January 3, 2020

What is a CrossFit WOD?

The “Workout of the Day” aka WOD is a simple phrase with a lot of meaning for CrossFit athletes, not just here in Richmond but around the world. As someone new to CrossFit, the complexities of a WOD can seem overwhelming. There might be movements or acronyms you’ve never heard of before. To help shorten your learning curve, we want to introduce you to the various aspects of a WOD much in the same way we coach a class here at S3E CrossFit.

How did CrossFit get the name “WOD?”

The founder of CrossFit, Greg Glassman, was a gymnast and used a variety of workouts in training. Glassman realized that a workout could be short, like a floor routine. It was quick bursts of energy and resembled an athlete in competition. He organized various movements into a particular routine and named them the “workout of the day” or WOD. Each day we have a particular WOD. It’s the way workouts are organized in the gym. 

Why do the WOD? 

The CrossFit WOD has two primary purposes. First, everyone who comes into a CrossFit gym has a fitness goal. The WOD is how you reach those goals. Second, it provides you, the athlete, and us, coaches, with measurable data to track your progression. If you’re serious about those fitness goals, then you need to be able to measure your progress to ensure you are on the right track. 

We open every class with a WOD briefing. It takes five minutes or less, but there are a few important points that will be covered. Here you will learn the specific movements, rep schemes, and times required of you for the WOD. 

The most important point to pay attention to during the briefing is the intended stimulus of the workout. The stimulus is the physical response that the workout is designed to create. It might mean completing the WOD in a certain time or completing a certain number of rounds or how heavy (or light) the weight you are lifting should “feel.” The most important thing for each WOD is to try to reach that stimulus.

Why is it so important? Because we coaches know that if you consistently train and you consistently reach the intended stimulus of our meticulously planned programming then you will not just reach your goals but you will find new and more difficult ones to crush. Guaranteed.

As part of briefing the WOD’s intended stimulus, we will discuss ways to scale the WOD as opposed to doing it as prescribed, or “RX.” RX means you plan to use the exact movement, weights, and rep schemes listed in the WOD as written on the board. Scaling might mean using a lower weight, adjusting the specific movement, or doing fewer reps of that movement.  There are many reasons why an athlete might choose to scale a WOD. Scaling is not a crime. Members who scale appropriately and correcting are the ones who make the fastest gains in the gym. It’s science.

The Warm-Up

After the briefing, every WOD starts with a thorough warm-up. At S3E, we have a Basic Mobility Routine (BMR) that our athletes perform before class. The BMR is designed to engage all the major muscle groups. Next, we start working through WOD-specific movements and drills. This portion of the warm-up is when we will gradually increase load and intensity until you’re fully prepped for the demands of the WOD. Just like the actual WOD, the warm-up will vary each day. The important thing is that your muscles and nervous system are primed and ready for the work ahead.

The warm-up is also an opportunity for your Coach to see and correct any issues you are having with the movement. If you’re unfamiliar or not proficient yet with a movement, we will take the time to go over it and come up with a plan for the WOD. Before we start the clock, we want to make sure you can safely and efficiently execute each element of the WOD.

The final component of your warm-up is logistics. A WOD might require any number of equipment and spatial demands. CrossFit utilizes barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells, boxes, pull-up rigs, medicine balls, rowers, rings, air bikes, your body, and more. You might be pushing, pulling, lifting, jumping, or throwing one or more of these during a WOD.  That requires space to work. You want to be able to cycle through the movements efficiently and safely. So be a good neighbor but don’t be afraid to stake out your work area.


Now for why you’re REALLY here. The WOD. There is an endless combination of WODs, and you will never see the same WOD two days, or even weeks, in a row. Some of the most common types of WOD you will encounter are:

AMRAP. As many rounds (or reps) as possible. When the clock starts, you cycle through the prescribed movements over and over until it reads 00:00. 

EMOM. Every minute on the minute. At the top of each minute you perform an exercise. Any time remaining is yours to do what you want with. Until the next minute starts.

Chipper. You do a certain number of reps and movements until completion. It doesn’t sound bad until you see rep schemes numbering 50 or more. Just keep chippin away until it’s done.

RFT. Round for Time. There will be a set number of movements and reps that make a round. Then there will be a set number of rounds you have to complete. The clock keeps ticking until you finish all the rounds. Move well and go hard.

Periodically you will encounter a benchmark workout, or the “Girls of CrossFit.” They have names like Fran, Grace, Helen, Elizabeth and Chelsea. According to Coach Glassman, CrossFit chose to mirror the National Weather Service’s system for naming storms and hurricanes. The use of female given names is simple and clear, much like the workouts themselves. Also, much like a hurricane the “Girl WODs” will definitely wreck you. Just kidding…but not really.

Benchmark workouts are consistent and repeatable. Their requirements are the same every time you do one. Movements, repetitions, and times are always the same. The only variable is you and your performance. As you improve physically, these benchmark WODs are the perfect way to measure the progress you are making towards your fitness goals.

Post – WOD

You’re tired and sweaty, but the WOD is done. Take the time to do some foam rolling or stretch. This will help prevent injuries and reduce soreness and set you up for your next WOD. Completing a WOD and then taking a week to recover isn’t going to help you. Consistency is the key. Consistently showing up for class is going to get you to your goals. In order to consistently show up for class, you need to stay healthy and injury free.

This is also a great time to reflect on how the WOD went. What went well and what didn’t go so well? Record your numbers. Get some feedback from your coach and other athletes. Also, wipe down and put your equipment away so everything is fresh for the next class.


The WOD is a well-honed system to help you improve your strength and conditioning. It’s not anything to be scared about. It’s just the particular system we use in Crossfit to train. As you become more familiar with Crossfit, you will learn particular terms that are often associated with the WOD. Overtime, you will be able to visualize a workout just by the description on the board. You will understand the skills involved and know how hard you will be pushed to complete the WOD. 

Thanks for reading and please feel free to drop us a comment in the section below. We would love to hear your thoughts, good AND bad.

Have an awesome week and we look forward to Inciting Your Riot again soon!

Coach Daniel