CrossFit WOD Strategy

It’s 2012, the year I started my CrossFit journey. As a newbie to the world of high intensity training, my eyes would always glance over to the WOD before even worrying about the rest of the programming for the session. To be fair it was my hook at first, I loved the workouts before anything else. The warm up, the strength piece, were merely obstacles to get to the part I loved most, THE WOD!!!

Looking back now, I used to attack the WOD full steam out the gate from the first second, giving it my all every time until the end, before falling down to my knees, muscles burning and spent while my mind would be energised for more! 

Let’s move forward now, a month from when I first started. I remember one day walking into class full of energy and optimism, when I came across the WOD ‘Fight Gone Bad’ for the first time. For those of you who might not know this beauty of a WOD yet, have a look on your SugarWOD app under benchmark WODS for a good read!

This was a big day in my head, my first crack at a benchmark WOD in the CrossFit world. Amped and ready to go I watched the clock count us down to the start 3… 2… 1… and Go!!! And as always with not much thought involved l just got down to work full steam ahead. 

… BUT something was different, it wasn’t working out… I was crashing hard! Never had a WOD done this to me and I had nowhere to hide! Each movement just got harder and harder and I felt defeated in the end. I remember walking out that day disappointed with my first
benchmark WOD performance. And to be honest it was the first time I did not have fun!

I now know what my first mistake was that day, I played the moment up too much. I put pressure on myself for no reason. I’m actually having a laugh thinking about it while I write this story. I mean come on CrossFit is what I do for fun! It’s my release from the stresses of the day, not create new stress ha ha. REMEMBER THAT GUYS, HAVE FUN!!!

Another very important skill I learnt that day is WOD strategy. Entering a WOD with a game plan and a bit of direction can define the WOD so differently. Let’s take my first experience of ‘Fight Gone Bad’. It took the wind out of my sails and I wasn’t keen on getting back on that ride again anytime soon. Let’s fast forward to the present and I can honestly hold my hand up and say that ‘Fight Gone Bad’ is one of my all time favourite WODS.
Sure, you could argue the fact that over time I have gotten more efficient in the movements making my experience of the WOD better. That thinking only improves my score in my opinion and not my overall enjoyment of the WOD. I can do a lot more burpees now than I could back then and guess what.. Burpee’s still suck mentally for me – ha ha!

So what has changed?
Having a WOD strategy is key for me. I still work hard through the movements of ‘Fight Gone Bad’ but I now know where to push and where to maintain a good level of intensity. In my opinion having just a bit of a game plan can help you squeeze all the goodness out of a WOD and enjoy it so much more! 

So…am I asking you to start whipping out the note pads and scientific calculators to break down the new day’s WOD
when you see it posted before class? NO! That sounds stressful… ha ha.

What I’m suggesting, is you start thinking about the following: What are your strong movements? What are your weak movements? What are your rep ranges in each movement before you start to feel fatigue or failure sets in? There might be some of you thinking I don’t know the answers to the above and that’s cool too. I’m still learning as I learn new movements. But if you can start making little mental notes as you train and listen to your body, you can slowly pick up the ability to look at a WOD and pretty quickly have a decent idea on how you should be breaking it down when it is briefed to you.

My tips for pre WOD strategy breakdown:

  • Which are my strong and weak movements in this WOD? I’m going to be moving harder through my strong movements and maintain good intensity through my weak movements.
  • What are my rep ranges before failure or fatigue sets in for the movements in the WOD? Choosing the correct rep ranges allows me to perform my best THROUGHOUT the WOD. Not just in the beginning or at the end of the WOD.
  • If I am not picking the prescribed weights, I’m choosing the most challenging weight as possible which allows me to move with the correct form. *THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT* This is how we dial technique and get stronger.
  • According to the WOD format, at what level of intensity am I attacking the WOD? Eg. 7min AMRAP go hard start to finish compared to a 20min AMRAP good solid pace throughout.

My post WOD strategy thoughts for next time:

  • How did I feel moving through both my strong and weak movements? Always good to record notes in the SugarWOD app about the WOD when entering your score for reference for next time.
  • Did I choose the correct rep range for the movements? Eg. 3 Sets of x5 toes to bar reps went well. So next time I’ll try x7-8 reps each set OR x5 reps each set was too much, so next time 5 sets of x3 reps might help me move better.
  • How did I move with the weights I choose? Can I start to think about using heavier weights in those movements next time or do I need to step down in weights as it was too heavy or I could feel technique was not where it should be.
  • Lastly did I go at the correct intensity? Do I feel I still have some left in the tank? Yes – Awesome I’m getting stronger and I need to pick it up. No – Awesome I left it all on the dance floor.
    Did I go to hard and crash early? Yes – think about where I feel pacing could have been better. No – Awesome, think about where I can pick the pace up slightly moving forward.

The above tips are far from full proof plans to WOD glory and raining PB’s. I still get it wrong and come out of a WOD thinking holy hell what just happened!!! But as the cliché goes ‘’It’s a great time to learn when it all goes pear shaped’’. 

WOD strategy is there to help make things clearer and can make a monster WOD just that more manageable in your head. Once you have it mentally broken down in your head, half the battle is already won! I’m hoping my tips can help you attack WOD’S with more purpose and get more fun out of them. More importantly I hope WOD strategy can help you learn more about your body.

See you on the dance floor H1 Family!
Better together!


Dilin van de Sandt – Coach & Co-Owner, H1 CrossFit

CrossFit Man Weightlifting H1 CrossFit Silverdale Auckland
CrossFit Man End of Workout H1 CrossFit Silverdale