The Bull WoD: Goal Times, Tips, and Safety

CrossFit is intense — there’s no arguing that. But within CrossFit, there’s a very special subset of workouts that push the intensity to new levels. Gut-wrenching, nausea-inducing, and even tear-jerking levels of intensity, if you’re up for it. 

The insane intensity of this group of workouts doesn’t come without reason, though. These workouts are designed this way because they are dedicated to military, law enforcement, and firefighter heroes who have given the ultimate sacrifice: their lives. 


CrossFit Hero WoDs
pay tribute to the men and women who lost their lives in the line of duty, by way of CrossFit athletes giving their all to honor the namesake. The CrossFit “Bull” Hero WoD, named after U.S. Marine Corps Captain Brandon "Bull" Barrett, 27, of Marion, Indiana, is one of the lengthier hero workouts. 

Barrett was assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, NC, and died on May 5, 2010 while serving during Operation Enduring Freedom in Helmand province, Afghanistan .

The Bull CrossFit Hero WoD is as follows: 

2 Rounds For Time:

  • 200 Double-unders
  • 50 Overhead squats (135 pounds for men/95 pounds for women)
  • 50 Pull-ups
  • 1 mile run

The "Bull" CrossFit Hero WoD

Score: The Bull WoD is scored for time, meaning complete it as fast as possible.

Goal Times: Beginners: 90 minutes to 2 hours. Intermediate: 60 to 90 minutes. Advanced: 45 to 60 minutes. Elite: 45 minutes or less.

Equipment Needed: Jump rope, barbell, bumper plates, pull-up bar or rig, running track or mapped out mile course. 

Level: The Bull WoD is a very advanced WoD. As written, it’s not appropriate for beginners and even most intermediate athletes, but it can be scaled to meet all fitness levels.

Benefits

The Bull WoD does not come up short in terms of physical fitness benefits. This workout’s varied movement patterns and multiple modalities of fitness make it a true full-body challenge: Bull will test your cardio endurance, muscular endurance, coordination and agility, and strength. 

Cardiovascular Endurance

Double-unders and running provide the main cardiovascular stimulus in the Bull WoD, although 50 overhead squats and 50 pull-ups leave most people out of breath, too. If you’re really good at double-unders, 200 should take you about two to five minutes — a fantastic anaerobic challenge. The one-mile run will test your ability to keep up a solid pace after pushing through 300 total reps of movement. 

Muscular Endurance

The overhead squats and pull-ups come in at 50 reps each, putting both movements solidly in the endurance zone. No matter what weight you use on the overhead squats, 50 reps (done twice over!) are sure to leave your quads burning, while the 50 pull-ups in each round will have your upper body — especially your biceps — on fire. Talk about taxing your slow-twitch muscle fibers!

Running can also play a role in developing lower body muscular endurance, although less so than resistance exercise such as the squats.

Upper and Lower Body Strength

Though the rep ranges in the Bull Hero WoD are on the (very) high end, and strength training typically stays in the lower rep ranges, the Bull WoD still offers a strength stimulus: You have to be relatively strong in the first place to lift the prescribed weights (135 pounds and 95 pounds), as well as to do a push-up. Repeatedly performing the same movements undoubtedly helps you become stronger in those movement patterns .

Coordination and Agility

Overhead squats and pull-ups improve your muscular endurance and strength, for sure, but they also improve your coordination and agility. Overhead squats require a great deal of core strength, body awareness, and mobility. Pull-ups also require body awareness, as well as a good sense of timing to perfect your kip. All together, these elements train you to become more coordinated and agile.

Paying Tribute

This is not a physical fitness benefit, but a benefit nonetheless. Part of the Hero WoD concept is paying tribute to heroes who truly gave their all — their lives — standing duty. CrossFit athletes can honor this sacrifice by giving their all during the workout and internalizing the sacrifice that this person made.

Before completing the Bull WoD, take some time to learn about Brandon “Bull” Barrett — look up his picture, learn about his military history, and understand what happened to make this memorial WoD come about. This is how you truly memorialize fallen heroes through CrossFit Hero WoDs. 

Step-by-Step Instructions

The Bull CrossFit Hero WoD has four movements ranging from very simple (running) to very complex (double-unders and overhead squats). Pull-ups fall somewhere in the middle in terms of complexity, but they’re by no means an easy exercise. To set yourself up for success, follow these step-by-step guides for each of the movements in the Bull Hero WoD.

Setup for the Bull WoD

For the Bull Hero WoD, you’ll need a barbell, a jump rope, a place to do pull-ups, and a place to run. Set up your barbell with the weight you want to use and layout your jump rope nearby.

For the pull-ups, if you’re doing the Bull WoD at a CrossFit gym, find a bar on the pull-up rig that suits your height and grip (some bars have a larger circumference than others).

Most CrossFit gyms don’t have tracks, so you’ll likely be running on the road. Make sure you have a safe route mapped out, and wear a reflective vest if needed. 

How to Do Double-Unders

When you jump rope, the rope passes under your feet once per jump. When you do double-unders, the rope passes under your feet twice per jump. This advanced CrossFit skill takes most athletes months, if not a year or more, to master. You should work with your coach to develop double-unders, but as you’re learning, remember a few key points:

Tips For Double-Unders

  • Your arms should stay close by your sides, not flailing out far and wide. 
  • Most of the movement should come from your wrists, not your elbows or shoulders.
  • Keep your legs mostly straight, with just a slight bend at the knees (don’t “donkey kick”).
  • Your jump should be slightly higher than your jump for normal jump-roping.

Click here for a video tutorial of double-unders.

How to Do Overhead Squats

The overhead squat is truly a full-body, functional movement. It works your quads, glutes, hamstrings, core, lower and upper back, shoulders, and forearms, not to mention all of the small stabilizer muscles throughout your body. Done correctly, the overhead squat can improve strength, flexibility, and overall fitness. Here’s how to do it. 

  1. For the Bull WoD, your overhead squats must come from the floor, meaning you need to pick the barbell up from the ground and get it overhead. You can do this by snatching or clean-and-jerking the barbell. Snatching is the most efficient way because you will already have the barbell in the proper grip, whereas with a clean-and-jerk, you will have to place the barbell on your shoulders and press it up behind your neck with a wider grip. 
  2. Once the barbell is overhead with the proper grip, stabilize yourself by bracing your core. Think about pressing your shoulders up into the barbell and activating your lats. Take a deep breath and get ready for the descent. 
  3. Begin the descent by hinging at the hips — think about pushing your butt back a couple of inches without bending your knees. Only after you hinge at the hips should you bend your knees, and then descend into the full squat. While descending, keep your spine in a neutral position and keep your core tight. Make sure your heels stay flat on the ground the entire time. 
  4. Stabilize yourself in the bottom position before returning to standing. This is important so that you don’t tip forward with the barbell. You should feel balanced and strong in the bottom of the squat.
  5. Push through your heels and use your legs to drive yourself back up to the standing position. The rep is complete when you stand up fully with your arms locked out overhead. 
  6. Start from step two to begin another rep, or return the barbell to the ground. For the Bull WoD, you should try to complete at least 10 reps at a time to reduce the number of times you need to pick up the barbell. 

How to Do Pull-Ups

For the Bull WoD, kipping pull-ups and strict (regular) pull-ups are acceptable, but most people do kipping pull-ups because of the high volume of reps. You may hear people argue that kipping pull-ups aren't "real" pull-ups, but they're simply an efficient way to perform a higher volume of pull-ups.

  1. Grip the bar. Jump up to grip the bar with your hands a few inches wider than your shoulders. Get a full grip on the bar: Your entire palm should wrap around the bar, not just your fingers. 
  2. Hollow. Initiate the kip by putting your body into a tight “hollow” position. To visualize, think of lying face-up on the ground with only your lower back pressing into the ground. That’s the position you want to mimic for a hollow. 
  3. Arch. Move from the hollow into the arch position. Push your head through the window of your arms, arch your back, and send your feet behind you. 
  4. Alternate arch and hollow. Kipping is essentially alternating between the arch and hollow position. Start in the hollow, transition to the arch, and move back to the hollow to complete one kip. 
  5. Pull yourself up. At the tail end of your kip (the second hollow), use your arms and back muscles to pull yourself up to the bar. In CrossFit, the standard for pull-ups is that your chin surpasses the height of the bar. 
  6. Lower yourself down. In a controlled manner, lower yourself back to the arch position. From here, go into another rep or hop off of the bar.

Tips for the Mile Run

By the time you get to the mile run, you will be tired — no argument here. By the time you get to the second mile run, you’ll be close to depleted. That’s why it’s so important to utilize mental toughness here. This is the part of the Bull WoD where you stop thinking about yourself and you start thinking about Brandon “Bull” Barrett and how if he can give his life, you can give your all for one mile. 

Aside from mental toughness and performing in the name of a military hero, there are some practical tips you can use. 

Tips for Running the Mile

  • Breathe hard, but breathe: This means you shouldn't be able to talk while running your mile, but you shouldn’t be gasping for air, at least on the first round. In the second round, feel free to go all out. 
  • Focus on your form: You may not realize it, but there is good and bad form for running, just like there’s good and bad form for weightlifting. Keep your torso upright, shoulders back, and eyes forward. Focusing on your form not only makes you run more efficiently, but it can take your mind off of the burn.
  • Stride efficiently: Find a stride length that works for you — too long of a stride, and you’ll waste energy; too short of a stride, and you’ll fall behind.  For a mile run, you should find a stride somewhere in between a sprint and a jog.

Common Mistakes

With three complicated movements and one that’s just plain hard, the Bull WoD leaves the floor open for mistakes. But don’t worry: By following these tips, you can avoid common mistakes and score a time you’re proud of. 

Not Scaling Properly

You shouldn’t hesitate to scale any CrossFit workouts, but especially not a workout like the Bull WoD. Part of CrossFit’s foundation is scalable movement , or movement that can be modified to anyone’s fitness level. If you can’t perform the Bull WoD as written, you may not finish the workout or, worse, you may hurt yourself in the process. Talk with your coach about scaling options, and take a look at the modifications later in this guide to get some ideas. 

Not Pushing the Mile Run

After performing 200 double-unders, 50 overhead squats, and 50 pull-ups, the last thing you’ll probably want to do is go run a mile. Many CrossFitters make the mistake of using the run as a rest period during the Bull WoD, walking portions of it or just taking the entire mile at a slow pace. This isn’t the worst thing you could do, but it can definitely mess with your score. If you’re concerned about your time for this workout, you’ll need to push the pace on your runs. 

Form and Technique Mistakes

Various things can go wrong during double-unders, overhead squats, and pull-ups. Try to avoid these common form and technique mistakes.

Mistakes During the Bull WoD

Double-unders: flailing arms, donkey kick with the legs, jumping too high.

Overhead squats: Torso tipping forward, knees caving in, failure to engage the core, heels coming off of the ground, not locking out the elbows.

Pull-ups: Chin doesn’t surpass the height of the bar, flailing legs, not accomplishing a full arch or hollow position. 

Modifications and Variations

Most athletes, and even some advanced athletes, run into at least one movement they can’t do for the Bull WoD — or at least not as many reps as prescribed by the workout. If you find yourself in that situation, try out some of these modifications. 

Single-Unders

If you can’t do double-unders, the Bull WoD isn’t really the time to try them (try them out in a WoD with fewer reps). A simple fix? Do single-unders, or regular jump-roping, instead. Some CrossFit gyms double the rep count, so you’d do 400 single-unders per round, but not all CrossFit gyms do this. 

Overhead Squat Modifications

You can make overhead squats easier by reducing the weight, or you can change up the movement completely if you’re precluded from overhead squats because of an injury or other limitation. 

Scale the weight: The RX weights for the Bull WoD are 135 pounds for men and 95 pounds for women. Some scaling options include: 95 pounds for men and 65 pounds for women, 75 pounds for men and 55 pounds for women, or anywhere in between. Choose a weight that feels challenging, but that you know you can use for 100 total reps. 

Front squats: Some people can’t do overhead squats because of a shoulder, elbow, or wrist injury that prevents them from utilizing the overhead position. In this case, the best modification is a front squat, where the barbell rests across the front of your shoulders. 

Back squats: If you have an upper extremity injury that prevents you from getting into the front rack position, you can perform back squats for the Bull WoD. These are traditional barbell squats where the barbell rests on your traps and shoulders. 

Air squats: Perhaps you don’t want to or can’t use weight at all. You can simply do air squats, or bodyweight squats. The 100 total reps will still give you a serious burn! 

Pull-Up Modifications

Jumping pull-ups: To do jumping pull-ups, pull a box underneath one of the bars on the pull-up rig. You’ll arch as if you were going to kip, but use your legs to jump and propel yourself up to the bar. Ask your coach for help if you’re having trouble finding the right box height. 

Band-assisted pull-ups: One common pull-up modification in CrossFit is the banded pull-up. Wrap a resistance band around the pull-up bar, place one foot into the bottom of the band, and allow the band to offset your body weight as you do pull-ups. 

Ring rows: Much like TRX rows, ring rows involve holding onto the suspension system in a horizontal or near-horizontal position. From there, you use your arms and back muscles to pull your chest to the rings. 

Bent-over rows: If your gym doesn’t have gymnastics rings or a TRX, bent-over rows with dumbbells or a barbell are a good alternative to ring rows. 

Scaling the Run

For the most part, you wouldn’t scale a run for a CrossFit workout. But when the workout is much longer than usual, as is the Bull WoD, it can be a good idea to scale back the run if you struggle with running. If your mile run would take you longer than 15 minutes, for instance, you may want to scale to an 800-meter run for the Bull WoD. Talk to your coach if you are concerned about the run distance. 

Safety and Precautions

Take some steps to make sure you can safely complete the Bull WoD. 

Eat and Keep Fuel On Hand

Treat the Bull WoD like a long-distance endurance event — because it is. This workout can take beginner athletes upward of one hour, even verging on two in some cases. Even elite athletes can take as long as 45 minutes to complete the Bull WoD. To that end, fuel up with complex carbohydrates and healthy fats before you start, and keep some just-in-case fuel, such as energy gels or a banana, nearby in case you get lightheaded or dizzy. 

Shoes, Grips, Wraps, and Support

You should never completely rely on gear to get you through a workout, but for the Bull WoD, you may benefit from a few specifics. You’ll need cross-training shoes to get you through the variety of movements: Running shoes are too unstable for overhead squats, and lifting shoes are too flat and tough for running. 

You may also benefit from wrist wraps to support your wrists during the overhead squats, as well as grips to prevent your hands from blistering during the pull-ups. And if you ever need compression gear, the Bull WoD is a time to wear it. 

Hydration

Make sure to hydrate before, during, and after the Bull WoD. Follow these water intake guidelines for optimal hydration :

  • Two hours before exercise, drink 16 to 24 ounces of water.
  • 20 to 30 minutes before exercise, drink eight more ounces.
  • During exercise, drink eight ounces of water every 15 minutes.
  • After exercise, drink 16 to 24 ounces of water for every pound of weight you've lost.
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