A Recap of 15.4 + Some Tips From the Pros

Written by:

Damect Dominguez

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15.4—Handstand push-ups! We don’t want to say that we called it, but…In fact, leading up to 15.4 the general buzz around the community was that a bodyweight movement would make its debut in this year’s Open, and the consensus was that it would be the handstand push-up (HSPU). Well, you were right!

In a rematch between the competitors of last years 14.4 announcement, Scott Panchik and Josh Bridges took to the floor at CrossFit X-Factor in Portland, OR. Moments later, Dave Castro joined them, and proceeded to ask the athletes what they would like to see in the workout.

Bridges: “Squat cleans and burpee box jumps.”
Panchik: “Hang cleans and burpee box jumps.”

As the athletes were talking, a whiteboard was brought out behind them. Always looking to add some drama to the show, Castro then announced our fate for the fourth workout of the 2015 Open.

“15.4 is…going to follow this rep scheme.”

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Castro takes out a pen.

“3, 3. 6, 3. 9 ,3. 12, 6. 15, 6. 18, 6. 21, 9. 24, 9. 27, 9 and so on.”

Well, that’s certainly new. But what are the movements that will be accompanying this rep scheme?

“The first movement is…push-ups.”

WHAT? I’d wager that most athletes watching the announcement around the world eagerly started rubbing their hands together, contemplating what life would be like in the round of 27/9. Bridges and Panchik looked at each other, visibly surprised—or was that confused?

“The second movement is cleans at 185lbs. 15.4 is…wait, wait, wait. We do have a scaled option this year, let’s take advantage of that.”

Oh boy. Here it comes.

“The first movement in 15.4 is really handstand push-ups. The second movement is cleans at 185lbs for the men, 125lbs for the women. As many reps as possible in 8 minutes.”


8-minute AMRAP:
3 handstand push-ups
3 cleans
6 handstand push-ups
3 cleans
9 handstand push-ups
3 cleans
12 handstand push-ups
6 cleans
15 handstand push-ups
6 cleans
18 handstand push-ups
6 cleans
21 handstand push-ups
9 cleans
Etc., following same pattern

Men 185 lb.  Women 125 lb.

As the two men warmed-up, we were told to pay close attention to the movement standards for this workout, and the reason why became immediately apparent—these weren’t going to be your typical HSPUs. Athletes and judges need to mark a ‘foot line’ on the wall that the athlete must clear with their heels for each rep to count. To do this, athletes need to stand facing the wall, with their arms and hands held straight above them, with the thumbs touching. From here, mark the height of your wrists, then measure 3 inches down and create a line on the wall. That’s the line you need to clear.

Prior to the start of the workout Games legend Chris Spealler joined our screens to give his preview, and, in so doing, provide a little advice to all the athletes who will be attempting 15.4 over the weekend.

“I think you’ll be shocked to see how quickly these guys go to singles on the cleans in order for them to recover so they can get back to the HSPUs in time. For you guys watching, break those puppies [the HSPUs] into small sets of two and three with short breaks.”

Before the workout began, I think it’s fair to say that most people would have picked Bridges to take the win. After all, with his smaller stature (and short range of motion) Bridges is renowned for his HSPU ability, and 185lbs is a relatively light weight for both men. In fact, Chase Ingram, Bill Grundler and Chris Spealler (who were working as the play-by-play announcers for the event) all predicted that Bridges would take the win over Panchik.

In the very first round, Bridges cranked out three strict HSPU, while Panchik kipped his opening set. Still, both men got to the barbell at the same point. However, Bridges elected to go touch-and-go on his first three cleans, while Panchik immediately broke them up into singles. In fact, Bridges performed the first two rounds of the workout unbroken with strict HSPUs, while Panchik employed a methodical pace that saw him rest on his head during the HSPUs and drop the barbell after every clean.

By the fourth round, Panchik’s strategy started to pay off. Bridges started to struggle clearing the tape with his heels during his HSPUs, and was no-repped several times. Panchik, on the other hand, was able to clear 12 HSPUs unbroken, taking the lead. It was a lead he would not relinquish, as his steady pace and consistent reps on the HSPUs enabled him to build a 10-rep lead over Bridges as both men entered the round of 18 HSPUs and 9 cleans. However, with four minutes remaining, both men were visibly fatigued, and the no-reps started coming thick and fast for both men. However, Panchik’s early strategy of breaking the cleans into singles and kipping his HSPUs—not to mention not having any missed reps in the early rounds—meant that his shoulders had a bit more pump left in them. It paid dividends for the Central East competitor, as he was able to avenge his loss to Bridges during 14.4 last year and take the win in 15.4.

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15.4 Final:

Panchik: 147 reps
Bridges: 122 reps

Tips from the pros

Scott Panchik, speaking on the Cool Down Show after 15.4

The plan was to kip the whole time and find a slow and consistent pace that showed control at the top [of the HSPUs] and met the standard. There were a couple of times when I was locking out that I heard my judge say no-rep before I started coming back down, so I pushed out that last little bit. So as you guys do this at your gyms, hang out at the top and don’t be in a hurry to come back down.

Nicole Carroll

If you know you do not have a single handstand push-up, go scaled. But if you’re close or have 1 or more, take your 8 minutes and go for it as Rx’d.

This is high-volume handstand push-up work, so if you know how, kip these right out of the gate. This will preserve your shoulders a little longer and you will need that for the later rounds of this one! As always, do not put yourself in a deficit with failed reps, and try not to rest upside down on the wall. It is much better to stop short of failure, come down, shake it out and kick back up and get another rep or two.

The handstand push-ups will likely start to fail before we hit the wall, metabolically. Break these up intelligently, BUT this one is also only 8 minutes so still minimize your rest and transitions and try to keep moving! The cleans might be heavy for some people. If this load is near your max, consider doing them as squat cleans. Of course, if you can, do power cleans—even if it’s just as singles.

The rep scheme and standards on this one are a bit tricky. For the reps, have someone in your corner tracking them for you and letting you know where you’re at and where you need to go next. For the standard, make sure you practice and nail it before attempting this for a score.

Carl Paoli


Talayna Fortunato

Original post on wodsuperstore.com

First be happy that this workout will not hurt as bad as last week.  If you hit a wall you’ll probably just be staring at said wall and not doubled over in pain unable to catch your breath like 15.3.  That’s because the limiting factor for most everyone will be HSPUs and the muscle endurance of their triceps and shoulders.  There will be outliers who are body weight ninjas and haven’t built their strength up yet.  If this is you then pace the cleans accordingly, doing singles.  For everyone else be aware of just how many HSPU’s this is going to be.

There really isn’t a ton of strategy to this workout.  More like tips on what to do and what not to do so I’ll bullet them off:

  • When measuring for standards make it easier on yourself.  Depress your shoulders when you raise your hands to the wall and measure from the bottom of your wrist crease, not the top.
  • Place your bar as close to the wall as you can.
  • Place some chalk close to the wall as well in case your hands start sliding on the HSPUs.
  • Consider using a padded mat (like a yoga mat) under your head.  It may also prevent slipping.
  • Write the rep count somewhere you can see it (like in chalk on the floor), or have a judge that’s going to remind you every round.  The last thing you want to waste time on is figuring out which round of 6 cleans you’re on now.
  • Make sure to warm-up the quads and hamstrings appropriately. (i.e. rowing, air squats, banded good mornings, a few box jumps, etc.)
  • Singles!  They’re not that much faster than touch n’ go, if any, as long as you get right back on the bar.
  • Warm up your shoulders!  CrossOver Symmetry or some rotator cuff first, then I’d suggest more light weight presses to get blood into those muscle groups and only a few HSPUs, save them for the actual workout.
  • Move your hands in enough (and possibly closer to the wall) to get your heels over the line!
  • Elevate your shoulders at the top of the handstand to get full height.  Think “I don’t know” shrug, but upside down.
  • Dorsiflex your ankles so your judge has a clearer view of whether your heels are over the line and to get that extra bit of length from your Achilles.
  • Even if you are an absolute monster at strict HSPUs, unless you can do 100+ in less than 8min. please consider kipping, because once they’re gone they’re gone.  If you must go strict I hope you’re right, but if you hit the wall there’s always Monday to redo.
  • Get your judge to give you the ok on every good rep at the top of the handstand before you descend.  It’s a lot easier to perform a little scapular elevation to get a good rep than to do another one!

Rudy Nielsen,


Now go out at show 15.4 who’s boss!

About Damect Dominguez

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

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