How to Structure a WOD (Workout Of the Day)

There are many ways to structure a workout of the day, but here’s what we consider the most optimal structure for any type of workout, but especially CrossFit WODs.

  • Warm-up
  • Work on mobility / strength
  • Demo
  • Training
  • Demo
  • Workout and monitor
  • Cool down and stretch
  • Provide feedback


Why warm-up?

We warm-up to achieve an increased heart rate, body temperature, get the blood pumping through the system, increase blood flow to the muscles and loosen the joints. Not only is a warm-up good physically, but also mentally. You warm-up with body or light weight, gently increasing intensity during the duration of the warm-up. The most important reason for a warm-up is to prevent injury like muscle strain etc. If after your warm-up you focus on mobility, and/or training, then you can reduce warm-up time till about 5 to 10 minutes. If you’re using running, then you start with a light jog or high knees, then run, and finish with sprinting. Squats, burpees, jumping jacks, jump rope, and alternating reverse lunges are all good for warming-up. A warm-up should be full-body, but should focus more on the areas that are going to be worked.


Why mobility?

It’s not necessary a bad thing to focus on mobility before the warm-up, but a warm body means increased range of motion.

You focus on mobility, to increase range of motion, increase flexibility to achieve a better overhead lockout, to be able to hold the bar overhead during a squat without it impacting the lower-back, and so on.

Some of the areas to focus on are, but not limited to: thoracic spine, shoulders, ankles, hips and so on. This can also be a good time to focus on mind-muscle connection, lat activation, core activation, glute activation, preventing excessive pelvic tilt etc. Some of the mobility drills can be, but not limited to: resistance band work, bodyweight windmills, even lunges are great, but to be performed in a slow controlled manner focussing on range, add rotation to make it even better, put your hands behind your head and you’re also opening up the chest.

With mobility it’s best you focus on the work to come, if you’re going to do a lot of overhead stuff, focus on shoulders, chest, scapula, thoracic spine, lats, lower traps etc. The plank is great for lat activation, or just hang from a bar and activate the lats, alternating superman or cobra are also great for the back, throw in some rotational work as that’s mostly overlooked.

Why separate working on strength from the workout? For optimal strength, control, focus, and removing the competitive quality of most WODs is required, hence the reason to separate strength.

I’ve included many more videos below that are great for warming up and mobility. They’re all part of the book Master The Kettlebell Press.


Why demo?

You can talk and get lots of ‘Yesses’ paired with blank stares, and you know they’re too afraid to say “I have no clue what you’re talking about”, a quick demonstration will prevent this, pair it with some cues, and you’re re-enforcing technique through visualization and verbalization. A demo is different from training, there is no need to cover the complete exercises and every details for regulars, you carefully pick the right cues, muscle groups to activate, and common mistakes made. Each time you demo, you try and cover something new, you might even cover something specific you know someone in the group needs to know, this is a great way to cover things that might otherwise be awkward to discuss. For example with the deadlift, you could talk about trap activation, glute activation, shaving the shins, full hip extension but not hyperextension and so on. If you’re lost for ideas, then it’s time to learn more about the exercises.


Why training?

Training is where you get the group to go through the exercises, correct the technique, assess, progress or regress, provide alternatives, keep an eye out for injured people—yes some people train when injured—you can pick up this and talk to them, tell them you recommend rest and recovery, if they insist on training, tell them to go lighter or half the reps. Maybe you can see that they’re fatigued, you might know they’re capable of easily smashing this WOD in a recovered state, but today you can see they need rest, provide the guidance your paid for. Break things down during training, if you’re going to be jerking, then you would start with a push press, and work on the second dip without weight, if it’s a push jerk then you want to work without bar as well, and work on the feet coming off the ground and outwards, stand up and reset. You might even work on the drop. Break things down, and work on the issues. Training is also a great time to work on strength and MMC, include static holds, like the plank or hang, all great for lat activation (MMC).


Why workout?

Working out is to push yourself further, compete against others, compete against your yesterdays self. Working out is not about training, it’s about using what you learned during training, it’s about conditioning, repetition, improving muscle endurance, improving cardiovascular endurance, increasing reps, it’s about learning how to pace yourself, listening to your body and above all, it’s about increasing mental toughness. Read about the difference between training and working out.



Why monitor?

Monitoring is what you do while the participants are working out, there is a plethora of things to monitor for, muscle activation, technique, pacing, effort and so on, but most importantly, monitor potential for injury, if someone is pressing with a hyper-extended back instead of jerking, it’s time for rest, lower weight, and a scheduled technique session. If someone is squatting RX overhead and their heels are coming off the ground every-time, squat depth is minimal, then it’s time to lower their weight for that exercise and make a note to have them work on flexibility. And my favourite, picking someone out of the crowd and monitoring their reps, hey, everyone makes a mistake sometimes, for sure, but always 7 = 10 requires some group directed motivational talk about why you’re working out, that coming in numero uno isn’t your main objective, well, not at the cost of technique, reps, and potential for serious injury.


Why cool down and stretch?

The body is now in a perfect state for static stretching and foam rolling, well deserved time to thank and take care of the muscles for the performance they’ve given. Static stretches are great for increasing muscle length, which in turn helps prevent injury, and greater range of motion. It’s also a good time to relax, and reflect on your performance. Let me tell you a secret, I don’t always stretch, as I don’t think it’s a requirement to always stretch, but this depends entirely on what you do outside of the workouts and/or what was involved in the workout, like for example a session which involved a lot of dynamic stretches and/or grinding moves that go to the edge of flexibility. But having said that, cooling down and stretching after session is good for the mind.


Why provide feedback?

Time to talk about the notes you made during your monitoring, it can be a quick addressing of the whole group, if the majority of the group made the same mistake, it can be pulling someone aside, and giving them some tips in private or even suggesting personal training, whether to increase technique, strength, flexibility or other.

We have always made this a big part of our service, we talk to people afterwards and if we don’t get to talk to them afterwards, we take a mental note and take them aside next time if they’re in early, and we have a few minutes to spare. It could even be things like improvements we’ve seen, it doesn’t always need to be about learning more. It would even go as far as life tips, general health tips, little things like talking about smoking, excessive drinking, nutrition, rest and mental state.


As always, we’re open to feedback. Post below or on the following Facebook post.


Four more videos below for members of Cavemantraining, not a member yet? Sign up for free.

Above videos are part of the book written by myself and Joe Daniels called Master The Kettlebell Press, check it out.

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