March 15, 2018
Nicole Carroll's Tips for 18.4

Watch the full demo of Nicole executing 18.4 here.   


This one is for time but has a 9-min. cap, which means, for most of us, this is an AMRAP and we are just trying to get as much work done in 9 min. as we can.

For many, the handstand push-ups, especially using the Open standard, will slow us down. The good news is that this allows for metabolic recovery, so you can immediately transition to the deads, pick up the bar and get after it.

If you are gunning to get into the second half of this workout, you can and should go relatively hard on Diane. If you are proficient with handstand push-ups and 21-15-9 feels like a small rep scheme, make it a sprint. Remember, your tiebreak time is your last set of completed deads. Get through the last 9 deadlifts of Diane, quickly. This will be extremely helpful if you don’t get through the heavy set of 21.

To Scale or Not to Scale?

If you have handstand push-ups or are close to getting one, go Rx’d and push through as much of Diane as possible. Do not make the decision to scale solely based on handstand walking. The reality is, you might not even make it there with the time cap. If you do, it’s already an amazing accomplishment, so just kick up and give it a shot.


Good form and sound mechanics help! Rounding the back creates inefficiency and more strain on the lower back. This fatiguing effect will make it harder to stay tall in the handstand push-ups or handstand walk. Remember to arch the back, tighten down the abdominals and then lift.

For most of us, the deadlift loading on the second half of this workout is a doozy. If you get to this heavy weight, you’ll be breathing hard and feeling a good deal of lower-back exhaustion. It’s going to feel heavy because it is heavy. It will be extremely important to take the time to get into a good set-up position for every rep and fight to keep the integrity of the midline. It might even be a good idea to have your weight belt handy.

The goal for the deadlifts is to stay steady and chip away at reps; even singles are OK so long as you keep plugging along.

Handstand Push-Ups

The way you measure the handstand push-up is new, but the standard itself is not. It will feel a lot like the old standard—i.e., harder than normal handstand push-ups!

As per usual, the number-one thing to remember is to not go to failure. I recommend kicking down one or two reps shy of slowing down. I did not do this and I wish I did! Unless you know you can go unbroken, it can be faster to take intentional choppy breaks before slowing down. Kick back up quickly and handle the next set the same way. If you’re worried about these sets, it would be helpful to use big kips right from the start.

Your goal is to save enough shoulder juice to get through all 45 reps without imploding. It’s about discipline–if you have no prior evidence or experience that you can go unbroken through 21-15- 9, do not assume that you can now. Be smart. Things haven’t suddenly changed just because the first 10 reps feel good. So, take quick breaks and use big kips.

If you start to fail because you are not getting your feet over the line, there are a few things you can try:

  • Tighten the midline, or at a minimum try to squeeze your butt. This can help take the big arch out of your back that is effectively making you shorter.
  • Maintain active shoulders and bring the hands into a narrower position to gain that extra reach. Last year we were required to outline a box on the floor for hand-width parameters, but this year we aren’t. As we fatigue, we will want to go wider and wider, which again makes us “shorter.”
  • Move closer to the wall. Watching my demo video, I noticed I was too far from the wall. This creates a bowing of the body that does nothing for you! That said, don’t move so close that your kip knocks you off the wall. Play with how close you can get in your warm-up.

Handstand Walking

This is another first for the Open. If you get to the handstand walk, your midline will feel deservedly fatigued, but you are there! Try your best to get as far as you can. The 50-ft. walk is broken up into 5-ft. increments, meaning you can bumble through these and still complete some reps. Remember the standard: Hands start fully behind the line on kick-ups, and make sure you back up to the last completed 5-ft. increment if you fall.

Having a little mantra of cues for yourself can help improve your position. Here is what works well for me: “Push up through the shoulders,” “Press fingertips into the ground,” “Squeeze the belly or butt” and “Shift weight from hand to hand.”

Transition back to your deads from these just like you would on Diane: quickly. Set your back and go. These are complementary movement patterns, allowing the primary movers of one movement to recover while the others are working. That means you can pick up the bar or kick up quicker than you think you can.

A classic CrossFit girl workout like Diane is an awesome test of fitness in and of itself. Stay focused on what you can do and go crush this one.

Good luck!