The Karen CrossFit Workout Guide: How To Scale For Each Skill Level

Whether you are active in the CrossFit community or not, you are probably familiar with the exercise wall ball shots, also known as wall balls. And if you have ever done a set of wall balls, then you are also probably familiar with burning quads and shoulders. 

The Karen CrossFit workout is all about wall balls and is one of their most well-known “girl” workouts. Completing this workout of the day, or WOD, is a great way to set a benchmark and monitor your fitness gains over time. 

You will love the challenge of the Karen CrossFit WOD, but doing it takes a lot of ambition and determination. Once you try this workout, you will know exactly what we are talking about. 

Love it or hate it, you will feel on top of the world once you finally nail the full Karen CrossFit workout. The Karen Crossfit WOD is simple but will effectively destroy you. 

In this article, we will cover the following:

  • What Is the Karen CrossFit Workout?
  • How to Do the CrossFit Karen Workout
  • How to Scale the Karen for Each Fitness Level
  • How Long Does It Take to Do the Karen?
  • Tips for Doing the Karen CrossFit Workout

Let’s get learning!

A woman holding a medicine ball.

What Is the Karen CrossFit Workout?

The Karen CrossFit workout is not complicated at all. This is because it requires doing only one movement, but you must do it for a lot of time. Way more times than your legs and shoulders are ready for. 

The Karen CrossFit workout requires doing only wall balls. A lot of wall balls. 150 grueling, leg-torching, shoulder-wrecking wall balls. 

Doing wall balls requires doing a deep squat with a medicine ball at your chest, standing up, and throwing the ball at a target. You then catch the ball as it comes down, squat deep, and repeat. 

Although the weight used when doing wall balls typically feels light to moderate, the repeated movement will fatigue your shoulders and lower body over time. 

If you repeat the movement at a fast enough pace, you will also be testing your endurance abilities, as this movement will absolutely get your heart pumping and lungs working hard. 

Two people throwing medicine balls.

How to Do the CrossFit Karen Workout

To get yourself set up to complete the Karen CrossFit workout, you will need a medicine ball, a wall with a target or a traditional wall ball target set up, and enough space to squat down and stand up with extended arms. 

The standard for this workout is for men to throw a 20lb medicine ball up at a 10ft target and for women to throw a 14lb wall ball at a 9ft target. 

The medicine ball must hit the target, and you must catch the ball at the end of the rep and then squat down until you are at a 90-degree angle or less before returning the ball to the target. 

The goal is to repeat this series of movements 150 times and as fast as possible. 

Here is the exact format of “The Karen:”

  • 150 Wall Balls for time

Males: 20 lb ball, 10 ft target Females: 14 lb ball, 9 ft target

A person holding a medicine ball.

Before you begin the workout, you will want to set up your station. Locate the appropriately weighted medicine ball and find an area where you can throw the ball against the wall if you do not have a standard wall ball station with a target set up. 

Do not throw the ball against drywall, as it may damage the wall. Choose brick or cement walls or a support beam. 

If you are doing this workout at home, you should throw the ball against the outside of your home. Measure the appropriate distance up the wall and mark it off. This will be your target. You are then ready to begin the Karen CrossFit Workout. 

How to Scale the Karen for Each Fitness Level

The Karen CrossFit workout involves only one exercise, making it seem easy. Although the movement in this workout is simple, the amount of work can be challenging and beyond the level of some athletes. 

Luckily, there are many ways this workout can be scaled to fit your current skill level and fitness abilities.

You can cut back on the number of reps or the weight of the ball if needed and slowly work your way up to the standard weight and number of reps. 

A person holding a medicine ball.

The intent of this workout is to feel the burn in your legs and lungs.

When scaling the workout, you may need multiple sets of wall balls and rests in between sets. This is totally okay, but remember that if you rest too long, you are less likely to get the intended gains from the workout. 

It’s a good idea to use a lesser weight so that you can take shorter or fewer breaks and still get the benefits of the workout rather than using the target weight and needing several long breaks. 

Let’s break it down into a few different modifications depending on fitness level:

The Karen for Beginners

While there are a few different ways for beginners to complete the Karen CrossFit workout, you want to really feel the endurance component of the workout to remain. 

We think the following is the best option:

  • 50 Wall Balls for Time

Men: 10 lb ball to 10 ft target
Women: 6 lb ball to 9 ft target

If needed, break the set into two sets of 25 as fast as possible with very little recovery time in between. If that feels too easy, add a third or fourth set of 25. 

A person holding a medicine ball.

The Karen for Intermediates:

As an intermediate athlete, you likely have a good amount of experience with this movement and some level of endurance built up. That being said, we recommend that you complete the standard of 150 wall balls as fast as possible.

To ensure that the load is not too much, we recommend going down in weight a bit on the medicine ball. This allows you to feel the burn of the full workout without risking injury or decreasing the likelihood of completion.  

We recommend trying the following workout:

  • 150 Wall Ball for Time:

Men: 14 lb ball to 10 ft target
Women: 10 lb ball to 9 ft target

If needed, take a short 30 to 45-second rest every 50 reps, but try avoiding this if possible. You want to get the full effect of the workout so that you can get familiar enough to complete the standard. 

A person holding a medicine ball.

The Karen for the Advanced:

As an advanced athlete, you know the drill. Complete 150 wall balls as fast as possible. There is no scaling for you. Your main goal will be to take as little rest as possible and aim for unbroken reps. 

If you need to set the ball down, make it super quick so you do not add too much to your overall time. 

  • 150 Wall Ball for Time

Men: 20 lb ball to 10 ft target
Women: 14 lb ball to 9 ft target

Remember, the goal here is to do this workout in its entirety as fast as possible. The fewer and shorter your breaks, the sooner you are done. Elite athletes aim to do the entire set unbroken. 

Your score is the total elapsed time it takes to complete all the wall ball reps. 

People doing wall balls.

How Long Does It Take to Do the Karen?

The amount of time it takes to complete the Karen CrossFit workout varies greatly from person to person. 

If an individual uses the standard weight, rep number, and target height, then here are some estimations of how long the entire workout may take based on skill level. 

For a beginner, completing the workout should take about 12-15 minutes. This typically involves breaking the reps into sets of 5-10 with rest in between.

Intermediate athletes should be able to complete the workout in 8-11 minutes. For this level of athlete, this usually involves breaking the reps into sets of 10-15 with rest in between. 

For advanced athletes, it should be possible to complete this workout in 6-7 minutes. While some of these athletes may power through and only have brief but sporadic breaks, others may plan short breaks every 30-50 reps. 

Now let’s talk about elite athletes. 

At the top of the pyramid, athletes tend to complete this workout in less than 5 minutes and can complete the reps unbroken or taking only one rest around 75 reps. 

A person throwing a medicine ball.

Tips for Doing the Karen CrossFit Workout

Here are a few tips for completing this workout to help you get your best time possible. In my experience, completing wall balls with a high heart rate is very challenging. 

The longer you work, the higher your heart rate gets. I had to complete 100 wall balls at the end of an HYROX competition and needed to take at least four brief rests. Some elite athletes have been able to do them unbroken. 

#1: Set a Rythm

This may sound strange, but when you are doing your reps, try to get your rhythm going.

This may help you focus more on holding the rhythm/pace and less on your pain. This helps you maintain consistent breathing, which keeps your heart rate from becoming erratic and slowing your pace. 

#2: Have a Rep Counter

If you take this very seriously, you should have someone counting your reps for you using a clicker.

It can be really hard to count your own reps when you are tired. Even if you think you can do it, your brain sometimes gets fogged up when you are working at a high intensity, and you may miss counting. Have a plan ahead of time for counting reps. 

A person holding a medicine ball.

#3: Practice

If you are working towards completing the full workout at the standard weights and target heights, then you should practice reps in that way instead of completing the scaled version of the workout. 

Try adding three sets of 10 wall balls with the standard weight thrown at the standard target into some of your regular workouts. This will help prepare you for the stimulus when you do finally decide to try the unscaled version of the Karen CrossFit Workout. 

Takeaways

Wall balls are a simple but challenging movement. Whether you are adding them to a workout or doing many reps as a full workout, you will feel the burn in your legs, shoulders, and lungs.

This movement is a great full-body exercise for any fitness lover, not just CrossFit athletes. 

CrossFitters tend to pride themselves on being able to complete challenging WODs, but WODs are not just for CrossFitters. A workout like “The Karen” is a great workout for runners because it tests endurance and leg strength, two things most runners have or would like to have. 

If you want to try another CrossFit workout that will be sure to set your lungs, shoulders, and legs on fire, give “The Nancy” a try. 

A person holding a medicine ball.
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.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.