7 Ways to Finish Faster on Timed WODs

Functional fitness athletes and members know all too well the uncertainty that can be felt during the countdown of starting a new Workout of the Day (WOD).

Whether they are nerves knowing you will be summoned to the pain cave/the suck, the uncertainty of what to expect, or a combination of both, having a strategic framework to attack most WODs can be highly effective and efficient for increasing your fitness and performance.

Below, we discuss seven tips and tricks you can use during most WODs to increase your work capacity, stay mentally focused, and finish faster during timed WODs.

1. Don’t Step Away from the Barbell

A photo posted by Jay Adams (@atrain4240) on

During WODs that entail repetitions of moderate to heavy barbell movements, lifters may find themselves performing single/low repetition sets to minimize the eccentric portion of the lift and move at a manageable pace. They key to staying disciplined to that pace is to not lose time doing extra things during the short breaks from the barbell, such as stepping backwards away from the barbell. While that may only take little energy and a few seconds, those seconds start to add up on moderate-longer WODs and could make a huge difference between a good score and a great one.

2. Pace Yourself at the Start

Learning to pace yourself during WODs (except the nasty, “sprint” types that often are completed in a few minutes or less) will ensure your heart rate does not redline and your fatigue doesn’t accumulate faster than it needs to. During WODs that entail multiple rounds to completion and/or long lists of repetitions and movements, some may find it helpful to pick a slightly aggressive, yet manageable pace for the first half of the WOD. Many of the best functional fitness athletes move well at a steady cruising speed, only to turn on the engines the last half or so of the WOD. Understand your body’s rate of perceived exertion levels (RPE) and try to stay at a solid 7-8 for the first part of the WOD and increasing the intensity in the back half can help you not burn out during the final stretch.

3. Embrace the Suck

Many people want to be more fit and produce greater results on WODs (less time to completion, more reps, heavier complexes/ladders, etc), however sometimes it is a simple as embracing the feeling of going past being “winded” and uncomfortable. Being able to develop the mentality and focus to stay moving as the heart rate spikes and your vision narrows takes time, and effort. By learning to enter that nasty place even more each day, you will soon be able to gain more experience and confidence when you are summoned to do it again.

4. Stick to Repeatable Rest Periods Between Reps

Many WODs would be best attacked by breaking moderate-higher rep movements up into smaller, manageable parts. During those small breaks, athletes should find a breathing/counting strategy to stay disciplined while resting so that they do not start to mentally wander and take longer breaks than needed. Often I find better athletes counting 5-4-3-2-1 in between high rep segments, or even methodically taking deep slow breathes during that rest period.

5. Rely on Your Strengths

Whether you are strong, move well with a barbell, or have an insane work capacity, you need to analyze the WOD based upon your strengths and weaknesses. When determining your plan of attack, separates the movements that you feel most confident from with the ones that will be the most challenging. By recognizing your strengths, you can start to develop a strategy that allows you to push the limit more on your strongest suits, while taking a little more time to stay focused and efficient on your weakest links. If done well, you will be able to pace effectively on your more challenging movements, and push the limit during your best lifts.

6. Ask Your Coach What They Would Do

Sometimes it’s as easy as pulling your coach aside and asking him/her how they would attack the WOD. First, your coaches may know you and your capacities better than you may know yourself, either setting a goal strategy for you to hit or reeling in your overzealous expectations. Secondly, many of the coaches have done the WOD before and have first-hand experience that they could share with you to give better insight on what to expect as things start to turn nasty. Lastly, by asking your coach, you inadvertently let them know that you are going to take the WOD seriously, which may allot you some added attention and vocal motivation during the point(s) in the WOD that you need it the most.

7. Train with Fitter People

Being the big fish in a small pound is often detrimental when looking to surpass your current abilities. By seeking out lifters and athletes that are stronger, faster, and more conditioned than you will only force you to become better. While many people may be intimidated at first, understand that many of those fitter individuals were once where you were, and are often more than happy to have the company. If you train your butt off, they will come to see that hard work and often offer you additional tips, insight, and motivation.

Final Words

Learning to adapt on on the fly during WODs is key, as often your initial game plan either burns to flames or does not challenge you enough. While learning to manipulate your intensity and mindset takes months, if not years to develop, the above tips can help you get started on that path.

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured Image: @lisahaefnerphoto on Instagram

Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.

Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.

Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.

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