CrossFit has a reputation for tough-as-nails workouts known as WODs (workout of the day). If you ever experienced a CrossFit WOD in one of their facilities (known as boxes), you know that it definitely lives up to its tough reputation. If you have never done a CrossFit WOD or were too intimidated to try one, have no fear. You can do your own CrossFit workout with a few modifications depending on your fitness level.

  • Start at the CrossFit website or any CrossFit gym website – find a complete listing of their WODs. You can select one that you want to do based on what equipment you have or what type of workout you want to do. Many are a combination of strength and cardio.
  • CrossFit workouts aren’t long. The goal is to do as many rounds as possible (AMRAP as it is referred to) in the set amount of time, from thirty minutes to only eight minutes. Other WODs have you performing a series of exercises as a circuit for a set number of rounds rather than for time. It is all about the intensity so quality over quantity is definitely part of the CrossFit mantra.
  • The basis of any WOD is not for you to do the workout at lightning speed—at least not off the bat. The weights need to be so challenging that you may need to take a break occasionally.
  • Many of the WODs rely solely on bodyweight exercises. One of their infamous workouts, named Chelsea, is a timed workout of thirty minutes that utilizes three bodyweight exercises—pull-ups, push-ups and squats. In this workout, you do 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups and 15 squats which are performed every minute on the minute (EMOM) for thirty minutes straight. It may sound easy, but after five minutes, you will realize it is anything but.

If you can’t do pull-ups there are modifications you can make like doing assisted pull-ups, inverted bodyweight rows or even a standing row with weights or a barbell. Basically you want to do an exercise that works the same muscle group from the one you are modifying.
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Some exercises are going to be difficult to do like rope climbs and ring dips to name a few. Most gyms do not have the required equipment for these. There are also many exercises that are going to be very difficult to perform like double unders (jumping rope with two revolutions of the rope per jump rather than one) and handstand push-ups. But you can substitute these for other exercises. You can do regular jump roping but double the amount of the double unders that is listed. So instead of 50 double unders you would do 100 regular jumps. A handstand push-up can be substituted for a regular push-up or you can do a modified handstand push-up by placing your feet on a bench, your body in an inverted V with the top of your head facing the floor and then doing a push-up. Of course, you can also try the exercises and start building a good foundation for completing more of them as you continue your CrossFit workouts.

One word of caution—many of the strength exercises like kettlebell swings, deadlifts, presses, jerks and snatches require precise form. These are considered Olympic-style lifts and are not easy. And if you are challenging yourself by using a heavy weight, performing these moves correctly is of the utmost importance. Try doing them first with a very light weight to get the proper form. Better yet, ask a trainer to assist you so that you know you are performing the exercises correctly. Hey, it is not called a deadlift for nothing and the last thing you want to do is hurt yourself trying to keep up with a workout that is already very difficult. If you go to the CrossFit website, they have a complete library of all of their exercises with accompanying videos of how they are done.
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These workouts will no doubt give you a challenge like no other. Even if you are not doing ninety-five pound thrusters or jumping onto thirty-inch boxes, you will still get a lot out of the workout even with modifications and substitutions. Just be sure to always choose weights that are challenging and really push yourself through the workout. They are not easy, but they are very efficient and highly effective in shocking your body and muscles to work in unfamiliar ground. So take a look and see if you can take on Barbara, Chelsea or any of the other WODs that will take your fitness to a whole new level.