ParaWOD 16.2: The struggle is real


Over the last few years, I have avidly watched the CrossFit Games with my wife. I think because you’re literally watching the best of the best during the final competition, it is easy to miss the level of ‘elite’ that is on constant display. It is only until you try it for yourself where you begin to see the chasm between your own abilities and those athletes who are vying to contend for the championship. For example, you watch a guy like Dan Bailey roll through 16.2 and it gives you a radically superficial belief in yourself that, “Hey, I think getting into round 5 is a realistic goal for me.”

And then you start the workout.

The CrossFit Open is perhaps the only thing I’ve encountered in life that is both empowering and humbling at the same time, and 16.2 was no different.

For your recollection, the official 16.2 workout is thus:

  1. 25 toes-to-bars
  2. 50 double-unders
  3. 15 squat cleans, 135 / 85 lb

Time cap: 4 minutes.

If you finish that round, you get another 4 minutes to do the same number of T2B and DU’s, then your squat clean weight goes up while the reps go down.

The Rx adaptation by WheelWOD is thus:

  1. 15 (Male) / 7 (Female) Hanging Chair raises
  2. 50 (2-4-1) Battle ropes = 100 singles
  3. 12 Barbell Cleans from Floor, 55lbs (Male) /35lbs (Female)

If completed before 4 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:

  1. 15 (Male) / 7 (Female) Hanging Chair raises
  2. 50 (2-4-1) Battle ropes = 100 singles
  3. 10 Barbell Cleans from Floor, 65lbs (Male) /40lbs (Female)

If completed before 8 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:

  1. 15 (Male) / 7 (Female) Hanging Chair raises
  2. 50 (2-4-1) Battle ropes = 100 singles
  3. 8 Barbell Cleans from Floor, 75lbs (Male) /45lbs (Female)

And the weight keeps going up while the reps go down, all the way up to 20 minutes.

As I watched the WheelWOD demo, two things occurred to me.

  1. I’ve never done two of those movements (hanging chair raise, barbell cleans from floor);
  2. I can totally get into the 3rd round of this.

Why my confidence was so high, I have no idea. The hanging chair raise requires a group of muscles that I simply don’t have – abdominal and hip control. Furthermore, the barbell clean started at the weight I usually finish at – 55 lbs. Why I thought I could not only do 12 reps of that, but also include 2 more rounds afterward, well, chalk it up to the adrenaline and/or lack of sleep. Oddly enough, the one thing I didn’t worry about too much was the battle ropes.

Which brings us to the workout.

Let’s start with the positives. After practicing the movement one time, I discovered that I can actually do the hanging chair raise. Thanks to Impavidus Gym and their amazing gymnastics coach Tracey Kloes, over the past few weeks I’ve acquired much greater shoulder and torso movement, which allowed me to create a kipping motion that enabled me to do this movement.


My ability to do this movement is a 100% victory for this workout. As a paraplegic with somewhere around a T5 or T6 injury, I shouldn’t be able to do this. Yet with the focus on gymnastic movement and shoulder mobility, this turned into the easiest movement for me during the workout. Things were looking up.

Until the battle ropes. Oh my.

Perhaps it was my own hubris, but I wasn’t worried about those. It may be only because I had actually done them before, so I knew what was expected. Well, I was wrong on both counts, because I hadn’t done them to the degree that this workout requires, nor did I really understand what to expect. The battle ropes were my undoing.

Sometimes, you have to deal with your equipment limitations. Our gym has plenty of climbing ropes, but no actual ‘battle ropes.’ So I have no idea whether the gear I was using were appropriate for the movement or not. What I do know is, in order to meet the 20′ rope requirement, I had to tie two ropes together, and this made the movement incredibly difficult and fatiguing, as the knot in the rope added additional weight to the movement as well as affected the physics transfer of energy. The result was not only that too much time was taken, but I had little energy left for the clean movement.

As I mentioned, the starting weight of 55lbs is usually the weight I stop at during normal CrossFit classes. The reason why is that I have no muscle control over my lower back or any hip extension. The movement is purely a pull from my lap and the hope to get the barbell high enough to bring my elbows underneath.

With the energy and time I had left, I only got 4 reps on this final round.

Afterward, my coaches talked to me a bit about the purpose of the Open – for the vast majority of us, its purpose is to test us. How can we handle a workout going in cold? With no preparation? For new and different movements? How can it test us in the areas where we aren’t prepared? Where will we surprise ourselves?

With that in mind, as frustrating as the latter two movements were for me in 16.2, the first one is a revelation. Not only that, but all three movements will change my workouts going forward. The toe-to-bar will become the chair raise, double-unders will become battle ropes, and the clean will always start from the floor.

Much thanks to Impavidus Gym and Coaches Doug Naquin, Jason Kitchens, and the dashing Brad Bunde for all of their help.

On to 16.3!


6/8/15 ParaWOD: battle rope swingin’, dippin’, and benchin’ your face off

Monday offered up a full Crossfit experience:

Warm-up: at your own pace

  • Band pull-aparts
  • First rib shoulder smash – let’s spend some time here.

If you use a wheelchair, or even if you spend a lot of time at a desk at your job, chances are that your shoulders over time have developed a tightening in the neck area where we have our first rib. What is a first rib? It’s way up there in a place where you probably didn’t even know you had a rib. It also gets pinched over time, which prevents arm raising abduction from its full range of motion. So what we do to mobilize the first rib is to apply a Mobility WOD technique (bookmark that web site; it’s invaluable for self-treatment) and drive a weighted bar onto the first rib. Here is what it looks like:

Bad news – this hurts like the dickens, as it opens up the shoulder area. Good news – it works, and it works fast, which you can see as you test and re-test the motion. Try it with the taped up tennis ball for extra bounds of fun/pain.


A: Bench Press – Pause on the Chest(2s); 5×5


In the words of Coach Tyler, “Bench More!”

This time around, the focus is on a slower repetition and control. Get to a weight that is about 80% of your 3 rep max, or in other words something you won’t have difficulty getting 5 reps out of. Then, we’re going to use the negative motion to slow things down (count 2 seconds) and then pause for 2 seconds at the bottom. After the pause, explode upward and re-start. Five reps, five rounds. As you slow things down, you will really feel the movement engage a lot of muscles you don’t even think about during the bench press.

B1: Dips @ 31X1, 3×6-8
B2: Pull-ups @ 21X2, 3×5-6

We got this one as well. Alternate between a dip (Matador, parallettes) and strict pull-ups (bar, rings), using the pausing effect to prolong the agony.


3 movements, AMRAP for 10 minutes.

1) Time for some battle rope! It is like double-dutch for the para-athlete.


It doesn’t really matter which movement you do, so pick one. The reason why this movement is great for the para-athlete is that it forces us to really concentrate on our core strength and balance. Swing too hard, and we will topple right out of our chairs. Get the rhythm right, and your muscles will engage and counter-engage appropriately, improving overall balance.

2) 150 meter row

3) KB press, 7 reps per arm

Once you’re comfortable with handling the rope as well as the transitioning, this is a workout where you should be able to get at least 3 rounds complete.