January 12, 2012
22nd in the Open, Going to the Games: Spencer Hendel
By Zach Miller


Spencer Hendel had mixed emotions when the Regionalworkouts were announced. Standing at 6’2’’ and 205 pounds, he is known for his strength in the Olympic and power lifts. The heavy deadlifts, thrusters, and snatches were well within his comfort zone. But the Regional workouts also feature a significant bodyweight component. With 30 handstand push-ups in Workout 1 and 100 pull-ups in Workout 4, he knew it was going to be a fight for one of the top three spots.  

“I had done the handstand WOD before the regional and it took me like 14 minutes,” Spencer says. Competing alongside the likes of A.J. Moore and Ben Smith, two athletes who are very efficient in moving their own bodyweight, Spencer knew he was going to have to move faster. And he did. At the Mid Atlantic Regional, Spencer was able to turn in a 10:48 performance. That’s an impressive time for any athlete, especially one of his stature.

Spencer began the climb up from 18th with Workout 2, putting up a 245-pound thruster. From there, he continued to dominate. One of his most notable performances was in Workout 4, finishing the workout in 17:29, the 2nd fastest time of the day.  

Going into the final workout, Spencer and A.J. were tied for 3rd place. “I knew it was going to be a fight from the beginning of the weekend, so I was already in that mentality,” he says. “I was confident that I could lay everything I had left in me on the line, but I didn’t know if it was going to be enough.” It was. His 9:42 performance was good enough to land him in 2nd place for the workout and 3rd place overall, securing his spot to the Games.

Now that he’s qualified, Spencer says he is seeing a gymnastics coach on the weekends and putting extra emphasis on the bodyweight component of his training. But he’s not giving up his primary coach who helped him get this far. That coach happens to be his father, Andy Hendel, owner and head coach at CrossFit Charlotte.  

“My dad is my biggest inspiration and my hero. I look at all he has done and all that he has accomplished and I want that for myself,” Spencer says. It is easy to imagine how the father-son relationship might become complicated when you throw the coach-athlete dynamic into the mix. Spencer admits it gets frustrating at times. “In the end, I know he only wants the best.”

Spencer remains confident going into the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games that he is a legitimate contender for the podium, but knows that athletes like Dan Bailey and Rich Froning Jr. will be vying for the same spots. “Dan and Rich are both freaks,” Spencer says. “Its almost as if they don’t have a stop button and they don’t feel pain.” 

Spencer dismisses the idea there is one ideal body type for CrossFit. While size can be a factor in certain exercises, he says there is always an exception to the rule. “I have to use my build to my advantage. If you look at Moe Kelsey … the dude is taller than me and he is amazing.”  

Looking beyond the Games, Spencer has his sights set on other competitions. “After the Games, I look forward to the USAW CrossFit Olympic competition again,” he says. He believes he can top his 2nd place finish in the 105kg division, but admits that training in his campus facility offers its challenges. He says he does not get a chance to max out as often as he would like. Despite this, Spencer threw down a 265-pound snatch under the coaching of Mike Burgener. And it sounds like he’s dangerously close to a 275-pound snatch.

Combine his monster lifts with some refined gymnastic skills and running ability, and Spencer Hendel will be a name to watch out for on top of the Leaderboard at the Games.