CrossFit workouts have taken the world by storm, combining elements of HIIT, powerlifting and circuit training to create the ultimate strength and fitness program.
In this post we introduce 12 of the best CrossFit workouts suitable for beginners as well as more advanced CrossFitters.
We’ve also included explanations of 12 of the most popular WOD exercises used in CrossFit.
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Is CrossFit the best workout?
CrossFit can certainly lay claim to being one of the best workouts for all round functional strength, endurance and explosive power.
Where other workouts might focus on one aspect, like endurance, flexibility or brute strength, CrossFit combines everything to create one of the most complete and balanced training programs on Earth.
To find out more, read our post on the 10 benefits of CrossFit training for strength and fitness.
Are CrossFit workouts dangerous?
The short answer? Yes – CrossFit is dangerous. “It can kill you”, according to Greg Glassman, the founder.
But so can cycling, football, diving and tennis. Heck, even bending over to tie your shoelaces can get you injured if you’re not careful.
OK, CrossFit is somewhat more extreme than your average exercise program, involving heavy weights, challenging lifts and super intense cardio workouts.
But use a little common sense and go in with eyes open – if you don’t think it’s something that’s suitable for you, just don’t do it. And if in doubt always ask your doctor.
If you decide to go for it, always start slow and easy and make sure you warm up well before the workout.
What are the best CrossFit workouts?
The best CrossFit workout for you depends on your fitness level and your goals. Needless to say, not all workouts are suitable for everyone.
Some CrossFit workouts, like Cindy (featured below) are more suitable for beginners just starting out. Cindy involves only bodyweight exercises, and no barbells or advanced moves, so it’s a lot safer for newbies.
Others, like Linda or Nutts, are more savage tests of strength, endurance and technique. Not to be attempted until you’re ready.
What are CrossFit WOD exercises?
CrossFit exercises often utilize equipment such as barbells, pull up bars and gymnastic rings. Or sometimes just the weight of your own body.
Exercises focus on developing functional strength, explosive power, endurance and cardio fitness.
Below are 12 classic CrossFit WOD exercises which are often to be found in the most popular workouts.
#1 Pull Ups
Strict pull ups are a foundation movement for many other calisthenics and gymnastics exercises. Getting used to doing pull ups is an important step if you want to progress to other more difficult moves. Also, being purely a bodyweight exercise, there’s less chance of injuring yourself than with exercises done using heavy weights.
If you find pull ups too difficult, try using pull up assist bands to get yourself gradually used to the exercise.
Pull ups primarily target your lats and biceps, but you’ll also be engaging your core, deltoids and rhomboids throughout the exercise.
#2 Push Ups
Another fundamental bodyweight exercise which everyone should practice, push ups are a tried and true staple of CrossFit workouts. Being able to blast out 30 push ups in one go is a good indicator that you’re ready for some of the more challenging workouts
Push ups mainly target your pecs, triceps and shoulder muscles. Done properly, they also force you to engage your core to keep your body straight.
#3 Barbell Deadlift
The deadlift is a classic strength exercise which simply involves picking up a heavy barbell from the ground and then putting it down again. Deadlifts are a highly functional exercise because the movement is a useful one in everyday life.
Deadlifts target your glutes, hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, core, lower and upper back muscles. Because it involves so many large muscle groups, you’ll get exhausted quickly.
#4 Kettlebell Swing
A favorite of CrossFit workouts, kettlebell swings are a dynamic, full-body exercise that improves your cardio function as well as core strength. Like deadlifts, swings are a functional movement that will improve your everyday performance and protect you from injury.
Read our post on the benefits of kettlebell swings to find out more.
#5 Push Press
The CrossFit push press is taken from Olympic weightlifting and is designed to create explosive power and strength in your shoulders, arms and legs.
Push presses are similar to standard shoulder presses with the difference that you use your legs to drive the weight upwards at the beginning of the movement.
Thrusters are a front squat with an overhead shoulder press added on. As a compound movement requiring many large muscle groups in your legs and upper body, you’ll quickly get exhausted doing thrusters. For this reason, they’re a great test of endurance.
This exercise will target your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, core, back, shoulders and triceps.
#7 Squat Clean
The CrossFit squat clean is a deadlift followed by an explosive shrug, bringing the bar up to your shoulders in a front squat position. Then you stand up. Doing squat cleans with good form requires not only strength but also athleticism and explosive power.
This exercise will build muscles in almost your whole body while emphasizing fast, explosive power, especially in your arms, back and shoulders.
#8 Clean and Jerk
The clean and jerk completes the squat clean movement by bringing the barbell up over your head in the final movement. This is the classic Olympic powerlifting move.
Performing the clean and jerk requires not just strength but technique, balance and athleticism. Until you’ve mastered the technique, be sure to stick to lighter weights.
#9 Sumo Deadlift High Pull
Often overlooked in CrossFit workouts, the sumo deadlift high pull is one of the best ways to learn how to efficiently transfer power through your legs and hips into your upper body. A skill which is highly applicable to sports and other exercise routines.
This exercise will target the same muscles as deadlifts but with a greater emphasis on explosive shoulder and trap power.
#10 Box Jumps
Box jumps are a plyometric exercise which will improve the springy power in your legs. They target all the large muscle groups in your legs, especially the quadriceps. Using a higher box will make the exercise a lot more difficult.
#11 Wall Ball
The wall ball shot is a functional, full-body move that will increase the explosive power in your legs, arms, shoulders and core.
Use an appropriately weighted wall ball to avoid injuring yourself, and make sure it’s a padded ball instead of a hard medicine ball.
#12 Double Under
Double unders are a variation of jumping rope where the rope passes under your feet twice on every jump – hence they’re more difficult and require excellent technique.
It’s best to use a CrossFit jump rope, which is designed to allow the rope to rotate more quickly, making the exercise easier to learn.
Top 12 Most Popular CrossFit Workouts
Cindy is an ideal workout for CrossFit beginners because it involves only bodyweight exercises. The absence of heavy weights means there’s less chance of injuring yourself.
Cindy involves performing rounds of 5 pull ups, 10 push ups and 15 squats – as many times as possible within 20 minutes.
Benchmark number of rounds
- Beginner: 11
- Experienced: 20
- Elite: 28
Fran is a timed workout which is often used as a benchmark that demonstrates your progress in CrossFit. Having a super fast Fran time is akin to a powerlifter having a massive squat or bench press.
To perform Fran you do 21 thrusters, then 21 pull-ups. Follow this with 15 thrusters and 15 pull-ups. Finish off with 9 thrusters and 9 pull-ups. The workout is timed so do this as fast as you possibly can.
- Beginner: 08:00
- Experienced: 05:30
- Elite: 03:00
Eva is one of the longest CrossFit workouts, involving 4km of running and a crazy amount of kettlebell swings (using 50-70LB bells) and pull ups. The workout is timed.
First there’s an 800m run, followed by 30 kettlebell swings and finally 30 pull ups. You do 5 rounds of this in total.
- Beginner: 60:00
- Experienced: 45:00
- Elite: 30:00
Grace may sound like a simple workout, involving just one barbell exercise, but don’t be fooled. Clean and jerks are one of the most difficult strength movements you can do, requiring perfect form to avoid injury. Don’t attempt it unless you know what you’re doing, and be sure to warm up properly.
Grace is 30 reps of clean and jerks, timed. Standard weight for men 135LB and for women 95LB.
- Beginner: 6:45
- Experienced: 3:30
- Elite: 2:10
Like Fran, Kelly is a benchmark WOD that can be used to gauge your CrossFit progress over time. It’s a real test of endurance as well as explosive strength.
Kelly is a 400m run, 30 box jumps (20-24″ plyo box), 30 wall balls (14-20LB wall ball) – 5 rounds for time.
- Beginner: 35:00
- Experienced: 25:00
- Elite: 18:00
Helen is another good benchmark workout, but because there are only 3 rounds, the emphasis testing your sprinting and power than endurance.
3 rounds for time of: 400m sprint, 21 kettlebell swings and 12 pull ups.
- Beginner: 17:00
- Experienced: 12:00
- Elite: 08:00
#7 Fight Gone Bad
Brutal by name, brutal by nature, Fight Gone Bad is 3 rounds of high-intensity exercises with only 1 minute rest between rounds. Designed to mimic the intensity of an MMA fight, this workout may leave you out for the count.
Fight Gone Bad is 3 rounds (1 minute per exercise) of: wall ball (14-20LB), sumo deadlift high pull (55-75LB bar), box jump (20″ box), push press (55-75LB), rowing.
This workout is scored by the total number of reps completed of all the exercises in all 3 rounds.
- Beginner: 200
- Experienced: 350
- Elite: 500
Diane works the upper and lower body alternately, while also requiring excellent core strength.
For this workout you do 21 reps of deadlifts followed by 21 reps of handstand push ups. For the next round, reduce that to 15 reps of each, and the final round is 9 reps of each. The standard men’s weight for the deadlift is 225LB and for women it’s 155LB.
- Beginner: 12:00
- Experienced: 8:00
- Elite: 4:00
Angie is another all bodyweight workout but it packs a lot in so, unlike Cindy, it might not be ideal for beginners.
To do this workout you must complete 100 pull ups, 100 push ups, 100 sit ups and 100 squats. The workout is timed so you can see how you measure up against others (if you finish).
- Beginner: 28:00
- Experienced: 20:00
- Elite: 14:00
This workout will blast your shoulders, arms and grip. You might need to wear CrossFit grips to save your hands from getting shredded.
Badger involves 3 rounds (timed) of: 30 squat cleans, 30 pull ups and an 800m run.
- Beginner: 45:00
- Experienced: 30:00
- Elite: 18:00
Nutts is a savage test of your whole-body fitness, hitting you with a mix of bodyweight exercises, barbell deadlifts, plyometrics as well as using a jump rope.
The workout is timed and to complete it you must perform: 10 handstand push ups, 15 deadlifts (175-250LB), 25 box jumps (24-30″), 50 pull ups, 100 wall balls and 200 double unders.
- Beginner: 40:00
- Experienced: 25:00
- Elite: 16:00
Known as the “3 bars of death”, Linda is a killer strength and endurance workout. Use 3 different barbells so you don’t need to switch the weights between sets.
For this workout you do rounds of deadlift (1.5x your bodyweight), bench press (1x bodyweight) and cleans (0.75x bodyweight). The first round is 10 reps for each exercise, and then you reduce this by 1 rep for each subsequent round. So it’s 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1.
- Beginner: 30:00
- Experienced: 20:00
- Elite: 13:00
These are the top 12 most popular CrossFit workouts – try them out and let us know your best score.
Check out these review guides to the best CrossFit workout equipment:
- Pull Up Stands
- Jump Ropes
- Resistance Bands
- Knee Sleeves
- Hand Grips
- Gymnastic Rings
- Weight Vests
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