CrossFit Beginner? Here’s Your Ultimate Guide With 17 Example WODs!

Written by Andy Mobbs
featured image for article on crossfit beginner guide

Everybody’s talking about CrossFit – your colleagues, your friends, even your sister. It sounds exciting, it sounds like something you would definitely try. But the trouble is you either don’t know what in the world it is, or you don’t know where to start. Relax, we’ve all been there. If you’re a CrossFit beginner, read on to find out more about “the box”, the equipment, the motivation, the WODs (short for Workout of the Day) and the community!

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TL;DR: This article covers the most important details that can help anyone who’s new to CrossFit. We give examples of WODs that range from beginner-friendly to more advanced challenges. We also share tips on how to protect yourself whilst doing CrossFit.

Table of Contents

What is CrossFit and what to expect on your first visit?

CrossFit is a training philosophy that can be adapted to anybody. It’s all about challenging yourself and having fun at the same time. Your physical fitness, age or previous experience doesn’t matter. Yes, even if you’re not fit you can do CrossFit! You can start where you left off with your previous fitness regime, or start from scratch.

CrossFit is NOT a program that includes different exercises for different levels of fitness. Instead, you take the daily workout and scale it to your own form – if it says 40 reps and you can do only 10, this is no problem. Same with weights and seconds! With time and dedication, you’ll be able to do the WODs just as prescribed.

Another important aspect is the supportive and inclusive community – people doing CrossFit just help one another! Often the gyms are full of friends rather than strangers working out at the same place.

Where to start with CrossFit?

Obviously, find a gym. Or as it is called in CrossFit speak – a “box”. Ask your friends for a recommendation and don’t hesitate to go and just watch other people workout. This will help you understand what’s going on there and become aware of the community.

What to expect on your first CrossFit session?

During your first visit, you will inevitably notice a few key differences between a regular gym and a box. There are no weight machines, ellipticals, and yoga classes. There is only one WOD written on the whiteboard. As you work your way through the different exercises, you will learn and master technique and increase your strength.

Can CrossFit be dangerous?

If you don’t sacrifice technique and form to complete the tasks – not really. The danger stems from the fact that you have to do a certain number of reps or complete a number of endurance/strength exercises for time. You can see where the tricky part is, right? It’s always better to scale the WOD down to your current form and rely on a coach to point out any mistakes you might be making.

What are examples of CrossFit beginner WODs?

Technique is the most important thing in CrossFit. If you’re new, we recommend taking a class so someone can help fix your shoulders, knees, and posture as needed. That said, here are some beginner CrossFit workouts that you can do at home:  

1)   Beginner WOD #1

  • Kettlebell Swings x 5
  • Goblet Squats x 5
  • Burpees x 5
  • Sit-ups x 5
  • 15 minutes, as many rounds as possible

2)   Beginner WOD #2

  • Pushups x 5
  • Step-ups x 10
  • Air Squats x 15
  • 15 minutes, as many rounds as possible

What are examples of advanced (but not brutal) CrossFit WODs?

Now that you’ve warmed up with our beginner WODs, it’s time to level up with these more advanced CrossFit WODs!

1)   Death by Leg Burn

This WOD is going to make your legs BURN! This is all about your lower body and it’s time to make it work. You will need a med ball for this WOD and just enough space to walk and jump.

5 ROUNDS for time:

  • Wall Ball x 10
  • Med Ball Cleans x 10
  • Walking Lunges x 10

2)   Burpee-a-thon CrossFit WOD!

This WOD will make you sweat and cry! Well, maybe not cry… you be the judge…

Start off with 10 burpees, run 1 minute, stop and do 30 mountain climbers, run 1 minute, stop and do 10 burpees, and so on… for 1 mile and then end with 10 burpees!

3)   Hiker’s Daylight Delight WOD

Yet another challenging CrossFit WOD! You can workout anytime, anywhere!

  • 5 rounds for technique and strength, not speed
  • 5 rock ledge pull ups (forearm/grip focused pull ups)
  • Five standing box jumps (focus on technique, not on speed)
  • 5 tree limb pull ups (close grip/hand over hand)
  • 5 standing box jumps

4)   Bear Complex WOD

5 sets of this complex CrossFit WOD in the following order:

  • Power clean
  • Front squat
  • Push press
  • Back squat
  • Push press

Note: Be very careful about your neck and head here. Do not perform these movements unless you’ve gone through proper training on the correct form for each movement. If the weight gets too heavy, know how and when to bail.

What are examples of “brutal” WODs that will reveal your CrossFit superpower?

Not all WODs are created equal. Some are downright more brutal than others! How you feel about these 5 most brutal WODs will reveal a lot about your strengths and weaknesses. Test how far you can go and find out what kind of CrossFitter you really are!

1)   Filthy 50 – The Endurance Lover’s WOD

The Filthy 50, aka “the WOD that never ends”. The thought of 50-anything induces a survival-like feeling that can only be brought on by long-flights, a marathon or embarking on a seemingly endless CrossFit WOD.

  • box jumps x 50
  • pull ups x 50
  • kettlebell swings x 50
  • walking lunges x 50
  • knees to elbows x 50
  • push presses x 50
  • back extensions x 50
  • wall balls x 50
  • burpees x 50
  • double-unders x 50

Hats off to you, Filthy 50 lover – endurance is your special CrossFit skill!

2)   Fran – the CrossFit Quickie

If the Filthy 50 is like a pace-yourself marathon, Fran is the all-out 100m sprint. Fran is among the most revered CrossFit workouts and is a benchmark WOD for a reason. Do this sequence as fast as humanly possible:

  • 21 thrusters
  • 21 pull ups
  • 15 thrusters
  • 15 pull ups
  • 9 thrusters
  • 9 pull ups

If the 21-15-9 rep scheme of Fran gets your CrossFit mojo pumping and you love thrashing through your thrusters and pull ups, then you’re the hare to the Filthy 50 tortoise.

Your CrossFit superpowers are: speed and intensity. We shall call you, Mr/s Fast-Twitch.

3)   Horton – the CrossFit Geek

The Horton hero WOD requires some serious CrossFit skill. It contains nine rounds and two of the most technically challenging moves in CrossFit: muscle ups and clean and jerks.

9x rounds, for time, with a partner:

  • 9 bar muscle-ups
  • 11 clean and jerks
  • 155 lb, 50-yard buddy carry

Enjoyment of this workout is solely reserved for those CrossFitters who have put in serious box time and dedication needed to learn and master the techniques. Plus, as it’s a partnered workout, there’s extra CrossFit-nerd points for camaraderie, competition, and bond-building with your buddies.

Happy with a Horton announcement? Congratulations: you’re a total CrossFit Geek.

4)   King Kong – the WOD for those who love to lift

There are no complex rep schemes here. King Kong is 100% all killer, no filler. Three rounds of HEAVY lifts make this a heavyweight WOD for those who love to lift – and love to lift LARGE!

3x rounds, for time:

  • 1 deadlift 455/325lbs
  • 2 Muscle Ups
  • 3 Cleans 250/155lbs
  • 4 Handstand Pushups

If King Kong doesn’t kill you and if you revel in those deadlifts, your strength is, erm, strength itself!

Like the WOD’s namesake, you, my friend, are an official CrossFit heavyweight beast.

5)   MURPH CrossFit – the Machine!  

MURPH is a CrossFit Hero WOD created in honor of Navy Lt. Michael P. Murphy. The Lieutenant was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for bravely exposing himself to direct enemy fire while calling for assistance for his team, putting his own life on the line to save that of his teammates.

The hero WOD, in his honor, was designed to put the mental toughness of every CrossFitter to the ultimate test. This is what a MURPH CrossFit challenge looks like:

  • 1-mile run
  • 100 pull-ups
  • 200 pushups
  • 300 air squats
  • 1-mile run

Here’s the kicker: ALL 5 steps need to be completed in a 20-lb weight vest or body armor!

As you can tell, this WOD really takes the biscuit when it comes to brutality (if you’re a CrossFit beginner, don’t jump into this straightaway)! If the MURPH workout challenge ranks low on your WOD-dread scale and you’re not crawling back into the box on your knees after that final, painful 1-mile run, then you really are a CrossFit Machine!

Away from the box? Try these 6 hotel-room-WODs or away-from-home WODs:

There may be days when you’d need to travel or work away from home and stay at a hotel. If so, that’s no excuse not to do CrossFit! You can work out even when staying at a hotel.

But why bother in the first place? Well, the aim of training while staying at a hotel is mainly to maintain your fitness level and your strength. Your expectations should not be based on making a huge improvement in your performance but more on working out to keep a balance in your body’s physiology and habits.

That being said, you can also do these CrossFit beginner friendly WODs at home since some of them require no equipment:

1)   ‘Don’t disturb the neighbors’ WOD

This low impact stealth WOD is perfect for getting in a sneaky workout without disturbing your hotel room neighbors.

10 rounds for time:

  • pushups x 10
  • sit ups x 10
  • air squats x 10
  • second floor L sits x 10
  • crunches x 10

Five exercises that cause zero noise. You can even do them when your partner is sleeping without causing any disturbance.

2)   ‘Improvise’ WOD

Someone who is used to exercising frequently and with equipment might find it difficult not to perform some isolation exercises. Therefore, you can find some dumbbell and barbell alternatives. You can use bottles of water instead of a dumbbell or barbell. You can also put some bottles of water inside a bag and use it as dumbbell or barbell or as an extra to your body weight.

4x rounds for time:

  • shoulder side raises x 10
  • hammer curls x 10
  • triceps extensions x 10
  • squats x 10 (while wearing your bag in your shoulders for extra resistance)

3)   ‘Sun cream and skipping rope’ WOD

The skipping rope is high on the essential holiday packing list for all dedicated CrossFitters. It’s the instant cardio workout you can keep in your toiletry bag.

This benchmark WOD is perfect for holiday double-under practice:

50/40/30/20/10 – double-unders/sit ups.

Feeling energetic? Add a 400m run then, when you get back to the hotel, go back up the ladder: 10/20/30/40/50 – double-unders/sit ups.

4)   ‘Hotel with a pool’ WOD

Your box at home probably doesn’t have the luxury of its own swimming pool. But if your holiday box (i.e. your hotel) does, then this is the perfect chance to change the game and get in some water-based WODs.

5x rounds for time:

  • Swim 50m
  • 25 pushups
  • 10 crunches

The stress would be mostly on your upper body but at least your legs would be trained a bit while swimming, so you can consider this WOD as a whole-body training. If you want some more extra training for your legs, you can try to perform some jumps in the water.

5)   ‘Interval cardio’ WOD

It’s great to run in unknown scenery. If your hotel is somewhere scenic (or even if it’s not), this combination of sprint and walking will increase your heart rate and help you maintain your fitness level:

10x rounds for time: sprint for 100 meters followed by walking for 100 meters. Following this combination 10 times, you will complete a distance of 2km.

In case your fitness level is high, you can sprint for 100 meters and walk in high volume for another 100 meters. Still easy for you? Sprint for 150 meters and then slow walk for 50 meters.

6)   ‘Hotel room’ WOD – Abs!

Whether you are on the go or on vacation, there’s always a way to work your abs out! When you have no equipment, no problem! Concentrate on contracting your core:

Do 3 sets:

  • 20 Plank-ups (10 each side)
  • 10 v-ups
  • 20 Russian twists (20 each side)
  • 20 anchored curls   
woman doing her crossfit workout

How to protect yourself from injury during your CrossFit workout?

Here are 11 ways to prevent CrossFit injuries while training and avoid a painful trip to the ER:

1)   Find a box with good coaches

A good coach will ask a CrossFit beginner about your goals and motivations. They’ll look at your range of motions to assess your flexibility, identify any motor control issues or areas of pain, and suggest a mobility program to address any problem areas. They’ll also help identify the level you can complete the exercises in the skill section and the WOD.

2)   Make sure your box has a structured and varied training program

There should always be an emphasis on the quality of movements rather than just performing it to the max. In addition, every movement programmed must have a workable alternative to accommodate individual capabilities. WODs throughout the week need to vary the body parts focused on, as continuous workout of one body can lead to injuries.

3)   Improve your mobility and make your workout more effective

Mobility exercises are a great way to increase your energy, help you recover faster from injuries and get an overall boost in performance via joint mobilization and stretching. Mobility exercises are often confused with warm-ups; however, the main difference is that warm-ups are not designed to help improve posture/positions.

4)   Eat properly

Your body needs the proper diet to grow strong, build muscles, and stop itself from breaking down. A good box will have someone to help you with your nutrition. Make sure you’re getting “real” nutritious meals and stay away from processed foods.

We also recommend taking Glucosamine supplements and eating a healthy anti-inflammatory diet (which consists of Omega-3 rich fatty fish, green leafy vegetables, and olive oil) to help your body heal and recover faster.

5)   Leave your ego at the door

A good coach can only help you so much, ultimately, you are responsible for your own safety, which is why you sign a waiver prior to starting CrossFit training. It is a competitive environment, and everyone wants to improve and get better, faster and stronger, but you have to take care of yourself.

Can you get through a set with proper form, reduce the weight or scale the movements? This takes work and many people are not willing to admit that, so they push themselves like crazy to finish “first” or “hit the most rounds,” but those are the people who get injured.

6)   Listen to your body especially if you’re a CrossFit beginner

If your body is hurt, or tired, then don’t work out. Working out when your body is exhausted will lead to injury. Your training schedule should include at least 2 rest days a week, and it’s also a good idea to rest for a whole week every couple of months.

Remember, it’s only when you rest that your body can rebuild itself stronger, replenish glycogen stores and flush out the excess stress hormones, like cortisol, which are produced during training.

7)   Work on your weaknesses

Working on the movements that you’re not so good at will reduce your injury risk and make you a better CrossFitter. Also, sooner or later, the weaknesses will be feature in a WOD. The better you can be at them, the better you will move through them and the less stress you will be placing on your body.

8)   Use protection

Many of the movements in CrossFit place stress on the joints, knees, and elbows. Sleeves for your knees and elbows are not very expensive and can save you in the long run. Weight belts are another piece of valuable equipment, which can be used in certain WODs for those high-rep movements!

9)   Wear proper footwear

Shoe technology is getting better all the time. Choose shoes that have a flatter, more solid sole allowing you to lift properly, without losing balance or rolling on your ankles. If these shoes are not within your budget, no worries. Just lift in your socks!

10)  Don’t let muscles tighten up during rest periods

In CrossFit, there are often rest periods programmed within WODs. However, completely stopping during these periods can be counterproductive and cause your muscles to tighten. Jumping right back into high intensity movements can cause problems. Thus, try to stay partially active during the rest periods by walking and stretching. Work on slowing your breathing, but do not spend the whole time lying or sitting in the same position.

11)  Be aware of your surroundings

Be mindful and take an extra few breaths before starting a set. Whether you’re a CrossFit beginner or not, be aware of what’s around you, chalk your hands if you need to, and make sure the spare weight plates are stored far away from anywhere you’ll be dropping the bar prior to starting a WOD. A couple of seconds here or there will not make any real difference, but it could save you, or someone else from a CrossFit injury.