15.1 was billed as a heavyweight match-up, and all the pieces were there to make it an unforgettable opener to the 2015 CrossFit Season. Froning vs. Fraser. Number 1 vs. Number 2. Retired legend (for individual competition, lest we forget) vs. up-and-coming challenger. Reebok CrossFit One played host to the titanic battle between the two men as thousands of CrossFitters around the world tuned in to see the show.
Minutes before the two athletes took to the competition floor, CrossFit HQ’s Sevan Matossian conducted a backstage interview with Froning and Fraser. Froning adamantly confirmed that even if he won against Fraser—even if he won the entire Open—he would NOT be returning to individual competition. Both athletes were also asked whether a Froning victory in 15.1 would “put a shadow” on Fraser winning the Games—if he hypothetically went on to achieve such a feat.
Froning: “No. It’s one workout.”
Matossian: “What if you win the Open? Does that diminish a potential Fraser Games title?”
Matossian: “How do you feel about that Mat?”
Fraser: “The Open, Regionals and Games are three separate things. You got to be decent at the first two to get to the third. It’s a qualifying procedure.”
With the pre-workout interview concluded, both athletes were introduced to the crowd at Reebok CrossFit One as the clock struck 8 p.m. E.T. You could feel the excitement among the CrossFit faithful about the prospect of watching these two athletes go head-to-head and the realization that another Games season was finally upon us. But even so, everything up to this point was routine—but you had the sneaky suspicion that some surprises lay in store for everyone. Thankfully, Dave Castro (Director of the CrossFit Games) did not disappoint. Wearing a Tom Brady Patriots jersey, Castro addressed the athletes and thousands of other CrossFitters watching online.
“The Open starts NOW. 15.1 is…15 toes to bar. 10 deadlifts. 5 snatches. 115 pounds for the men, 75lbs for the women. As many reps as possible in 9 minutes.”
Ok, that sounds pretty good! Yet something was amiss. The crowd, which had been pretty vocal up to this point, gave a somewhat subdued applause to the workout announcement. It seemed like they knew something we didn’t. Sure enough, Castro stepped forward once more—there was more to come. After repeating the format for 15.1, Castro dropped this bomb:
“Where 15.1 ends, 15.1a begins. 15.1a begins at the 9 minute 1 second mark and extends to the 15-minute mark. 15.1 and 15.1a are two separate scored events done in one 15-minute window. 15.1a is…in 6 minutes…establish a one-rep max clean and jerk.”
Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 9 minutes of:
10 deadlifts (115 / 75 lb.)
5 snatches (115 / 75 lb.)
1-rep-max clean and jerk
6-minute time cap
That’s right. For the first time ever, an Open workout will consist of two different scored events. Both Froning and Fraser, being the barbell specialists that they are, were visibly excited by the announcement, and began their warm-ups eagerly. The rest of us had 7 minutes to ponder the implications of 15.1 and 15.1a, but before you could say “dead grip” Castro was counting down. “3,2,1, GO!” The 2015 Open was underway!
Right from the get-go Fraser took an early 1-to-2 rep lead, wasting no time in his transitions from toes-to-bar (t2b), to deadlift, to snatch. Throughout the workout, Fraser would complete his final deadlift and immediately transition to the snatches. Froning, on the other hand, would drop the bar and take a couple of moments to compose himself before beginning his 5 snatches. As the third round got underway, Froning broke up his set of 15 t2b to two sets of 8 and 7. Fraser, on the other hand, held on for the full 15—yet waited at the barbell for Froning to arrive before starting his deadlifts. Fraser’s strategy appeared to center on resting while Froning was working. But by the fourth round, Fraser was breaking up his set of t2b as well.
As the minutes kept ticking away, one thing became abundantly clear. Rich Froning is a master at pacing—and that will never change. Calm and composed as always, Froning had no qualms about dropping from the bar and taking his time between deadlifts and snatches. In the end, the extra rest Froning allowed himself proved to be the difference. At the 8:30 mark, both athletes hopped on to the bar for their 8th and final round of t2b. It was now a question of who would break first. Both athletes dropped after 5 reps, and both got back to work at the same time. But then a gap started to appear. Fraser dropped after three reps, while Froning held on for four. Fraser tried to catch his competitor, but after a quick glance at the clock, the native Vermonter decided to gain a few extra seconds of rest and prepare himself for 15.1a.
Froning: 224 reps
Fraser: 221 reps
As soon as the clock struck 9:00, both athletes began stripping and loading their bar in preparation for their first clean and jerk attempt. As both athletes hit their opening weights with ease, Sean Woodland (who was covering the event for CrossFit Media) revealed that Froning’s listed PR in the lift was 370lbs, Fraser’s 375lbs. Clearly, we had quite the battle on our hands. As the athletes traded blows, tactics came in to play. As soon as one athlete hit a lift, the other would add a few pounds to that number and hit his. This pattern continued until one minute remained. Fraser, fresh off a successful lift at 327lbs, watched Froning move 343lbs overhead. Now only 30 seconds remained—but given Fraser’s Olympic Weightlifting background, one could safely assume that he would hit his final weight at 345lbs. That is, of course, had Fraser loaded that exact amount with 30 seconds left. However, his judge, Chuck Carswell, pointed out that he was missing a 10lb. plate on one side. Fraser scrambled to get the weight on the barbell as Froning rushed to add more weight to his bar—perhaps to throw Fraser off his game even more. With 15 seconds to go Fraser was visibly flustered, but still executed the clean with relative ease. However, the jerk proved to be much, and as his barbell crashed to the floor the clock hit 15:00. Froning was victorious, continuing his unbeaten streak in live Open announcements.
Immediately following the conclusion of 15.1a, Nicole Carroll, CrossFit’s Director of Training and Certification, shared her advice for successfully navigating 15.1. Read what she had to say below, as well as advice from other leading members of the CrossFit community.
- Don’t attempt this workout without knowing your 1RM clean and jerk. If you need to take an extra day to find it, do so.
- In your warm-up, work up to some heavy single clean and jerks. Get up to something challenging, but that you can hit confidently—probably 80-90% of your 1RM.
- Following that, strip the bar, load up for 15.1 and put the clean and jerk out of your head.
- For most of us, our grip is going to go before our heart rate gets too crazy. So start preserving your grip right out of the gate. Reverse grip or even hook grip your deadlifts. Hook grip your snatches too—you might even consider working them in fast singles rather than a touch-and-go format.
- Depending on your capacity, consider breaking your t2b right from round one. If Rich Froning is breaking them up in round three, consider breaking them up to 8 and 7 in round one.
- As always, move well. Don’t abandon yourself by moving sloppy as you get tired. Strong midline, clean line of action. Small efficiencies over the course of a workout will serve you well.
- After 15.1, take two minutes to recover and get your heart rate down, and then hit that lift (80-90%)! You already hit it in your warm-up, so get it in the books. Then you have about four minutes to go up to your max.
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- Warm-up with light rowing to get some blood flow to the pulling muscles you’re going to be using in your back, arms, and forearms (ex. 4 to 6x250m @60-75% building pace, walk around a little between).
- Next, do some specific mobility for the hip flexors, hamstrings, shoulders, and forearms.
- Put chalk on the bar for your t2b. Try to make them quicker by leading with the knees and kicking at the top to finish the movement. A long swinging hinge with straight legs will mostly likely tire your grip sooner and be slower.
- Break your t2b early. There are a limited number of people in the world who should do the first set of 15 unbroken. If you’re one of them, you probably know how good you are at TTB already and can do 40+ unbroken. Be smart and choose from the start to break 8/7 if you’re excellent (like 30+ unbroken), 5/5/5 if you’re good, and consider 3’s if you’re just ok.
- Once you get fatigued, try using a mixed grip.
- Use a mixed grip on the deadlifts and consider hook gripping the bar since the weight is not heavy. Make sure that you set your back before lifting the bar off the ground.
- Tape your thumbs on the snatches! Touch and go is fastest if you’re in the elite category and can do them unbroken. If not, drop from the top early on. Control the bar on your last rep so you don’t have to go chase it down or move it out of the way to do your TTB.
- Consider wearing a shirt for the clean and jerk so the bar doesn’t slip off you. Have all of the weights ready you could possibly need. This means over 100% of your max, because you never know what weight you could hit.
- I would recommend trying to go 70%, 75-80%, 80-85%, and then if you get in a fourth attempt whatever you’re feeling, give it a whirl.
- A little word about pacing. Take most of your rest between movements during transition and short rests between TTB.
- I get anxious about the Open workouts, so I like to get them out of the way early, on Friday. That way, if I do need to re-do it, I’ll have two days before trying again on Monday.
- I’ll hit the workout at noon, which gives me time to eat a good breakfast and give my body the fuel it needs.
- Warm-up with one round of 15.1 and 15.1a at a light(er) weight.
- Some insight on 15.1 for some of you. It’s a “grippy” workout and t2b are the first thing to go. If you need to, switch to singles. Find a bar that is low enough to reach with a small jump. Hit one rep, drop, turn and grab the bar. Consistent movement is key. If your grip starts to go, try holding onto the bar with an alternating grip. It’s a bit funky on the shoulders so try it out but it can make a difference when your grip is taxed. Have fun and get after it!!
Photo courtesy of Janeen Chang Photography