Love the idea of DIY. Thanks for articulating a process to help others put their own effective workouts together.
I started doing CrossFit a year and a half ago and never want to go back to training in a normal gym again.
This past December, I got certified to be a Level 1 CrossFit trainer.
Currently, I coach at 2 different CrossFit gyms.
In the near future, I plan to open up my own CrossFit gym.
Yea, I guess you could say I’m drinking the CrossFit Kool-Aid.
Truthfully though, I could care less if you call it CrossFit, metabolic conditioning, boot camp, high intensity interval training (HIIT), Black Box, or the “300” workout. The bottom line is these are all workouts that (when done properly) provide unbelievable results in a short period of time.
And results are what I care about.
So when my roommate asked me to design workouts for him, I thought a CrossFit-style workout (or two) would be a great thing to add to his weekly routine. This post is the step-by-step process that I used to create those workouts for him. I hope you find it useful for creating your own high intensity workouts at home.
Step 1: List All The Equipment and Exercises You Have Access To.
Let’s start with the most obvious and fundamental piece of equipment….your bodyweight. Exercises like push ups, air squats, burpees, sit ups, lunges, planks, sprints, and longer runs are all incredibly simple and effective. You can even add more complex movements like push up variations, one-legged squats, or Ab variations like russian twists.
Next, look at other equipment that you may have around the house. My personal favorite, and the only real piece of workout equipment that I own, is a kettlebell. The versatility of a kettlebell allows me to do kettlebell swings, cleans, snatches, presses, sumo deadlift high pulls, turkish get ups, goblet squats, and much more. I also have a jump rope which allows me to add single jumps and double unders into the mix. (If you are looking to outfit your home gym, these are the two things I recommend buying first.)
I know a lot of people usually have an old set of dumbbells lying around that can be used for presses, thrusters, rows, or for adding weight to traditional body weight movements like squats and lunges.
Even without a gym membership you should have no problem doing exercises like pull ups and dips. If you don’t have access to a pull up bar or dip station, then you just aren’t trying hard enough. A playground, tree branch, or concrete ledge (like i use in the picture below) can be used in place of a traditional pull up bar and a set of chairs can be used for dips. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when you don’t have access to a gym full of equipment.
Just keep in mind that CrossFit (and all good training) should be built around functional movements so you want to avoid things like crunches, bicep curls, or calf raises. Stick to compound exercises that place a higher demand on your entire body.
Step 2: Get Creative and List Even More Exercises.
You thought doing pull ups in a stairwell or chair dips was creative?
Not even close. Now it’s time to really think outside the box.
A nearby bench or wall can be used for box jumps and step ups.
A hill or bridge can be used for incline sprints.
Buckets can be filled with water for farmers’ walks.
Water jugs can be used in place of dumbbells.
A wall can be used for handstand push ups or wall climbs.
Sand bags can be used for cleans or taken along on runs.
Nothing is off-limits.
The “equipment” that you use will most likely be things that you would find in a Home Depot rather than a Sports Authority.
If there is an object in your house that’s heavy and awkward, chances are you could add it to your workouts. Just stay away from expensive electronics. (There’s not an app for that….yet, at least.)
Step 3: Fill the Bingo Hopper.
It is time to take the lists of exercises that you created in Steps 1 and 2 and load them into the bingo hopper.
What is the bingo hopper?
It’s a model CrossFit uses for creating workouts with as much variety and intensity as possible. Just as your traditional bingo hopper selects bingo numbers at random, you should select and combine exercises at random when designing your workouts.
It is this variety that CrossFit says will provide your body with a unique and powerful stimulus at every workout. A stimulus that forces your body to adapt and get stronger consistently over long periods of time.
CrossFit is built around the preparation for the unknown and unknowable and the bingo hopper is the perfect representation of this viewpoint. Now that the hopper is loaded and ready to go, let’s see how this equates to actual workouts.
Step 4: Create Benchmark Workouts.
There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to, so I would start by browsing the list of CrossFit benchmark workouts, and seeing which ones you can do with the equipment you already have. Benchmark Girls like “Angie” and “Cindy” come to mind right away, since they require little more than your own body weight to perform. From there, you can take other benchmark workouts and alter them to include the exercises that you can execute at home. Here are a few examples:
Pick two high-power exercises and perform 21 reps of each, 15 reps of each, and 9 reps of each as fast as you possibly can. Record total time.
Example: 21-15-9 dumbbell thrusters and chair dips
“Fight Gone Bad”
Perform 5 exercises for 1 minute each. That’s 1 round. Complete 3-5 rounds with a minute rest between each round. Count total reps.
Example: 1 minute each of sumo deadlift high pulls, kettlebell cleans, dumbbell push presses, goblet squats, sit ups. Rest 1 minute then repeat 2 more times.
Pick 5-10 exercises and do 50-100 reps of each exercise. Complete all reps of one exercise before moving on to the next exercise.
Example: 50 lunges, 50 double unders, 50 kettlebell swings, 50 one-legged squats, 50 push ups, 50 box jumps, 50 hanging knees-to-elbows.
Do 2-3 exercises for 10-25 reps each and separate each round with a 400 meter run. Record total time.
Example: 3 rounds for time of 21 jumping air squats, 12 handstand push ups, 400 meter run.
Perform 150-200 reps of the same exercise as fast as you can.
Example: 150 burpees for Time
Pick an exercise and do 4-8 straight rounds of 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest. Do this for 4-5 exercises with no additional rest in between. Record total reps.
Example: Tabata Abs. 6 sets each of sit ups, russian twists, knee tucks, and leg raises.
Step 5: Vary your Workouts, Record your Results, and Test Benchmark Workouts on a Regular Basis.
Just as the bingo hopper model suggests, rarely should you repeat the same workout within a few weeks or even months of each other. Continue to create and execute new workouts, and use the benchmark workouts that you created in Step 4 to test your progress a few times a month.
The secret sauce of CrossFit is measuring the variables of a workout so you can compete with yourself in every training session. Record every workout that you do, along with the weight that you used and the time it took you to finish.
This evidence-based approach to fitness will show you how you are improving over time so you won’t have to rely on faulty measuring tools like a scale or your memory to tell you if you are becoming more fit.
I would recommend adding 2-3 days of CrossFit/metabolic conditioning to the 2-3 days of compound strength training that you are (hopefully) already doing. This should give you the fastest results in the least amount of time.
And we like results.