If you’re looking to kickstart your fitness journey, look no further than CrossFit.
This fitness phenomenon may be associated with gruelling workouts reserved for elite athletes, but the truth is, it’s an effective way to build muscle, burn calories and improve your overall functional fitness, whatever your level of health.
So, regardless of whether you’re new to the world of exercise and gyms, or a fitness fanatic, this guide outlines the best beginner-friendly exercises and workouts that will get you ready for the world of CrossFit and help you decide if it’s for you or not.
Most of these CrossFit exercises and workouts are suitable for the home too, and don’t require much, if any, equipment… making it super accessible for everyone to give them a go.
Remember, if you recovering from an injury or haven’t exercised in a while, take things slow and stead to begin with. Focus on your form and technique and only once you feel comfortable moving your body to complete the exercises, start to increase the intensity.
CrossFit Workouts and Exercises for Beginners
1. Death By… Burpees
Death by Burpees is an interval workout. In the first minute, you do 1 burpee (sounds easy enough, right?). In the second minute, you do 2 burpees… the third minute, 3 burpees… and so on, until you can’t do the amount of burpees required in that minute.
This is a great place to start for beginners, as burpees will engage pretty much every muscle in your body and help develop your muscular strength, endurance and cardiovascular health.
Although it’s a relatively straight-forward bodyweight movement, it’s certainly capable of leaving you feeling completely exhausted by the end.
This workout is also completely scalable, so it naturally adapts to your fitness level.
This is a great workout to benchmark your fitness, similar to the bleep test you might have done in school. It’s clear if you’re improving or not.
2. Double-Unders x 1 Minute x 5 Sets
This workout involves doing double-unders (using a jump rope where the rope passes the floor twice per jump) for 1 minute, repeated 5 times. A double-under is a popular CrossFit exercise, and one that tests your cardio fitness, coordination and leg strength.
In general, jump rope workouts are actually really effective ways to keep fit. Weighted jump rope workouts go even further and can help build muscle in the shoulders, arms and back, as well as providing the cardio benefits.
If you can’t do double-unders, don’t worry, simply try doing single rotations with the jump rope and see how you get on.
3. Push, Pull, Run
Do 10 push ups, 10 pull ups and a 5 minute run.
If you want to scale this up, simply repeat the workout.
Strength movements can generally be described as either “pushing” or “pulling” exercise, so this CrossFit WOD activates the whole upper body by including the two most effective bodyweight pushing and pulling movements.
If you struggle with pull-ups, check out our guide on negative pull-ups which provides tips for making pull-ups easier (and harder). Similarly, don’t worry about doing CrossFit style pull ups (“kipping” pullups)… as a beginner, that’s not something you should focus on to begin with.
4. Full Body Decreasing Ladder
Follow a structure of 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 rep rounds, doing push ups, burpees and sit-ups.
This means, for the first set (or “round”), you are doing 10 push ups, 10 burpees and 10 sit ups. For the next set, you’re doing 9 of each, followed by 8 and so on.
These 3 exercises engage the whole body, so it’s a great CrossFit workout for beginners who are short on time and want an efficient workout to try.
5. 8 Minute Burpee Workout
Back to a burpee-based workout, this one is as simple as it sounds… as many burpees as you can do in 8 minutes.
This is a short and sweet workout, but will be incredibly tough.
Again, this is a scalable workout, so don’t rush things. Take your time and make sure you maintain proper burpee technique throughout.
Once you’ve mastered the humble burpee, you can start to explore more advanced moves like the Devil Press which involves moving the body in a similar way, but with the added joy of holding a pair of dumbbells.
The Cindy WOD is about completing as many reps as possible in 20 minutes of:
- 5 pull ups
- 10 push ups
- 15 air squats
This starts to feel more like the type of workouts you may face if you join a CrossFit box, and will require good cardiovascular health, muscular endurance, as well as strength.
Focus on technique and also you’re doing as many reps as possible in the time frame time, take things nice and slowly to begin with to help your body get used to the endurance needed to do bodyweight movements for 20 minutes.
If this is too challenging, try doing a “half Cindy” for 10 minutes.
7. CrossFit Total
CrossFit Total consists of: 3 back squats, 3 overhead presses and 3 deadlifts.
This workout is about getting used to lifting Olympic weights and ultimately focusing on strength and power.
These exercises are incredibly effective at building muscle, as well as providing all sorts of benefits around healthy living… but technique is everything.
Focus exclusively on doing the movements properly, so start with quite light weights and see how you get on.
Similarly, make sure you’ve fully warmed up and stretched before doing these lifts, as just because you’re not running around or jumping, it doesn’t mean you can’t get away from not warming up properly.
Over time, you’ll want to try and increase the weight of these 3 weights, but only do so, once you’re comfortably completing 3 reps of each.
Annie involves double unders and sit ups, following a structure of 5 rounds, decreasing in repetitions per round. The first round includes 50 double unders and 50 sit ups, the next round 40 of each, the next round 30, until the final round is 10 of each.
The aim is to complete it as fast as you can.
Again, if double unders are a bit too challenging, just do single rotation jump ropes.
9. 12 Burpees x 12 pull-ups for 5 Rounds
This CrossFit workout for beginners involves doing 12 burpees followed by 12 pull-ups, repeated 5 times.
The combination of burpees and pull-ups is going to require every muscle in your body to step up. 5 rounds is also quite tough (in terms of the total amount of pull-ups you’re going to do) so make sure you don’t burn out after the first couple of sets… and slowly pace yourself.
This is good practice for when you start more advanced workouts. These workouts require you to save some energy in the tank and develop better muscular endurance.
If 12 pull-ups is to difficult, consider negative pull-ups with a resistance band to aid the movement. Or similarly, swap out pull-ups for dead hangs (whereby you simply hang from a pull-up bar) for 12 seconds. This is actually still engage a lot of the same muscles as a pull up and is better suited to beginners.
Pull ups are a great exercise to master for CrossFit, but they’re definitely not easy, so just take your time and focus on incremental improvements.
10. 150 Box Jumps
Box jumps are another seemingly simple exercise that are actually really effective at building muscle and power, as well as burning calories.
Box jumps are also quite common in CrossFit WODs, so it’s good to get used to them.
If you’re a beginner, use a lower box/raised surface to jump onto… if you want a challenge, try increasing the height of the box you’re jumping onto.
To get the most out of your box jumps, really focus on exploding off the floor into your jump. It’s something easy to go through the motions but by making sure you are really pushing off the ground as hard as possible, it will help develop more explosive strength in your legs. This will also make squats and other leg exercises feel easier.
Hindu squats are a great exercise to include in a warm up before box jumps, as they help prime the muscles for the exercise.
11. 400M Sprint x 50 Squats
Do a 400m sprint, followed by 50 squats, repeated 4 times.
This is a true leg burner and calorie burner.
The aim is to do this as fast as you can, but again, for beginners, don’t worry as much about the time, and really focus on good form and getting your body used to the movements. Squatting after a sprint is not easy, but it helps improve your muscular endurance, which is an area of fitness and strength training, that is often ignored, but something that is synonymous with CrossFit.
12. 10 Burpees, 15 Box Jumps and 20 Kettlebell Swings
This CrossFit workout involves doing 10 burpees, 15 box jumps and 20 kettlebell swings, repeated for 3 rounds.
Kettlebell swings is another popular exercise in CrossFit, so it’s worth getting used to it… but opt for a light kettlebell to begin with.
Kettlebell swings offer the muscular challenge to complement the aerobic challenges of the burpees and box jumps. Kettlebell swings are a great exercise when done correctly but ensure your form is maintained otherwise it could cause injury.
What is CrossFit?
CrossFit is a branded fitness protocol, that combines strength training and conditioning, in largely high intensity workouts. The exercises that make up CrossFit workouts are focused on functional movements. This means you may see familiar exercises featured, such as burpees and squats, but you won’t see any use of “gym machines” such as smith machines in these sorts of workouts.
The workouts tend to be scalable so both beginners and elite athletes can follow similar workout structures.
There’s no reason why you can’t do CrossFit workouts at home or on your own, but most people tend to join CrossFit gyms and follow guided group classes.
Benefits of CrossFit
CrossFit helps to improve strength, cardiovascular fitness and overall mobility. It is a more complete style of fitness than most others, as it includes both strength training and cardio activities.
Whether you want to build muscle or burn calories, CrossFit offers a genuine way to do this.
Doing CrossFit at Home
You can certainly do CrossFit at home. Once you are comfortable with the movements and workouts, it can be a great way to keep yourself motivated compared to just creating your own workouts.
What is a WOD in CrossFit
The term WOD simply refers to as “workout of the day” in CrossFit.
Is CrossFit suitable for Beginners?
Yes absolutely. CrossFit can be adapted to beginners. Having said that, if you struggle with bodyweight movements like squats or push ups, then you’ll probably need to work on these before trying more advanced workouts.
As you can see from this small selection of workouts, CrossFit offers plenty of diversity and variation. These workouts are a great starting point to try at home and if you enjoy them and find them useful, then get yourself down to a local CrossFit gym.
These CrossFit workouts can be seen as templates and depending on your fitness and current ambitions, you can adapt them as required. If you are just starting out then it’s good to stick to a workout plan so you can note down your progression. This makes monitoring your fitness a lot easier.