Challenging “Death By…” CrossFit Workouts (Plus Mat Fraser’s “Impossible” WOD)

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The “Death by…” workout format in CrossFit is simple but deadly. It is designed to test and expand your limts, ending only when you are completely unable to complete any more reps. 

“Death by…”

EMOM For as Long as Possible

  • 1 Rep in the first minute
  • 2 Reps in the second minute
  • 3 Reps in the third minute
  • etc to failure.

Choose any single movement (Pull-ups, Thrusters, Burpees, Cleans, Snatches, Rope Climbs, etc.).

Then, each minute on the minute (EMOM), starting at the top of the minute, with 1 repetition in minute 1, complete one more repetition per minute each subsequent minute (2 reps from 1:00-2:00, 3 reps from 2:00-3:00, etc.). The athlete continues for as long as possible until they can no longer complete the number of reps prescribed in under a minute.

Score is the number of full rounds completed plus number of reps completed in the last round.

Tips and Strategy

In the early rounds (rounds 1-5) maintain a slow and steady pace. Control the breathing. A fast pace right out of the gate is unnecessary and could lead to an inability to control the heart rate as more repetitions are required in each subsequent minute.

Intended Stimulus

Any “Death By” workout tests two things well:
1. How mentally tough an athlete is
2. How well the athlete can pace himself/herself

Regardless of the movement, this workout starts out easy and gets unbelievably difficult as the rounds progress. For first-timers, this WOD should feel like a joke in the beginning. Everyone stops laughing around round 7.

Scaling Options

For beginners, “Death By” workouts can be demoralizing. A great way for all levels to feel successful at this kind of workout is to initiate a rule that allows athletes to continue working even when they can no longer complete the number of reps prescribed in under a minute:

– Place a time cap on the workout. Everyone can work at least until that time cap regardless of when their workout officially stops.

– When an athlete can no longer complete the number of reps prescribed in under a minute, allow them to complete an EMOM (Every Minute On the Minute) of a reasonable number of reps until the time cap. (For example, if the athlete can only get to round 7 during the “Death By” workout, they can complete an EMOM of 4 or 5 reps of the movement until the time cap.)

– The score is still the number of full rounds completed plus number of reps completed in the last round. The rest of the workout simply allows beginners to keep moving and not be punished by the clock.

Check out the next page for examples of specific “Death by…” Workouts and how you can add them into your training…

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