The Typical Crossfit WOD

CrossFit workouts are each supposed to be unique in the stimuli they illicit from the athletes who perform them.

In a training week, according to the CrossFit Level 2 handbook, you should see a long workout, medium workout, and sprint workout. Each giving a balanced mix of light, medium, and heavy loadings as well as a mix of gymnastics, weightlifting, and mono-structural movements.

The thing is, if ya look at most programming in the CrossFit Open and other greater CrossFit community workouts, most WODs typically fall in the 10-20 minute range in terms of length.


Let’s Get Nerdy.

As we burn energy, we pull from 3 different metabolic pathways:

Creatine-Phosphate – Weightlifting and Sprints and anything else under :30 of effort.

Glycolytic Anaerobic – The First 2 Minutes of Exercise or where we feel that lactate build-up.

Oxidative – That groove you feel when you go on a long run.

These pathways all require different combinations of stored macronutrients to give us the energy we need to exercise each and every time we walk into the gym.

Yesterday, we actually covered workouts that primarily pull from that Glycolytic metabolic pathway and how they affect us.

So, you wold think that workouts that are any longer than that exclusively pull from the Oxidative and have us burning fat as a primary fuel source right?


Really in CrossFit, we are trying to illicit different combinations of these pathways in a MetCon rather than just exclusively one or the other.

A sprint workout in CrossFit tends to last longer than that 2 minute window, but you still feel all the effects a workout in that zone would bring. Why? Because you were MOSTLY in that zone.

In each WOD you feel your heart rate rise and fall. For instance in today’s WOD you will pick up a barbell, your heart rate will climb and lactate will fill your muscles until you have to put it down. You take a second, breathe, and the heart rate comes back down. You repeat this process until the workout is complete.

If you were to track this on a graph with the x-axis being the time taken and y-axis being energy expended, it would look like a mountain range the progressively gets taller.

In a sprint workout, the peaks of the mountains can be quite tall and sharp with the distances between peaks being quite short.

Where as a long workout flattens out those peaks and looks more like a the hills of East Texas (or just like a small ramp when we talk about long distance running like 5k+ runs).

The Best of Many Worlds

Now if you were to try and create a workout that tested your ability to sustain high peaks of intensity for as long as possible, you would want to make a workout that is long enough to make the peaks look like sharp spines and short enough that they don’t become rounded humps.

Enter the medium length MetCon (10-18/20ish minutes)!

With a workout that is 10-20 minutes long, you can accumulate the volume that helps athletes burn tons of calories mid workout, while creating high enough intensity to produce change in an athlete’s muscle composition for building strength.

The repeated efforts of maintaining high intensity while maintaining a solid pull from the oxidative pathway can make a nice blend of carb and fat burning that statisfys most athletes goals.

In competitions, this time domain is used a lot (primarily 10-15 minutes) as it is also the end range that elite athletes can significantly pull from their Glycolitic pathways. This makes for terribly tough workouts like CrossFit Open 17.1, WZA 21.1, and CF Open 22.1.

Why Not Only Do This Time Range??

Because life doesn’t have you eating just carbs and just fat and we want you to be prepared for life!

Long workouts have their place in metabolizing fat and muscular endurance. Short workouts help us metabolize carbs and build power in our muscles. Medium workouts help us pull from both and learn how to recruit what we need in a given task. 

In order to prepare you for the tasks every day life throws at you and the variety we need in our diets to feel as healthy as possible, a solid variety of workout compositions important!

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