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16.4: Grinding Through This Chipper

The 16.4 workout was as mentally taxing as it was physically for most of the athletes. See how our grinder did.


I work a variety of jobs in addition to writing for Besides running my own website, I work part time for the CrossFit Games as a member of their media team. I do an array of jobs for them, including helping with athlete analysis for events like the Open Announcements, Regionals and the Games. Because of this, I work remotely during the Open and participate in live discussions with some of the other members of my team.

The point of this intro is to explain that my immediate reaction when hearing the announcement of the movements and reps for 16.4 was exactly one word: NOPE! Not, “nope,” as in I wasn’t going to do them, just “nope” as in this was going to be an incredibly bad workout for me.

The men’s breakdown for 16.4 is this: 13-minute, as many reps/rounds as possible (aka AMRAP) of: 55 deadlifts at 225 pounds, 55 wall balls with a 20-pound ball to a 10-foot target, 55-calorie row and 55 handstand push-ups.

I started CrossFit training in 2010 with a whole host of back problems, especially in my lower back. Because of that, I had been getting chiropractic treatment for years before starting. As a result, I had limited my deadlifting exposure for the first few years of CrossFit because I just was never confident that my back could take the strain.

I only have a 320-pound deadlift max, so doing 55 reps at 225 pounds was going to be right at 70 percent of my one-rep max. So while most people were worried about how their heels were going to get up over the line on their handstand push-ups, I was concerned about how long it was going to take me to get through the 55 initial reps, if my back would hold out at all.

Determined to do all five Open workouts at the Rx level, my game plan for this one was all sets of fives. Just pick it up and drop the deadlift for singles for five reps, then a quick break and five more like that until I finished. Wall balls would be sets of five unbroken, followed by a quick break, then repeat. I had watched the morning groups go that day, so I had witnessed a couple of people who were of similar strength and ability try sets of 10s and have both their form slip and heart rates get too elevated while they finished out part one.

As the workout got underway, the five singles worked pretty well. But, as anticipated, that bar got heavy really quickly. Fives became threes, threes became singles, until after what seemed like hours of deadlifting, my judge said the magic word: 55! I have no idea what the time was or how long that took me, but I was done and quite sure I was NEVER going to do that again. (I hope!) The wall balls weren’t as bad as I thought, and I did sets of five until I got to 40, at which point I pushed myself to rep out an eight and a seven to finish.

With about 4:30 left on the clock, I had what I considered to be “enough time” to finish the row if I got moving. So I grabbed the handle and started to pull — big pull out with legs, arms, shoulders and back and slow relaxed recovery each time. I watched the clock and didn’t pay attention to the monitor until I hit the 11:00 mark because I didn’t want to become disheartened if I had barely rowed any calories and had just two minutes left. Luckily, with only a 120 seconds remaining, I was more than halfway done. I trudged on. My arms and legs were burning, my back tight, and I could already feel the “Fran cough” coming on. With 40 seconds left, I was just past 40 calories rowed, so I put everything I had into the row and finished at 12:51, and I took my feet out of the straps and placed them to the ground in a sweaty pile.

My goal was to finish the row and maybe try a handstand push-up, but at that point, I couldn’t have walked across the floor or kicked up into one, so I was fine with the result and happy that it was over.

Now, a couple days later, I’m sore but uninjured. Would I have normally picked a 225-pound deadlift if it had appeared in one of our WODs? I highly doubt it. But like so many other things, the Open once again has pushed me to do something I wouldn’t normally do.

And when I stop and think about it, that’s probably the purpose for an old grinder like me.

How did 16.4 go for you? Did you hit your goal? Did the high volume scare you off? Let us know in the comments.

Stay on the grind.