The Best Known CrossFit Exercises Explained: Part 1

The Best Known CrossFit Exercises Explained: Part 1

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There are many different exercises during CrossFit workouts and WODs. This article is part 1 of the most famous CrossFit exercises. In this and subsequent articles about CrossFit exercises, we will explain what the best-known exercises are and how you can best perform them. This way you always have the most famous exercises in a row and you can easily find them and go through them for a while.

In this article we discuss the:

  • box jump;
  • burpee;
  • Handstand push up;
  • kettlebell swing;
  • muscle up;
  • pistol squat;
  • pull up;
  • squat clean;
  • thruster;
  • Wallball.


The most famous CrossFit exercises at a glance

The exercises below are the most common, best-known or heaviest CrossFit exercises. Whatever the exercise is, it is always handy for CrossFitter to get them all listed! To make searching easier, the exercises are in alphabetical order.

Box jump

Box jump

The box jump is a well-known exercise at CrossFit. Among others in the Filthy 50, one of the eight heaviest WODs in the world, you come across this exercise. In this WOD you can perform the box jump no less than 50 times.

To perform the box jump, stand at an appropriate distance from the box, with your feet shoulder-width apart. What an appropriate distance is mainly depends on your jumping qualities. So try out some distances and see at which distance you can make the best jump.

When you are in the right position in front of the box, it is time to prepare for the jump. Lower from the starting position to one quarter squat. Hereby squatting the knees do not have to be at an angle of 90 degrees, but 45 degrees is fine. This position gives you the opportunity to jump explosively.

When you are in the correct position in the squat, swing your arms and push your feet into the ground during the take-off. Subsequently, the intention is to land on the box with flat feet and in a squat. Make sure you hear the landing on the box as little as possible. You do this by, among other things, bouncing slightly with the body and knees and not landing too 'stiff'. This soft landing is not only silent, but also ensures that you are less likely to get injured by a wrong landing. Once you land on the box, straighten your knees before jumping back down.

Finally, it is important that you jump straight up and down properly. During the dismount you should end up at exactly the place where you started. If you have a lot of deviation in your jump or landing, this may mean that the box is too high and you are not performing the exercise properly. In addition, you waste with a large landing or landing height. You convert the height into distance, and that's a shame!



A burpee is a combination of a squat, push-up and jump. This exercise is challenging as it trains different muscle groups throughout the body. That's how you train yourself Been-, Arm-, chest-, Please- and abdominal muscles. The burpee is performed with nothing but your own body weight. This makes these CrossFit exercise also suitable for home.

To start, stand up straight and then lower your knees into a squat. You then place your hands on the floor and kick your legs back. This way you end up in the low position of a push-up. Your chest touches the ground. So you did not have stretched arms, but you immediately went from the squat to this low position.

From this low push-up you stretch your arms and jump back with your legs, so that you end up in a squat again. Finally, you jump up explosively from the squat while stretching your body. You throw your arms into the air above your head.

Handstand push up

handstand push up

There is enough difference between a normal push-up and a handstand push-up. For example, not only the fact that you are upside-down is already a change, the muscle groups that you train with a handstand push-up are different than during the normal push-up.

With the push-up handstand you train the triceps and the shoulders, while with the normal push-up you mainly address the triceps and the chest muscles. In addition, you have increased pressure on the wrists during the handstand, which suddenly also has to endure more.

To begin with this form of push-ups, it is of course wise to first practice the handstand. Once this succeeds you can try to perform push-ups. Make sure that your elbows do not shoot out too much and that you slowly sink through your arms and then stretch them again.

kettlebell swing

kettlebell swing

You can perform the kettlebell swing with different weights of the kettlebell. The swing is common during CrossFit training and is also a popular exercise for people who train at home.

To start, stand with your feet wider than shoulder width. You can let your feet point to the front, but also something outside. Choose what is the most pleasant position for you to perform this exercise.

Then grab the kettlebell in both hands and extend your arms straight forward until they are parallel to the ground. At that moment you feel the muscles in your back to work. This is exactly the intention. Next, swing the kettlebell back between your legs. Make sure you check buttocks tighten well and that your back is straight. Finally you come back to the starting position.

Muscle up

Muscle up

This exercise is one for the advanced CrossFit athlete. Among other things, the muscle-up occurs one of the heaviest WODs in the worldThe Ryan. During this WOD you will have to perform the exercise no fewer than seven consecutive times and that for five rounds. Oh, and you also do another 21 burpees per round.

You start the exercise by hanging on the rings. You then pull yourself up with a pull-up. From this position you make a swinging motion where you raise your hips from a backward motion. This movement then gives you sufficient speed to end up on the rings with extended arms (as you can see in the photo). Then you lower yourself again.

Pistol squat

Pistol squat

You perform the pistol squat on one leg instead of two. Not only does this make it harder on that one leg, but your coordination and balance are also put to the test. For some people standing on one leg is already a difficult exercise, so you can imagine how much effort a pistol squat takes!

Before you start a pistol squat, it is important to first look at the 'normal' squat and how you perform it. When you are good at this, you can slowly try to master the pistol squat.

To practice the balance you need during the pistol squat, try practicing the position from a regular squat first. Sit in the squat and try to extend one leg straight forward, keeping your other leg bent. This takes practice, time and patience, but don't give up! When you can stay in this position for a few seconds (between 5 and 10), you can take it a step further.

The goal is to eventually drop into the pistol squat from one position with one straight leg and then to rise again, without smuggling of course! Are you already a pro when it comes to pistol squat? Then add extra weights during the exercise.

The real balance expert can always perform the pistol squat on a kettlebell.


Pull up

With the pull-up you use your own body weight. To start, grasp the pull-up bar with the palms of your hand facing forward. The distance between your hands is as wide as your shoulders, either wider or narrower.

When your bar is stuck you hang back with your back. Make sure that your back makes an angle of about thirty degrees and that your chest comes out well. Then lift your upper body towards the bar.

Continue upward until your sternum touches the bar. Then you lower yourself again. It is important that only your arms move and the rest of the body remains in the same position throughout the exercise.

squat clean

squat clean

You perform the squat clean with the help of a barbell and is a well-known exercise at CrossFit.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the barbell with your arms extended. The barbell should be at hip height. You then lower your knees slightly and, as it were, throw the barbell up a little (stretch the legs for extra strength), bend your arms and make sure that the barbell rests on the chest at shoulder height.

While the barbell goes to the chest, you squat through your legs in a squat and at the same time catch the barbell by your chest. After this you will raise the barbell again in the same position and then lower it back to your hip height.

The explosiveness is therefore in throwing up and then catching the barbell during a squat.



You will also find this exercise in various WODs. Making thrusters and pull-ups The Fran for example a very heavy WOD.

A thruster is a combination of a squat and a power jerk. You start with the barbell against your shoulders in an overhand grip. You make a squat in this position. When you stand up again after the squat, you push the barbell up in one smooth movement. This way you hold the barbell above your head in stretched hands. You hold this position for a few seconds and then let the barbell reach your shoulder height again.

In The Fran do this exercise first 21 times, then 15 times and finally 9 times. If you think you can achieve that well, remember that you alternate these thrusters with pull-ups in the same numbers.

Wall ball

Wall ball

With wall balls it is about a ball with a certain weight, which you have to throw up against the wall. The goal is to throw the ball upwards as often as prescribed in the WOD.

While practicing this exercise, it is important that you sit in a squat. When you throw the ball from this position you can use the force from your legs to your arms. You also use this power when doing box jumps.

You should actually see yourself as a kind of feather. When you catch the ball, let yourself be pushed down by the ball in the squat and then you spring up again and push the ball out. Throwing the ball is from a private position.

There are a number of tips for performing the wall ball:

  1. Make sure you keep the ball as close to your body as possible. When weight is further away from you, it becomes heavier. Do not be afraid that the ball will fall on you if you do not throw or catch it properly. This can of course happen, but when you get scared, you unknowingly hold the ball too far away.
  2. Remember that you are a feather; if you do not go well with the movement of the ball (especially when catching) you will have to put more force and it will take more effort to throw the ball further.
  3. Do not throw the ball vertically into the air. When you do this, the ball will 'stroke' the wall and slide down it again. When you throw something horizontally, the ball on the goal will hit the wall and bounce lightly off it. As a result, if you do it right, it will return to where you are. You don't have to change places as much and that also saves energy.

In this first part of the most famous CrossFit exercises you have already seen a number of well-known exercises. In the coming articles we will add to this list even more so that you will soon have a nice overview of the different CrossFit exercises and how to perform them.

Which of these exercises have you already mastered?

And are there exercises that you would like to see in the following sections?

Let us know in a response!

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