I’ve owned my CrossFit NRG in Salt Lake City, Utah, since 2008. Whenever I program a workout for my students, I think of it in one of two ways: high-skill or low-skill.
High-skill movements—like Olympic lifts—take a lot practice and instruction. I find it hard for students to make corrections under high intensity or stress, so you’ve got to give a lot of rest. Rest allows for reflection and a chance to make corrections. After all, the best time to practice a move like that is when you are fresh as possible.
On the other hand, low-skill movements don’t require much instruction. I can challenge my students and make them sweat, all the while knowing they’re safe. I can give them a little bit of everything, but not enough to do serious damage. That’s why my favorite workout (below) consists of low-skill exercises.
While it may look easy on paper, it’s a lung burner. If you go hard, and you go fast, you’ll test your limits and finish in better condition than when you started. This workout is accessible to the newest CrossFitter, but also challenging to a veteran who can blow through small sets. You should finish in under 20 minutes.
DO THIS: Perform the first exercise couplet as an ascending “ladder.” Begin with 1 rep of the knees to elbows and 1 rep of the wall ball. Next, do 2 reps of each move, and then three, and so on until you’ve completed 10 reps of each exercise.
When you’ve completed the first couplet ladder, begin the second couplet. Perform it as a descending “ladder.” Begin with 10 reps of the box up followed by 10 reps of the pushup. Next, do 9 reps of each move, and then eight, and so on until you’ve worked your way down to 1 rep of each exercise.
Knees to elbows: Grab a pullup bar with a shoulder-width grip and hang at arm’s length. Raise your hips and lift your knees to meet your elbows. Then lower your hips and legs back down to a dead hang. That’s 1 rep.
Wall ball: Stand facing a wall. Holding a medicine ball in front of your chest, quickly squat down as low as you can. Stand back up, and simultaneously release the ball at a target above your head on the wall. Catch the ball and immediately squat again. That’s 1 rep. Men should use a 20-pound medicine ball and aim for a target 10 feet above them. Women should use a 16-pound ball, and aim for a 9-foot target.
Box up: With your feet shoulder-width apart, dip down and then jump onto a box. Step down and repeat. Start with a box that’s 20 to 24 inches high,
Pushup: Assume a pushup position, with your arms straight and hands below and slightly wider than your shoulders. Bend at the elbows and lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor. Pause, and push your body back up.
James Sjostrom is owner of CrossFit NRG in Salt Lake City, Utah, and a StrongFirst Team leader. He has taught more than 10,000 hours of personal and group training.