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The Barbara CrossFit Workout Guide: + WOD Scaled For Each Skill Level

Back in 2003, when the CrossFit benchmark workouts first came to life, “The Barbara” was the very first “girl” WOD. Although considered to be a “girl” WOD, it is still challenging enough for any athlete, no matter their sex or skill level.

Benchmark workouts like this are a fun way to challenge yourself at different times throughout the season to see whether or not your basic fitness level has improved and exactly how much it has improved. 

Over time, athletes can cut a lot of time off a benchmark workout like this and truly surprise themselves with the amount of progress they might see in a year. 

The Barbara CrossFit workout you will want to keep in your back pocket as it can be done nearly anywhere and doesn’t require a lot of setup. If you are not yet aware of just how much a bodyweight workout can make you feel the burn, you will be plenty aware after doing this one. 

In this guide, we will cover the following: 

  • What Is the Barbara CrossFit Workout?
  • How to Do the Barbara CrossFit Workout
  • How to Scale the Barbara CrossFit Workout for Each Fitness Level
  • How Long Does It Take to Do the Barbara CrossFit Workout?
  • Takeaways

Let’s get to work!

People doing pull ups.

What Is the Barbara CrossFit Workout?

The Barbara CrossFit workout is not a complicated WOD, and the movements are well-known by almost anyone who has ever worked out. This workout grabs old-school fitness and utilizes movements that have been around for as long as anyone can remember. 

The Barbara CrossFit workout does not require you to do any fancy movements that you need to be properly trained on beforehand and is one that you can jump into with some ease. 

You need to be able to complete some version of a pull-up, push-up, sit-up, and air squat. That is it, four straightforward movements. 

You will need to complete 5 rounds for time with 3 minutes of rest between each round. Each exercise movement has its own number of reps.

No weights are used for the Barbara WOD, but because the number of reps is high and you will aim to do each round quickly, there will be no shortage of fatigue. 

To get the most out of this workout, you should challenge yourself by doing each round quicker than the last or in about the same amount of time. This will be a great endurance test and a good way to motivate yourself throughout the workout.  

Push up.

How to Do the Barbara CrossFit Workout

To prepare for the Barbara CrossFit workout, you need to situate yourself near a pull-up bar and exercise mat with enough space to complete sit-ups and push-ups on the ground. 

If you struggle to complete unassisted pull-ups, you will want to set up your resistance bands or TRX system before beginning the workout.

The Barbara CrossFit workout consists of 5 rounds of pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, and air squats followed by a 3-minute rest. You must start by doing 20 pull-ups first; you then move on to the next exercise and add 10 reps. 

Here is the exact format of “The Barbara:”

5 Rounds For Time

  • 20 Pull-Ups
  • 30 Push-Ups
  • 40 Sit-Ups
  • 50 Air Squats
  • 3-Minute Rest

It is ideal to complete the workout in an area where no one will be interrupting or utilizing the equipment you need since you will be doing the workout in an attempt to get your best time. 

Your score is determined by how long it takes to complete the workout. This includes the prescribed rest. However, you do not include the last 3-minute rest. The time stops after your last set of air squats. 

A person doing an air squat.

How to Scale the Barbara for Each Fitness Level

The movements in the Barbara CrossFit workout are simple enough that most are not likely to be scaled. 

However, due to this workout’s number of reps, it might be wise to scale down the rep count to avoid injury and make completion more likely. 

CrossFit beginners may really struggle with the pull-up portion of this WOD. The movement is very taxing, and even when using resistance bands or doing a modified form of a pull-up, it is possible for muscles to give out before the workout is complete.  

CrossFit is meant to be challenging, but it is important not to risk injury. You can start out by doing a modified number of reps and eventually build your way up to doing the full workout. 

Even the most experienced cross-fitters will feel the fatigue of this workout, especially if they go all out and do each round in a similar amount of time. 

This workout aims to work your entire body and test your muscular endurance. 

You do not need to worry about losing out on the benefits of this workout if you scale it down to meet where you are at in your fitness journey. 

To get the most benefit from the workout, you need to stay focused and complete each movement with the proper form. While this workout is meant to be completed for time, going faster is not as important as executing the movements properly. 

A person doing sit ups.

The Barbara CrossFit Workout for Beginners:

There are various ways to scale the Barbara CrossFit workout to the beginner level. The best option is to decrease the number of reps and keep the rounds and rest time the same. 

We think the following is the best option:

5 Rounds For Time

  • 5 Assisted Pull-Ups
  • 15 Push-Ups
  • 25 Sit-Ups
  • 35 Air Squats
  • 3-Minute Rest

You can break each exercise into sets as well.

For example, you could do 3 sets of 5 push-ups with a few seconds between each set. If you can complete each exercise without rest, that is great, but taking brief rests may help you to maintain proper form. 

A person doing pull ups.

The Barbara CrossFit Workout for Intermediates:

If you are an intermediate CrossFit athlete, you can likely do pull-ups unassisted. You should aim to complete as many reps unassisted as possible, but good form is important. When needed, you can add in resistance bands or your preferred assist. 

While you may be able to complete the entire WOD without modifications, scaling it down for at least your first attempt is a wise choice if you want to avoid an overuse injury.

We recommend trying the following workout:

5 Rounds for Time

  • 10 pull-ups (assisted when needed)
  • 20 push-ups
  • 30 sit-ups
  • 40 air squats 
  • Rest 3 minutes 

You should not be hesitant to break the pull-ups into two sets if that is what it takes to do them unassisted and maintain proper form. You can also add five reps to each set if you are not quite ready for the full workout but are close. 

Another option is to do the full reps but extend the rest to 5 or more minutes. 

A person doing sit ups.

The Barbara CrossFit Workout for the Advanced:

The Barbara WOD should be completed as written and in perfect form quickly for advanced athletes. Remember that this workout does have a designated rest. It is smart to take the designated rest, but if you feel it is too long, try cutting it down by 1-2 minutes. 

The workout should look like this: 

5 Rounds For Time

  • 20 Pull-Ups
  • 30 Push-Ups
  • 40 Sit-Ups
  • 50 Air Squats
  • 3-Minute Rest

For athletes who are not quite elite but are advanced, there should be very little rest time between exercises. Each exercise targets a different muscle group, so moving from one to the next without rest should be possible. 

A person doing sit ups.

How Long Does It Take to Do the Barbara CrossFit Workout?

How long it takes to complete the CrossFit Barbara workout depends on an athlete’s overall endurance and strength. It varies from one level of athlete to the next, and there may also be a lot of variation within a tier of athletes. 

For someone who does the full number of reps, here are some ideas on how long the entire workout might take according to skill level:

  • Beginner athletes completing the workout will likely take over 50 minutes and could even take over an hour.
  • For intermediate athletes, the workout is expected to take anywhere from 40 to 50 minutes. 
  • The advanced athlete should be able to complete this workout in just over 30 minutes but definitely under 40 minutes.  
  • Elite athletes who give the Barbara CrossFit workout a shot will likely be able to do it in under 30 minutes. 
A person doing a push up.

Takeaways

The Barbara CrossFit workout is loaded with simple moves but mounting reps. The work this WOD requires is time-consuming and will fire up multiple muscle groups.

That being said, it also incorporates multiple foundational movements that every athlete should aim to be efficient in. 

If you can complete a big challenging WOD like “The CrossFit Barbara Workout,” you are well on your way to crushing big goals in the CrossFit community. 

Remember that you do not have to go all in the first time, WODs are meant to be eased into, and it can take time to slowly build your fitness to the point where you want it to be. 

If you want to try another CrossFit workout that will destroy you in the best way, check out “The Nancy.” 

A person holding a barbell at their neck.
Photo of author
I am a UESCA-certified running coach, psychology PhD student, and competitive obstacle racer and trail runner. Once 100 pounds overweight I found fitness and fell in love with an active and competitive lifestyle. My passion for inspiring others and fitness come together seamlessly in the world of writing where I get to share the thing that changed my life. In my free time I enjoy spending time with my family, my dogs, as well as baking and cooking.

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