CrossFit Open Workouts: The Silver Age (15-18)

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What a time to get into CrossFit!

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve explored the oldest CrossFit Opens as well as the most recent iterations of the sport’s most anticipated event. This time, we’re looking at the middle era…the time where CrossFit HQ seemed to really begin to know what they were doing with the Open and where modern legends were born.

If some of these workouts and faces look familiar, I can assure you that you’re not seeing things. What’s old (well…at least as old as 2015 goes) is new again!

2015 CrossFit Open Workouts

Some holdovers from previous years as well as an early iteration of the two-parter. While the 2015 CrossFit Open may not be the most exciting of the best, it certainly has something for just about everyone. Strong guys, gymnastics guys, burner guys, endurance guys…they all smiled at some point during this one.

Arguably, 2015 is also when CrossFit officially introduced the “pain cave”. We’ll get to that in 15.5!

CrossFit Open Workout 15.1

Equipment: Pull-up bar/rack, barbell, bumper plates

Froning vs. Fraser…now the Open was getting good!

Unfortunately, this isn’t the most exciting WOD, (it actually looks a bit like those 2011-2012, early Open workouts), but it remains an excellent test of fitness, regardless.

…however, we all know that the centerpiece of this one doesn’t take place until…

CrossFit Open Workout 15.1A

Equipment: Barbell, bumper plates

Doesn’t get much more direct than that: a one RM clean-and-jerk under pretty heavy fatigue.

There is a big jump between the elite (top 5 percent) and the elite (top 1 percent), but I think anyone putting up more than 2 plates-aside under these conditions has nothing to sneeze at.

CrossFit Open Workout 15.2

Equipment: Barbell, bumper plates, pull-up bar/rack

The first repeat of the 2014 CrossFit Open, 15.2 is the same workout as 14.2. However, the most interesting part of this one is that the elite athletes got a lot better at this workout while those at the 50th percentile and lower actually performed worse in this workout.

So…if you’re performing this in 2023 (or later), try your best to be in the upper 50th percentile. Otherwise, at the pace of descent in this workout from 2014 to 2015…your score might not be…that great.

CrossFit Open Workout 15.3

Equipment: Gymnastics rings, wall ball, jump rope

Like many of the earlier CrossFit Opens, 2015 had a version of the ring muscle-up, wall ball, and double-unders. However, like most of the others, the muscle-ups and wall ball shots don’t come in super big sets (unlike the previous Opens’ 30 muscle-up and 150 wall ball sets).

If you’re tackling this one today, you might think that this provides you with a bit of a “break”…but…you what this really means is that you just have to do it fast.

CrossFit Open Workout 15.4

Equipment: Barbell, bumper plates

A very interesting combination of cleans and handstand push-ups. With an 8-minute time cap and not overly heavy weights, there really isn’t any reason not to move fast during this one…

…unless you’re not great at handstand push-ups!

However, back then, the “strict” requirement hadn’t been introduced as a standard so, if you’re performing this one today and are worried about these bad boys, just kip away!

CrossFit Open Workout 15.5

Equipment: Concept2 Rower, barbell, bumper plates

Take a look at Camille’s(!!!) face during the round of 15 thrusters…yowzerz!

There had been some tough CrossFit Open workouts before, but this was where the real “pain cave” may have been born.

The most interesting part? It just looks soooo simple on paper (a 4-round couplet). All I can say to that is…good luck.

2016 CrossFit Open Workouts

A couple of throwbacks combined with a couple of CrossFit Open workouts that would become beloved classics (as well as one that would be used as a textbook example of how not to program for the Open) characterized the 2016 edition of the event.

Quite the year of “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” (although “the bad” was actually pretty good, too!)

CrossFit Open Workout 16.1

crossfit open workouts

Equipment: Barbell, bumper plates, pull-up bar/rack

Gosh…what a nightmare for CrossFit box owners (and, really, for anyone trying to complete this one in their garage or basement!) 25 feet is pretty far, but when overhead walking lunges are involved, you probably need closer to 35 feet in order to “properly” take this one on.

As it is, none of these movements, considering the weights and rep schemes are overly challenging…but then again, this one goes on and on and on…for 20 minutes.

I don’t recommend tackling this one today, but if you decide to, try not to destroy your walls or any of your fellow gym goers! One of the most “infamous” CrossFit Open workouts of all time.

CrossFit Open Workout 16.2

Equipment: Pull-up bar/rack, jump rope, barbell, bumper plates

The second 20-minute CrossFit Open workout in a row (sorta…) kept the craziness going with some barbells that could get really heavy, really quickly. To make things even harder, depending on how you split up those toes-to-bars, your grip could be pretty well shot by the second or third round…

(making the heavy cleans that much harder!)

My suggestion: break those toes-to-bars up. You’ll be much more likely to fail a clean when your grip is screwed than being so close to finishing a round before getting time capped.

CrossFit Open Workout 16.3

Equipment: Barbell, bumper plates, pull-up bar/rack

I actually remember trying this one from my old globo gym in Galveston Texas. Truth be told, between the iron plates and low ceiling, I think the number of people I annoyed that day was probably higher than my score!

A throwback to the short and “simple” CrossFit Open workouts of 2011 and 2012, 16.3 marked was the true debut of the bar muscle-up…a movement that would go on to be a staple in Opens to come.

…you have been working to master your bar muscle-up….right?

CrossFit Open Workout 16.4

Equipment: Barbell, bumper plates, wall ball, Concept2 rower

This was the first iteration of this “AMRAP” (which only ~5 percent would be able to treat like a “true” AMRAP). As intimidating as the big sets are, the handstand push-ups are the only real “sticking” points…even if those opening deadlifts can throw a wrench in WOD plans pretty quickly.

2 things are vital with this WOD:

  • Planned breaks (don’t just go crazy with some bit set of deadlifts to start and burn out)
  • Being realistic about your handstand push-up ability. If you don’t really “have” them, it makes sense to go as fast as possible to get to them.

Well, there is one other thing to be mindful of. If you’re from the past and you’re actually reading this in 2016, get excited; you get to do this one again next year!

CrossFit Open Workout 16.5

Equipment: Barbell, bumper plates

I mentioned earlier that 15.5 may be the first iteration of the “pain cave” in CrossFit, but the 14.5/16.5 also makes a pretty compelling argument.

While nobody is finishing this one nearly as fast as 15.5, there is just something about the combination of burpees, thrusters, and sans time clock that makes this one sickening to even think about!

2017 CrossFit Open Workouts

Dumbbells characterize the 2017 better than anything else. Anyone who had anxiously been waiting for their inclusion in the CrossFit Open definitely got their money’s worth here!

Also, between the high-rep sets of bar muscle-ups, double-unders, and handstand push-ups, any weaknesses that athletes had were starting to be exposed in a big way during the 2017 Open!

CrossFit Open Workout 17.1

Equipment: Dumbbell, plyo box

Now we’re getting to the point where if you’ve been involved in CrossFit over the last few years, some of these workouts are starting to look pretty familiar to you. If you’re familiar with Open workout 21.2 (aka “Spinal”), you know all about 17.1

Sorry to kill some of the suspense with how the performance on this one has “evolved” over the years, but as you can see, people have gotten a lot better with this one. I would contend that this is because CrossFit has been programming dumbbells into workouts with a much greater frequency than in years past. That said, you want to dominate WODs like these, get you some dumbbells…ASAP!

CrossFit Open Workout 17.2

Equipment: Dumbbells, pull-up bar/rack

…dumbbells you say? After years of being relegated to the lonely back corners of CrossFit boxes everywhere, dumbbells were necessary for the second consecutive week of the CrossFit Open!

17.2 has this subtle challenge curve, requiring relatively easy toes-to-bars before giving away to much more challenging bar muscle-ups. However, with the somewhat awkward judging standard for dumbbell power cleans, I doubt we see a repeat of this bad boy in the near future.

CrossFit Open Workout 17.3

Equipment: Pull-up bar/rack, barbell, bumper plates

I remember watching this one with my wife, not knowing who Mat Fraser was, and seeing him miss one of those early snatches.

“Yeah..he looks pretty good, but not like Froning or some of those other guys”.

Hehe…pretty funny to look back on that statement in hindsight!

This is definitely one of those classic, bottleneck CrossFit Open workouts (I couldn’t hit a 185-pound snatch, so my workout was done pretty early). Unless you’re the elite, expect to be humbled by one of those heavy barbells.

CrossFit Open Workout 17.4

Equipment: Barbell, bumper plates, wall ball, Concept2 rower

See. I definitely wasn’t kidding when I said that this one was on the menu again in 2017 (although I think the people at home much preferred watching Brooke and Brenda tackle it this time around!)

My strategy from 16.4 above remains the same here. Check it out!

CrossFit Open Workout 17.5

Equipment: Barbell, bumper plates, jump rope

Thatv 40-minute time cap is such a tease! If you are…not great at double-unders (like I am/was), that yuge time cap definitely feels like forever…

(I can vouch for this; not only was I incapable of stringing more than 2 double-unders together at this point, but my jump rope literally broke halfway through!)

Unless you’re decently adept at double-unders, shelve this one for later. No use getting frustrated and slapping yourself with your rope ~300 times to help you “learn” them better!

2018 CrossFit Open Workouts

More dumbbells, more repeats, and more high-rep sets of higher-skilled movements…the 2018 CrossFit Open could easily fit into the “modern era” of the Open, couldn’t it?

Many people reading this may have been around during this time and can easily remember how “fun” those first two workouts seemed before…18.3.

Also, now you had to handstand walk if you wanted to get a top score…yeah…this Open was definitely foreshadowing things to come!

CrossFit Open Workout 18.1

Equipment: Pull-up bar/rack, dumbbell, Concept2 rower

Man. Nicole Carroll was 42 or 43 when she demo’ed this one back in 2018…what an excellent introduction to that year’s Open!

Dumbbells are on the menu again in this 20-minute grind.

Not really anything special to this one; none of these movements are “hard” or tricky. Just gonna keep moving!

CrossFit Open Workout 18.2

Equipment: Dumbbells, barbell, bumper plates

Another week where the Open workout was kinda…not too crazy. Dumbbells…again (after all of those years of neglect, CrossFit HQ was really pushing these hard, weren’t they??!!) combined with the “old” bar-facing-burpees standard (two-foot take-off required).

The great news with this one? Even if you’re one of the slower finishers, you’d still have at least a couple of minutes to complete…

CrossFit Open Workout 18.2A

Equipment: Barbell, bumper plates

Yeah, it had been awhile since there was a two-parter from the CrossFit Open, but 18.2/18.2A delivered! Granted, the last thing anyone wanted to see was a heavy clean and it’s crazy to see someone as prolific as Noah Ohlsen struggling with those relatively light weights.

CrossFit Open Workout 18.3

Equipment: Jump rope, barbell, bumper plates, gymnastics rings, dumbbell

Now that escalated quickly!

After a couple of rather innocuous workouts, 18.3 smacked everyone in the face with 800 double-unders(!!!) as well as a bunch of gymnastics and weightlifting movements.

It’s almost hard to remember that this one technically goes for 2 rounds (less than 1/4 of athletes saw round 2…I was one of those that…didn’t see it). Yet another one of those “if you’re reading this in 2023 or later and aren’t great at double-unders yet…maybe opt for something else!”

CrossFit Open Workout 18.4

Equipment: Barbell, bumper plates

This is another one of those Open workouts that should look pretty familiar

CrossFit Open Workout 18.5

Equipment: Barbell, bumper plates, pull-up bar/rack

During this “age” of the CrossFit Open workouts, we’ve seen a lot of workouts that have ended up appearing in more recent iterations of the Open.

18.5 takes the opposite road; it’s a blast from the past! By now, everyone should be ready for that thruster/chest-to-bar combination (even if that thruster weight looks a little odd for the men) so all I can really tell you is…move fast!

The Silver Age CrossFit Open: Highs and Lows

The “Silver Age” of the CrossFit Open is where we begin to see a combination of “positive” experimentation (ex. dumbbell workouts that would repeat in future Opens) and “negative” experimentation (ex. workouts requiring immense space requirements that 99 percent of garage gym goers would never be able to do).

This is also the era where we can see the “origins” of many of the modern day CrossFit “legends”, many of whom are still competing today.

If you’re interested in testing your fitness and getting some additional “practical” benefits, you have a lot of choices here; there is a very good chance that one of these bad boys will show up in a future CrossFit Open. You’ll have some good data points (both empirical and not) to go off of.

Think I’m kidding about the Silver Age being the source of a lot of more recent CrossFit Open workouts? Then check out our article on the “Modern Age” of CrossFit Open workouts…I expect to be vindicated!

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Tom, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, ISSA-CPT, PN1-NC, DPA, CAPM has been CrossFitting for over 10 years. He has participated in a number of team and individual CrossFit competitions across Europe and the United States. He was the 2012 Chick-fil-A Race Series champion (North Georgia Circuit) and has put together a few gnarly garage and basement gyms in his time!

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