Hero WOD: Michael; April 24, 2015

April 24 is a special day, because each year my Crossfit Gym schedules a Hero WOD called Michael:

3 rounds for time:

  • Run 800 meters
  • 50 Back Extensions
  • 50 Sit-ups

This is my favorite Hero WOD. It is the first one I ever attempted 3 years ago, and it has special meaning for me because the soldier for which it was named after, Michael McGreevy, is survived by his wife Laura McGreevy, who is a Crossfit Nassau member.

McGreevy’s life should be remembered for many reasons, but one of which is the fact that he was one of the fallen soldiers who died on the Chinook whose mission was to extract the SEALS of Operation Redwing, which is remembered by Marcus Luttrell’s book, “Lone Survivor,” and the movie by the same name.

I love this workout.

The only significant adaptation required for me is the back extensions, also called “good mornings.”


  • 800 meters
  • 50 medicine ball crunches (10lbs)
  • 50 push-ups

The first time I attempted this workout, my time was over 50 minutes. This time, I finished at 27:05.

This is a great workout for wheelchair-bound athletes, and an excellent test for measuring improvement.

April 20, 2015 WOD: Press/pull superset, rowing, push-ups, crawling

Today’s WOD was the following:

Strength: superset the following…
A1. Shoulder Press – Men 4-5 reps, Women 6-8 reps
A2. Pull Ups- 5 sets@2012; 2-3 (weighted if you can)

Conditioning: one round for time…
-50 cal row
-40 HR Pushups
-30m farmer’s walk – 2pd/h
-20 Deadlift – Heavy (70-80% 1RM based on experience)
-10 burpee + big barrier jump

Phase 1

Shoulder press requires no modification. You can do this either with a barbell or with dumbbells/kettlebell.  The goal in this today’s workout was lighter weight, fast explosiveness on the way up, and 2 second decline during the negative portion on the way down. I worked to a weight of 95 lbs for these sets.

Pull-ups do not require modification as long as you have access to a reachable bar or rings. The goal in today’s was to make it difficult by using slow, deliberate motions, and adding weight if possible. I personally opted to use rings with a strict false grip (which you can see in the logo) because I am always trying to strengthen my false grip and explosive power in order to contribute to muscle-ups.

Phase 2

Instead of making this a one round for time, we adjusted it so that it was an AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) within 12 minutes.


  1. 50 cal row to 20 cal row
  2. 40 hand release push-ups to 30 hand release push-ups
  3. Deadlift eliminated
  4. burpee + barrier jump to crawl + barrier climb

The last one, the crawl + barrier climb, is a lot more difficult than you might imagine, especially if you are beyond pre-teen years. Actually moving your body when you’re carrying dead weight gets very fatiguing very quickly, and puts a lot of stress on the wrists and shoulders. Which makes it a great workout because it is one of the few things that elevates the heart rate and keeps it in the zone. We set up a mat about 10 yards long with a stacked mat in the middle. Getting from one end to the other is tough enough, but then having to actually climb up and over an elevated obstacle takes it over the top. Needless to say, this can be a pretty important life skill for wheelchair bound athletes in case they ever find themselves without one.

(It also helps to have a gym and coaches who remove all sense of personal embarrassment you might feel dragging yourself across the floor. In the beginning, I didn’t like the crawl because, well, I was crawling. But then my coach said, “I’m the coach, so you have to trust in what I’m asking you to do. And if anybody else in the gym has an issue with that, I’ll throw them out.”)

I completed a full 2 rounds within the 12 minutes.

Next level rope climbing

The idea of pull-ups and rope climbs is nothing new in Crossfit circles. While it poses a challenge for para-athletes, I argue that it is an especially valuable life skill for people to have. It is not difficult to imagine real life situations that would require a physically challenged person to have to use a rope or suspended climbing device in order to have to move out of harm’s way.

To learn this skill, the easiest method is to put a thick mat underneath the rope and practice going up and down in a deliberate, controlled fashion to get used to the muscles it requires to both hang onto a rope as well as pull the entire body up from a center mass grip position.

Once you get used to the grip and climbing, well, then there’s this guy:

The lesson as always – never be afraid to scale!

Amputees doing the Crossfit thing

I contend that Crossfit-style workouts can have a massive benefit for people with disabilities, for reasons including increased mobility, range of motion, increased circulation, and improved strength that translates to everyday activities. I am a paraplegic, but that only represents one small sub-section of para-athletes. A large number also include amputees, and this story in USA Today highlights their ability to participate in competitions at Crossfit EADO. The competitive spirit is clearly alive here.

April 17, 2015 WOD: pushing, pulling, dipping, pressing

Today’s workout was comprised of 2 phases, which focus on strength and strict movements.

  • Bench press, 5 rounds, 8 reps per round (max reps final round), superset with ring rows (8-12 reps)
  • NFT 5 rounds of…
    -7 Muscle Ups or Tough Variation (working on this as a skill)
    -7 Burpees with 1ft target

This is a good workout that requires minimal modification.

Phase 1

Floor press adaptation. I worked up to 155lbs, concluding with a max of 10 reps in round 5.

Ring rows – 10 reps per round, finishing with 12 on final round.

Phase 2

In the past I have used banded muscle-ups to get that kind of volume. This time around, I adapted with Russian dips, which is a good approximation for the muscle-up transition, which is often the most difficult part of the movement for both para-athletes as well as able-bodied athletes.  The lower you can get into the dip, the greater the approximation to the transition phase of the muscle-up. Seven per round for 5 rounds.

Instead of a burpee, the goal was to get some vertical pressing in. For this, I adapted with kettlebell presses, doing 7 per each arm for 5 rounds.

April 15, 2015 WOD: eat good food and drink

No workout today as it was time to celebrate  my wife’s birthday with a wine tasting and dinner at our favorite restaurant in NJ: Sophie’s Bistro.

Phase 1

Wine tasting from a local vintner distributor. Part of what makes tastings so much fun is not just sampling new vintages, but meeting the people who are with you. It was a great 30 minute aperitif to prepare us for dinner.

Phase 2

For our entrees, my wife selected brisket while I opted for filet minon wrapped in prosciutto. Surprisingly, even though my meal sounded awesome and WAS awesome, I preferred my wife’s dish. The brisket was the best I’ve ever tasted, and the fat on the meat was the most succulent I’ve ever tasted. It was so tender that you could spread it on a piece of bread (and in fact I did).

Phase 3

Drinks with the owner. One of the things we love about Sophie’s is that the owner will often be found walking amongst the patrons to say hello and catch up with the locals. The owner knows us from our repeated visits, and at the end of dinner brought forth a tequila that he himself had designed and wanted us to try. I’m not usually a fan of tequila by itself, but this liquor that he designed was an amazing flavor, and if I had to describe it, it would be the taste of a single malt scotch from the Scottish Highlands, but without the peatiness.

After the tequila, we had to finish up with our favorite after dinner cordial, the owner’s banana rum. It is better than any desert, goes down so smooth, and leaves you in your happy place.

The lesson of the day – good workouts are enhanced by eating good food, and good food makes you want to work out.


April 13, 2015 WOD: modifying an entire workout

Today’s WOD was comprised of 2 segments:

Dynamic Effort
A1. Box Squat 31X1; 5 x 2 (speed, speed, speed)
A2. Max Height Rebound Vertical Jump 3 reps; 5 sets

Conditioning: 3 rounds @ 90% effort
-1 min burpee broad jumps
-1 min db/kb thrusters – 25/15#
-1 min box jumps – 20/14″
rest 3 min actively and then repeat

This type of workout is always going to be problematic for para-athletes because nearly every single movement is prohibitive. Instead, focus on what the workout’s goal is.

Part 1

Replace box squat with shoulder press. In today’s workout, we first worked on explosiveness, and then moved to a max effort. For my own records, I finished with a max effort of 115 lbs for 2 reps for the shoulder press.

Part 2

Replace the three prescribed movements with 3 adaptable movements that allow lots of reps in short periods of time. The challenge for the wheelchair athlete however is that there is no rest time in between the 3 movements (only the 3 minutes of rest after the 3rd movement).

I replaced the 3 prescribed movements with these:

  1. Wall balls
  2. Elevated push-ups
  3. Medicine ball crunches

The workout was as much about getting from one movement to the next as quickly as possible as it was about the reps. This is also the kind of workout that might require some repetition in order to get the positioning of all of the equipment in the right place. For example, after you finish the wall balls, where do you drop the medicine ball so that when you get to the crunches, you can easily grab it? Where do you put the mat so that you can go straight from the chair to the mat and start push-ups? How do you position your body so that you can drop straight out of your chair into a natural position for the next movement?

I have found that thinking about these things before, during, and after the workout are beneficial because one of the big challenges for the para-athlete is to get the heart rate elevated and to stay elevated during the workout. If there is too much downtime in between sets, it becomes difficult to stay in that ideal zone.

April 8, 2015 WOD: presses, chin-ups, crunches, sprints

Today’s WOD was comprised of 3 segments:

Assistance 1
A1. Press Complex
3 Press → 2 Push Press → 1 Push Jerk
work up to heavy in 6 sets
A2. Strict Chin Ups

Assistance 2
For Quality: 5 Rounds of…
20” – Tuck Sit or L-Sit
10 – Sit up to straddle
10 – Reverse Hypers

Every Minute on the minute complete the following:
30m Run – 30 Meter Line
Increase one 30m run every minute.

Phase 1:

My conversion for this WOD is as follows:

A1. Press Complex = shoulder press
Instead of the 3-2-1 complex, I worked up to my 3 rep maximum, which on this day was 105lbs on the barbell. Big thanks to my new friend Emma for spotting me. The shoulder press from a wheelchair can be a nervous experience, especially if your chair does not have anti-tipper  bars to prevent flipping over. It is critical to get the press as vertical as possible with the shoulders back and head forward, as this video shows:

If the trunk and abdominal region lacks muscle control (as does mine), staying vertical is a difficult challenge, as the tendency is to lean backward during the press, which turns it into something closer to an incline bench press instead of a shoulder press. The chair backing may need to be bolstered or even add a strap across the torso to keep upright without slouching.

A2. Strict Chin Ups – no conversion

Completed each set unbroken

Phase 2:

L-Sit = medicine ball crunches (20lbs)

Reverse hypers = plank push-ups on parallettes

Phase 3:

Sprint = sprint

Using my everyday chair, I completed 5 rounds only. I tried to do round 6 but could not finish. I rested for round 7, and then did another round 5 in the final minute My everyday chair is not optimal for this kind of workout. Next time I will use my sport chair, which allows for faster acceleration and tighter turns.

April 6, 2015 WOD: floor press, rows, crunches, wall balls

Today’s WOD was comprised of strength training and speed training.

Phase 1: Floor press

Since I am a paraplegic, I lack muscle control of my lower extremities below the pectoral line. As a result, the bench press represents a unique challenge. The pressing part isn’t the problem; but rather, the balance and stabilization that is generated through the legs. Without this stabilization, balancing a heavy weight and being able to exert maximum exertion becomes a greater challenge.

The two solutions I apply are:

  1. Use lower weights and higher reps
  2. Do the movement resting on a mat on the floor

Today I did the press off of the floor. While range of motion is limited, it still provides good strength training for the muscles I am targeting. I focused today on higher reps with lower weight. I found my max weight at 165lbs for 6 reps, and then dropped down to 145lbs and focused on getting 8-10 reps per set.

Phase 2

RX workout as prescribed: Complete as many rounds as possible in 6 mins of: 50 Row (calories)s 40 Sit Ups 30 Wall Balls, 20/14 lbs, 10/9 ft


  1. 50% of Row (25 calories)
  2. 40 medicine ball crunches (10lbs)
  3. 30 wall balls (10lbs, 7 foot toss)

I was not able to finish the entire round in 6 minutes, primarily because the time required to transition from chair to floor and back up again cost me about 45 seconds. I ended up with only 10 wall balls (I finished the set after time expired).

Conversion: I cannot do a full sit-up because I lack the abdominal muscle control, so to approximate the necessary work load I lay on my back and hold a 10lb medicine ball in outstretched arms over my head. One rep is a movement from behind my head down to touching my hips with the ball.

Crossfit Open 2015: Adapting WOD 15.5 for wheelchair athlete

The workout for 2015’s Crossfit Open 15.5 presents some obstacles, but is not too difficult to adjust for someone who is wheelchair bound.


27-21-15-9 reps for time of:

  1. Row (calories)
  2. Thrusters

Men use 95 lb.
Women use 65 lb.

Adjustment for wheelchair user:

  1. Some rowing machines allow you to detach the seat, leaving only the front end with the fan, display, foot plates, and the handle. If you prop this against several boxes, it can be anchored to prevent it from moving. Brace the front of the chair against a box so that you can reach the handle.The other outstanding issue is that, without the use of leg power, the calorie number may be too high to match the workout with others. Consider cutting it into 3rds to match the rowing times. I.e. change the reps to 18-14-10-6, or 9-7-5-3.
  2. For thrusters, a shoulder press is an easy substitute. It may be necessary to scale the weight, since without the power coming from legs/hips, accumulating this amount of volume for the RX weight will be difficult.

For my own workout, I applied a 9-7-5-3 row with 27-21-15-9 shoulder press at 65 lbs. My final time for this workout was 8:49.

While I was happy with the speed, to me, by scaling the row so drastically, I felt like it was more of a speed workout than an endurance workout, so if I were to do it again, I would likely adjust the row up to 18-14-10-6 calories per round, and keep the shoulder press the same.