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How to Do CrossFit without a CrossFit Gym

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In the last several years, CrossFit has taken the fitness world by storm and some would say has split it in two. Some see it as nothing more than effective marketing, while others think there’s no other way to exercise.

I have been a part of the CrossFit cult and understand it from within. I do believe it is the best way to get fit for many reasons, but I also don’t currently go to a CrossFit box (gym.)

CrossFit gyms have drawbacks, they’re expensive, they’re based on prescheduled class times, and they aren’t as accessible as common gyms both from a physical and social standpoint. For me, I am not near a gym, my schedule is erratic, classes fill up quickly, and I can’t justify the cost. Instead, I’ve started going to a regular old gym and incorporating what I’ve learned from CrossFit.

The following is what you’ll need to do to get a CrossFit style workout from a normal gym.

What makes a CrossFit Workout?

At CrossFit gyms, there is a different workout each day called the Workout of the Day, which they call a WOD. (I’ll admit, the jargon can get a little tiring.) The workout will either be a series of exercises to complete, or a set time in which you’ll do the exercises As Many Rounds As Possible (AMRAP.)

The basis of CrossFit is that you’re constantly doing different workouts at high intensity. This causes muscle confusion, which prevents muscle growth from plateauing, and emphasizes a functional well-balanced body.

Most workouts, in addition to the WOD, will have a warm up as well as a strength training segment. The warm up is essential in preventing injury and preparing you for the WOD. It can really be anything but usually incorporates a run (at least a quarter mile) and a few minutes of jumping rope. Choose something convenient for yourself such as body weight exercises like pushups, sit-ups, bodyweight squats, etc.

The strength training is optional, but recommended. Pre-workout supplementation is optional, but recommended

What You Will Need

I’ll assume you have a gym. Most gyms will have most of what you need, but few will have everything. Here’s what you’ll need to either buy, or have at your gym.

Weights – More than just machines. Dumbbells and Barbells are best. In CrossFit you don’t use machines, you are the machine. You could opt for a weighted vest which frees up the arms.

A Jump Rope – It’s a CrossFit staple. You’ll see them used in many workouts and in almost every warm up.

Some Open Space – This is the hard part. You need enough space to be able to jump rope. That’s usually enough space, unless you’re doing barbell work, in which case you’ll need that much space. You’ll also need to be able to find that space after leaving it for a little while. A WOD may require you to workout in one space, go to a pull up bar and do pull ups, and then go back to what you were doing. This can be difficult at busy, cramped gyms. You can usually still find a more accommodating gym for the fraction of the cost of a CrossFit gym.

Timer – You’ll be recording your time for every workout so you can record your progress. AMRAPS obviously require you to keep the time too.

Chalk/gloves- You’re going to be moving from one exercise to the next and sweaty hands can be your enemy.

You’re working out, bring what you need. Gym clothes are great. I get good workouts without spending hundreds on certified CrossFit attire. If you’re lifting enough to require support from weight belts or wrist bands, get them. Bring water.

Know The Exercises

This is the most important part. You will hurt yourself if you do not do the exercises properly. To gain this knowledge, utilize the tools at your disposal.

Most gyms will have personal trainers. Use them. You can also look up endless exercise tutorials on the internet. Get comfortable before moving forward with higher weights.

Check out a CrossFit gym if you can. Walk-ins can be a little expensive, but you’ll get quite a few basics in a single session. Practicing movement with little to no weight can be a great way to warm up.

Know Similar Exercises (Scales)

Some workouts will have a prescribed weight. You obviously do not have to do the WODs as prescribed (Rx.) Most of us mortals usually don’t. Anything other than the prescribed workout in the CrossFit world is called a scale, as in scaled down.

You probably aren’t going to have a rope to climb at your gym. In this case you’ll need to find an exercise that works out similar muscle groups to the exercise that is prescribed.

For example, for every prescribed rope climb, I do 3 towel pull ups. You could also do regular pull ups, or lat pull-downs on a machine, or any exercise you can do that works out the muscle group of the prescribed weight.

Find Workouts

You may be wondering where you go to find these workouts. I go online and get the official WOD from However, there are thousands of websites that will post their daily workout. I’ll leave the Googling to you. The Official website does tend to be rather hard.

Warm ups are not as common, but they’re everywhere too and don’t have to change them every single day, though I’d recommend changing it up sometimes just to avoid monotony.

Do not “cherry pick?? WODs. This means, don’t just do workouts you want to do. Stick to a single blog or gym’s programming so you aren’t just doing legs every day because you like to.


Once you’ve gained the knowledge of how to do your workout properly, you can do the WOD. Workout hard, but respect the people around you, especially if space is limited. Don’t take up the whole gym. Gather what you’ll need and keep to yourself. Don’t jump rope right behind a treadmill so that the person on it can’t get off. These things seem obvious, but with CrossFit needing some extra space, be aware of your surroundings and follow the rules of the gym.

Record Progress

Record all of your scales, weights, and times. There are some flagship workouts you’ll do every few months so that you can see how far you’ve come since the last time. Stay accountable, and know that by fudging your numbers you’re not helping anyone.

Be safe. Get fit.

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