Follow me on Twitter!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Look Back at the 2015 Open: Part I

We've all had time to recover from the Open, and for a (very) select few of us, it's time to move onto the regionals.  But at CFG Analysis, we're not quite finished with the Open quite yet.  On the contrary, it's time to take a thorough look back at the 2015 Open, see what the data tells us and start to understand what could be coming in the future.

Like the past two years, I'll be breaking this post up into two parts.  Today in Part I, I'll tackle the programming of this year's Open and how it compared to prior years (and what we may have expected).  Later this week in part II, I'll dig into the leaderboard a bit more to see what we can find.  If you want, see my posts (Part I and Part II) from last year for a feel for what we'll be getting into.

OK, let's get started.  Unless noted, all the metrics in this post relate to the Rx division only.

As I got started on the analysis for this post, my gut feeling was that this year's Open was a whole lot different than the past four years.  Indeed, looking at the Rx division, many of the metrics that I use to evaluate CrossFit programming were quite a bit different than in the past.  But as I looked a little closer, I found that there were really just a few key changes this year.  The biggest, in my opinion, was this:

The Open included a max-effort lift.

If you remove 15.1a (1RM clean and jerk), you're left with programming that is actually pretty similar to what we've seen before.  The chart below shows the men's loading metrics* for 2011-2015, including a version of 2015 that does not include 15.1a.  Note that without 15.1a, things look eerily similar to every other year.  With 15.1a, however, this year definitely put a larger emphasis on heavy lifting and (likely) favored larger athletes more than in the past**.

The loading metrics, of course, don't tell the whole story.  To me, there were three other key differences from prior years:
  1. Handstand push-ups appeared for the first time;
  2. The high-skill gymnastics movements (muscle-ups, handstand push-ups) appeared at the start of a workout, forcing a large portion of the field to scale;
  3. Burpees and box jumps, which accounted for about 20% of the points in the Open in previous years, did not appear at all.
Certainly #2 bothered a lot of people, but for the athletes competing for spots at regionals, this really had no effect on them.  The other two items are somewhat important, and #3 in particular was a shock to me.  As I noted on Twitter a few weeks ago, the 2015 Open was the first time since 2007 that the Open, Regionals or Games did not include burpees (excluding 2010 Regionals, when the workouts varied by region).  The chart below shows the value of each movement in the Open from 2011-2015 (including 15.1a).

Besides the big goose-eggs for burpees and box jumps, note the significance of the clean.  Since being a major player in 2011, the clean had not accounted for more than 5% of the points in an Open until this year.  The inclusion of 15.1a not only made this year a "heavier" Open, but it contributed to the Olympic-style lifts playing a huge role in the standings.  The chart below shows that the Olympic lifts and high-skill gymnastics were valued more than ever in 2015, while basic gymnastics were significantly diminished.

Although this year did include the first max-effort lift in an Open, none of the rest of the events were particularly unusual in terms of load, duration or movements.  The chart below shows the time domain (x-axis), number of movements (y-axis) and LBEL (size of ball) for each Open workout 2011-2015***.  You'll see that besides 15.1a (which I considered a 0-time domain workout despite technically lasting 6 minutes), the workouts were relatively standard compared to past Opens, though a bit on the shorter side.

It is worth noting that the 185/125 clean in 15.4 was the heaviest relative weight (1.37/0.93) ever required in an Open. That being said, I feel that the 165/110 squat clean and jerk (1.23/0.82) in 11.3 was more challenging for the community at that time than the 185-lb. clean was this year.

So where is the Open headed?  Certainly things could change in the next 10 months if there are other changes to the format (multiple scaled divisions, for instance), but it seems that the Rx division of the Open is starting to look like Regionals-lite.  I don't anticipate that the loads will get to Regional levels - the average load in metcons this year was 0.87/0.59, whereas regionals have been averaging 1.12/0.75 in the past.  However, the variety of workouts in the Open seems to be mirroring the Regionals.  I think we could see one or two of these two-part workouts each year, and I'd bet we'll have a max-effort lift each season.

I think we'll continue to see the scaled division evolve (some of the workouts were a little bland this year, in my opinion), but I think the the loads will stay similar to what we had this year, where they were about 70% of what was required for the Rx division.  Now that the community has seen the challenges in the Rx division, I'd expect more athletes to be prepared to scale early and often in the future.  There's no shame in scaling, that's for sure.

That will wrap it up for Part I of my 2015 Open recap.  Stay tuned for Part II later on this week!

*For more background on these metrics, see this post from back in 2012.

**This is something I plan to look into at some point, possibly in Part II.

***For the time-varying and load-varying workouts (including 15.1a), I took the average of the top 1,000 overall finishers from each particular year.  For instance, the top 1,000 overall male finishers took an average of 15.8 minutes on 15.2.  I also considered 15.1a and 11.3 to be single-movement workouts, despite including a clean and jerk.


  1. Hi Anders,

    I came across your blog while looking for CF analysis. I wrote up some stuff on my blog last year (no removed b/c I needed to be 'more professional' as I'm on the academic job market). Then I noticed that we share an alma mater (WFU 06). Keep up the interesting work and go Deacs!


    David Pappano

  2. Sweet, there aren't a ton of us around (certainly not in the Midwest). Not sure if this was implied in your comment, but we actually share the same year of graduation. It's a small school, but I can't recall if we ever met.

    Either way, good luck in the job market and keep CrossFitting and reading the site!