Reprogramming Semifinals For The Everyday CrossFitter

May 16, 202319 min read

Photo Credit – Athlete’s Eye

One of the biggest hurdles to individuals becoming raving fans of a sport is the ability to relate to what’s happening in front of you. 

It is the reason why tennis and golf are most admired by those who’ve played throughout their lifetimes and why soccer (or futbol for everyone else in the world), basketball, baseball, and American football are widely supported as the most popular sports to watch – uncoincidentally also the most accessible and widely supported at the youth levels.

One of the things that makes CrossFit so special is that our sport is an expression of what happens every day within the affiliate, giving every one of us a chance to relate to the feats of fitness we witness in competition.

Even still, as we get deeper into the season with live competitions at the Semifinals and Games level, the barrier to entry becomes higher and the separation from what the majority of us are capable of and what the elite athletes are doing becomes larger. 

Even for those who can perform the high level skills (handstand walking, muscle-ups, legless rope climbs) and lift the heavy loads, there is a massive change in stimulus when you’re not only asked to do so, but to do so in big sets, under high levels of fatigue, at a rapid pace and within a specific time domain.

My goal in reprogramming the workouts is to recreate the stimulus that most athletes will feel on the competition floor so that everyone at home can relate to what we see on the floor over the next few weeks and continue to become a more excited and engaged fan of the sport. 

Semifinal Test 1

For time: 

3,000-m Echo Bike
Hand-over-hand pull (84 feet)
2,000-m Assault AirRunner
Hand-over-hand pull (84 feet)
1,000-m SkiErg
Hand-over-hand pull (92 feet)

Time cap: 30 minutes

180 lb
225 lb

Without knowing details of what the sled actually looks and feels like or the standard for pulling, we can loosely expect to see mens times in the 20-23:00 range and womens times in the 22-26:00 range with outliers on either end. 

That puts us in the realm of a 5k run distance, which gives a good indication of the type of feel and heart rate you can expect throughout, but not yet equating for muscular fatigue.

Being that this workout is largely monostructural, it’s going to be the easiest workout to perform RX if you wanted to see how you compare to Semifinalists on a longer time domain. 

If you wish to perform it at a similar pace and stimulus, however, here’s how I’d scale in order to hit the goal time domain.

At Home Version of Semifinal Test 1

For Time

2700m/2400m Echo Bike

84ft Hand over Hand Rope Pull **

1600m Assault AirRunner 

84ft Hand over Hand Rope Pull **

900m/800m Ski

92ft Hand over Hand Rope Pull **


  • 90/80% distances on machines
  • 80% for all on Run
  • Hand-over-Hand Pull should be at a load you can complete 84ft in ~1:00 of consistent work

One of the hardest things to appreciate without feeling it is how hard of an effort CrossFit athletes are able to hold for long durations. Sure, most of us could finish the workout at the distances prescribed, but by scaling by 10-20% across the board we fall into a range that is more realistic to hold a higher intensity, thereby giving ourselves a better chance to feel the way they feel on the floor.

*If you don’t have space or access to a sled to pull on a rope, scaled rope climbs can serve as a reasonable option. 6-8 reps from a lying to standing position will at the very least induce the upper body fatigue you’d feel when pulling a sled.

Semifinal Test 2

As many reps as possible in 3 minutes of:

5 ring complexes (1 toe-to-ring, 1 muscle-up, 1 ring dip)
20 single-leg squats
Max burpees over box

Complete 3 rounds, resting 1 minute between rounds. Score is total reps across the 3 rounds. 

Wear a 10-lb ruck, 24-inch box
Wear a 20-lb ruck, 30-inch box

Workout 2 in my opinion has the biggest separation between elite and everyday CrossFitters. I’m certain that even those of us with a strong appreciation for the difficulty of the movement will take for granted how easy athletes make this look in some cases, and how dramatically we see them fall off in later rounds due to the compounding fatigue of the intervals. 

I would encourage as many people as possible to choose a MORE scaled option of this workout that you could perform in a weight vest. The interference it provides across all 3 movements is something easily lost if you scale by removing the vest alone

At Home Version of Semifinal Test 2

3 Sets:

AMRAP 3, rest 1:00 between AMRAPs

5 Complexes *choose based on your ability level*

16 Single Leg Squats

Max Burpee-over-Box in remaining time

Complex Options:

  • 5 Ring Complex @ Bodyweight (1 Toe-to-ring, 1 Muscle-up, 1 Ring Dip) @ Bodyweight
    • Suitable if you can complete sets of 2-3 at a minimum
  • 5 Bar Complex In Vest (1 Toes to Bar, 1 Kipping Chest to Bar, 1 Bar Muscle-up)
  • Mixed Complex In Vest (5 Toes to Bar, 5 Kipping Chest to Bar, 10 Push-ups)
  • Mixed Complex @ Bodyweight (5 Toes to Bar, 5 Kipping Chest to Bar, 10 Push-ups)

It will be easy to look at the scaled complex options and think they’re not similar enough, but keep in mind that the intention is to create a similar stimulus, which doesn’t require the same exact movement. Moving to a bar and scaling the movements allows us to create the same sort of grip, pulling, and pressing fatigue that athletes will feel when they move through their complex.

Semifinal Test 3

For time: Semifinals Linda — 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 reps of: 

Dumbbell bench presses
Squat cleans

Time cap: 17 minutes

220-lb deadlifts, 60-lb dumbbells, 105-lb squat cleans
295-lb deadlifts, 90-lb dumbbells, 145-lb squat cleans

I’m personally guilty of looking at a workout like Linda and severely underestimating the aerobic component of it. Similarly to workout 1, I want to scale in a way that allows everyone to complete a version of Linda at the pace we’ll expect to see come Semifinals. 

If I had to guess, this will be in the realm of 14-17:00 for the competitors that do finish, with most falling on the longer end of that given the added spice of the dumbbells.

At Home Version of Semifinal Test 4

For Time


Deadlifts @ 40% (or no more than 295/220lbs)

DB Bench Press @ 15RM weight

Squat Cleans @ 40% (or no more than 145/105lbs)

Time Cap: 17:00

I came up with 40% loading based on rough assumptions of an average 1RM for the deadlift and squat clean for the top half of the field. For the bench press, a 15RM is challenging, but light enough that you’ll be able or tempted to complete the first couple of sets unbroken (though this might not be your best plan).

I continue to find myself humbled by the way athletes at the highest level are able to take what look like strength workouts on paper and perform them at a pace where aerobic fitness becomes the limiting factor. So, while the loads given by the 40% estimation might seem low enough to hurt some egos, I’d encourage you to stick to them and push the pace of the workout instead of the load. This will allow you to appreciate how fast athletes will move with the prescribed loads.

Semifinal Tests 4 & 5

For load:

Run 800 m
Max snatch

Time cap: 6 minutes. Following the time cap, athletes will have 2 minutes to reset for Test 5.

For time:

8 snatches
Run 800 m 

Time cap: 6 minutes 

125 lb
185 lb

Workout 4 is the easiest to ‘scale’. Without knowing the method of running (air runner, shuttle run, or laps) let’s assume that most athletes can finish it in 4:00 +/- :30 seconds. From there you’ll have time for 2-3 attempts to find a max load. 

Workout 5 will demand that athletes are able to move their 185/125lb barbell quickly for 8 reps, likely in a touch and go set or some combination of touch-n-go reps and singles to finish in under :35s before taking off on a max effort 800m run.

With all that in mind, here’s our reprogrammed version:

At Home Version of Semifinal Test 4 & 5

For Load:

800m Run or 4:00 Run @ 75% effort

In remaining time find a Max Snatch

Time Cap: 6:00

Rest 2:00

For Time

8 Snatches @ 75% of 1RM Power Snatch

800m Run

On Test 4 you can expect most athletes to land between 85-95% of their 1RM snatch and I think it’s reasonable to expect you to as well. On test 5, 75% of a 1RM power snatch should put you in the realm of a load you may be able to touch and go for 8 if you’re proficient moving a barbell, or at the very least pick up for quick singles with minimal rest.

*Note: another unappreciated part of competition is that athletes likely sit in a corral for 15-20:00 prior to stepping on the floor, meaning that they’re not just attempting near max loads after a tough aerobic bout, but a LONG rest period from their last warm-up as well. I DO NOT recommend that you try this at home. I just want it noted to give another level of appreciation for what our athletes accomplish within the parameters of the test and to ask the question of what they might be capable of under more ideal conditions.

Semifinal Test 6

For time:

20 overhead squats
500-m row
3 handstand walk pirouettes
2 seated legless rope climbs
20 strict chest-to-wall handstand push-ups
2 seated legless rope climbs
3 handstand walk pirouettes
500-m row
20 overhead squats

Time cap: 15 minutes (men); 16 minutes (women)

125 lb
185 lb

Test 6, like test 2 will be harder to compare at home because of the level of strength and inverted capacity needed to perform the movements.

Also like test 2, we want to look at this more from a perspective of stimulus than just movement and also find a way to appreciate how close to failure many athletes will get through the middle of the workout and how calculated they will have to be in their rest periods as a result. 

At Home Version of Semifinal Test 6

For Time

15 Overhead Squats @ 60%

450/400m Row

45ft Handstand Walk (3x15ft) or 4 Wall Walks

2 Reps of Rope Climbs *Choose scale below*

12 Wall Facing Strict Handstand Push-ups

2 Reps of Rope Climbs *Choose scale below*

45ft Handstand Walk (3x15ft) or 4 Wall Walks

450/400m Row

15 Overhead Squats

Barbell Weight: 155/105lbs

Rope Climb Options:

  • 2 Seated Legless RC to 12’
  • 2 Legless Rope Climb to 15’
  • 3 Rope Climbs

Starting from the beginning we’ve scaled both reps and load on overhead squats with an assumption that most of the top athletes can (if they choose) perform their 20 unbroken. For the everyday crossfitter, time under tension is as much of a challenge as load itself, so scaling to 15 reps and reducing load to a percentage of your 1RM will help recreate that feel.

Keeping with the theme from test one, I kept the row @ 90/80% of what is written for the elite in an attempt to keep pace with what we expect to see. Through the middle, the goal was to find relative gymnastics skills that will challenge hand balance, pulling capacity, and inverted pressing in a similar fashion to how our athletes will be tested. Assume an average semifinalist will perform 2 seated legless rope climbs with 1:00 rest, certainly faster for talented pullers and slower for those where this is a weakness. On handstand push-ups, assume this might be a # of reps most athletes can perform in 2-4 sets.

This workout more than any over the weekend will test the athletes ability to know themselves and know their limit, because there will be a fine line between success and failure at a few points and should make for an exciting race.

SemfinTest 7

3 rounds for time of:

15/10 Echo Bike calories
20 toes-to-bars
60-foot sandbag bear-hug carry

Time cap: 6 minutes

150 lb
200 lb

FINALLY we finish the weekend with a test of grit and will power. While it may not be a ‘full send’ type of effort from the beginning it will quickly feel like one as you will yourself through the back half. Two critical details in the workout are the 6:00 cap and 15/10 choice for cals on the bike rather than a 15/12 that we’re accustomed to seeing for more sustained workouts. While the workload alone is something most of us at home can accomplish, the urgency it forces will be something that you’ll have a hard time recreating without something on the line.

We’ll likely see a variety of strategies from athletes on this depending on their pains for the T2B as well as their power output on the bike, but you can expect an 80% or more output from the start that likely feels like 100% by round 3.

I’d reprogram for everyone at home as follows:

At Home Version of Semifinal Test 7

12/8 cal Echo Bike
15 Toes to Bar
60ft Sandbag Carry @ 150/100lbs

12/8 cals should take just enough off that you’ll have to force yourself to push rounds 2 and 3 even while you’re tired and 15 Toes to Bar will be in a more realistic range to question if you might go unbroken, which will undoubtedly be in the minds of every athlete looking to move up a few spots and potentially punch their ticket to the CrossFit Games. 

Though the time cap is 6:00, I’d expect to see MANY sub 5:00 scores and a few sub 4:00. If you want to be left lying on the floor like your favorite athletes at the end of this one you’ll want to scale the work to a level where you can keep a foot on the gas and never let off.

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Kiefer Lammi

Kiefer is the co-founder and assistant head coach at Underdogs Athletics based in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Tagged In:#Crossfit, #semifinals,

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