Recovery Strategies for CrossFit Open 16.4


Earlier today we shared the Heroic Guide to 16.4. Now that you've hammered yourself right by giving that workout 100%, it's time to kick start the recovery process.

Tightness in the low back, shoulders, quads and a “jammed up” neck are common complaints we are having from our athletes, so we're going to focus our recovery session around those areas.

Take out your lacrosse ball and a barbell and let's get to loosening up those stuff joints so you can give 16.4 another go.

Recovery Starts With a Proper Cool Down

First and foremost, at the end of the workout, DON’T STOP MOVING.

This is one of the biggest mistakes we see from most CrossFit athletes.

They are often diligent in their warm-up and preparation for the workout, but as soon as the workout ends, they are exhausted and sprawled out on the floor.

Your preparation for your next workout starts as soon as the final second ticks off the clock.

Take a short walk around and then jump on the rower or the bike for a very slow 5 minute cool down to allow the body to bring the heart rate, temperature and blood pressure down gradually in conjunction with allowing the muscular pump system to return blood and flush toxins from the limbs.

Low Back

Tightness of the low back has been the most common complaint post 16.4, likely due to the beating you just put your posterior chain through.

It is important to differentiate symptoms as this will dictate direction to stretch and mobilize.

If any neural symptoms are present, for example numbness/tingling/burning down the leg, I would suggest the prone press-up exercise (shown below). Make sure to use arms to press-up and not engage the back muscles. Hold for 2-3 seconds at the top and return to start position.

If no neural symptoms are present, the prone press-up is still a great exercise, but I would also include lying on your back and bringing both knees to your chest as well as the “Bretzel 2” stretch.

The self mobilization using a LAX ball shown in the 16.3 recovery post is also a great option.


Hamstring tightness can also contribute to low back tightness and impair upcoming performance.

Place a barbell on two plyoboxes or jerk blocks and sit on the collar at hamstring insertion. Maintaining an upright posture, slowly extend one leg all the way out straight. You should feel tension at the location of barbell collar.

If this motion increases pain in your low back, try pointing your toe away as you extend your leg. If low back pain continues, discontinue this exercise.


Lets be honest; as much as we try to control the lowering during HSPU, some of our landings are a little hard and can leave us with neck pain and headaches.

Use a LAX ball peanut and place at CT junction (where neck meets upper back). Slowly tuck your chin and imagine elongating your neck to flatten back of neck toward the floor. Hold 5 seconds and repeat.


Utilizing a LAX ball into your infraspinatus muscle (back of shoulder) is a great way to decrease not only pain in the back of the shoulder, but also if you are having any pain in the deltoid region (common referral pattern for infraspinatus).

Lie on LAX ball on floor until a tender spot is found, then perform shoulder external and internal rotation. After mobilizing the back of the shoulder, performing a couple slow eccentric exercises can be beneficial for recovery and to increase blood flow to tendons in the area.

We have selected an eccentric 90/90 exercise and the WY Negative from Crossover Symmetry Activation and Iron Scap programs respectively.


Couch stretch – Aim for 2:00 per leg to really open up your quads. Click here to learn more about the couch stretch.

Foam roll the quads – perform this with purpose; make sure you get inside, front and outside of your quads. Similar to the other self mobilizations, when you find a spot that is tender, stay on it and bend and straighten knee 5x before moving on to next tender spot.

Active Recovery

As always, a day of light active recovery is essential to recovery for athletes of all levels.

Take the time to go for a walk, run, swim, row or bike. This should be a purposeful time of movement focusing on raising your heart rate to a moderate level; you should still be able to sing a song without being out of breath.

Take this time to focus in on how your body feels and mentally preparing for what is to come.

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About The Author

Justin is the owner of Cascade Sports Injury Prevention & Physical Therapy and has managed approximately 10,000 CrossFit patient visits in the past 4 years, including 9 CrossFit Games athletes, 16 CrossFit Regional athletes and 6 American Open Olympic Weightlifters; including one American Record holder.