WOD stands for “workout of the day”. It is the common term used to describe the workout portion of a CrossFit class. CrossFit workouts include varied functional movements that are typically completed at a high intensity. Since variety is a tenant of CrossFit, workouts can include bodyweight movements, gymnastics, cardio, and weightlifting.

What is a WOD?

The workout of the day (WOD) is just a portion of a typical CrossFit class. Most classes have a warm-up, strength or skill work, WOD, and cool-down. 

Each WOD has a goal in mind – lift as heavy as possible, move as fast as possible, do as many reps as possible, or just complete the work. CrossFit coaches aim to include different movements and workout formats with very little repetition. However, some workouts repeated annually, like “Murph”, can be used as a way for athletes to see how their fitness has improved over time. 

Every CrossFit workout is written “as prescribed” or “Rx”. However, every single movement can be scaled down to accommodate any level of athlete. The best CrossFit coaches can easily adjust WODs to the fitness level of their students while working the same muscle groups at intensity. 

CrossFit.com posts a WOD every single day for inspiration. 

How to Create a WOD

The three main factors when creating a WOD are the format, movements, and time frame. Coaches, or whoever is doing the programming, can get creative with thousands of potential combinations. 

WOD Formats

When new athletes join a CrossFit box, understanding the workout formats can be confusing at first. There are several acronyms and formats that coaches can use for the workouts. Consider including a quick description of the types of workouts in your new member welcome packet. 

AMRAP

This is an acronym you’ll frequently see in a CrossFit gym. AMRAP stands for “as many rounds as possible” and sometimes “as many reps as possible”. This workout challenges how many times an athlete can finish a combination of movements in an allotted amount of time. 

Example:

10:00 AMRAP

50 double-unders

20 alternative dumbbell snatches

10 burpees

Chipper

Chippers are workouts that usually include high reps of multiple movements. The goal is to complete all the movements, typically in order, as quickly as possible. The name chipper comes from the fact that athletes generally need to “chip away” at the reps in smaller sets.

Example:

For time:

100 air squats

75 pull-ups

50 handstand push-ups (HSPU)

75 pull-ups

100 air squats

EMOM

EMOM stands for “every minute on the minute”. For these workouts, the goal is to complete the prescribed reps within a minute. The same reps will be repeated every minute until the end of the allotted time frame. Occasionally, an EMOM will include time periods longer than 1 minute. You may see these written as E2MOM (every 2 minutes), E3MOM (every 3 minutes), etc.

Example:

12:00 EMOM

10 air squats

5 burpees

15 double unders

RFT

RFT workouts are commonly used in CrossFit competitions. It stands for “rounds for time”. Athletes should complete the prescribed movements as fast as possible. 

Example:

5 RFT

600m run

10 deadlifts (200#/135#)

20 burpees over the bar

Ladder

A ladder workout features increasing or decreasing repetitions (sometimes both). Athletes will need to keep track of which round they are on to know how many reps to complete for each movement.

Example:

For time:

10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 reps each

Snatches (95#/65#)

Burpees over the bar

Tabata

Tabata workouts are 4 minutes long. Athletes do a movement for 20 seconds and then rest for 10 seconds, for 8 rounds. These workouts are not typically used for the primary WOD, but they may be part of the warm-up or as a finisher. 

Example:

8 rounds: 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off

Alternating:

Plank hold

Superman hold

CrossFit Movements

One of the goals of the sport of CrossFit is to create well-rounded athletes that can take on any fitness challenge. With that in mind, almost any movement or modality could be used in a CrossFit WOD. Many of the movements commonly used in CrossFit are functional fitness movements. This means that they mimic things people do in their day-to-day lives. For example, an overhead press is equivalent to lifting a box to a high shelf and a squat is equivalent to sitting down on a chair. 

CrossFit movements tend to fall into one of four categories: body weight, cardio, gymnastics, and weightlifting. Every single movement can be scaled down to match the fitness level of each athlete. There are also progressions to help athletes achieve a certain skill. For example, to build the strength and ability to do a handstand push-up, may follow this progression: elevated push-ups, band-assisted push-ups, push-ups, push-ups with feet on a box, push-ups with feet on the wall, handstand push-ups.

Most workouts will include movements that challenge different skills or muscle groups. While this isn’t always the case, the variation is one of the tenants of CrossFit. Luckily, there are dozens of movements to choose from.

Some common CrossFit WOD movements include:

  • Pull-ups
  • Push-ups
  • Squats
  • Snatches
  • Burpees
  • Thrusters
  • Cleans
  • Overhead presses
  • Rope climbs
  • Double unders
  • Sit-ups
  • Wall balls
  • Running
  • Rowing
  • Biking
  • Toes to bar
  • Deadlifts
  • Box jumps

Time Frame

The time frame for the workout will depend on the format, movements programmed, and fitness level of your athletes. CrossFit WODs can vary from under 10 minutes in length to over an hour. Usually, workouts last 10-30 minutes.

You’ll want to consider the members at your gym when choosing the length of the workout. If you make it too short, most people may not finish the workout. If you make it too long, everyone will finish early and there will be wasted time in the class. Since the WOD is just one portion of the class, you’ll need to account for the time needed for the warm-up, strength or skill, and cool-down. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Hero WOD?

CrossFit has always had an affinity for the military and first responders. Since military and first responders have to be in good shape and deal with unexpected scenarios, their ideologies mesh well with CrossFit. Starting in 2005, CrossFit began naming Hero workouts after fallen soldiers and first responders to honor their sacrifice. 

The most well-known Hero WOD is “Murph”, named after Lt Michael Murphy. He created the grueling workout and originally called it “Body Armor” because a weight vest is worn while running and doing push-ups, pull-ups, and air squats. CrossFit boxes, as well as many other gyms, complete the Murph workout on Memorial Day each year. 

What are “The Girls” WODs in CrossFit?

The Girls are a set of benchmark workouts released by CrossFit. The original WODs were named for female pioneers in the sport. These workouts are quintessential CrossFit WODs and are commonly seen in the CrossFit Games.

Do all CrossFit gyms do the same WOD?

CrossFit gyms have the freedom to program whatever workout they want each day. However, Crossfit.com posts a daily workout that gyms can use if they want. Gyms can also purchase programming from larger gyms to use in their facility.

Do CrossFit gyms have to program their WODs?

Many gym owners or managers choose to program their own WODs. Sometimes a head coach will take on the task of programming the workouts. By programming in-house, you ensure that the gym has the space and equipment needed to complete all the workouts.

It is not a requirement for CrossFit gyms to do their own programming. They can use free workouts provided by CrossFit.com or other companies, including CompTrain. Some companies will sell their programming or program your workouts specifically for your gym.

Final Thoughts

When a CrossFit enthusiast transitions from an athlete to a box owner, they realize that more goes into programming a workout than just choosing some movements. The WOD is just a part of the 60-minute class. As you program your WODs, consider the format, movements, and time frame. With practice, creating CrossFit workouts will become second nature for you. 

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