Some CrossFit WODs are well thought out, while others, are haphazardly slapped together. Here’s how to pick the quality workouts from the ones that don’t stick.

What draws many to CrossFit is the variety missing from many linear forms of training. In CrossFit, you can take any two, three or more movements and call it a WOD. Easy, right? In theory, yes. However, part of the challenge of being smart and a coach who actually cares for results and your trainees’ wellbeing is resisting the temptation to mash together movements for the sake of “beasting” your class. It’s the quickest way to get yourself and the sport immortalized in a “CrossFit fail” YouTube video. Some workouts are so random that you wonder whether a trainer chucked every exercise into a raffle and started drawing them out of a hat. That said, trainers worth their salt generally get it spot on and measure progress well.

Here are my nominations for two of the best and two of the worst workouts of all time, with an explanation for why, underneath. After this article, you’ll be able to see what goes into a solid WOD and never waste your time, and safety, on a crappy workout again.

One of the best: King Kong

3 rounds for time:
1x Deadlift – 455lb
2x Muscle-ups
3x Cleans – 250lb
4x Handstand push-ups

The loads are so specific and unchangeable because you don’t do King Kong halfassed. This WOD is the goal, rather than a means to get there. The beauty of this one is in its simplicity. No complicated rep scheme, no fancy exercises – just heavy weight and body strength. King Kong is a perfect test of raw strength which, with enough hard work can be achieved by anyone.

Take home lesson: Keep your WODs simple.

One of the worst: The “Miagi”

50x Deadlifts (135/95lb)
50x Double kettlebell
swings (53/35lb)
50x Push-ups
50x Clean and jerk
50x Pull-ups
50x Kettlebell taters
50x Box jumps (24/20in)
50x Wall climbs
50x Knees to elbows
50x Double unders

Even a YouTube video that describes the Miagi mentions: “it has no rhyme or reason to it.” It’s been around since 2008 and is nothing more than a poorly designed beatdown on box members. Workouts should whoop your ass, but provide some sort of purpose and a gain.

Take home lesson: Don’t beast yourself for no reason. You’re looking at an injury when your form breaks down, especially if complex movements like the clean is included.

One of the best: OPT Repeatability

3 rounds at 100% effort:
Row 250m
10x Kettlebell swings
10x Burpees
10x Kettlebell swings
10x Burpees
10x Kettlebell swings
Row 250m
Rest 12 minutes between each round

One of the hardest workouts you will ever do, but also brilliant in design and purpose. This WOD tests your ability to recover. After going all out in round one, your job is to maintain and not let your performance fall off in subsequent rounds. How much you fall off suggests your body’s ability to regenerate ATP, disburse lactic acid and recover to a near normal state. The final 250m row at the end of round three feels like riding a sled straight to Hades’ fiery underworld. Take home lesson Going balls to the wall is fine when there is a valuable purpose and the exercises are kept simple, minimizing injury risk.

One of the worst: McCluskey

Three rounds of:
9x Muscle-ups
15x Burpee pull-ups
21x Pull-ups
Run 800m

This is a “hero” WOD created for the late Sergeant Jason “Mick” McCluskey and I want to be clear that this critique is not a slight on him, just the irresponsible workout. This workout is made up entirely of pulling (with a little running for good measure). The rep schemes may seem low, but you’re hitting 27 muscle-ups and 108 pullups. Your training week will likely be unhinged with searing DOMS.

Take home lesson: Overdosing on pulling movements without any balance from other muscles isn’t the smartest option. Workouts that heavily favor particular planes of movement should be avoided in favor of a more balanced WOD.


Expert: Patrick McCarty is a CrossFit trainer and a masterslevel competitor in CrossFit. Owner of, he’s also an author on