The 3 Best and 3 Worst CrossFit Workouts

Not all WODs are created equal. Just because a workout "kicks your ass" doesn't mean it's benefited you, or helped you in any way to become stronger, faster, fitter, etc. Sometimes those WODs that break you down are actually doing more harm than good. Breaking Muscle has scoured through hundreds of WODs, and they've figured out The 3 Best and 3 Worst CrossFit Workouts.

Some CrossFit WODS are designed and some are slapped together. One of the cool things about CrossFit is that you can put together any two or three movements, and call it a WOD. After all, “constantly varied” is explicitly stated, so in theory, you could do three rounds of 10 tire flips, 400m run, and 5 hang-clean thrusters with 135lbs and you have yourself some CrossFit.

But part of the challenge of being a smart programmer and a thoughtful coach is resisting giving into the temptation of putting together either longer and more insane crush-fests or experimental “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet” WODS. Just because one can, doesn’t necessarily mean one should. It’s the quickest way to “CrossFitter’s doin CrossFit” immortality.

There are, however, a number of workouts that are superior tests of skill and strength, beautifully crafted testing pieces, or just plain perfect. There are others that are so kitchen-sink that you wonder whether someone just tossed every possible move into a hat and began drawing.

With that, here are my nominations for the 3 best and the 3 worst CrossFit workouts of all time (and by “worst” I mean they should be tossed out and never done again). 

The Best:


3 rounds for time:

1 Deadlift 455lbs
2 Muscle Ups
3 Cleans 250lbs
4 Handstand Push Ups

    This workout is all about goal setting and aspirations. You don’t do King Kong scaled, because then it’s not King Kong. Rather, you aspire to do this workout as prescribed, and you gear your training toward that goal. Moreover, it’s a symphony of simplicity. No complicated rep scheme, no funk, just heavy weight and gymnastics. Anyone can do it, if you work hard enough.


    3 rounds, at 100% effort:

    Row 250m
    10 Kettlebell Swings 70/53lbs
    10 Burpees
    10 Kettlebell Swings 70/53lbs
    10 Burpees
    10 Kettlebell Swings 70/53lbs
    Row 250m
    Rest 12 minutes between rounds.

    Simply the hardest workout I have ever done, and brilliant in its design and purpose. The goal is to test your fitness level by testing your ability to recover. After going all out on round one, you rest twelve minutes, do it again, and then again in another twelve. How much fall off you experience in your second and third round time is suggestive of your body’s ability to recover, regenerate ATP, disburse lactic acid, and return your body’s systems to a near normal state. And in the meantime, every single rep, without fail, sucks beyond all reasonable description. When you hop on the rower for the final 250m at the end of round three, you are quite sure you’re riding a sled directly into Satan’s maw.

    3. “300FY”

    Max calories in 10 minutes on the Airdyne.

    The premise is simple: climb aboard the Airdyne and, with the timer set to 10:00, amass as many calories as you can. There is a catch, however. “God Tier” status is achieved by getting to 300 calories, which is a whopping thirty calories per minute. You and I can probably sustain a 30 cal/m pace for three minutes, but it takes an elite athlete to keep that pace up for a full ten.

    In the meantime, each outing at the bike puts you in a position of wanting to best your previous personal record, so there is no slacking. This is for max calories, not just “a lot.” You have to find your pace, then stick with it and ride it out until the clock expires.

    Your quads will become lactic, your brain will beg you to ease up, and the last three minutes will be the longest of your life. Pro-tip: if a doctor gives you ten minutes to live, climb on an Airdyne and your remaining time on earth will be an eternity. The “FY” in the name hints as to how you will express yourself upon seeing it programmed.

    The Worst:

    1. “MCCLUSKEY”

    3 rounds for time:

    9 Muscle Ups
    15 Burpee Pull Ups
    21 Pull Ups
    Run 800 meters

    What I see when I look at this workout is pulling. Pulling, pulling, and pulling. With a little running for good measure. Programming pull ups, pull ups and muscle ups in a single workout with no balance from any of the other muscles is, in my opinion, plain bad. Granted, the rep scheme seems low, but you’re doing 27 muscle ups (a lot for any workout) and 108 pull-ups. Both “Murph” and “Angie” have 100 pull ups and those don’t have muscle ups. At the very least, your training will be unhinged for a week with DOMS, and at worst, this is a prescription for rhabdo.

    2. “MIAGI”

    50 Deadlift (135/95lbs)
    50 Double Kettlebell Swings (2*53/2*35lbs)
    50 Push Ups
    50 Clean and Jerk (135/95lbs)
    50 Pull Ups
    50 Kettlebell Taters (53/35lbs)
    50 Box Jumps (24/20″)
    50 Wall Climbs
    50 Knees to Elbows
    50 Double Unders

    “It has no rhyme or reason to it.” That is correct. This WOD has been around since 2008 or earlier and rears its head occasionally (Google “Miagi WOD” and you will see which boxes have chosen to foist this upon their members) and is nothing more than a nonsensical beat-down of epic proportions.Two things jump out at me in this workout as being outside of reasonable training or testing parameters. One is the clean and jerks and the other is the wall climbs. Fifty clean and jerks at 135lbs is “Grace” plus two-thirds, tucked in the middle of a huge ass-kicker. And fifty wall climbs is senseless. Your shoulders have been sufficiently toasted by the wall climbs that fifty of them is at best, silly, at worst, dangerous.  


    50 Box Jumps (24”)
    50 Jumping Pull Ups
    50 Kettlebell Swings, 1 pood
    Walking Lunge, 50 steps
    50 Knees to elbows
    50 Push Press (45lbs)
    50 Back Extensions
    50 Wall Ball Shots (20lbs)
    50 Burpees
    50 Double Unders

    People love this workout – and I don’t know why. It is chaos and just reps for reps’ sake. Fifty reps of ten different movements with no real flow, design, or purpose other than to give you a highly overstated score. Having a 21:03 “Filthy Fifty” time means nothing when there is little quality control over movement standards. I’ve seen your wall balls and your knees to elbow, Alfred, so your “new PR” is a lie.

    About the Author:

    Patrick McCarty is a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer and masters athlete. As a masters-level athlete, Patrick competed in the 2011, 2013, and 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games. Patrick’s fitness journey has taken him from traditional weightlifting to marathon running and, ultimately, to CrossFit, where he found the perfect balance of strength and conditioning, nutrition, and proper goal setting, which allowed him to find levels of fitness and well-being that eluded his twenty-year old self.

    In addition to his own training, Patrick’s real passion is coaching. He provides programming and coaching for dozens of clients across the globe and finds immense satisfaction in helping other achieve their fitness goals, whether it’s climbing a rope for the first time or making it to the CrossFit Games. By day, Patrick is a web developer who owns his own design company, CJT Digital Design, in Loveland, Ohio.

    You can find more from Patrick at his website, Training and Stirring.

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