A typical CrossFit workout changes daily but at its core, it has four elements: a warm up, strength work, workout of the day (WOD), and cool down. Each workout is scalable so everyone can join in, despite their fitness level. There are also “Hero” and “Benchmark WODs” that are staples of CrossFit.
If you’re looking to start your first Crossfit class, program your own Crossfit workout, or just want more details on the philosophy behind a typical crossfit workout and how it’s designed, then this article will help you!
But first, because the term Crossfit is widely used these days and could mean different things, let’s just quickly define what it is (and isn’t).
Crossfit Workouts: An Overview
It may sound intimidating, and seeing videos of CrossFit may make you think that you can’t do it, or that you’ll try it when you become fitter or stronger, but CrossFit workouts are accessible to everyone of any fitness level.
This is because each workout can be modified to suit your ability, either by scaling the exercise or adjusting the range of motion or load.
As well, most Crossfit workouts change every day, so you’ll never do the same one twice. Sure, the same exercises might be involved, but how those exercises are paired together will vary, in addition to the load, reps, tempo, and exercise duration.
Typical Workout Structure For Crossfit
While CrossFit sessions change daily, for the most part, it does follow the same or similar structure day-to-day.
So while you may not know exactly what to expect specifically, you can go into each class with an idea of what you’re the class structure and what you’re going to have to do.
Here, we’ll run you through the basic structure of a typical CrossFit workout:
- Strength Work
- Workout Of The Day (WOD)
- Cool Down
1. Warm up
As with every workout, you need to warm up before you workout. The specific CrossFit warm up will change depending on the main component of the session. However, as a rule of thumb, it’ll involve:
- Light cardio such as 2 min on the Ski erg, assault bike or rowing machine
- Mobility work is included so that you can increase your range of motion (ROM) in your session. For example, opening your hip flexors and focusing on your ankle mobility for your squats.
- Muscle activation is a pivotal part. This will warm your muscles and prime them for an intense session.
The warm up can take anywhere from 5-15 minutes to complete.
A component of CrossFit is strength training. There are certain days where your session will be primarily strength-based and specific drills to assist you to build in this area.
The main lifts are: back squats, front squats, bench, deadlift, snatch and clean and jerk. So expect to do some form of those movements within a typical crossfit workout.
Beginners will perform sets and reps of these movements to practice their technique and form.
Intermediate and advanced lifters will increase the intensity of these movements to push their strength levels in the lower rep ranges (1-5 reps).
Related Article: 5 Olympic Weightlifting Tips Every Beginner Should Know
WOD, or Workout of the Day, is the main area of CrossFit.
This is usually a high-intensity circuit that combines various exercises to challenge some form of your fitness, whether that’s conditioning, balance, agility, endurance, anaerobic power, etc.
We’ll go over some popular WODs below, but you can expect this part of the workout to be anywhere from 20-30 minutes. However, it can sometimes be longer if the strength portion is shorter.
If you’re lookin for high-intensity circuits using Fitbod, you can select the HIIT function within the app and we’ll build you a workout that utilizes similar principles. You can get 3 free workouts to start.
CrossFit cool down serves the same function as a normal cool down—to return your heart rate to its normal resting rate and it typically takes around 5-minutes on average.
During this time, your coach will take you through some stretches and breathing drills. This is where the more traditional, static stretches play a part.
Not to mention, foam rolling is also a good idea to loosen tight muscles and speed up recovery, in time for your next class.
Putting It All Together: Sample CrossFit Workout
This is an example of a typical CrossFit workout that you may find at your gym.
As we said, each workout will differ greatly depending on the areas that your coach wants to focus on. Some might have a strength component that focuses solely on the big 3 powerlifting lifts, while others may be centered on Olympic weightlifting movements only.
The WOD may be a 30-minute endurance-based one or it could have a shorter, more intense nature. It really will depend but as a starting point, here is an example of what you can expect:
- 2 min on the rowing machine
- 10 Banded crab walk (each side)
- 10 glute bridges
- Work up to your 3RM back squat (heaviest weight you can do for 3 repetitions)
- Important to use good form under heavier weights and not sacrifice technique
20min AMRAP (As Many Reps or Rounds As Possible):
- 15 wall balls
- 10 box jumps
- 10 toes to bar
- 50 double unders or 100 singles
- Stretch and foam roll
How Long is a Typical CrossFit Workout?
A typical CrossFit workout is 1 hour. It’s split up into 4 parts including the warm up (5-10 minutes), strength component (15 minutes), WOD (20-30 minutes) and cool down (5 minutes).
Things You Need To Know Before Your First CrossFit Class
They may be called different things but before your first CrossFit class, you will be encouraged to attend 2 or 3 foundational classes.
Due to the nature of some movements in CrossFit, it’s best to learn them with a coach so that you can perform them correctly and more confidently.
These movements can be split into 3 categories or classes:
- Powerlifting (squat, bench, deadlift)
- Olympic lifting (snatch, clean and jerk)
- Gymnastics (handstand, handstand push ups, kipping, just to name a few)
Related Article: How To Create A Powerlifting & Weightlifting Program
The other 9 fundamental movements of CrossFit that may be covered are:
- Air squat
- Front squat
- Overhead squat
- Shoulder press
- Push press
- Push jerk
- Sumo deadlift
- Sumo deadlift high pull
- Medicine-ball clean
Crossfit Terms To Know
There are certain acronyms used in a typical CrossFit workout that you should familiarise yourself with because you’ll be seeing it a lot.
|WOD||Workout of the Day||The CrossFit workout you’re going to be doing that session.|
|AMRAP||As Many Reps (or Rounds) As Possible||You’ll be given an exercise or a set of exercises and you need to do as many reps or rounds of it as you can within a certain time limit. There is no rep/round count to hit. It’s all up to you.|
|EMOM||Every Minute On the Minute||This refers to a timed session in which you have to complete a certain number of reps of an exercise within 60 seconds.|
|PR/PB||Personal Record/Personal Best||Your personal best for an exercise. It could refer to your heaviest lift or fastest time.|
|1RM||1 Rep Max||This is the heaviest amount of weight you can lift for one repetition.|
|RX||As prescribed/written||Doing the workout as prescribed. So that means no modifying or scaling the workout and doing it as it’s written by the coach.|
|Scaled||Modifying the workout by adjusting the weight or reps.|
|Unbroken||Completing a set number of repetitions of an exercise without stopping.|
|For time||If a workout is ‘for time’, it means that you need to complete it as fast as possible as it’ll be scored based on the time it takes you.|
|Box||A CrossFit gym|
In terms of gear, Crossfitters have specialized equipment and apparel for their workouts.
It’s common for Crossfitters to carry their own mobility tools, such as foam rollers and resistance bands.
Weightlifting belts are also commonplace in Crossfit, in addition to knee sleeves and wrist wraps. It’s not to say you need these pieces of equipment on day 1, but don’t be surprised if you see other Crossfitters sporting this gear when you show up for your first workout.
On top of the versatile styles of training, from running to lifting, the type of cross-training shoes you’re using also matter for supporting your performance. It’s usually the first piece of gear that a Crossfit coach will tell you to invest in.
What Are Hero WOD Workouts?
While your coach will prescribe different typical crossfit workouts for you, there are certain CrossFit workouts that you can do. These are Hero WODs, which are named after firefighters, police or military servicemen and women who have died in the line of duty, and were members of CrossFit.
They were created in their name as tribute. These WODs are designed to be tough and challenging and ones that you should give your all. There are many Hero WODs that you can do so here are some that you may or may not have heard about:
The Murph WOD was created after Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy who was killed in action on June 28th, 2005 in Afghanistan. Every Memorial Day weekend, CrossFitters complete this workout in honor of Lieutenant Murphy and the other military personnel who’ve fallen. This is
The Murph, which tests your bodyweight strength and cardiovascular endurance:
- 1 mile run
- 100 pull ups
- 200 push ups
- 300 squats
- 1 mile run
Most people partition the Murph, by completing the mile-runs at the beginning and end as stipulated by splitting up the pull ups, push ups and squats. For example, doing 20 rounds of 5 pull ups, 10 push ups and 15 squats, also known as ‘Cindy’.
If you want to make it even more challenging for you, then complete it as it’s written and wear a 20-pound weight vest on for males and a 14-pound weighted vest for females. CrossFit Murph is scored by the total amount of time it takes to complete the entire workout.
The DT WOD was named after U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Timothy P. Davis who was killed on 20 February 2009. This WOD is all about the barbell.
5 rounds for time:
12 deadlifts (155 lbs for men/105 lbs for women)
9 hang power cleans (155/105 lbs)
6 push jerks (155/105 lbs)
Try to complete these sets unbroken for an extra challenge.
Nate was designed in honor of Chief Petty Officer Nate Hardy who was killed in Iraq on 4 February 2008. This WOD consists of movements more advanced in CrossFit, however, it can be scaled back to suit your level.
2 muscle ups
4 handstand push ups
8 kettlebell swings (2/1.5 pood)
Scaled versions include:
6 pull ups, 6 ring dips
4 pike presses or 8 regular push ups
8 kettlebell swings (1.2/1 pood)
This is a workout that was created after seven CIA officers and one Jordanian officer were killed in Afghanistan on 30 December 2009.
Seven rounds for time:
- 7 HSPUs (handstand push ups)
- 7 thrusters (135/95 lbs)
- 7 knees to elbows
- 7 deadlifts (245/165 lbs)
- 7 burpees
- 7 kettlebell swings (2/1.5 pood)
- 7 pull ups
What Are Benchmark WODs?
Benchmark WODs are given female names because the CrossFit founder, Greg Glassman, emulated this from the US National Weather Service in which storms were named for women.
Here are some of the more popular benchmark WODs you may come across during CrossFit:
21-15-9 reps for time:
- Thrusters (95/65lbs)
- Pull ups
To scale this WOD, try lowering the weight of the thrusters or switching from a barbell to dumbbells. If you’re unable to do pull ups, then swap it out with ring rows instead.
- 30 clean and jerks (135/95 lbs)
In this workout, you can do a power or full clean as well as a push jerk or split jerk.
50-40-30-20-10 reps for time:
- Double unders
- Sit ups
This rep couplet should be completed as 50 double unders followed by 50 sit ups. Then, 40 double unders, then 40 sit ups and so forth. The total repetitions for both exercises is 300.
Angie consists of 4 bodyweight movements:
- 100 pull ups
- 100 push ups
- 100 sit ups
- 100 squats
Your score is the time it takes to complete this WOD. You need to complete the reps of each exercise before moving onto the next though you can partition it by breaking up the 100 reps into as many sets as needed. There are also many scalable options you can do for these movements such as:
Pull ups → banded pull ups, ring rows
Push ups → knee push ups, incline box push ups
If you want more workouts that you can do, that’ll test your strength and conditioning in an intense session, then check out the FitBod app. FitBod will customize a training plan to help you get your fitness goals.
A typical CrossFit workout involves a warm up and cool down, with strength work and a WOD in between. It always changes, so you don’t have to do the same workout twice, except for the Hero and Benchmark WODs that are a staple of the CrossFit community.
About The Author
As a health and fitness writer, Emily combines her two passions—powerlifting and writing. With a creative writing degree under her belt, she spends her mornings lifting weights, her nights putting pen to paper, and eating too many snacks in between.