For the average person, making time for fitness can be challenging. Whether you’re a CrossFit super fan like me, or just looking for a good workout that fits your lifestyle, bodyweight CrossFit workouts at home can be a great option.
This post is written by Dr. Will Murtagh, PT, DPT, CSCS, CISSN A Physical Therapist & Remote Fitness coach with a passion for helping people reach their fitness goals and stay pain & injury-free by providing online fitness training programs. WillPower Strength & Nutrition
Unlike traditional workouts in a CrossFit Gym, you don’t need any fancy equipment, or a lot of space to get your fitness training done when you’re training at home. In today’s article, we’ll be diving into the principles of training at home and utilizing bodyweight CrossFit workouts to achieve the fitness goals that you have.
We’ll cover the fundamentals of designing the workouts, to advanced techniques in program design. We’ll also review how to track your progress with Hero WODs regardless of whether you are a beginner or a CrossFit Games athlete without leaving the comfort of your own home.
The Benefit of Bodyweight CrossFit Workouts
Bodyweight CrossFit workouts offer a great opportunity for you to get an intense and efficient workout at the time of day that works best for you. Bodyweight workouts primarily involve “close-chained” movements that are challenged through relative strength and strength endurance as limitations.
The workouts use a combination of the six foundational functional movements: Squat, Hinge, Lunge, Push, Pull, and Carry/Core to design total body workouts that provide a powerful stimulus to build strength, and muscle, lose fat, and enhance your conditioning level.
But, because bodyweight CrossFit workouts have low variability due to the lack of options for movements it is important to use sound programming principles to avoid overuse injuries and plateauing in progress over time.
What Are Functional Movements?
Functional movements are everyday actions that come naturally and engage multiple muscle groups. Since this is the case, they are the ideal movement prescriptions for workouts at home that need to be effective and efficient. Some common examples of functional movements found in CrossFit workouts include Air Squats, Double Unders (jump rope), and Walking Lunges.
All functional movements stem from the six foundational movement patterns mentioned above. Some examples of these six movements that can be done at home include:
- Squat: Air Squat, Wall Sit, Box Squat
- Hinge: Glute Bridge, Hip Thrust, Reverse Hyper
- Lunge: Walking Lunges, Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat, Jump Lunges
- Push: Push Ups, Dips, Hand Stand Push Ups
- Pull: Inverted Row, Bent Over Row, Pull Up
- Core: Forearm Plank, Side Plank, Hollow Body Hold
Bodyweight CrossFit Workout Structure
If you are familiar with CrossFit then you know that it is known for its high-intensity workouts. This high intensity is why the training methodology can be so effective because of the hormonal response that ensues once the session is over.
Bodyweight CrossFit workouts are no different as they incorporate the same training methods as CrossFit just without the use of equipment like barbells and cardio machines. Using movements like Air Squats, Burpees, Jump Rope, etc., you can mimic this intensity through the use of high-intensity interval training which is classified as brief, intense bursts of exercise interspersed with short periods of rest.
You can also use formats like Every Minute On The Minute (EMOM), As Many Rounds As Possible (AMRAP), or rounds for time. The type of workout structure you choose is based on the intent of the workout.
The EMOM is a training format that allows you to keep your session super specific to how long you will perform each movement and how long the session will last.
In an EMOM, you will select a certain workout duration, then select a work time or reps per minute, followed by the movement that you will perform each minute. After completing the movement you will rest the remaining time in that minute before moving to the next movement or repeating the exercise at the start of the next minute.
The AMRAP is a great way to try and challenge yourself to push the pace at which you are moving. In an AMRAP you will determine the amount of time you’ll be working for and then select the movements you’ll be performing within that time domain.
For an AMRAP, you’ll simply arrange the movements back to back and cycle through as many rounds as you can until the time finishes. The key to AMRAPs however, is that you will want to move at the fastest pace possible but also one that can be sustained throughout the whole time frame.
The last thing you want to do is move too fast in the beginning but then burn out and lose your pace halfway through. Avoiding this and maintaining your pace will allow for the best adaptation from your workouts and maintain progress long-term.
You can learn more about Aerobic training in this article posted by WillPower Strength & Nutrition “3 Signs You Are NOT Training Aerobically“.
Workouts for time are another great option for you at home. They are the most simple of the three as you will simply pick your movements, select your repetitions, select the number of rounds you’ll do, and then complete them as quickly as possible with great technique and movement standards.
For time workouts can be several rounds of alternating movements, large repetitions of several movements back to back for one round, or one movement for a long duration done for completion such as simply running a mile for time.
Tabata Intervals are one of the best ways to program a high-intensity workout that can be done at home and really elevate the heart rate. Tabata intervals consist of eight rounds of 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest.
This interval format which only runs for four minutes, allows for the most amount of work possible to be done in the shortest amount of time possible. With Tabata intervals, you can do them for one movement and really put the pedal down or you can stack movements back to back for a longer duration and more Aerobic session.
Strength & Endurance Training
Don’t forget that bodyweight CrossFit workouts don’t always need to be a cardio-based session. You can also get a great strength workout with little to no equipment using relative strength and muscle endurance programs.
Relative strength refers to your ability to move your body weight. For example, if you are 150lbs and can perform 5 strict pull-ups you would have higher relative strength than someone who is 150lbs but cannot perform 1 strict pull-up.
Similarly, if you both are 150lbs and one of you can perform 10 strict pull-ups and the other can do 15 you would have similar relative strength but the other person who can do 15 repetitions would have better muscle endurance.
Building Your Own Bodyweight CrossFit Workout
You are only limited by your imagination when it comes to designing bodyweight CrossFit workouts. But, that doesn’t mean sound programming principles aren’t considered when designing them.
The framework that I use for all of the training programs for my 1:1 Pain-Free Performance clients including bodyweight-only programs is the following.
Step 1: Define Your Intention
This first step defines the goal of the workout. Are you training for the CrossFit Games, weight loss, muscle gain, strength improvement, or overall fitness improvement? Having a clear understanding of what you are after is the first step as it will guide the actual reps, sets, and rest of the workout.
Step 2: Determine Who This Workout Is For:
This second step is crucial when you design CrossFit bodyweight workouts because who is performing the workout can dictate the dose response. The dose response is essentially what you will “get” from the workout.
If we go back to the pull-up example if they were to perform the same workout of the day that included pull-ups. The person who is able to do 5 pull-ups may get a potent muscle endurance session because they have the pre-requisite relative strength. But, the other person who could not do a Pull-Up would likely get a subpar strength stimulus that would be nothing but failed attempts and require scaling.
Before you move on to plan your workout ensure to consider your capabilities and fitness level to ensure the dose response you get is the one you want.
Step 3: Select Your Exercises
Although working out at home is somewhat restrictive with the amount of variation you can have in your workouts there are plenty of functional movements that you can include to keep your workouts fun and engaging.
Once you know what you want out of the workout and who it is for you can then select the exercises that will be in the session. It is important not to jump right to the exercises as it doesn’t make sense to have Handstand push-ups in your workout if you want a good cardio workout but can only do one rep without having to rest before completing another one.
- Air squats
- Handstand push-ups
- Pull-ups (if you have a pull-up bar)
- Double Unders (jump rope exercise)
- Mountain Climbers
- Pistol Squats
- Vertical jumps
- Box jumps (using a sturdy surface)
Step 4: Plan Your Workout
Now the fun part, it’s time to organize the workout based on all of the things we’ve discussed thus far. The world is your oyster here. Below are some examples that you can see to get started:
20 Minute EMOM (30 seconds of work; 30 seconds rest)
- Even: Jump Rope
- Odd: Pistol Squats
- 20 Minute AMRAP
- 10 Push Ups
- 100 Meter Sprint
- 20 Air Squats
- 5 Rounds For Time
- 10 Pull Ups
- 10 Burpees
- 20 Mountain Climbers
For Time: 21-15-9 Reps of Each Exercise
- Kipping handstand Push-Ups
- Box Jumps 24/20″ (M/F)
How To Track Your Progress
So now that you are crushing your training and improving your functional fitness with bodyweight WODs, it’s important to track your progress so that you know that you are adequately challenging yourself and most importantly adapting to the work you are doing.
When training exclusively with bodyweight-only movements this can pose a particular problem since we have less ability to do so than with traditional CrossFit equipment.
A great way to do so is by using a challenging workout that can be done inside your home that doesn’t require much equipment as a baseline measure of fitness such as one of CrossFit’s Hero WODS.
The Hero WODs are workouts that are written to be particularly challenging and are dedicated to fallen Military and First Responders. They are written to challenge you both physically and mentally and remind you of the effort and sacrifice that the fallen hero the workout is named after went through.
A great bodyweight-only Hero WOD is the Zachary Tellier WOD:
“Zachary Tellier” 5 Rounds For Time:
- 10 burpees
- 10 air squats
- 10 pull-ups (if you have a pull-up bar)
- 10 push-ups
- 10 sit-ups
- 10 handstand push-ups (or scaled variation)
Give this workout a shot when you first begin your fitness journey if it falls within your capabilities and periodically come back to it to see how you are progressing.
Bodyweight CrossFit workouts done at home can provide a great opportunity for a challenging and fun workout without the need for a gym membership or a large investment into traditional equipment.
Whether you aim to drive weight loss, build strength & muscle, or improve your overall fitness level you can do so with bodyweight movements and intelligent program design. Using the principles I’ve discussed you can now lay out your training day to day or keep them in your back pocket in case you need a few travel WODs to be done in your hotel room while you are on the road!