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March 13, 2015

CrossFit Open 15.3 Recap + Some Tips From the Pros

Written by Damect Dominguez

The third week of the Open kicked off amongst much speculation and intrigue. Of course, the days leading up to any Open announcement are filled with a lot of  guesswork and analysis by the affiliate community, but this week CrossFitters worldwide were driven mad by two separate social media posts that purported to give some clues as to what 15.3 would be.

On Tuesday Dave Castro posted this picture to his Instagram account, and everyone started losing their minds:

15_3 hint

As you can imagine, everyone started assuming that 15.3 would carry some form of double-unders and pistols.

Then, early on Thursday, the CrossFit Games posted this video to their Instagram account, and the guessing game began once more. In the video, CrossFit Games host Rory McKernan stands by a pool table and asks Castro if he had any clues for 15.3. Castro’s response? “Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.” You then see 7 balls potted.

I’m convinced that the majority of CrossFitters are conspiracy theorists, because as soon as that video was posted everyone put on their Dan Brown Da Vinci Code hats and tried to decipher the significance of the video. Did the pool balls mean that there were going to be wall balls? Why were only 7 potted, does that mean it’s going to be a chipper of 7 movements? What happened to the pistols and double-unders?

As it turns out, people were sort of right…sort of.

The announcement of 15.3

On the floor of CrossFit Chicago, Dave Castro stood between Julie Foucher and Lauren Brooks and addressed the affiliate nation.

“Week 1 was fun. Week 2—not so much. Week 3 is going to be fun…for some of us.”

It’s at this point you notice that Foucher is holding a barbell, and Brooks a portion of a pull-up bar from a rig. What evil wizardry are you cooking up Castro…

“Week 3 will have no pull-up bar and no barbell.”

Damn. There have only been three occasions when neither a barbell or pull-up bar was used in an Open workout (13.3—which was a repeat of 12.4—and 12.1).

“15.3 is a triplet. The final movement in this tripartite is double-unders. The second movement is wall ball. And the first movement is muscle-ups.”


14-minute AMRAP
7 Muscle-Ups
50 Wall Balls
100 Double-Unders

For the first time in Open history, a workout will start on the rings. Lauren Brooks perfectly encapsulated the emotions of thousands of CrossFitters around the world when, upon hearing that there would be no barbell, let out a groan of despair. After all, many athletes that had planned to do the entire Open RX might be spending the entire 14 minutes of 15.3 trying to get their first muscle-up.

“In previous years, when we didn’t have the Scaled division, we’d program muscle-ups at the very end of the workout. This workout [15.3] was modeled off of the workout we’ve done the last couple of years, which was 150 wall-balls, 90 double-unders, and if you could finish all that work in the time cap, the muscle-ups were at the end. Now the muscle-ups are at the beginning, because we want to find that line. 270,000 people registered for the Open this year. We are going to have an accurate count of how many of those people can do a muscle-up by Monday.”
-Dave Castro, speaking at the Cool-Down show after 15.3

However, Brooks was disappointed for another reason. As a barbell specialist, Brooks strengths lie in moving heavy weight. She is not the strongest gymnast, as evidenced by a 31st place finish during the Muscle-Up biathlon at last year’s Games. On the other hand, her competitor, Julie Foucher, most definitely is. As a former state champion—not to mention having Olympic gold medalist Dominique Moceanu on her coaching team—Foucher couldn’t have asked for a better Open workout.

Sure enough, in the very first round of the workout Brooks broke up her muscle-ups into three sets of 3,2 and 2. Foucher, as you’d expect, blitzed through her first seven and went straight to work on her 50 wall balls. However, Brooks was only 2 reps behind Foucher as the soon-to-be doctor got started on her double-unders. But uncharacteristically for Foucher, she got her rope snagged on five separate occasions, temporarily allowing Brooks to take the lead. However, after Brooks stopped for a breather, Foucher was able to climb back in front and head back to the rings for her second round.

From this point on it was the Julie Foucher show, as the former gymnast tore through 501 reps of the workout (3 full rounds plus 7 muscle-ups and 23 wall balls) for a decisive victory. For Brooks, a much heavier athlete than her counterpart, besting Foucher in 15.3 was always going to be a struggle. But the native Floridian gave a stellar account of herself, completing 420 reps (2 full rounds plus 7 muscle-ups, 50 wall balls and 49 double-unders).

15.3 Final

Foucher: 501 reps
Brooks: 420 reps

15.3 Tips from the pros

Nicole Carroll—CrossFit Director of Training

This one starts with muscle-ups—7 of them.

For some this will be the sticking point of the workout and the fork in the road for their Open competition.

If you absolutely know you don’t have a muscle-up, the Scaled division is for you. You’ll be more motivated than ever to get one now and you’ve got a year to work on it.

If you’re close or struggle with them but have the pull-up and ring dip capacity, give it a shot. A lot of separation will occur here on the Leaderboard. It is worth taking the 14 minutes to work like hell and see what you can do.

If you’re new to doing muscle-ups in workouts, the best tip I can give you is do not go to failure on these. Stop short of that, shake it out, and then get back on the rings. Work singles, if you have to.

For others, the muscle-ups might be the easiest part of this workout. It only takes 7 of them to buy you large sets of wall-ball shots and double-unders. And these two movements back-to-back simply equal metabolic pain.

Unfortunately, the only strategy for this is: Just keep moving. Minimize rest and transition time. Pick up the ball, the jump rope or get on the rings a little sooner than feels comfortable. Not at a frantic pace. Just steady. But you will be gassed no matter what. This is that classic CrossFit workout discomfort where all there is to do is gut it out.

Finally, no matter where you get to on this workout, stay composed. Take care not to let your mind race and panic when your heart rate gets high. And no freaking out over failed reps! Take deep breaths, keep the wheels on the bus and dial back into the technique of the movements to help you through.

Diane Fu

1. This is going to be a shoulder burner for sure. Be sure to buy some extra slack in and around the shoulder joint; and if you’re like me, nothing gets my arch’s blown up like high volume wall balls. Pair them up with double-unders and it’s BBQ city for sure! Get that arch rolling on a lacrosse ball to open up the fascia and keep the cramping at bay.

2. Heart rate management is key to scoring well on this workout.14 minutes might not seem like a long time on paper, but it’s much longer than you think when you’re in the thick. Finding a sustainable pace will keep you consistent and consistency will keep you scoring points while minimizing time lost during transitions.

3. No matter what, don’t miss reps. It’s expensive and will blow you out. This line of thought will help you decide what rep and set scheme to choose on the movements by remembering to always save a few reps in the tank.

4. It might be tempting in the first round to knock out all 50 reps on the wall balls, but resist the urge to do so. This will leave your legs feeling extra heavy for the double-unders causing potential trip-ups and losing valuable time.

5. Maintain your composure to maximize your efficiency. Keeping calm will allow you to flow better through the workout, help manage fatigue and also keep you from tripping up on the double unders.

6. Keep your eye on the clock in the last 3 minutes of the workout. This is where you can pick up speed and try to hustle. Try your hardest to make it back to the double-unders before the clock runs out. These are easy, fast points.

Talayna Fortunato

For those doing 15.3 RX there are actually 2 divisions here. The first is for those who are not super proficient at muscle-ups. I’m talking if you’re max set is around the 5 or less range.

My advice for this group is to go in small sets on the first 7 muscle-ups.

Be prepared for them to be harder and use these tips to make them easier:

-Concentrate on using your hips to drive through the wall balls and save your shoulders and triceps.

-Relax the shoulders on the double-unders and try to spin the rope using more wrist work.

-When you get back to the rings fatigued after round 1, concentrate on your hip drive to turn you over on the muscle-up.

-Keep an eye on the clock as well.  When you get off of a round of muscle-ups, if you have 4 minutes or less left you are most likely not going to make it back to the muscle-ups for another round and your sights should be on going as deep as you can at that point.

For those of you who are good at muscle-ups congratulations, this workout is going to hurt you the most! The same tips to make the muscle-ups easier above still apply. PLEASE make sure you get your heart rate up beforehand. You don’t want a huge heart rate spike after minute 2 because you weren’t already hot. You should be breaking a sweat by 3.2.1…GO! Rep schemes will be very individual. If you love wall balls 25/25 might work.

Keep yourself at a manageable (think under 80-90%) exertion rate. You will constantly have to self-regulate during this workout to do that. You don’t want to let yourself get too lactic. That’s when your other muscle groups will start over working, breathing will get out of control, and your score will be drastically impacted.

Decide when you’re going to break the sets of wall balls and double-unders, do not let the movements decide for you. When you do break stay present! No wandering around. It helps me to count my breaths while I stare at the thing I’m supposed to be moving. When I get to breath 3-5 I try to get myself to go again.

Watch the clock and when you have 3-4min. or less when you complete a round of muscle-ups (or just over a minute or less after the last round of wall balls) you probably won’t make it to the next round so it’s time to dig deep for another gear. That means pain cave time. If you have more than that you may have to be a bit smarter, but it’s still time to go at a pace you know you can’t sustain (mainly because you won’t have to). Every rep counts at this point, so don’t finish and say you think you could have done more.

Rudy Nielsen


Image courtesy of Paul Fazzone/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

About Damect Dominguez

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

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