The CerusBrix semifinals takes place over the next three weeks. Athletes can choose one of three weekends to complete their semifinals tests—July 23, July 30, or Aug 6.
There are two tests, each of which are performed on the same day, with a 10-minute rest between workouts.
35-minute time cap
6 Rounds For Time
6 barbell complex (deadlift, power clean, thruster)
300′ sled push/rope pull (3x 50′ push, 50′ rope pull)
Rope climb (starts with 1, add 1 rep each round)
The barbell complex weights get heavier each round:
- Men’s Open: 95, 115, 135, 155, 175, 175
- Women’s Open: 65, 85, 105, 125, 135, 135
The sled weights get heavier each round:
- Men’s Open: 290, 335, 380, 425, 470, 470
- Women’s Open: 200, 245, 290, 335, 380
The number of rope climbs increase each round: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Complete as many rounds & reps as possible in 30 minutes of:
10 bar-facing burpees
10 hang cleans (115/95)
1 big rig
1 cargo net
1-mile Echo bike
General Strategy & Approach
There are two separate workouts, but since they’ll be completed back-to-back with only 10 minutes of rest between them, you also need to think of them as one body of work.
Basically, there’s three pieces to consider when devising a strategy for semifinals.
- Workout 1
- Workout 2
- The day as a whole
The Day Before the Event
I know you’re excited to hear what I have to say about the event itself, but what you do the day before is important.
Start hydrating & consuming carbohydrates on Friday. You will burn a ton of carbs on Saturday, and lucky for you, your body is pretty decent at storing them. Don’t go crazy, but eat a little more carbs than usual on Friday. Good ones like rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, oats, whole grains, etc.
You might also want to replace a little of your water intake with an electrolyte drink. Your muscles rely on electrolytes to function properly, so water alone is not enough. You want to go into Saturday with plenty of electrolytes to get you through the first workout, and what you consume during workout 1 and your recovery time will get you through workout 2.
My favorite hydration right now is LMNT because it contains far more sodium than typical electrolyte drinks (Gatorade, Body Armour, etc.), and sodium is the main electrolyte lost in sweat. The Watermelon Salt flavor is 🔥.
The Day as a Whole
🔥 grip. Grip. GRIP!
Protect your grip several days in advance of the event. Refrain from any grip-intensive workouts. Shave down calluses. Do whatever you need to get your hands & forearms ready for a ton of grip work.
Workout 1 will absolutely play a role in workout 2. There’s a ton of grip-intensive work in the first part, and you’ll need your grip again for hang cleans, the big rig, and the cargo net.
If you are planning to test the workouts, I highly recommend testing them back to back, just like you’ll experience on your semifinal day. The cumulative effect on your grip IS REAL.
Recovery Between Workouts
10 minutes is a decent amount of time to recover. Use it wisely.
- Carbs – I would consume somewhere between 25-35g of carbohydrate, or around 75-150 calories (smaller athletes on the lower end). Use whatever food/drink you have practiced with in/around exercise. I think energy gels are perfect for this. Consume it immediately after you’re finished with workout 1.
- Electrolytes – It gets hot in the gym, and 35 minutes makes for a long workout. You’ll be sweating a ton. I’ll have some electrolyte during workout 1, but also consume quite a bit between workouts.
- Oxygen – Breathe! Stand upright, walk around slowly, and take control of your breath. Longer, slower inhales; controlled exhales. Lying on the floor like you’re part of a crime scene makes for a great photo… but also a way less fun workout 2.
Thoughts on Workout 1
It’s crazy to think there are 6 rounds in this workout. It would be absolutely amazing to see someone finish the whole thing, but I highly doubt that will happen. For most of us, 3-4 rounds will take us right up to the 35-minute time cap.
For the remainder of the strategy, I am writing it as though you can 1) climb a rope, and 2) get through at least the first 3 rounds of the barbell complex. I know this isn’t the case for everyone, and I’ll address that at the end.
I’m talking about the sled first because you’ll spend the most time there, by far.
I tested rounds 2, 3, and 4 and spent just under 20:00 pushing & pulling the sled. Had I started at round 1 and tested 1, 2, and 3, it probably would still be at least 17 or 18 minutes. At least 50% of your time will be spent on the sled.
For the sled push, technique isn’t as important as it was in the Open when we were pushing really heavy sleds. This sled weight is more manageable, so techniques might vary a bit.
I’d still go with my recommendation for the Open, but some personal preference here is fine during rounds 1 & 2. Once you hit round 3, I definitely recommend what I showed you for the Open.
- Don’t be afraid to take one or two breaks during the push… but make them brief. Every time you stop, your mind will try to convince you to take a long break. Don’t listen to it.
For the sled pull, technique is crucial. I’m sure many of you haven’t practiced much with pulling a sled with rope, myself included. There are quite a few different techniques out there. Some will depend on your pulling strength, body weight, and general size, while others I would classify as a good/bad idea for everyone across the board.
It’s difficult to explain in writing, so I’ll try to make a video. For now, here are a few universal thoughts:
- Don’t pull with just your arms. It will smoke your grip & arm strength.
- Use your legs & hips. They are larger muscles than your lats & biceps, and can move more weight.
- Try walking backwards, but be careful not to go outside of your 5-foot area
- Reach forward, in front of your feet, to grab the rope. This will remove the slack and ensure you get the most out of each pull.
You can drop the barbell after each rep of the complex, but the entire complex (all three movements) must be completed once you lift the barbell off the ground to start. They have to be done in order—deadlift first, then a power clean, and then a thruster. If you fail any one of the three movements, you need to start over again with the deadlift.
- Before you pick up the bar, you should be confident you can hit all three movements. Otherwise, continue to rest until you’re ready.
- You might be tempted to take a brief rest at the top of the deadlift or the top of the power clean. I advise against that. It’s more time under tension, and more time where your grip is getting smoked. Don’t rush the movements, but move intentionally right from one to the next.
- I highly recommend dropping the barbell after each successful rep (i.e. after each complex). I do not recommend going right from the thruster to the deadlift.
If these are a good movement for you, knock them out. You’ll be gasping for air after the sled, but don’t dilly dally too much. Get ’em done!
Again, it’s difficult to cover rope climb technique in writing, so I’ll see what I can do with a video.
Struggle with Rope Climbs?
If you’re not sure if you can get a single rope climb, take your time on the barbell and the sled. Conserve your energy as much as you can (by taking breaks). This will get you to the rope with more energy, and increase your chances of making a successful climb.
Focus on your feet. Rope climbs are more difficult and scary if you don’t have a good grip on the rope with your feet. Master that, and you’ll get your first climb in no time. 🙌
Struggle with Heavy Barbells?
Some of us will struggle with the weight of the barbell. Maybe you’ve only successfully lifted the weight for the first two rounds. If this is you, once again, conserve your energy. You should have plenty of time to get through two full rounds. Don’t spike your heart rate. Take breaks early on.
🤔 Should I Quit and Just Rest?
If you reach a point where you feel like there’s no way you can climb the rope, or no way you can complete a barbell complex at a certain weight, should you quit and just rest up for workout 2?
Quite possibly, yes.
The only reason to continue trying is if you’re in a heat with another competitor who is in the exact same position as you (or you know of one from a previous heat). If 1 or 2 other competitors got stuck exactly where you are, it might be worth it to keep trying. If you can get it, you’ll jump ahead of them on the leaderboard.
Otherwise, save your energy for workout 2. This is especially the case with rope climbs. If you keep trying and failing, you will obliterate your grip, and that’ll hurt you in the second workout.
At the end of the day, be smart & have fun. If you think you might get hurt attempting something, don’t do it. If you are sure there is just no way you can lift that weight, don’t try. If you’re really close, you think you can ride the momentum of the crowd, and you care more about your accomplishments than the leaderboard… fuckin’ go for it!
Thoughts on Workout 2
Now let’s talk about the second half of this beast of an event. If I had to highlight a few keys to success, they would be:
- Consistent pacing from start to finish
- The big rig is the separator. Take your time. Focus. No mistakes.
Your first round and fourth round should look exactly the same. Keep a consistent pace for at least the first 28 minutes. If you’re on the burpees or hang cleans with 2 minutes left, go fast and empty the tank. But only in the final 2 minutes.
- The burpees are your recovery. I know that’s a disgusting sentence, but in this workout, it’s true. Take them slower than usual, and breathe.
- Break the hang cleans into 2 or 3 sets. Dropping the bar at least once will allow your grip to recover before you go right into the big rig. Based on your ability with the movement, adjust the rest between sets accordingly. — If the weight is heavy for you, and/or you’re not great at this movement, quick singles is a perfectly good way to go about it as well.
- Bring a towel. Wipe the sweat off your hands/wrists before each rig attempt. If you are used to chalk, that could be used as well. But don’t chalk wet hands.
- The rig: Even if you’re very good at it, consider using all the rings and not skipping any. Slow & steady is the name of the game. A completely clean run on all rig attempts will put you in the top 10-15% for this workout… almost regardless of how you do on the other movements.
- Rest your grip on the Echo bike. Don’t grab the handles with your fingers. Push through the heel of your hand. Do a few cycles with one hand while you shake out the other.
Struggle with the rig?
If there’s less than a 50% chance you can complete the rig in practice (when you’re fresh), you might not want to waste your time on it. It is very taxing, and will feel even more difficult after having just completed a brutal 35-minute workout.
If you know there are other competitors in the same boat, you could potentially make up time on them if you just tap the first ring and head out for your run. If you’re a good runner, even better.
- Wear running shoes. Nothing else in this workout requires a certain type of footwear, so you might as well prepare for the running.
- Be prepared for the heat. Sunglasses. Lightweight clothing. Extra electrolytes/hydration. If you know you’ll be running, prepare for it.
The same rules apply about being consistent with your pacing. Your first 800m run should be about the same speed/effort as your third.
- Take note of your splits for each round. Know about how long it’ll take you to run 800m. The athlete who makes it back from their last run and gets a cargo net climb and a short distance on the bike could make all the difference. Don’t get stuck on the run when time expires.
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments. I’ll help you out as best I can. And if you see me in Cerus over the next two weeks, come say hi and ask for help. I’d be happy to demonstrate or explain anything in more detail.
Best of luck and have fun out there. 😀