CrossFit focuses on variety – from weightlifting to gymnastics to conditioning movements. This variety often means there’s a lot to get good at within limited time and it can also mean a lot of equipment and space are necessary.
However, mastering your own bodyweight sets the foundation for every type of movement and all the skills you’ll need in CrossFit and Calisthenics.
Today, we’re discussing the top 5 Bodyweight CrossFit workouts and what they can do for you.
To perform the exercises all you will need is a pull up bar.
Table of Contents
Before You Start: CrossFit Terminology
CrossFit uses abbreviations and terms that can be confusing for absolute beginners. If that’s you then read the following terminology explanations first before you dive into the workouts:
AMRAP – Stands for “As many reps as possible”. An AMRAP workout will last for a fixed amount of time and the goal is to complete as many rounds of the given exercises in that duration. Take a note of how many rounds you achieved during the given time as your goal will be to beat this number next time you attempt the workout.
For time – This will often be used instead of AMRAP. There is no time limit on this workout type as the goal is to simply complete all the given exercises as fast as you can. Take a note of your time as again, you can use this as your goal to beat next time you attempt the workout.
WOD – Stands for “Workout of the Day”. Crossfit assigns a single workout to each day of the year, which is why CrossFit workouts are often referred to as WOD’s.
The Top 5 CrossFit Bodyweight Workouts
#1 Cindy – CrossFit WOD
This workout is a 20-minute conditioning circuit with some of the simplest bodyweight movements. It looks something like this:
AMRAP for 20 Minutes:
- 5 Pull-ups
- 10 Push-Ups
- 15 Air Squats
This is a pretty simple workout that foregoes the usual equipment and space requirements seen in CrossFit. All you need is space to move in where you don’t mind getting sweat on the floor! This is a burner workout that is going to challenge muscular and cardiovascular endurance, being a full-body workout with plenty of scaling options.
#2 Angie – CrossFit WOD
While it may seem far harder than Cindy when you first look at it, Angie is probably going to be a similar challenge.
Another one of the three bodyweight “girls” workouts – along with Cindy and Barbara – this is going to challenge your endurance and provide a burn, rather than any challenging single exercise.
With 100 reps on each movement before proceeding, you’re going to need to set aside a little time and a lot of water to get through this. It shouldn’t take too long, but you’re going to feel it. Angie goes something like this:
- 100 Pull-ups
- 100 Push-ups
- 100 Sit-ups
- 100 Air squats
As you might be able to guess, the real challenge of this workout is going to be the pull-ups. If you don’t have your pull-ups, then the best choice is a ring row or similar upper-back strengthening exercise. Ditch the kipping for this workout and build foundational strength: if you haven’t got your pull-ups, the extra bodyweight training is going to be essential.
#3 Tabata Something Else – CrossFit WOD
Tabata is a common approach to interval training where you take 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off, and today you’re going to do 16 minutes of this across the most common and simplest CrossFit bodyweight exercises.
This is another way to get the most bang for your buck from bodyweight workouts for conditioning and endurance. This involves some of the same exercises in previous workouts, but with a different format and a much more generous approach to rest! Working with time, rather than reps, means you can focus on keeping your movement quality high while also pushing yourself.
Perform 4 minutes for each exercise (8 rounds of 30 seconds each) and then move on.
Tabata (20 seconds on / 10 seconds off), 16 minutes:
- Air Squats
This is a simple workout that is far more accessible and makes more sense as a simple workout for anyone short on time. It’s also ideal for a quick 16-minute bodyweight conditioning piece if your strength work has run a little long but you still want to get your conditioning work in.
#4 Barbara CrossFit WOD
The third and final of the 2003 “girls” workouts on our list, Barbara is also the hardest. With a 5-round approach and plenty of reps along the way, this is a brutal workout. We definitely recommend getting good at the other girl’s first, as this will really challenge you.
5 rounds, 3 minute rest:
- 20 Pull-ups
- 30 Push-ups
- 40 Sit-ups
- 50 Air Squats
This means a total of 100 pull-ups, 150 push-ups, 200 sit-ups and 250 air squats. You’re going to be feeling this workout quickly, but we definitely prefer it for the rest periods and rotating the body parts that are taking most of the work.
You’re going to be spending over 30 minutes on this workout, even if you’re scaling to reduce the difficulty. Again, scaling here should mean replacing pull-ups with ring rows to improve strength and control in the movement.
#5: A Hope for Kenya – CrossFit WOD
While this workout is shorter than the girls mentioned above, it is also a little sharper: you’re going to feel these 12 minutes.
The hope for Kenya WOD is another triplet of three simple – but high-rep – exercises that you’re going to AMRAP. This is a real challenge when you’re already feeling tired and pushing the pace for 12 minutes will be a great way to improve conditioning and boost your calorie-use.
AMRAP, 12 minutes:
- 50 Air squats
- 30 Push-ups
- 15 Pull-ups
This is by far the most inclusive workout on the list so far, simply because it places more emphasis on air squats and push-ups than pull-ups. However, scaling here just means performing push-ups on an incline, using ring rows, or squatting to a box. If you’re looking to add a gymnastic rings to your home gym, check these out.
This is a charity workout designed to raise money for Kenyan poverty sufferers – push through that burn for those who are less fortunate. We recommend being realistic and trying to set a pace you can keep for the whole 12 minutes without too much rest.
On a shorter workout like this, the best approach is to stay consistent over the whole distance and try to keep yourself moving the entire duration.
Bonus: 3 Crucial Bodyweight Exercises for Strength and Health
There’s more to bodyweight workouts than circuits and endurance – so we’re going to share 3 of our favourite bodyweight exercises to add to your program. These are about more than sit-ups or crunches: they build balance, strength, and joint health. If you want to get better, make sure you get around to these from time to time.
This is technically a progression of exercises, but it’s an amazing principle for your training: train your body in asymmetrical ways with single-leg or -arm movements.
To start with, the reverse lunge is the best way to train single-leg strength, balance, and positions for a beginner. It’s a great way to practice knee and hip flexion to improve your squat, as well as stabilising the hips and using your core to balance.
As you get better, you can add a deficit to the front foot. Once you’re comfortable, add weight, and eventually, you can progress to the Bulgarian split squat. This comes with the same principles and benefits, as well as a huge contribution to your quad strength and size!
These have some of wackiest names in fitness but provide some of the most important core work that you’re not doing!
These two exercises are used to build rotational strength in the core which is essential for any type of athletic movement – from gymnastics to running. They train the core in opposite directions but contribute to strength, stability and health in the core, hips, and knees.
The dead bug builds core strength and coordination, while the bird-dog focuses on keeping the core stable while strengthening the lower back and glutes. These are crucial muscles for effective training in CrossFit: a strong back and hips always improve performance and there are a host of benefits beyond just looking and performing well.
There are other ways of training this, but the dead bug and bird-dog are the most versatile and accessible. Make sure to keep the distance between the bottom of your ribcage and top of your hip crest the same throughout the whole movement.
Hand-Release Push Up
This is exactly what it sounds like – you perform a push-up but pause on the floor to retract your shoulders and bring the hands off the floor.
Why would you do this? Firstly, it is harder and enforces proper movement standards – both of which are key to effective training. Secondly, however, it provides a great way of balancing the shoulder joint and improving muscular balance/control – a key way of reducing injury.
Finally, it’s a great way of practising your shoulder retraction and strengthening the muscles of the upper back. These can easily be ignored if you’ve got a hundred other things to train this week, but they’re not trained in the same way during pulling movements and they provide stability and healthy movement to the shoulder joint in all your movements – bodyweight and loaded.
Bodyweight exercises play a huge role in CrossFit training – you can’t afford to ignore them. However, they also come in a variety of styles and flavours, so you need to respect them and make sure you’re training them in a balanced way.
We’ve included a discussion of the way that these exercises can be used for conditioning, as well as strength, stability, and reducing injuries. There are dozens of fantastic movements that you can use, and we’ve only touched on a few of the most popular CrossFit Bodyweight workouts.
Founder of www.calisthenics-101.co.uk. Training calisthenics since 2012.
Currently working on: 30 second one-arm handstand, muscle-up 360, straddle planche.