Over the years I’ve become quite the aficionado when it comes to Crossfit ‘Hero WOD’s’. These workouts — designed and dedicated to men and women who have given their lives in the line of duty — are deliberately tougher, heavier and longer than your standard Crossfit fare, and that’s saying something.
Despite having literally hundreds of Hero WODs under my belt, including multiple 24-hour stints of back-to-back efforts, there’s still one workout that I’ll attempt to swerve whenever possible. Because, quite frankly, it scares me; ‘Kalsu’.
Dedicated to Lt. James Robert Kalsu, a former professional American Football player turned soldier who lost his life in the Vietnam war, ‘Kalsu’ regularly takes top billing on online lists of the hardest Crossfit workouts. This does not surprise me.
Deceptively simple, trainees attempting Kalsu are tasked with completing one hundred, 60kg barbell thrusters (the bastard lovechild of a front squat and an overhead press) as quickly as possible. There is a catch, of course. Starting at 0.00 and at the beginning of each new minute thereafter, you must stop and perform five burpees.
As such, Kalsu presents you with a dichotomy: Pick a set number of reps to perform each minute that creates a sustainable, albeit painful, pace and swallow the high burpee count. A standard approach is to match the burpees and thrusters rep for rep, performing five of each, every minute, finishing at the 20 minute mark.
Alternatively, you can go for broke on the thrusters, taking each set right up to the minute mark; eating up those reps as fast as you can in the hope of finishing the workout with as few burpees as possible. This kamikaze approach however presents the (very real) risk of blowing out early on and being stuck under that barbell for an excruciatingly long time. Fortune favours the bold and all that.
Usually at this point we’d present you with our top tips on how best to tackle the workout ahead. But in this case we’d like to simply offer you the opportunity to pick your own poison, before wishing you the best of luck.
Will you take the blue pill, make a (conservative) plan and stick to it? Or, will you take the red pill, ride each minute out to the bitter end, praying that hubris doesn’t take you down a rabbit hole you can’t climb back out of?
1) Thruster x 100
Clean your barbell or a pair of dumbbells up to your shoulders and squat down, keeping your torso upright and elbows high, until your thighs are parallel to the ground (A). Stand back up explosively and, in one motion, press your bar overhead to full lockout (B). Now, drop the weight back onto your shoulders, reversing the movement back down into a squat, and repeat. Keep repping out until you hit your predetermined rep target, or until you can’t get the barbell overhead anymore— dealers choice.
2) Burpee x 5 (at the beginning of each minute)
As soon as the clock starts, and at the beginning of every minute thereafter, squat down and place both hands on the floor between your feet. Jump your feet back into the top of a press-up and lower your chest to the ground (A). Straighten your arms and hop your feet forwards, before jumping into the air with hands on head (B). Pace your way through them, conserving fuel, or viciously dispatch them, leaving yourself a bigger window for more thrusters. What a choice.
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