Alright, imagine you’re part of a superhero training academy where, every day, you get to try different challenges to become stronger, faster, and more agile. This academy is called CrossFit. It’s a place where people go to exercise, but it’s not like your regular gym class. In CrossFit, you do a mix of cool stuff like climbing ropes, lifting weights, jumping over boxes, and even doing handstands!
Now, you know how those really tough levels or battles in video games or superhero movies make you go, “Oh no, not this!” but also make you super excited to beat them? Well, in CrossFit, some workouts are like those tough levels. They’re called WODs (Workout of the Day), and some of them have names like “Fran,” “Murph,” or “Karen.”
Some members dread these workouts because they’re super challenging. They test how much you can push yourself and how strong you are, both in your body and mind. Imagine doing a bazillion push-ups, running as fast as a race car, and lifting heavy stuff in one workout. It sounds tough, right? That’s because it is. But here’s the cool part: these workouts are designed to make you feel like a superhero. You feel super proud and strong when you finish them, like you saved the world!
CrossFit, known for its high-intensity functional movements, has a unique way of pushing athletes to their limits. Among the myriad of workouts (WODs) it prescribes, there are those few that stand out—not because they are enjoyable, but because they are particularly grueling. As a coach guiding you through the challenging journey of CrossFit, let’s dive into the seven most feared workouts and uncover why incorporating them into your routine is essential for your growth.
Workout Description: As a new member, one of the cornerstone workouts you’ll encounter is called “Fran.” It’s one of the most iconic and talked-about workouts within the CrossFit community, known for its simplicity, intensity, and ability to benchmark your fitness progress over time.
Fran is a timed workout, known in CrossFit terminology as a “For Time” workout. It consists of just two exercises: thrusters and pull-ups. The structure of Fran is a descending rep scheme of 21-15-9. This means you will perform 21 thrusters followed by 21 pull-ups, then 15 thrusters followed by 15 pull-ups, and finally, 9 thrusters followed by 9 pull-ups. The goal is to complete all of these reps as quickly as possible.
Why It’s Dreaded: Fran is infamous for its ability to leave athletes gasping for air. Fran is deceptively simple but incredibly intense. The combination of thrusters and pull-ups, both of which engage large muscle groups across your entire body, can quickly lead to muscular fatigue and a skyrocketing heart rate. The workout demands physical strength and endurance, mental toughness to push through the burning sensations in your muscles, and the overwhelming desire to take a break.
- Pacing: Even though Fran is a sprint, going all out from the start can lead to early fatigue. Find a challenging but sustainable pace through the first round of 21s.
- Breaks: Plan short, strategic breaks, especially in the set of 15, to prevent muscle failure.
- Efficiency: Work on efficient movement patterns in thrusters and pull-ups to conserve energy. For thrusters, ensure a good front rack position and a full hip extension at the top. For pull-ups, practice kipping or butterfly pull-ups if you’re proficient, as these techniques can save time and energy.
Why You Should Do It: Fran is more than just a workout; it’s a rite of passage in CrossFit. Completing Fran gives you a sense of accomplishment and a benchmark to look back on and see how far you’ve come in your fitness journey. So, when Fran day comes, give it your all, and remember, it’s all about personal progress and pushing your limits.
Alright, so imagine you’re gearing up for the ultimate fitness challenge, something that tests not just your strength but your endurance and willpower. That’s the “Murph” workout. It’s named after a Navy SEAL, Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who was a total badass and a hero. The workout is done to honor him and his sacrifice and trust me; it’s as intense as it sounds.
Here’s the breakdown:
- 1. Start with a 1-mile run. This is just to warm you up and get your blood pumping. Think of it as the calm before the storm.
- 2. Then, you hit 100 pull-ups. Yeah, you heard that right. It’s not a typo. You’re pulling your body up, chin over the bar, a hundred times. This part is brutal and tests your upper body strength to its limits.
- 3. After that, you dive into 200 push-ups. Your arms and chest are going to scream, but it’s all about pushing through that mental and physical barrier.
- 4. Next up, 300 air squats. Your legs are going to feel like jelly, but these squats are key for building that leg and core strength.
- 5. Finish with another 1-mile run. This is where you prove your grit. After all that, you still have to muster the energy to run another mile.
And here’s the kicker: some people do this wearing a 20-pound vest or body armor to really up the ante, just like Lieutenant Murphy did when he trained.
The Murph isn’t just about physical strength but mental toughness, endurance, and honoring a hero’s legacy. It’s about setting a seemingly impossible goal and crushing it. So, when you’re ready to test your limits and see what you’re truly capable of, the Murph is waiting.
Workout Description: A brutal combination of seven rounds for time, including 7 Handstand Push-Ups, 7 Thrusters, 7 Knees to Elbows, 7 Deadlifts, 7 Burpees, 7 Kettlebell Swings, and 7 Pull-ups.
Why It’s Dreaded: This workout is a true test of endurance and stamina, with a high volume of reps across a wide range of movements. Each round feels relentless, making it a mental game to keep pushing through.
Why You Should Do It: The Seven teaches pacing and endurance. It improves your capacity across multiple domains, from strength to gymnastics, offering a comprehensive test and improvement of your fitness.
Workout Description: Karen might sound benign, but it’s anything but. It consists of 150 Wall Balls for time.
So, what you have to do in “Karen” is throw a medicine ball, which is a heavy ball, up against a wall 150 times. You throw it up, catch it, and squat down before throwing it up again. It’s like playing catch with yourself but with a twist because you have to hit a target on the wall each time you throw the ball.
Think of it as if you’re a wizard casting spells at a target. Each time you hit the target (the wall) with your spell (the medicine ball), you’re one step closer to completing your mission. The goal is to finish all 150 throws as fast as you can, beating the game level.
This workout, “Karen,” tests how strong you are, how well you can keep doing something over and over, and how quickly you can finish. It’s a big challenge but also a fun way to see how much you can improve and how resilient you are. Plus, it’s a great story to tell your friends about how you conquered a tough workout named “Karen”!
Workout Description: The “DT” workout is a famous CrossFit Hero WOD that’s as intense as it sounds. It’s named in honor of USAF SSgt Timothy P. Davis, who was killed in action in Operation Enduring Freedom, and it’s designed to push you to your limits.
DT is a high-intensity workout consisting of five rounds. Each round includes three types of barbell movements: Deadlifts, Hang Power Cleans, and Push Jerks. The rep scheme for each round goes like this:
- 12 Deadlifts
- 9 Hang Power Cleans
- 6 Push Jerks
You’re going to use a single barbell for all three movements, and the weight is set at 155 pounds for guys and 105 pounds for girls. The goal? Complete all five rounds as fast as you can.
Why It’s Dreaded: This workout is a beast because it doesn’t just challenge one part of your body—it’s a full-body assault. The weight might not sound like much at first, but as you progress through the rounds, every rep becomes a battle. Your grip starts to weaken, your shoulders and legs scream for mercy, and your lungs feel like they’re on fire. Yet, it’s the kind of challenge that leaves you feeling like a champion once you’ve conquered it.
Why You Should Do It: DT isn’t just about physical strength; it’s a mental game, too. It teaches you about perseverance, pushing through when things get tough, and digging deep to find strength you didn’t know you had. Plus, it’s a fantastic way to build muscular endurance, power, and overall conditioning.
So when you face DT, remember: it’s more than a workout. It’s a tribute to a hero, a test of your limits, and a chance to prove to yourself just how much you’re capable of. Gear up, give it your all, and let’s honor SSgt Timothy P. Davis with your grit and determination.
Fight Gone Bad
Workout Description: This workout involves three rounds of one minute at each station: Wall Balls, Sumo Deadlift High-Pulls, Box Jumps, Push-Press, and Rowing for Calories. There’s no rest between stations and only one minute of rest between rounds.
Why It’s Dreaded: The non-stop nature of Fight Gone Bad, coupled with the variety of movements, challenges every energy system in your body. It’s a true test of cardiovascular and muscular endurance.
Why You Should Do It: This workout improves your ability to sustain high-intensity efforts across various movements and helps develop an efficient energy usage strategy for different types of workouts.
The Filthy Fifty
Workout Description: The Filthy Fifty is a type of workout called a “chipper,” meaning you “chip away” at a large volume of reps across a variety of movements before moving on to the next. In this workout, you’ll complete 50 repetitions of ten different exercises, totaling 500 reps. The goal is to finish all 500 reps as quickly as possible, moving from one exercise to the next with minimal rest.
- Box Jumps (24″/20″): Jumping onto and down from a box, fully extending your hips at the top.
- Jumping Pull-Ups: A pull-up variation that allows you to use a leg kick to assist in pulling your chin over the bar.
- Kettlebell Swings (35/26 lbs): Swinging a kettlebell from between your legs to overhead or chest height.
- Walking Lunges: Taking large steps, lunging forward until your knee touches the ground, alternating legs.
- Knees-to-Elbows: Hanging from a pull-up bar, you bring your knees up to touch your elbows.
- Push Press (45 lbs): Using a barbell, you’ll dip your knees slightly then explosively stand up, pressing the bar overhead.
- Back Extensions: Strengthening your lower back by lifting your torso up and down on a GHD machine or a similar setup.
- Wall Balls (20/14 lbs to 10’/9′ target): Throwing a medicine ball to hit a target on the wall after performing a full squat with each rep.
- Burpees: Dropping to the ground in a push-up position, touching your chest to the floor, then jumping up and clapping overhead.
- Double-Unders: Jumping rope with the rope passing under your feet twice for each jump.
Why It’s Dreaded: This workout is a true test of physical and mental endurance. The volume of reps across such a wide range of movements challenges every muscle group, your cardiovascular system, and your willpower. As fatigue sets in, the mental game becomes as critical as the physical one. It’s common to hit a wall mid-workout, where completing another rep seems nearly impossible.
Why You Should Do It: The Filthy Fifty isn’t just a workout; it’s a comprehensive test of your fitness. Completing it gives you a sense of accomplishment and a benchmark to measure your progress against. It will expose your weaknesses, providing a clear focus for your training.
CrossFit teaches you not just to be strong on the outside but also on the inside. It’s about facing challenges head-on, even when they seem scary at first. So, even though some workouts might be dreaded, they’re actually really important because they help you grow and become the best version of yourself. Welcome to the challenge, and remember, it’s all about personal progress and pushing your boundaries. Plus, it’s always more fun when you get to do it with a group of friends or other people who are cheering you on!
March is the founder and owner of The Barbell Beauties which she started in 2015. She is from the Philippines and currently lives in beautiful Thailand with her American husband and daughter. She is an avid Crossfitter and has just started her journey into Muay Thai (kickboxing).