If you’re familiar with the CrossFit Games, you’ll know the team behind the event rarely shy away from controversy - both good and bad. This year, the event attracted a lot of criticism surrounding the prizes. The 2016 winners each received a gun as part of their prize package.

Often, however, the CrossFit Games - and the sport in general - attracts criticism due to the intense nature of some of the workouts. Here’s a low down on a few of the most controversial WODs.  We share our thoughts at the end - but what do you think?


controversial WODs


Controversial WODs


In the 2014 CrossFit Games Open, one workout in particular was criticised due to the alleged disregard for athletes’ safety.

The workout required those taking part to work through a deadlift and box jumps ladder, completing as many reps as possible within the 8 minute timecap. The deadlifts increased in both weight and reps as the workout progressed - ending with 35 reps at 365 lbs (approx. 165kg).

Regardless of ability, this was a demanding workout - and could easily become dangerous if common sense was lacking. Whenever deadlifts appear in a WOD, technique is everything. As you fatigue, form is the first thing to go - which is never a good idea, but can be especially risky when high rep deadlifts are involved.

The official announcement saw Stacie Tovar throwing down with Sandra Pitchelli - and the criticisms and outrage started pouring in via social media before the workout had ended. If some of the sport’s best athletes couldn’t maintain form during the WOD, how would everyone else?

Here’s the video (skip to 23:00 for the workout):

After the live announcement, many box owners spoke out against Dave Castro’s decision. CrossFit Aiken went one step further - and decided they wouldn’t be hosting this particular workout in their box:


Murph is widely regarded as one of the toughest WODs - and something everyone should experience at some point - like a rite of passage.

However, in the 2015 CrossFit Games, this workout attracted some negative press for the event, when some of the world’s fittest athletes appeared to be dropping like flies.

If you haven’t experienced it yet, Murph looks something like this:

  • Run one mile.
  • 100 pull-ups.
  • 200 press ups.
  • 300 air squats.
  • Run one mile.

The catch? To RX the workout, you need to do it all in a 20-lb weight vest.

In the 2015 Games, 10% of the athletes failed to complete the WOD under the 55 minute time cap. At the end of the workout, several athletes reported heat stroke and extreme dehydration - spending hours in medical care, with some reported to be concerned about lasting kidney damage.

One of the most highly regarded athletes in the sport, Annie T, visibly struggled towards the end of the workout. She battled through the day, but ultimately had to withdraw from the final day of competition as a result.

Grace and Isabel 

Two workouts that regularly attract criticism from the wider community are Grace and Isobel. 

Both for time, Grace requires athletes to complete 30 clean & jerks (RX: 135 lbs for men and 95 lbs for women). Isabel is 30 snatches.

Critics of the workouts claim high rep Olympic lifts are dangerous - as both are highly technical lifts, which are difficult to master. Some go even further, and suggest the workout may also be detrimental to long-term progress - as lifting with bad form contributes to muscle memory, making it more difficult to correct form further down the line.

As most experienced coaches will tell you, any lift performed with incorrect form is a bad idea - not just high-rep Olympic lifts. Grace and Isabel are designed to be fast workouts, putting you through your paces. Struggling through the WOD, with bad form, was never the intention.

If you’ve never completed these workouts before - take it slow. At 30 reps, you shouldn’t be attempting anywhere near your 1RM - or even your 5RM, for that matter. Pick a weight you know you can manage with good technique - even if it’s nowhere near the RX weight. 

Whatever the workout, remember the #1 rule: form is everything. Don’t sacrifice it just to get those two letters next to your name on the whiteboard.



Another 2014 Open workout (14.1) received negative attention for reasons other than the perceived safety of the WOD.

The workout was a 10 minute AMRAP, with athletes expected to complete as many rounds of 30 double unders and 15 power snatches as possible within the time limit.

Since the very first CrossFit Games, the Open has been a time for athletes to come together - regardless of ability - and see how their performance stacks up globally. Many box owners felt this WOD went against the ethos of the Open, excluding athletes yet to master double unders.

Others argued the opposite. They claimed the Open is a time to push your performance to the limits - and find out what’s really possible when you put your mind to it. 

Plenty of athletes attempted the workout despite their lack of double unders - with many of them getting much further through the workout than expected. You don’t know if you don’t try!


Our Thoughts

Most sports come with some degree of risk - not just CrossFit. For example, between 2003 and 2011, there were 45 recorded fatalities in triathlons that took place across the UK. Although physically demanding, triathlons are increasingly popular - and pose little risk to competitors - despite this alarming statistic.

Injuries are common in most sports - not just those involving a barbells. According to this review, average injury rates for runners vary - with some studies reporting the low rate of 19.4% - and others increasing to 92.4% per year. This averages out to around 50% - which means approximately half of all runners are injured each year.

Does this mean everyone should stop running? Of course not! Instead, runners should use their common sense, train at the appropriate intensity, and take care of their bodies - prioritising recovery.

In our opinion, the same applies to all WODs too - whether they’re considered extreme, or not. You know your body, and its limits, better than anyone else. Strive to push yourself, but know when to stop. Listen to your coaches, try new things, and don’t be afraid to scale the WOD when you need to.

What do you think? Leave us a comment and let us know.



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September 14, 2016 — KITBOX [ ]


Brett Gipp said:

Having raced motocross since the age of (I’m now 34) I know first hand the risks involved with sport, being a personal trainer myself & recently retiring from motocross I needed a new motivation, that has become CROSSFIT I’m yet to compete at an event, but I’m building towards that, as with any sport start off small & build to the bigger things, it was the same in motocross you never went & done big jumps until you knew you where ready & it’s the same with crossfit workouts, start small & work to your limits

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