When I launched CrossFit Football in 2009, I had no idea the effect it would have in the intermediate training space, let alone the ripple effect it would have on the next decade. The number of google searches related to CrossFit Football are comically staggering, seeing as it’s been offline since 2016.
Fire up your DeLorean, jump in your hot tub, or bust out your Quantum Realm suit, and head back with me to 2008. CrossFit posted random and varied workouts daily on CrossFit.com. Providing exercise programming consisting of equal doses running, rowing, barbells, gymnastics, dumbbells and kettlebells, their target demographic was (still is, arguably) generalists whose goal was proficiency among an array of disciplines, aggregating in high levels of GPP (general physical preparedness). Being good at one thing was sacrilege.
For the majority of people fervently refreshing CrossFit.com precisely at 4 PM for their daily fix, the term GPP was new. Many had never read Verkhoshansky & Siff’s Supertraining, Zatsiorsky’s Science and Practice of Strength Training, or any of Louie Simmons’ training articles on building capacity. To be fair, they just wanted to burn. Science-ish training terms be damned.
Meanwhile, as the masses were WODing hard (bro), I was tasked by Greg Glassman with developing my own version of CrossFit as a way to extend its reach to field and power sports.
Having played football since 14 years old, I was well versed in metabolic conditioning as it related to sports, and could see the gaping hole in CrossFit’s methodology: the absence of strength training. I could see why: strength is anything but random – nobody ever gets randomly strong. It requires consistent, gradual progression over a sizable block of time. In other words, the required parameters for building strength did not fit 2008’s “broad time and modal domains” (or ran-dumb, per Tex McQuilkin) mantra.
But here’s where the irony kicks in: once an athlete is strong, the remaining aspects of training become easier. 95 pound thrusters are no longer heavy and swinging a 72 pound kettlebell is a keto-friendly Whole30 cakewalk.
My heavier, strength infused version of CrossFit, aptly named CrossFit Football, combined tried and true strength templates (translated into CrossFit speak), with short, heavy, hard conditioning workouts ranging from anywhere from 4-15 minutes, with the majority of work done in the 7-12 minute range.
The day we launched CrossFit Football, I got over 16k hits from all over the globe. The program caught fire on a global scale. Athletes ate it up and jumped on my strength train, and those that had historically cast stones at CrossFit proper finally had a place from which they could dabble in the training.
CrossFit Football provided many of the most challenging workouts the fitness/training world has ever seen, it is the home of what is arguably the hardest workout in the CrossFit-sphere.
Enough of the build-up…here are the Top 10 Hardest CrossFit Football Workouts.
10. DEADLIFTS / POWER CLEANS
Counting down to number 1, I am starting with number 10 on my list. This workout put a hurting on your grip and shoulders. This early CFFB sequence one needed no name.
Complete 7 rounds of:
3 reps – Deadlifts
3 reps – Power Cleans (touch & go)
Rules: Do not let go of the bar during the round. Count a penalty or miss for that round if you let go of the bar. Rest as needed between rounds.
Post heaviest load completed to comments.
One word – Religion. The first time I did this workout, during the 4th round on the 15th or 16th rep, I thought someone was tapping me on the shoulder. When I racked the weight, I asked my training partners who was trying to get my attention. Someone responded, “That wasn’t us, dude. It was probably Jesus seeing how close you were to death.” Hence the name Religion.
Complete 5 rounds for time:
Max reps – Back Squat
7 reps – 20” Burpee Box Jumps
Rules: If you are new put your body weight on the bar. If you are not new, and under 225 pounds, put 225 pounds on the bar. If you are over 225 pounds, put your weight on the bar.
Post total time and reps completed to comments.
This workout is named for LT Ron Winchester. Ron played football at Navy, graduated from the Naval Academy, and served in Iraq. During his second tour, he was killed by a roadside bomb. His sacrifice is remembered by the workout bearing his name – Winchester.
Complete 5 rounds for time:
30 reps – 135-pound Walking Overhead Lunges
Sprint 1 full gasser (203 yards)
30 reps – KB Swings w/ 2/1 pood
Rest 90 seconds between rounds.
Rules: Back knee has to kiss the ground for the lunge to be counted.
Post times to comments.
7. BENCH PRESS / REVERSE WALL CLIMBS
Saying this workout is upper body heavy is liking saying the total mass of the sun is 2×1030 kg. Simple facts that present interesting problems for those that attempt this one guaranteed to smash your upper body.
Complete for time:
40 reps – Bench Press with your body weight on the bar.
40 reps – Reverse Wall Climb + Push Up
Rules: This can be broken into any combination of sets and reps.
Post times & loads used to comments.
6. FIGHT GONE GO F*CK YOURSELF
This one might have killed us if we weren’t too young and dumb and good sense lets us succumb to it
Complete three rounds of 1 minute at each station. Rest 1 minute between rounds.
Max reps – Back Squat @ 225 pounds
Max reps – DB Bent Over Row – 50 pounders
Max reps – Box Jumps w/ 20” box
Max reps – DB Push Press – 50 pounders
Max reps – Russian KB Swings w/ 2/1 pood
Rules: Spend one minute at each of five stations, resulting in a five-minute round after which a 1-minute break is allowed before repeating. This event calls for 3 rounds. The clock does not stop or reset between exercises. On call of “rotate”, the athlete must move to the next station immediately. One point is given for each rep completed.
Post total score to comments.
5. THE GFY CHALLENGE
The “GFY” Tabata Deadlift Challenge put CrossFit Football and my home gym, CrossFit Balboa, on the map. If you could rip off more than 50 reps at 315 pounds, you got a unique and rare shirt designed by me with the phrase, “Go Fuck Yourself” emblazed on the neck. Under each arm was a printed 6 gun designed by good friend and teammate, Kyle Turley.
You have 20 seconds to do as many reps of deadlift as you can. Rest 10 seconds. Repeat these 7 more times for a total of 8 sets. Your score is counted by total number of reps in 8 sets.
Weight – 315 pounds
Post total reps of deadlift to comments.
4. DEATH BY BACK SQUAT
Just so there was zero confusion, the name of this workout happens to the be the intended outcome of finishing the workout – Death by Back Squat.
1 back squat the first minute, 2 back squats the second minute, 3 backs squats the third minute…and so on.
Rules: Go till you can’t complete the required amount of reps in that minute. The workout is performed at 225 pounds or at body weight, whichever is more.
Post total minutes completed to comments.
Another workout that needs no introduction – Tillman. Patrick Daniel Tillman was a former professional football player who walked away from his NFL career to join the Army Rangers. He served serval tours of combat before being killed in the mountains of Afghanistan. I was fortunate to play against Pat at Arizona State and the Arizona Cardinals. He played the game the way he lived – full throttle. I hope this workout represents him and his sacrifice.
Complete 7 rounds for time:
7 reps – 315 pound deadlifts
1 Full Gasser (203 yards)
15 reps – Pull Ups
Rules: Rest 45 seconds between rounds
Post times to comments.
2. REVERSE WALL CLIMB / BALL SLAM / EVIL WHEELS
The second hardest workout on my list of the Top 10 Hardest CrossFit Football workout is something I only remember doing once. And once was all I needed. I remembering testing it and thinking I should not post this. But I did anyway. You want a drink of water, prepare for the fire hose.
Complete for time:
100 reps – Reverse Wall Climb + Push Up
100 reps – Ball Slams w/ 40 pounds
100 reps – Evil Wheels
This workout can be broken up into any amount of sets and reps.
Post times to comments.
The number 1 on my list should come as no surprise. It not only ranks as the #1 hardest CrossFit Football workout, it also ranks #1 in nearly every CrossFit workout list, despite the fact it never appeared on CrossFit.com. The hero remembered is Bob Kalsu. He was an all-American tackle for Oklahoma. Drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the 8th round, he started 8 games, eventually being named the team’s top rookie for 1968. Bob went to Vietnam in 1969 and was killed by mortar fire near the Ashau Valley in 1970. The hardest workout in CrossFit Football is Kalsu.
This workout is done on the minute and the workout stops when you reach 100 total thrusters.
Rules: At the beginning of each minute perform 5 burpees, for the rest of the minute perform as many thrusters as you can during the remainder of the minute. At the beginning of the next minute, start with 5 burpees before continuing with max thrusters. Keep following this progression till you accumulate 100 thrusters.
Post the total number of minutes it took to complete 100 thrusters.
It was fun to go through the old website and look at the pictures, workouts, and comments. The memories associated with CFFB will last with me for a lifetime and the influence was something I never expected.
But even though CrossFit Football no longer exists the memories don’t have to end. A more evolved version following this style of training now lives on under the Johnnie WOD banner.
What used to be “CrossFit Football” has been reinvented as Johnnie WOD. As I have done every day since 2009, I post the world’s best daily face melters integrated with the best strength templates in the game. But now you train under the watchful eye of my Power Athlete coaches, and along side a community of bad mother fuckers.
The JWOD nation is all about getting stronger, moving fast, and smashing the D…the DWOD that is.
If you’ve been scouring the internet looking for something to satisfy your cravings for the hard, heavy, and fast WODs of the CrossFit Football days, you are in luck. You can grab a 2 week free trial by dropping your email in the form below.
I’ll see you on the feeds, and hopefully on the leaderboards.
John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.
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