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The 10 Best CrossFit Workouts for Strength

Tough out these WODs for maximum muscle-building gains.
The 10 Best CrossFit Workouts for Strength

CrossFit prides itself on creating well-rounded athletes who are powerful, fast, agile, and, of course, strong. And it makes sense that by throwing around all those heavy weights, you’re bound to put on some muscle. Two CrossFit coaches—Angela Salveo, co-owner of CrossFit Salus in Middletown, NJ and Jessica Murden, co-owner of CrossFit A.C.T. in Saddle Brook, NJ—selected these WODs for their strengthening benefits.

“Wanna find out how strong you are? You need to test your one rep max to see where you stand right now,” Salveo says. The CrossFit Total is the sum of the highest load lifted of three fundamental moves: the back squat, shoulder press, and deadlift.

To work up to your one-rep max, you’ll warm up and then take three attempts, with plenty of rest between. For the first attempt, choose a heavy weight you know you can do for three reps. For the second attempt, choose a load you know you can do for a single rep based on the load of the first attempt. For the final lift, attempt the weight you want to do based on your performance on the previous two attempts.

Three sets, working up to your one-rep max:

Back squat

Shoulder press


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CrossFit likes to test and retest with benchmark workouts, all given women’s names. “Cindy is the perfect workout because it includes three basic, yet essential movements for building baseline body-weight strength,” Murden says. “Or you can add a 20-pound weighted vest to make it extra spicy.”

Do as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes:

5 pullups

10 pushups

15 air squats

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A benchmark workout done for time, Linda challenges your strength with a pyramid set of three classic barbell moves: ”The deadlift for posterior chain strength at 1.5 times your body weight; the bench press, every guy's favorite, at body weight; and the explosive olympic lifting move, the squat clean, at three-quarters of your body weight to get your heart rate pumping,” says Salveo. “Set up three bars and storm through for time.”

For time, 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 reps:

Deadlift at 1.5x body weight

Bench press at body weight

Clean at 0.75x body weight

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CrossFit WODs have a rep for being very high volume. However, “barbell complexes are a great way to move heavy weight while honing in on skill work,” Murden says. “They’re typically low-rep and heavy weight and are meant to be done unbroken.”

Try this one as a 15-minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible), or aim to do, say, five sets, increasing the load each time.

3 deadlifts

3 hang-clean squats

3 shoulder-to-overhead

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“Manmakers are a full-body strength building workout, incorporating multiple movements in just one rep,” Murden says. To do: Holding dumbbells, place them on the floor and jump back into a plank. Do a pushup, then a renegade row with the right arm, then another pushup, then a row with the left. Jump your feet in between the dumbbells and do a squat clean thruster. That’s one rep. Now do 49 more, as fast as you can with good form.

For time:

50 manmakers with as heavy weights as possible

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“This is a monster of heavy weights and gymnasty moves all mixed in one,” says Salveo. “Heavy deadlifts test your posterior chain, muscle-ups show your body weight control in the rings, the heavy squat clean shows your speed and force getting under that bar, and finally the handstand pushup demonstrates pure overhead pressing strength.”

3 rounds for time:

1 deadlift at 455 (scaled to 405, 355, or 305)

2 muscle-ups (scaled to 8 chest-to-bar pullups + 8 ring dips)

3 squat cleans at 250 (scaled to 225, 200, or 185)

4 handstand pushups (scaled to pike handstand pushups with feet elevated on box or 16 pushups)

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In “every minute on the minute” (EMOM) workouts, you do a task at the top of a minute, then rest for the time that remains until the next minute. “EMOMs can be programmed to train anything—power, strength, speed, anaerobic or aerobic capacity, and skills,” Murden says. “They’re an effective training tool to throw into your training repertoire because they assist with pacing, versatility, and measurable progression.” This one works on snatch form while challenging strength (of course).

10 minutes EMOM:

1 snatch at 85% of your one-rep max

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“You’ll work on pushing and pulling strength with Lynne,” says Salveo. “You've got bench press for the chest, shoulders, triceps, and strict pullups for the back and bis.” There’s no time limit for this WOD—you go until your form breaks down and you can’t go anymore.

Five rounds for max reps of:

Bench press loaded with your body weight

Strict pull-ups

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“This is the type of workout that pushes your strength to the limits, maybe even eliciting a few cries toward the last couple of rounds,” Murden says. “Squatting heavy is a high force/low speed movement, while sprinting is a high force/high speed movement. When you marry these two together, a beautiful union of strength and speed gains occur.”

Do 5 rounds:

5 back squats at 80% of one-rep max

Sprint 100m on track or 20 cals on the rower

Rest 2 minutes

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Take a gamble on your workout by letting a deck of cards dictate your moves. Draw a card and do the number of reps on the card of the exercise denoted by the suit. Face cards have a value of 10 and aces are 11. With these moves, you’ll get a well-rounded strength workout. “The front squats are for your core and lower body strength; the ring dips for stability and strength in the shoulders, triceps, and chest; the push press for overhead strength; and from-the-ground Pendlay row for the back; and, of course, you have weighted sit-ups for core strength and the 6-pack (which is actually made in the kitchen),” Salveo says.

Hearts = Front squat at 135 pounds

Diamonds = Ring dips

Spades = Push press at 135 pounds

Clubs = Pendlay row at 135 pounds

Joker= 50 weighted sit-ups at 25 pounds

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