The Kelly WOD: Goal Times, Tips, and Safety

This full body workout of the day targets your legs and upper body

Side view of woman holding medicine ball while listening music against wall in gym

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If you haven’t completed a CrossFit benchmark workout, then you’re missing out on all the benefits that come with these intense workout of the day (WOD) routines.

Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, developed benchmark workouts to test general physical preparedness skills such as strength, power, speed, stamina, and agility, among others. 

“Kelly," which is one of the older benchmark workouts, debuted in 2005. It is one of the benchmark workouts that CrossFit athletes use to measure progress, performance, strength gains, and overall fitness levels. 

This workout of the day (WOD) is part of the “Girls” series that includes “Karen,” “Angie,” “Barbara,” and “Jackie,” among others.

What makes the Kelly WOD so great is you can do it at home, the gym, or a CrossFit gym. With a few props and a long residential street, you can run, jump, and wall ball your way to a great workout. Just make sure you have enough pavement to complete a 400-meter run, which is slightly less than one-quarter of a mile.

The Kelly WOD is as follows.

Five rounds for time:

  • 400-meter run
  • 30 box jumps (24/20 inch)
  • 30 wall ball shots (20/14 lbs)

Score: The goal of Kelly is to perform five rounds as fast as possible. The time is based on your benchmark or first workout, with a goal to shave off time each time you do the workout. 

Equipment Needed: Kelly requires a box big enough to jump and land on. The recommended height for men is 24 inches and 20 inches for women. You also need a wall ball. The recommended weight is 20 pounds for men and 14 pounds for women. And you need enough pavement to complete a 400m or quarter of a mile run.

Level: Kelly is meant for all levels of CrossFit athletes. 

Benefits 

If this is your first CrossFit WOD, make sure to scan the other routines. Each workout offers different fitness benefits. Kelly WOD focuses on strength, stamina, and endurance. 

Stamina and Endurance

At first glance, you may think the workouts seem simple enough, but don’t worry, this WOD is one of the most grueling routines you will perform. One area your body will benefit is stamina and endurance. In general, the CrossFit community defines good scores for the Kelly WOD based on fitness level. For example, a beginner athlete may take 37 minutes to complete all five rounds. An average athlete may take 30 minutes, and an advanced athlete may bust five rounds out in 20 to 25 minutes. Rarely, elite athletes can get their time down to 17 minutes. 

Lower Body Strength

Kelly is a full-body workout that targets all of the major muscle groups, with a special emphasis on your legs. During all three exercises, you will target the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calf muscles. Both muscular strength and muscular endurance are required to complete each round. And don’t be surprised if these muscles still feel pumped after finishing the workout.

Upper Body Strength

Although the focus is really on the lower body, the wall ball shots also recruit your upper body muscles. More specifically, you can count on using your shoulders, triceps, chest, biceps, and lats. This exercise is a push-pull movement, so you have the added benefit of recruiting more muscles. 

Step-by-Step Instructions

Kelly involves three exercises: 400-meter run, box jumps, and wall ball shots. Follow this step-by-step section to learn how to prep and set-up for the Kelly WOD and how to perform each move. 

Prep and Setup

  1. Make sure you have all of the equipment needed to complete the workout: a timer, wall ball, and box. 
  2. Choose the appropriate wall ball—20 pounds for men and 14 pounds for women.
  3. Check the height of the box for box jumps. The recommended height is 24 inches for men and 20 inches for women. 
  4. Map out the 400-meter run. Make sure you have a route that minimizes obstacles.
  5. Find a wall to do the wall ball shots. Place the box close to that space. But be careful that you don't trip over the wall ball when doing the box jumps or that the box doesn't get in your way when you're doing the wall balls.
  6. Do a short warm-up consisting of dynamic exercises such as leg swings, knee hugs, walking lunges, high knee skips, windmills, etc.

How to Do a 400 Meter Run

  1. Map out a 400-meter distance. If you are at a track, use lane one. If you are at a CrossFit gym, ask a coach for assistance. They can help you find the safest route. If running outdoors is not possible, set a treadmill to .24 miles. 
  2. Choose a pace to run. Just make sure you can keep it up for five rounds. 
  3. Push off with your lead foot and run the 400 meters. Pump your arms and keep your chest high and shoulders back. Take nice long strides.
  4. Slow down to a light jog or walk after you cross the finish line and head to the box jumps.

How to Do Box Jumps

  1. Choose the appropriate box height (24/20 inches).
  2. Stand facing the box with feet hip-distance apart and about six inches from the box. 
  3. Get in an athletic stance with your knees and hips slightly bent. Arms straight and slightly behind you. 
  4. Bend your knees like you are doing a squat. Press your hips back and explode through the balls of your feet, jumping off the ground as high as you can. Propel your arms for momentum.
  5. Land with both feet fully on the box, with your knees bent, hips higher than the knees, and arms out in front of you. This is a good time to pause if you need a breather. 
  6. Drop your arms by your sides, bend your knees, and step back off the box with soft knees to absorb the landing. 

How to do Wall Ball Shots

  1. Choose the appropriate ball weight (20/14 lbs). 
  2. Find a wall that is wide enough and tall enough to perform the move. The standard target height is 10 feet for men and 9 feet for women. Make sure there is nothing on the wall that will interfere. Identify the target.
  3. Hold the ball with both hands.
  4. Start with a shoulder-width stance. Knees in line with toes. 
  5. Begin a squat movement—hips descend back and down and go slightly lower than knees. Make sure to maintain the lumbar curve. Keep your heels down until hips and legs are extended. 
  6. Explode up by extending your hips and legs, then throw the ball up to the target on the wall. The target is usually 10 feet for men and 9 feet for women. 
  7. Keep your arms extended to catch the ball.
  8. Descend into the squat position and repeat. 

Common Mistakes

The Kelly WOD is clearly defined in terms of exercises, sets, and reps, but that doesn’t mean it is free from mistakes. Watch out for these common mistakes. 

Not Defining Your Workout Space

This WOD is for time, so you will want to make sure your workout space is efficient. Ideally, you should choose a wall big enough for wall ball shots near an exit. You can position the box to the side of your starting point for wall ball shots. The exit should allow quick access to your running route. That way, you’re not wasting time between exercises moving to a different part of the gym. 

Going Too Fast

Yes, you’re trying to do this workout for time, but you also need to pace yourself. Performing five rounds of exercises that require leg strength and stamina can lead to fatigue fast. You will also need to fight the urge to sprint the 400 meters. If you start this way, you will run out of gas fast. 

Performing the Workout Too Often

The Kelly WOD is not meant to be included in your weekly fitness routine. You should only use benchmark workouts every few months to track your progress.

Not Scaling if You Need To

This is not the time to go all out if you’re not ready for a high-intensity level. If you are new to these benchmark workouts or your fitness level is not where it needs to be, it’s okay to do a modified version of an exercise. Just remember to perform the movement the same way the next time you want to assess your progress. 

Modifications and Variations

If you’re new to exercise, coming off of an injury, or new to CrossFit, you can modify this WOD by scaling it down. One way to do this is to reduce the number of rounds. For example, three rounds instead of five for a beginner. There are also ways to scale each exercise. Consider the following modifications and variations for each exercise. 

400 Meter Run

You can scale the run by adjusting the intensity. Walking, jogging, and running are all acceptable ways to complete this part of the workout. But do not sprint. 

Box Jumps

For the box jumps, you can modify the exercise by shortening the height of the box. You can also do a step-up (one leg at a time) rather than jump with both feet. 

Wall Ball Shots

The easiest way to scale the wall ball shots is to choose a lighter ball. This may take some trial and error to find the weight that allows you to perform 30 reps for five rounds. 

Safety and Precautions

Kelly is a workout you can do at home, the gym, or at a CrossFit gym. But remember, being properly warmed-up and doing the movements with strict form is everything. Also, if you are pregnant, have a health condition, or dealing with an injury, get clearance from your doctor before doing the Kelly WOD. 

Learn How to Do Box Jumps

Performing box jumps correctly requires a strict form. If you are unfamiliar with how to do the box jump, it’s a good idea to do this workout at a CrossFit gym. If you know how to do a box jump, but are unable to perform the move at the recommended height, use a lower box. 

Warm-Up Before the Rounds

It’s never a good idea to jump into a workout without being properly warmed up. And with the Kelly WOD, performing a thorough warm-up is even more critical to protect you from injury. A dynamic warm-up helps prepare your body for the demands of the exercises by increasing blood flow to muscles, raising core body temperature, and improving joint range of motion. Here are a few dynamic stretches and exercises to get your body ready for the Kelly WOD:

Cool Down After the Rounds

This workout is intense and requires a proper cool down before you get on with your day. Ideally, you should spend five to ten minutes on post-workout activities. This allows your heart rate to recover and gives you time to do a few stretches and sneak in some foam rolling. 

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