Modified CrossFit Routines

Since the original¬†CrossFit post I’ve received several requests for CrossFit routines modified to be more consistent with high intensity training principles. The difference between these and more bodybuilding-oriented HIT routines is a greater emphasis on metabolic conditioning and incorporation of more bodyweight and gymnastic exercises like chin ups and parallel bar dips. While there may be no positive transfer of skill from bodyweight or gymnastic movements to different movements, regular performance may improve general kinesthetic sense and proprioception as well as awareness of and confidence in one’s physical abilities.

CrossFit’s Greg Glassman has described the method as “constantly varied functional movement executed at high intensity” . Although an exercise is commonly considered to be “functional” if it mimics a movement of daily living, work or sport, since only the strength gained from an exercise will transfer to other movements and not any specific skill, any exercise that effectively strengthens the body and contributes to improvements in other general aspects of fitness could be considered functional. By replacing the Olympic lifts and certain other movements with exercises involving the same muscle groups you do not sacrifice any functional benefit. It is unnecessary to move fast during exercise to develop speed and power in other activities and there is no transfer of skill from an exercise to a different movement. For example, the skill of performing power cleans will not positively transfer to the different although superficially similar movement of a football lineman exploding off the line any more than the skill acquired performing football blocking drills will positively transfer to swimming.

While balance, coordination, agility, etc. are not general abilities but posture or movement specific skills, if a person performs enough variety of movements that challenge these abilities it may provide a foundation for better learning more specific skills. This would be a strong argument for regularly performing bodyweight and gymnastic exercises. However, if one wishes to become highly skilled in a specific type of movement, deliberate, specific practice is necessary.

The following are several CrossFit named or benchmark workouts, along with the modified versions and a brief explanation of the changes made. Most changes consist of substituting exercises and adjusting the rep ranges accordingly, or adjusting the number of rounds to maintain a consistent time frame while using more controlled repetition speeds.

CrossFit’s “Angie” Workout

  1. 100 Kipping pull-ups
  2. 100 Push-ups
  3. 100 Sit-ups
  4. 100 Bodyweight squats

Performed for time.

Modified HIT Version

  1. 50 Strict pull-ups or chin-ups
  2. 100 Push-ups
  3. 100 Crunches
  4. 100 Bodyweight squats

Performed for time.

Strict pull-ups or chin-ups are substituted for kipping pull-ups and crunches for sit-ups. The repetitions are reduced from 100 to 50 for the pull-ups or chin-ups to account for the increased difficulty. Although the routine should be performed for time, the reduction in time should come from moving more quickly between reps and exercises, not during. The repetitions should only be performed as fast as possible while maintaining strict form, and sloppy reps should not be counted. The same for all other workouts listed as being for time or where as many circuits or rounds as possible are performed within a particular time limit.

I took a break from writing this to perform the modified HIT version. At a weight of 194 pounds I was able to finish in 22:36. The chin ups were definitely the hardest part. After the first fourteen I had to pause for a few seconds between groups of reps, then the pauses grew longer and the reps fewer until I was resting about ten seconds between each rep to get to fifty. After the chin-ups the rest of it wasn’t so bad, and the bodyweight squats actually felt like a break until I got closer to the end. I rarely perform more than twenty reps of any exercise, and usually between six and eight, so this was quite a bit different than I’m used to.

Some people may want to scale this down at first, starting with fifty percent of the reps.

CrossFit’s “Cindy” Workout

  1. 5 Kipping pull-ups
  2. 10 Push-ups
  3. 15 Bodyweight squats

As many rounds as possible in 20 minutes.

Modified HIT Version

  1. 5 Strict pull-ups or chin-ups
  2. 10 Push-ups
  3. 15 Bodyweight squats

As many rounds as possible in 20 minutes.

Strict pull-ups or chin-ups are substituted for kipping pull-ups. I recommend using a weight vest to increase the difficulty if you are able to complete 12 rounds, rather than attempting to increase rounds by moving more quickly.

CrossFit’s “Elizabeth” Workout

  1. Clean 135 pounds
  2. Ring dips

Performed for three circuits of 21, 15 and 9 reps, for time.

Modified HIT Version

  1. Deadlift 21RM weight
  2. Ring or parallel bar dips

Performed for three circuits of 21, 15 and 9 reps, for time.

The first set of deadlifts should be performed with an approximate 21RM – the weight should be heavy enough that you can just barely complete the 21st rep in good form. If you do not have access to rings, which is probably the case if you train at a typical gym, substitute parallel bar dips.

CrossFit’s “Linda” Workout¬†(AKA “3 Bars of Death”)

  1. Deadlift 1-1/2 bodyweight
  2. Bench press bodyweight
  3. Clean 3/4 bodyweight

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 rep rounds for time

Modified HIT Version

  1. Deadlift 1-1/2 bodyweight
  2. Bench press bodyweight
  3. Row 3/4 bodyweight

10, 8, 6, 4, 2 rep rounds for time

The number of rounds has been halved from ten to five, reducing the reps for each exercise from fifty five to thirty to account for the use of a more controlled rep speed. If the positive and negative are each performed over an average of 2 to 3 seconds the total time under tension would be greater even with the reduced work. While the CrossFit people might argue that this lower power output would reduce the effectiveness of the workout, I think the overall metabolic demand would be comparable, while the more controlled repetition speed and fewer reps would be easier on the joints.

CrossFit’s “Mary” Workout

  1. 5 Handstand push-ups
  2. 10 One-legged squats, alternating legs
  3. 15 Kipping pull-ups

As many rounds as possible in 20 minutes.

Modified HIT Version

  1. 5 Handstand or 10 shoulder push-ups (similar to “dive bomber” push ups)
  2. 10 One-legged squats, alternating legs
  3. 8 Strict pull-ups or chin-ups

As many rounds as possible in 20 minutes.

As in the modified version of Cindy above, strict pull-ups or chin-ups are substituted for kipping pull-ups. I recommend using a weight vest to increase the difficulty if you are able to complete 12 rounds, rather than attempting to increase rounds by moving more quickly.

If you are unable to perform handstand push-ups, substitute standing presses with your 10RM. It’ll feel heavy enough after the first few rounds. If you are unable to perform one-legged squats, substitute 20 bodyweight squats.

CrossFit’s “Lynne” Workout

  1. Bench press body weight
  2. Kipping pull-ups

5 rounds for max reps.

Modified HIT Version

  1. Bench press body weight
  2. Strict pull-ups or chin ups

5 rounds for max reps.

Strict pull-ups or chin-ups are substituted for kipping pull-ups, otherwise no change. Dips may be substituted for bench press. While some HITers may argue there is no point to multiple sets, keep in mind the emphasis is on metabolic conditioning rather than strength or hypertrophy. While most research shows no significant difference between single and multiple sets for increasing muscular strength or size, volume is an important factor where metabolic conditioning is concerned. At ten sets the total volume of the workout is not excessive for this purpose.

Ellington Darden’s Metabolic Conditioning Routine

Before hardcore HITers start accusing me of going off the deep end by posting CrossFit-influenced workouts, I’d like to point out that Dr. Darden himself, former director of research for Nautilus Sports/Medical Industries, the man who coined the term high intensity training and who has probably written and published more books and articles about it than anyone else alive, wrote about a similar routine in his last book The New Bodybuilding for Old-School Results. Chapter 25, Metabolic Conditioning for Football: Part A, included the following routine:

  1. 10 Strict chin-ups
  2. Sprint 100 yards
  3. 10 Dips
  4. Sprint 100 yards

6 rounds for time.

Dr. Darden recommended a target time of about twelve minutes. If ten chin ups or dips can not be completed substituted negative-only reps. Can be performed indoors by substituting cycling for twenty seconds for the sprints.

Please post your comments after trying any of the above routines as well as your own variations of them.

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