and 15 thrusters paired with pull-up bar skills of increasing difficulty (toes-to-bars, chest-to-bar pull-ups, and bar muscle-ups), each with 30 reps per round. These three gymnastics movements are higher skill and proved to be roadblocks for many athletes (as we’ll see later). The workout also afforded many athletes the opportunity to celebrate exciting firsts on these movements as part of the Open magic we all know and love. 

Workout 21.4 introduced a new barbell complex to the competition with a deadlift + clean + hang clean + jerk. This lift was required to be performed within 7 minutes of finishing 21.3, which proved extremely challenging for many athletes. In addition to the general fatigue of a tough workout, athletes became acutely aware of their grip strength, or lack thereof, during the hang clean portion of the complex. 

Performance by Country

Finishing 21.3 under the 15-minute time cap was a tall order, and below we can see which of the top 20 countries had the highest percentage of athletes finish the Rx’d version of the workout. The Russian Federation had the highest finish percentage at 18%, followed by Mexico at 14%, Italy at 13%, and France and Brazil at 10% each.


For 21.4, we charted lifts in the 50th percentile for Rx’d women and men (18-34) in the top 20 countries. The top four countries for the Rx’d women were the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Mexico, each with 135 lb./61 kg. The top three countries for the Rx’d men were Canada with 206 lb./94 kg and the United States and Mexico, each with 205 lb./93 kg.


21.3 Workout Analysis

For 21.3, we saw a big disparity between the percentage of Rx’d women who finished under the time cap (5%) compared to men (17%). This is due in large part to the inclusion of 30 bar muscle-ups, which have historically proven to be more challenging on the women’s side.

Looking at the adaptive divisions, only 29% of the athletes were able to finish their workout under the time cap compared to 57% last week on 21.2.


Looking at the distribution of scores for 21.3, we see a big pile-up of Rx’d women at 135 reps, right before the first bar muscle-up, as well as a large cohort that finished on the first 10 bar muscle-ups. Contrast this with the Rx’d men who saw a smaller pile-up at 135 reps but had their largest cohort get time-capped on the first 10 bar muscle-ups. Especially after 30 toes-to-bars and 30 chest-to-bar pull-ups, the challenge the bar muscle-ups provided to athletes should come as no surprise.


21.4 Workout Analysis

Looking at the scores for the complex, we see a nice smooth distribution as expected. For the Rx’d women, the largest cohort was centered on the 120- to 139-lb. range (55-63 kg). For the Rx’d men, the largest cohort was centered on the 180- to 199-lb. range (82-90 kg).

Notably, for the 75th and 90th percentiles, the ratio of the Rx’d (18-34) women’s weights to the men’s weights was .67, which gives support to the appropriateness of many of the standard Rx’d weights in regular CrossFit workouts (e.g., 65 lb. for women paired with 95 lb. for men, which is a .68 ratio).


21.3 Division Percentiles

Below are percentile tables for individuals, teenagers, masters, and adaptive divisions, with details for each version of the workouts. You can see the breakdown of how many reps or what time it took to achieve a particular percentile. For example, for scaled women (18-34), you needed a score of 160 reps to get into the 90th percentile on 21.3. You can also see the percentage of athletes who performed each version in each division.






21.4 Division Percentiles






*The data used for this article is from the official CrossFit Open submissions.

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Cover photo by Michael Valentin.