19.3 Strategy

Man. This one isn’t even close to a 4 mile run. In fact, you’ll barely need to use your legs at all!

Alright, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. Two-hundred feet of lunges and 50 box step-ups isn’t totally insignificant, but in the context of this workout, it’s pretty close.


For Time:
200’ Single Arm Overhead Walking Lunge, 50#/35#
50 Dumbbell Box Step-Ups, 50#/35#, alternating
50 Strict Handstand Pushups
200’ Handstand Walk

Put big sets of two relatively low force, large muscle-group movements in front of big sets of two relatively high force, small muscle-group movements, and the outcome is fairly predictable. Nonetheless, I’m not one to turn down the opportunity for a good spreadsheet. We’re going to take a look at this workout on the numbers – specifically Alessandra Pichelli’s – but most of our time will be spent on qualitative analysis.

Analysis & Output Management

1. Split times for each movement are taken when the athlete completes each set. Transitions are therefore accounted for at the beginning of each movement. i.e. the split time for the first 10 step-ups includes the time it took Pichelli to get from the lunge to the box and start stepping. 2. This is all hand timed and imperfect, but sufficient for our purposes.

1. Split times for each movement are taken when the athlete completes each set. Transitions are therefore accounted for at the beginning of each movement. i.e. the split time for the first 10 step-ups includes the time it took Pichelli to get from the lunge to the box and start stepping.
2. This is all hand timed and imperfect, but sufficient for our purposes.

There’s not much to say here. Pichelli moved at a smooth, steady pace through both lower body movements, and then the workout started. She started with a set of twelve strict handstand pushups, then went to a set of three, and performed sets of 1-3 for the remainder. Her rests were short and controlled, and I only saw her fail one rep when she tried a set of three and only got two (there may have been more which I missed.) Pichelli performed the first set of the handstand walk very quickly before a fairly sharp drop-off.

The story this performance tells is the one you’d expect: the workout is in the handstand movements. Our movement-by-movement breakdown will be aimed at crafting an approach which helps you reach the second half of the workout with plenty of gas in the tank. The warm-up will help you determine how large your sets and how long your rests should be.

Overhead Walking Lunge

The questions to answer with regard to the lunge are: when should you rest, and when should you switch which hand is holding the dumbbell?

Fortunately, the structure of 19.3 provides us with a pretty easy milestone. Because the walking lunge must be completed with a twenty-five foot turnaround, this is the best time to both rest as required by your game plan (on the clock, not in your head) and to switch the dumbbell.

The standards do not require that you switch the dumbbell at any point, but it would be deeply foolish not to. Even if you’re fit enough to perform all the lunges with no more rest than it takes you to turn around, it takes essentially no time to switch the dumbbell from hand to hand overhead. If you need a little more rest time (on the clock, not in your head), you can bring it down and switch it as you turn, swinging it overhead as you begin the next set. If you’re resting longer than that – put it down!

Finally, it’s generally advisable to do a 50/50 left/right split on the lunges. But if you happen to have one shoulder which, for any reason, fatigues much more quickly or severely than the other, it may be worth considering some other distribution of the work.

Box Step-Up

Again we have two questions to answer: how should you break up the reps, and how should you hold the dumbbell?

The first question is an entirely individual one. Because the goal is to get through these as quickly as possible, it’s a matter of pacing yourself only as needed to avoid breaking down and losing pace. As usual, this means your sets will be submaximal, but what submaximal sets are varies from athlete to athlete. The thing that will remain constant, of course, is that you should have a specific plan not only for how big your sets will be, but also how long you’ll rest between them.

You’ll want to hold the dumbbell in whatever way lets your shoulders stay the most relaxed. There will be some individual variance here, but for most athletes, the best option is to sit the dumbbell on your traps, so that the handle is perpendicular to your spine. Lightly rest your hands on it to keep it in place, but it should be fairly stable – do not try to hold the dumbbell in your hands! Let the weight rest on your body. If this position is fatiguing, consider switching hands every 5 or so reps so that one arm is always hanging relaxed by your side.

Strict Handstand Pushup

Alright, you’ve got a sweet quad pump going and you’re nice and sweaty, so now you can start the workout. But where to begin?

Obviously, the goal is to perform the biggest sets which allow your overall rate to remain as consistent as possible. The challenge is to determine whether it’s correct to take Pichelli’s approach – starting with a fairly large set to get a chunk of the work done, and then switching to much smaller sets and chipping away at the remainder – or if it’s better to start with those smaller sets from the beginning in the hopes of reducing and/or postponing accumulative fatigue.

If Pichelli had started with a set of five and tried to maintain that the whole way, or if she had started with five and then gone to sets of 1-3 right away anyway, would there have been a significant difference in her rate of fatigue? Truthfully, I don’t know the answer to that question. It may well be that the difference in rate of fatigue would have been small enough that it made more sense to do the bigger set at the start. However, my recommendation to my athletes is to start conservatively – I suspect that the reward of the larger set at the start will be relatively small, but the risk is huge. Once you hit the wall on these, there’s no coming back. You’ve got to be in the game to win the game, so give yourself that chance – start small and keep your rests disciplined.

As you fatigue, watch your rep speed. You should break your set as soon as you begin to slow. As soon as you begin to slow. Once you have had one single rep which was noticeably slower than the rest, break the set immediately. Slow, grindy reps are exponentially more fatiguing than smooth ones. I promise you that whatever time you make up by grinding out an extra rep or two on your first few sets will be lost and then some as you tire. Smooth reps, short rests, easy day.

Handstand Walk

I see that your shoulders are nicely warmed up. This seems like a great time to pretend they were hips!

If you want to get the best score you’re capable of, always prioritize the next set, not the one you’re in the middle of. The cardinal rule here is to break your sets before you have to. Because you must complete the walk in five-foot segments, each close-but-not-quite rep has the potential to be very costly, especially since shoulder fatigue will already be high by this point. If handstand walking is a strong suit of yours, you may be able to start with a set of 25’ – but you shouldn’t insist on it just because you’re good at them.

Resist the temptation to force a particular set length. It’s very easy to tell yourself “I’m going to make fifteen feet on this one” and then move forward singlemindedly, losing sight of the hundred and eighty-five feet remaining. Don’t fall into that trap – you will never look back at your score and think “if only I had the same score but with the satisfaction of having done larger handstand walk sets”.


  1. EMOM 15, alternating:

    a) 12 Single Arm Overhead Walking Lunges (6L/6R), 50#/35#
    b) 25’ Inchworm + 10 Hollow Rocks
    c) 2-4 Strict Handstand Pushups + 10’ Handstand Walk

  2. Every 0:30 x 6: 0:10 Dumbbell Box Step-Ups, 50#/35#
    Goal here is to establish a rough guideline for your starting number of reps/set and your rest breaks. As always, this is individual and dependent on your subjective analysis. Based on how many reps you got in each set (smooth, easy reps, no straining!) and how well you maintained that number of reps for six sets, you should be able to get a rough idea of how big your sets and how long your rests in the workout should be. As always, assume that you will need to break and/or rest more as you fatigue – that’s perfectly fine! Just make sure you do it with a plan.

  3. Every 0:45 x 6: 0:10 Strict Handstand Pushups + 5’ Handstand Walk

    Same idea – execute smooth, controlled reps to get an idea of how big your work sets and your rests should be, as well as setting some initial expectation for what kicking up to the handstand walk will feel like after the HSPU.