CrossFit 15.4 Strategy Guide, Tips, Tricks


Your best 15.4 score will be determined by the strategy for the handstand pushups. For most, the cleans will be a welcomed break!

First Thoughts & General Comments

Unless you are an elite competitor, this workout will be a test of your ability to recover your creatine phosphate system – we in the business call it a “CP Battery test.”

This simply means that your body has to recover (requiring the aerobic system) from multiple “tough” efforts (requiring the CP system) in a short period of time. This means that pacing – knowing exactly when you’re ready to go, and not going a moment too soon, or a moment too late – will be key.

Btw we train for CP Battery events in the CrossFit Portland Competition Program.

Movement Considerations

Handstand Push-ups

Kip them! Kipping does not take that much longer than strict handstand push-ups, and you will delay reaching the point of “no return” on these much sooner if you just kip from the get go. Watch our video on how to perform an efficient kip:

The standard this year will throw some people off – as it did Josh Bridges (who I can guarantee will redo this and crush his score with a bit of practice on the new standard).

There are four things you can do to make sure that your heels get over the line:

1) Bring your hands in narrower than usual. This won’t be a problem for some people, but many who easily fit their grip within the previous standard width will need to go much narrower than they are used to.

2) Start and finish with your legs as close together as possible. Something to consider though is that if you’re more comfortable spreading your legs out on the accent, still do so, but just bring them together before you go down for your next rep.

3) Plant you hands a bit closer to the wall that you might normally. While this will make kipping more difficult balance-wise, it will make it easier to your heels over the line.

There is no possible way for you to reach the standard if you plant your hands 2 feet from the wall, no matter how close you keep your legs or hands together.

4) Point your heels, not your toes!!! I’m sure this advice will make some gymnasts throw up, but for the sake of this workout, it is NOT to your benefit to point your toes. See the difference below!

Make sure you get practice (but not too much!) with these standards prior to the workout.


Unless your best power clean is very close (10% or less above) the rx’d weight, you should try to power clean for as long as possible. It is simply faster than a full clean, and will ultimately save you energy.

For *some* a squat clean may be necessary, either from the beginning, or closer to the end of the workout once all their pulling strength has been depleted, but use this as a last resort.

And I know you all didn’t think it was possible for me to say this, but I’m going to say that unless you plan on doing squat cleans, you should NOT use weightlifting shoes for this workout.


While clean ability will of course play a role in the performance of this workout, it really all comes down to the handstand push-ups.

For 99% of people, I recommend breaking up your cleans into singles from the get go. Whether you’re great at handstand push-ups or not, it will be beneficial to take the cleans as a break.

Hanging on to the bar will unnecessarily fatigue the arms, and the few extra seconds dropping each rep takes (and really, it is just a few seconds) will help you recover more before your next set of hspu’s.

The only time I think it makes sense to touch and go is at the end of the workout, when you’re racing to get as many extra reps as possible, or get into the next set of handstand push-ups.

Now, on to the good stuff. Here’s how I would recommend various individuals break up the HSPU (knowing nothing else about them), based on how many they can do consecutively.

30+: 3, 6, 9, 12, 8+7, 7+6+5, 3’s or whatever you have left in the tank.
20-29: 3, 6, 9, 7+5, 6+5+4, 3’s or whatever you have left in the tank.
15-19: 3, 6, 5+4, 5+4+3, 2’s or whatever you have left in the tank.
10-14: 3, 4+2, 4+3+2, 2s, or whatever you have left in the tank
5-10: 3, 2+2+singles, singles
<5: singles from the start!

Some people are able to “rest” either with their arms extended, or with their head on the ground. While this can work, don’t count breaks like this as true rests when considering your fractioning strategy.

As I said above, you must know “when you’re ready to go, and when you’re not,” and this will be totally relative to the individual.

As a general rule of thumb for this workout however, go a bit “sooner” than you think you can for the cleans, and a bit “later” for the handstand push-ups. While of course, you want to push the pace, you must avoid the point of “no return” muscular fatigue like the plague.

Do not allow yourself any grinder reps until at least the 6 minute mark if possible, and if you do have a rep that is particularly arduous, take extra rest before doing another. Chances are it was NOT a technical error, just tired muscles.

If you know how you want to fraction your reps, a good strategy is to pick a time interval that you plan to start each new “set.” This could be anywhere from every 15 to every 45 seconds, and can also vary depending on which round you’re in (i.e. longer breaks later on).

But be flexible with your plan! When it doubt, add another 5 or 10 seconds before you go. Missing a rep will be WAY worse than going a bit too late.


10 minutes Easy Aerobic Work
– Jog, Row, Bike, etc.
5-10 minutes Active Range of Motion Work
– Prioritize posterior chain, shoulders, and making sure thoracic spine is open.
Build to moderately heavy Power Clean single in 5 sets
– Something heavier than the rx’d weight, but it should still be “snappy.” This an over warm-up that will help make the workout weight feel lighter.
1-3 Handstand Push-ups
3 Power Cleans 185/125#
Rest 1 min x 3 sets
– Use this section to practice your HSPU technique, but it is imperative that you don’t do too many reps. Unless you can do 40 in row, don’t exceed 3 reps per set in your warm-up, and 9 or 10 total. You want to practice the movement while imparting as little fatigue on your arms as possible.
Rest 5+ minutes before starting the workout

Additional Notes

In my opinion, if you’ve never kicked into a handstand before this weekend, you have no business doing this workout as prescribed. It would simply be unsafe on your neck and spine to do so.

Scale the workout and use this as motivation to come into next year with strong, awesome handstand push-ups!

If you liked this strategy guide, please like and share!

CrossFit Portland Competition programming for the 2016 season starts right after 15.5 is over. Take a look if you are curious about how I will be programming for the off season. Come join us!