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The 6 most brutal crossfit WODs

Launch your adrenaline into overdrive by taking on CrossFit's most gut-wrenching workouts of the day.

CrossFit workouts can be pretty brutal. They test the limits of your strength, speed and endurance, with or without a group setting. Hear mixed opinions about CrossFit? It's worth it—but if you want to test yourself before you jump in feet-first, put yourself through these six ultra-demanding WODs—that's CrossFit-speak for "workout of the day."

And what workouts they are. These nasty routines run the gamut from extremely difficult to utterly vicious and borderline insane. As long as you're giving them your all, they'll leave you winded and sore like never before.

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1. Filthy 50

The Facts:

A CrossFit staple, the Filthy 50 is a brutal series of taxing exercises that’s likely to seem endless if you’ve never done it before. The circuit includes 50 reps of 10 different exercises, all done as quickly as possible. Do 50 box jumps with a 24-inch box, 50 jumping pullups, 50 kettlebell swings, 50 walking lunge steps, 50 knees to elbows, 50 reps of push press with 45 pounds, 50 back extensions, 50 wallballs using a 20-pound ball, 50 burpees (dropping all the way to the floor), 50 double-unders.

The Brutality:

This workout does a good job conveying the basics, and the madness, of CrossFit. This WOD gets to a lot of people at the knees-to-elbows stage, according to Sara Haley, star of Sweat Unlimited, a DVD series of extreme five-minute workouts. "[The Filthy 50] is such a challenge because you have to literally be good at everything. It’s a full-body workout that includes cardio." The sheer number of exercises can be hard to fathom, so it’s best to just pace yourself and focus on the task at hand, not on how much more there is to do. Of course, you can also modify this and do less of each exercise if you’re new to CrossFit and don’t want to dive in head-first—try 20 or 25 of each during your first time through the circuit.

Challenge Time: 25 minutes

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2. Fran

The Facts:

Fran is a series of thrusters and pullups done as quickly as possible. This is a shorter WOD that includes three rounds, including 21 reps of each exercise in the first round. In the second and third rounds, you must complete 15 and 9 reps of each exercise respectively. You can modify this WOD to your ability—the thruster can vary in weight and you can do jumping pullups as well.

The Brutality:

Fran is often one of the first WODs that people get exposed to as they get into CrossFit. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s not tough. “The pull-ups are definitely the difficult part of this WOD,” Haley says. “I mean, it’s definitely harder for women, but I’ve seen men struggle just as much.”

Challenge Time:

5 minutes, but this really depends on the size of the weights you use.

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3. Murph

The Facts:

Murph is pretty simple, but relentless: Run one mile and then do 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 squats, and then run another mile. Do it as fast as you can. Pullups can be modified if need be. Higher end athletes/CrossFitters do it all with a weighted vest. The workout is named after Navy Lt. Michael Murphy, who was killed while serving in Afghanistan.

The Brutality: 

None of these exercises are anything you haven’t encountered before; it’s just the sheer quantity, and the fact that you’re doing them all at once. The key is to pace yourself, especially during the first few exercises. Nathan Forster, owner/trainer of Reebok CrossFit 5th Ave in New York, says that the last mile is always the toughest part, no matter how well you’ve paced yourself. “You want to sprint to the finish but for most people, they’re pretty gassed at that point,” he says.

Challenge Time:

Go for 40 minutes or less, but up to 45 minutes is still strong.

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4. The Seven

The Facts: 

Exercises are done as quickly as possible in a cycle for seven rounds. Each round includes 7 handstand pushups, 7 135-pound thrusters, 7 knee-to-elbows, 7 245-pound deadlifts, 7 burpees, 7 kettlebell swings, and 7 pullups.

The Brutality: 

No filler exercises here—every piece of this WOD brings up a new challenge, and you’ll have to be ready for more since there are seven rounds. “The thrusts are the most difficult part for me, but a lot of people can’t even do a handstand push-up, so that could be the hardest part for some people,” Forster says. There are various ways to modify handstand pushups if you haven’t mastered them and are ready to tackle the rest of this circuit.

Challenge Time: 
According to Forster, a “monster” time would be 20 minutes. If you haven’t completed this WOD but are on your way, shoot for 35 to 40 minutes.

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5. The Ryan

The Facts:

The Ryan lasts five rounds, done as fast as possible. Each round includes 7 muscle-ups followed by 21 burpees. The workout is named after Missouri firefighter and CrossFit enthusiast Ryan Hummert, who was killed by sniper fire while responding to a call.

The Brutality:

On its own, mastering the muscle-up is a rite of passage in CrossFit. Not many people know how to do one, so being able to perform one shows a huge commitment to CrossFit training. That said, this WOD requires you to complete a huge number of them. Haley advises to get a great coach who can do muscle-ups well if you have an interest in learning the exercise. Once you learn that, this circuit will provide yet another insane challenge.

Challenge Time:
Try to get your time under 25 minutes. Highly experienced CrossFitters can get down below 15 minutes.

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6. King Kong

The Facts:

As Forster puts it, “It’s a faster workout, but if you can’t lift a lot of weight, you’ve got no shot." There are three rounds done as quickly as possible, all unbelievably difficult. Each round includes a progression of 1 deadlift at 455 pounds, 2 muscle-ups, 3 squat cleans at 250 pounds and then 4 handstand pushups.

The Brutality:

The numbers speak for themselves. Doing any aspect of this WOD is an accomplishment on its own. For those that get to this pinnacle of fitness, it’s often either the deadlift or the squat cleans that pose the biggest challenge. “For me, the squat cleans are the hardest part,” Forster says. “Some other guys agree with me, but the deadlift gets a lot of people too. Most people just can’t deadlift 455 pounds.”

Challenge Time:

“Five minutes is an amazing time, but if you can do this one at all, you’re a monster."

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