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The best and worst CrossFit workouts

Updated: Jun 3

Group of people working out at gym

Hi. This is Nathan writing and today I want to talk about my favorite and least favorite CrossFit workouts. I am a fan of the CrossFit approach, though I do not follow CrossFit specific programming. For example, I do not complete the daily whiteboard WODs or follow a training program created by a CrossFit trainer. In that same vein, I do not follow programming from anyone else—I create my own. That said, I enjoy trying other training styles and some years ago I began adding CrossFit to my training regimen. Before I go further, in case you are not familiar with CrossFit, many of the "core" workouts are “named” workouts, with the "Girl" and "Hero" workouts a symbolic part of CrossFit. For example, "Murph" is a Hero workout named for a fallen military member, while Grace is a Girl workout that serves as a performance benchmark (I cannot tell you if the name originates from an actual person). All of the workouts I tried are Hero or Girl workouts. Here are my favorites and least favorites from the named workouts I tried. Keep in mind, I have not tried all the named workouts, my experience is not exhaustive, and my opinion will be limited by that. My favorite workouts (the best) The workouts I prefer the most are workouts the line up with my goals. For example, Murph is a conditioning workout that also has a strong running and calisthenics portion. Improved running and calisthenics ability are two broad goals (with a number of sub goals) making Murph a good fit for my program. At the same time, I like CrossFit workout Murph. I find it fun but challenging, which is ideal. Murph Murph consists of:

  • 1-mile run

  • 100 pull-ups

  • 200 push-ups

  • 300 body weight squats

  • 1-mile run

*If possible, male trainees are to wear a 20-pound vest.*

I completed the workout every week for about nine months. Before that duration, I had only completed the workout once with a time of 60+ minutes, and that was without the vest. During the nine months, I reached a 37:40 time without the vest and a 43:30 time with the vest, though I used a 24-pound vest, since my vests are adjustable in six-pounds increments. Diane Diane consists of: 21-15-9 Reps for Time

  • Deadlift (225/155 lb)

  • Handstand Push-Ups

For those of you not familiar with CrossFit programming and the classic 21, 15, 9 rep scheme, the approach means the trainee completes 21 deadlifts, then 21 handstand push-ups, then 15 of each, and then 9 of each. This means you have three rounds of each exercise, with descending reps as you progress through the rounds. Diane is a short but fun workout that pushes me. The first time I attempted this workout I could not complete it, mostly due to the handstand push-ups but also because I was not accustomed to completing that many deadlifts in such a short time, let alone when paired with another exercise. The funny thing is the total number of reps for the deadlift was definitely within my ability, as I am able to deadlift 225 pounds for 50+ consecutive reps. These two exercises paired together push the heart rate, but for me the bigger issue was muscle fatigue. At my best I completed this workout in about six minutes. For me that is a decent time, but when compared to some people, that time is awful. Dan Bailey, a CrossFit games athlete, completed this workout in 1:35 and I have seen a number of people complete the workout in sub two minutes. *Note: I complete strict handstand pushups, not kipping. Even so, if I did use a kip, it likely would not improve my time beyond five minutes.* Grace Grace consists of:

  • 30 clean and jerks for time

What that means is you complete 30 clean and jerks and your “score” is the time it took you to complete. Males use 135 pounds so that is what I used. While some people can complete this workout in less than a minute (this is rare), it takes me between 3- to 4-minute range (I cannot remember the exact time right now). I like this workout due to the way it pushes me, but it is tough for me. My biggest issue is I am not a touch-and-go Olympic lifter, which is the best approach for this kind of workout. I am more accustomed to the standard set-up for Olympic lifts, in which the set-up is calculated and not rushed. Also, I do not complete many power clean and jerks, which is best way to execute the clean and jerk for this workout. If I were to use power more often and become more comfortable with touch and go reps, I think I could get my time in the 2- to 3-minute range. Honorable mentions Isabel, Fran, Omar My least favorite (the worst) There is nothing wrong with the following workouts. Each serves a purpose. I am not talking trash. Instead, I just do not like the following workouts. Linda 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 Reps, For Time

  • Deadlift (1.5 bodyweight)

  • Bench Press (bodyweight)

  • Clean (3/4 bodyweight)

This layout means you begin with 10 reps of each exercise, then 9, then 8, etc. You would complete 10 deadlifts, then 10 bench presses, and then 10 cleans (these should be squat cleans, not power cleans). The weight is determined by your body weight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, you would use 300 pounds for the deadlift portion. You would complete 10 deadlifts, then 10 bench presses, and then 10 cleans (these should be squat cleans, not power cleans). The workout is a good workout, in that it is tough, but effective if approached correctly. The reason I do not like it is I do not see the purpose of it. In my opinion, it is not a good conditioning workout and is not a good approach for building strength. That said, many people enjoy this workout. At my best I completed it in 20-25 minutes, I believe. I cannot remember my exact time. DT Five rounds for time of:

  • 155-pound Deadlift, 12 reps

  • 155-pound Hang power clean, 9 reps

  • 155-pound Push jerk, 6 reps

This is an awesome workout, in that it is straightforward, works the full body, has a strength benefit, and has a conditioning benefit. I have completed it many times, but do not care for it as an ongoing part of my training program. My issue with DT is it does not have the best direct benefit to my training goals. That said, as I write, I find myself wanting to complete it again. Angie For time:

  • 100 pull-ups

  • 100 push-ups

  • 100 sit-ups

  • 100 squats

There is nothing particularly wrong with the workout, with the exception of sit-ups. Though long part of military fitness assessments and commercial gym training programs, the benefit of the sit-up is minimal. Other exercises are far more beneficial. That may seem nitpicky, considering the rest of the workout is a good layout, but when determining workouts, I look to remove the inefficient, and the sit-up is one of the most ineffective exercise of which I can think. Honorable mentions Pheezy, Desforges, JT

Head shot of Nathan DeMetz

Nathan DeMetz holds degrees in Exercise Science, Business Administration, and Information Technology as well as certifications in strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, run coaching, and other areas. His credentials come from organizations such as Indiana Wesleyan University, Ivy Tech College, and the International Sports Sciences Association. Nathan has 17 years of personal and professional experience in the health and fitness world. He works with people from across the globe, including locations such as Kuwait, Australia, and the USA.

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