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If you're looking for creative ways to train smarter, not longer, look no further than some of the workout of the day (WOD) formats commonly used in CrossFit. If you don't belong to a "box" (their term for gyms), no problem-you can still reap the many benefits of these time-efficient, effective approaches to exercise by creating your own WOD that will challenge your fitness in a whole new way.

Regardless of which approach you take to structuring your WOD, establishing proper joint stability and mobility through effective exercises such as glute bridges, hip hinges, lying figure-4 rotations, kneeling prisoner rotations, shoulder stabilization series, and side lunges is key. Using these moves and others as part of a dynamic warm-up is essential to developing efficient movement patterns, which ultimately will ensure your safety and success as you break a sweat, especially as you considering adding load to movements by using equipment. Adam Stevenson, lead programming advisor and head trainer at Stay Classy CrossFit in San Diego, CA, recommends researching movements and educating yourself on proper form before attempting any moves for time or at a high intensity.

Once you've done your homework, here are two types of WODs to try.

The Couplet

What is it: two movements performed as reps for time

Equipment options: Versatile equipment such as barbells, kettlebells, SandBells, medicine balls, and dumbbells tend to lend themselves well to this particular format.

Exercise selection: Whether you pair opposing movements like a pulling exercise and a pushing exercise (such dumbbell renegade rows and medicine ball pushups) or couple two challenging total-body movements (such as barbell push presses and burpees) together for double the challenge, coupling movements allows you to structure your workout in a variety of ways so you can meet your fitness goals.

What's to love: If you're newer to CrossFit-style workouts, this format can work well because it's mentally easy to tackle since you perform fewer repetitions of each move as you progress through the workout, Stevenson says.

How to do it: Stevenson likes 21-15-9 couplets: Do 21 reps of each of your chosen exercises. Without resting, perform 15 reps of each, and then 9 reps of each. Record how long this workout took you and try to better your time each time you repeat it.

Another approach you can take to this style of workout is to move through 10 circuits of your selected exercises, beginning with 10 reps of exercise A and 1 rep of exercise B, then subtracting one rep from exercise A and adding one rep to exercise B each round until you finish the tenth round performing 1 rep of exercise A and 10 of exercise B.


What is it: "As many rounds as possible;" this is all about completing a series of exercises as many times as you can within a given timeframe.

Equipment options: Bodyweight exercises work extremely well for this format and allow for you to break a sweat anywhere, anytime whether working out at home, at the gym, or while traveling. Other portable equipment options, such as kettlebells, SandBells, and medicine balls, can also be used to add variety and new challenge.

Exercise selection: To enhance movement efficiency, consider utilizing a variety of both tried-and-true as well as creative no-equipment compound exercises that center around the five primary movement patterns: bend and lift, single-leg, pushing, pulling, and rotational. Creative variations on the squat, lunge, and pushup are all great options for AMRAP, and will help to maximize the movements you do both inside and outside of the gym. As you enhance your movement patterns, consider adding equipment and exploring exercises such as wall balls, kettlebell bottoms up clean and presses, and SandBell rear-foot elevated split squats with single arm row. You can also try adding cardio-focused drills into the mix, such as a 150-meter run or 200-meter row.

What's to love: This approach is tough yet time-efficient. Much like the couplet, this style of workout can serve as a benchmark for your workout, as it allows you to easily retest yourself and track progress along the way, says Sarah Pearlstein, a trainer at Stay Classy CrossFit.

How to do it: Choose three to five exercises and the specific number of reps to do of each based on your goals. Repeat the round for 6 to 20 minutes, performing as many rounds as possible within that allotted timeframe. For example, Pearlstein likes doing a circuit of 5 pull-ups, 10 pushups, and 15 squats for 10 minutes.