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March 6, 2015

A Recap of 15.2 Plus Some Tips From the Pros

Written by Damect Dominguez

The Open continued last night with the live announcement of 15.2 at CrossFit Jääkarhu in Austin, Texas. For the second workout of the Open, two rising female stars in Michele Letendre and Emily Bridgers were pitted against each other.

In the build-up to the event, the similarities between the two athletes seemed to suggest that whatever Dave Castro announced for 15.2, it would be a close battle indeed:

Michelle Letendre
Age: 29
Height: 5’1”
Weight: 135lbs
2014 CrossFit Games: 4th
15.1: 221 reps
15.1a: 227lbs
Emily Bridgers
Age: 27
Height: 5’1”
Weight: 134lbs
2014 CrossFit Games: 6th
15.1: 251 reps
15.1a: 225lbs

Letendre, a former water polo player, has more Games experience that Bridgers, as 2014 marked her fourth consecutive trip to Carson. She competed for Team Canada at last year’s CrossFit Invitational, where she snatched 192lbs to set a new PR. Bridgers, a former gymnast at the University of Georgia, made her first appearance as an individual at the Games last summer, finishing 6th. She also competed at the Invitational last year for Team USA, where she snatched 177lbs. However, Bridgers would get the last laugh as Team USA would go on to win the Invitational just ahead of Team Canada.

The announcement

Once the women were introduced to the boisterous Texan crowd at CrossFit Jääkarhu, all eyes centered on Dave Castro. What did the Director of the CrossFit Games have up his sleeve for 15.2?

“15.1 and 15.1a? Let’s be honest, those were fun.”

Uh-oh. This doesn’t bode well.

“15.2 is…not going to be fun. 15.2 is going to be a battle. 15.2 is going to be an opportunity for the best in the world to separate themselves from the rest of the world.”

Hmm. The suspense is excruciating. Just tell us what 15.2 is Castro!

“15.2 is…a repeat.”

Damn. Immediately a short montage of past repeat workouts in the Open are shown, with the reminder that they are included for a reason—so athletes can measure their progress from year-to-year through the same workout. We then return to a grinning Dave Castro, who asks the crowd for their guess as to which workout will be repeated for 15.2. Finally, he announces, “15.2 is…14.2.”


Every 3 minutes for as long as possible complete:
From 0:00-3:00
2 rounds of:
10 overhead squats (95 / 65 lb.)
10 chest-to-bar pull-ups
From 3:00-6:00
2 rounds of:
12 overhead squats (95 / 65 lb.)
12 chest-to-bar pull-ups
From 6:00-9:00
2 rounds of:
14 overhead squats (95 / 65 lb.)
14 chest-to-bar pull-ups
Etc., following same pattern until you fail to complete both rounds

Oh dear. But wait a minute, what about 15.2a? “15.2a…does not exist.” Thank goodness. This workout caused havoc during the 2014 Open, and I think it’s safe to say that not too many people will be happy to see it crop up again this year. However, as Cherie Chan pointed out, there is no limit to the workout. You are provided with an infinite time capacity, depending on how fit you are.

The workout

As 15.2 got underway, the athletes’ strategies became immediately apparent. Bridgers moved quickly on her overhead squats, while Letendre employed a slower pace; both went unbroken. Both women chose to break up the chest-to-bar pull-ups to sets of 5 immediately, and Bridgers finished up her first round in 1:10, with Letendre slightly behind at 1:17.

While the rest of us might hope to get through the early rounds of 15.2 with enough time to rest, Bridgers and Letendre were clearly treating them as warm-ups for the real work that was to come in the later rounds. But by the round of 18, the signs of fatigue were starting to show in both athletes. While both were moving much slower on the overhead squats and breaking their chest-to-bar pull-ups more frequently, Letendre and Bridgers were still neck and neck in the workout.

The round of 20 saw both women break their overhead squats for the first time, and Bridgers regained the lead, finishing her first round of chest-to-bar pull-ups at the 16:30 mark, with Letendre way behind at the 16:58 mark. With the Canadian seemingly out of the race to make it into the round of 22, all the attention was placed on Bridgers. Could she complete her second round of 20 chest-to-bar pull-ups and become only the second woman in history to make it into the next round?

Alas, it was not to be, as Bridgers came up just three reps short, finishing with a final score of 357 (beating her 14.2 score of 337 reps). Letendre, in a valiant effort, finished with 344 reps (10 more than she achieved in 14.2).

15.2 Final:

Bridgers: 357 reps
Letendre: 344 reps

During the cool down show, Letendre revealed that she was nursing an old injury in her shoulder so she had tried to be careful during the workout. With that being said, her emphasis was on breaking the chest-to-bar pull-ups early and trying to remain calm, for as the rounds progressed it started to become “a mind-f*$k”. She also took the time to give a shout out to fellow Canadian CrossFitter Jennifer Young, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer a couple of years ago but continues to battle the disease—it hasn’t stopped her from competing in the Open this year.

Advice for 15.2 from the pros

Nicole Carroll (CrossFit Director of Training)
Originally posted on the CrossFit Facebook page
First, perform a general warm-up with some extra focus on the shoulders, thoracic spine and hips. Next, wearing a lifting shoe can help you eek out a little more mobility and stability in the overhead squat. Tape or gloves might help with tearing from the high-rep pull-ups.

Overall strategy:
If you did this last year, you know the deal so simply set your goal to do better this year—even if just by 1 rep!

You have 3 minutes to complete the work for each set, so you do not need to blow it out in the beginning. From what we saw last year, the key to going far in this workout is how one breaks up the pull-ups. We saw athletes like Camille Leblanc-Bazinet—arguably one of the strongest pull-up athletes in CrossFit—do the workout twice, and doing much better breaking up the chest-to-bar pull-ups. She set the best worldwide score for 14.2 with 404 reps using a pull-up pacing strategy from round 1.

The overhead squat will eat up more time and energy to break up than the pull-ups because you will have to snatch it back up each time. Try to keep the overhead squats to single sets.

Overall, balance breaking up your sets as needed with moving relatively quickly to get a little rest before the 3-minute mark. This will serve you well for recovery, as well as to keep you calm.

Overhead squats:
Shoulders will get taxed in this workout! If your flexibility allows, a slightly narrower grip and wider stance—to keep the chest more upright—can help take some strain off them. If these are relatively light for you, try to move through them quickly so the shoulders aren’t loaded longer than absolutely necessary. If these are heavier for you or you have flexibility issues, settle yourself in your first rep or two, then just try to move steadily. No matter your capacity, press up and keep the armpits forward, allowing the bar to stay overhead.

Chest-to-bar pull-ups:
Again, it is probably very smart to break these up from the beginning. Save the big pushes for the later rounds when you need to string them together more quickly to stay in the game. If you get to a point where you are breaking them up into singles, try to cycle them quickly—get one, drop off and hop right back up for another. Some technical help: Lean back slightly and pull the elbows back and your chest to the bar. Don’t pull too high! The rules state that you need to touch the bar just below the clavicle. You do not get bonus points for making contact with the bar any lower, so save the energy and strength; you will need it in the later rounds.

Talayna Fortunato (CrossFit Director of Training)
Overhead Squats

  • Go narrow with your grip as is comfortable for you. A more narrow grip will save your shoulders and increase your ability to rely on your structure instead of muscular endurance to hold the bar overhead.
  • A faster cycle rate means less time spent with the bar overhead, which can also save your shoulder endurance, but will be a trade off for your leg fatigue and breathing. Go with whichever is weakest for you.
  • If you struggle with hand numbness try wearing wrist guards. This and keeping my wrists straighter while overhead seems to help me avoid numbness.
  • These are not that heavy for most people, so try to go as far as you can unbroken. When you do have to break try to minimize the number of times.
  • When you get back for the second set of OHS each round evaluate how close you’re coming to the start of the next 3min. round. When you know you need to push to make it through the sticking round (whatever that means for you) drop the hammer and get there! The extra reps will make a big difference.
  • Take a quick breather to gather yourself during transitions but don’t wander around wasting time or chalking too long.

Chest to bar

  • Break them up early! Early and often! The first round should be at most 5/5 (even if you plan on winning the thing), and if your max set is less than 15 you should start with 3’s.
  • This movement will be the limiting factor for most people. Whether it be limited by lats or grip. The overhead squats just make that limit come sooner! You’re ability to break these intelligently for your ability level will predicate how well you perform on the workout.
  • When you start to feel fatigued on pull-ups start taking them in smaller sets to keep your rest periods short and consistent. You want smaller sets and the same rest periods. Don’t continue to try to hit the large sets you did in the beginning with longer breaks.
  • Focus on keeping a rhythm, smoothness, and using your hips as you get fatigued.
  • Shake your forearms out during rest periods, maybe even stretch them lightly. You’re trying to get blood flow back to them and keep them from tightening up.
  • Relax your grip at the top and grip harder at the bottom of the swing. This minimizes total contraction time. Also put your thumbs around if it’s comfortable.
  • Keep chalk right by the pull-up bar. Don’t over chalk, but dip into it during your rest period if you finish a round early and during the round only if you need to.
  • Pick a bar you don’t have to jump to or use a box to get to if possible. Leaning from a box to grab your bar is just wasted seconds.
  • Wear protection on your hands! Whether this means some tape or gymnastic grips if you’re used to them. There were some really gory pictures of hands from last year. That said, make the decision before you even step into the gym that if you start to tear you’re going to ignore it, keep moving anyway, and look at your hands when it’s over. That will make it easier to accept if it does happen, because the decision has already been made. Here’s a picture of the method I use to tape my hands.

Read her complete tips at

Rudy Nielsen

There you have it. Now go be extraordinary and crush 15.2!

Photo courtesy of Jota Murillo

About Damect Dominguez

Co-founder of BoxLife Magazine. Author: Training Day: 400+ Workouts to Incorporate in Your Training.

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