The Elizabeth WoD: Goal Times, Tips, and Safety

A young main does triceps dips on parallettes at a park.

undrey/iStock/Getty Images

When CrossFit first began back in 2000, there wasn’t a defined way to measure progress specific to CrossFit as a sport. In 2003, CrossFit founder Greg Glassman took the first step at solving that when he released the first set of “Girl” WoDs, which would become benchmark workouts—workouts that you test time and time again to see if your fitness has improved. 

The Elizabeth WoD was one of the first Girl workouts, alongside Angie, Barbara, Chelsea, Diane, and Fran. 

A classic 21-15-9 couplet—the same rep scheme as Fran, one of the most famous CrossFit Girl WoDs—the Elizabeth WoD will have your arms shaking, your legs burning, and your lungs gulping down air. It’s a tough one, but the effort is worth the benefits. 

The Elizabeth WoD is as follows: 

  • 21 barbell cleans
  • 21 ring dips
  • 15 barbell cleans
  • 15 ring dips
  • 9 barbell cleans
  • 9 ring dips

The Elizabeth “Girl” CrossFit WoD

Score: Elizabeth is scored for time, meaning you complete all the reps as fast as possible.

Goal Times: Beginner: 10-14+ minutes. Intermediate: 7-10 minutes. Advanced: 4-7 minutes. Elite: <4 minutes.

Equipment Needed: Barbell, bumper plates, rig, or other support system, gymnastics rings

Level: Elizabeth is a very advanced WoD but can be modified for beginners.

As you can see from the goal times above, this isn’t a casual workout. Glassman intended for this workout to be fast—and super strenuous.

Benefits

Each CrossFit WoD comes with a unique suite of benefits, combining two or more of CrossFit’s 10 “General Physical Skills."The Elizabeth WoD can help you improve in strength and power as well as calisthenics, one that’s not explicitly on the list. 

Strength 

Gaining strength is arguably one of the most common fitness goals worldwide. Whether you’re a competitive powerlifter or simply want to hike bigger mountains, getting stronger is the one surefire way to improve your performance. The Elizabeth WoD will challenge your strength with heavy prescribed weights (135 pounds for men and 95 pounds for women, although you can scale back) and a high volume of reps. 

Power 

It’s a common misconception that strength and power are the same. Strength, by technical definition, refers to “the quality or state of being physically strong.” Being strong means your muscles can move a lot of weight or withstand strong forces. 

Power, on the other hand, can be equated to explosiveness. According to Oxford Dictionary, power means “to move or travel with great speed or force.” This definition perfectly encompasses the power clean or squat clean—to be efficient and strong in this movement, you need to have power throughout unusual body positions and movement patterns. 

Think of the way Olympic lifters move: they snap the barbell so quickly that it’s overhead in an instant. If you blink, you’ll miss it. They make 300-pound barbells look as light as feathers. They can do this because they have such great power and can create speed and force from the hips. 

Calisthenics

Calisthenics are bodyweight, gymnastics-like movements that result in extreme bodyweight strength, graceful movement patterns, and muscular control. The ring dips in the Elizabeth WoD are just one example of a calisthenic movement, but a good one. Ring dips train you to use all of the tiny stabilizer muscles in your arms, chest, and shoulders, as well as engage your core and breathe throughout the movement. This translates to overall better body control, stability, and mobility. 

Step-By-Step Instructions

To perform your best during the Elizabeth WoD, follow these detailed step-by-step instructions for each movement.

How to Do Barbell Cleans

The Elizabeth WOD calls for a full clean in which the barbell is caught at the bottom of a front squat. Follow these instructions: 

  1. Stand in front of the bar with your feet about hip-width apart. Hinge at your hips, bend your knees, and grip the barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart. Make sure your spine is neutral and your neck is not craned. Engage your core.
  2. Deadlift the bar with power from your hamstrings, hips, and glutes. Push through the heels. Your shoulders and hips should rise in sync. 
  3. As the bar passes your knees, fully extend your hips and shrug your shoulders to give the bar more rise and momentum.
  4. When the bar reaches the level of your bellybutton, bend your elbows and pull them up high, as if you’re trying to make your elbows level with your ears. 
  5. Quickly snap your elbows forward so that your triceps are parallel to the ground and your elbows point straight in front of you.
  6. Drop into a squat and receive the barbell in the front-rack position. Your elbows should remain pointing forward and the barbell should rest on the fronts of your shoulders. 
  7. Extend your knees and hips to finish the lift in a standing position. 
  8. With control, lower the barbell back to the ground and go in for another rep. 

How to Do Ring Dips

Ring triceps dips are one of the most advanced movements in CrossFit. They require keen body awareness as well as strength, flexibility, and core stability. Here’s how to do them: 

  1. Make sure your gymnastics rings are stable and even. They should be hovering at about hip height. 
  2. Grab the rings with your palms facing your body. Keep your arms very close to your torso. At this point, your elbows should be slightly bent, pointing behind you. 
  3. Press up so that your arms are straight and your feet hover above the ground. Bend your knees and tuck your feet up slightly behind you (this doesn’t count as a rep!). 
  4. With control, lower your torso by bending your elbows. Lower until your triceps are parallel to the ground. Be careful not to let your elbows splay out.
  5. Once you reach parallel, press back up until your arms are fully extended. This completes one rep. Complete 21, 15, or nine reps depending on which round of Elizabeth you’re on.

Common Mistakes

Every CrossFit WoD presents opportunities for mistakes, especially workouts that are as complex as the Elizabeth WoD. Here are a few of the most common mistakes seen during the Elizabeth WoD that may prevent you from getting your best score.

Not Pacing Yourself

The 21-15-9 rep scheme can be a little tricky because you want to go fast, but not too fast. Before the workout, you should strategize based on your goal time. Otherwise, you might burn out too quickly and, at worst, not be able to finish the WoD. 

Trying to Go Unbroken

This mistake often falls hand-in-hand with the above. Only the best of the best should go unbroken on this workout, despite the seemingly low number of rounds—unless you’re an elite CrossFit athlete, you’ll likely get a better score if you break up the reps. One common tactic is the following:

  • For the sets of 21, do three sets of seven reps. 
  • For the sets of 15, do one set of eight and one set of seven
  • For the sets of nine, do one set of five and one set of four

Power Clean Mistakes

When performing the barbell clean, watch out for these potential blunders.

Not Fully Extending the Hips

When performing the barbell clean, your hips should fully extend at two points in the lift. The first hip extension occurs when you pull the barbell upward and the second occurs after you catch the bar. If you miss the first hip extension, you risk injury and poor form; if you miss the second, you might be given a “no rep” by a coach.

Improper Grip

You should grip the barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart or just slightly wider. Too wide of a grip makes it more like a snatch while too narrow of a grip can result in poor technique.

Landing on Your Toes

If you ever watch Olympic lifters in competition, you know that their feet often loudly bang the ground. This is partly to emphasize the ideal flat-footed landing position. Landing on your toes can pose the risk of strains and sprains.

Allowing the Torso to Fall

Some athletes make the mistake of allowing their torso to fall forward when they catch the barbell in the front-rack position. This usually occurs simultaneously with landing on the toes. To fix this, a coach may ask you to decrease the weight on your barbell so you can catch it in an upright position. 

Ring Dip Mistakes

Here are some of the most common mistakes you can make while doing a ring dip.

Hunching Over

Hunching the torso or over-flexing the spine in the ring dip is usually the result of poor shoulder stability. Your shoulders should remain strong and stable, rather than move forward as you lower yourself. Likewise, your core should remain engaged, not lax, in order to protect your spine.

“Chicken Wings” 

When performing a ring dip, your elbows should point straight backward throughout the entire movement. If your arms splay out to the side—a common mistake called “chicken wings” that is also present in muscle-ups—it may signify weak shoulders or chest muscles. 

Limited Range of Motion

There are two parts of the ring dip that might challenge your range of motion: the bottom and top positions. In the bottom position, make sure your triceps are parallel to the ground. In the top position, make sure your arms are fully extended—no bent elbows!

Modifications and Variations

Every CrossFit WoD has room for modifications—that’s precisely what the entire concept of CrossFit was formulated on. If the Elizabeth WoD is too challenging for your current fitness level as written, try modifying one or both of the movements, or opt for the beginner or intermediate variations below. 

Barbell Clean Modifications

The first thing you could do to make the cleans easier is reduce the weight. However, if you need a modification for an injury, pregnancy, or other condition, simply lowering the weight may not suffice. If that’s you, try one of these options: 

Dumbbell Clean

This variation of the clean uses dumbbells instead of a barbell with plates, and it can be helpful for athletes who have limited shoulder, wrist and elbow mobility. To do dumbbell cleans, choose two dumbbells of equal weight and grip them firmly. Follow the same steps as you would for a barbell clean. The main difference is that you’ll have more leeway in the front-rack position.

Medicine Ball Clean

The medicine ball clean is a fantastic way to learn the mechanics of the clean without much weight. If you struggle to achieve full hip extension or to catch a barbell in the upright position, the medicine ball clean may be a good option for you. Check out this video demo to see how to properly perform the med-ball clean.

Upright Row

If the front-rack position is the contraindication for you, try a simple upright row instead. For proper form, variations, and technique tips, see the full how-to guide for an upright row.

Ring Dip Modifications

As the ring dip is one of the more advanced CrossFit movements, most people will need to modify this one at first. Here are a few options for you:

Stationary Dips

To perform stationary dips, follow the same exact steps as you would for ring dips, except perform them on a stable set of parallettes or a dip station. You can also use two boxes of the kind you’ll find in a CrossFit gym.

Bench Dips

This version of the triceps dip offsets your body weight because you keep your feet on the floor. All you need is a bench, box or chair.

Push-Ups

If neither stationary dips nor bench dips will work for you, simply do push-ups instead. Push-ups are a fantastic full-body movement that work many of the same muscles as the triceps dip.

Modified Push-Ups

If standard push-ups are too difficult, try doing modified push-ups on your knees. You can also do push-ups against a wall. Stand an arm’s length away, place your hands flat on the wall, and bend your arms to lower your chest to the wall. 

Beginner Elizabeth

For a fully modified version of the Elizabeth WoD, try this beginner variation, wherein the weight for the barbell cleans are lower and you perform push-ups in place of ring dips. 

Beginner Elizabeth

One round:

  • 21 cleans (75/55 lb)
  • 21 pushups
  • 15 cleans
  • 15 push-ups
  • 9 cleans
  • 9 push-ups

Intermediate Elizabeth

If the above variation seems like it’d be a breeze for you, try this intermediate version of Elizabeth. Here, the weight is higher (but still not as heavy as the prescribed workout) and instead of push-ups, you’ll do stationary dips.

Intermediate Elizabeth

One Round:

  • 21 cleans (115/75 lb)
  • 21 stationary dips (on parallettes or a dip station rather than rings) 
  • 15 cleans
  • 15 stationary dips
  • 9 cleans
  • 9 stationary dips

Safety and Precautions

Take care to prepare yourself adequately before the Elizabeth WoD in order to avoid an injury. 

Warm Up Your Working Muscles and Joints

Warm-ups are so important to a safe and effective workout. In fact, warming up before a workout can actually improve your workout performance, especially if your warmup is specific to the exercises you’re about to do. Warming up primes your body by increasing blood flow to your muscles, elevating your core temperature and heart rate, increasing your oxygen consumption, and lubricating your joints—all things that need to happen for a great workout!

Warm Up For the Elizabeth WoD

3 rounds: 

  • 60 seconds stationary bike or row
  • 20 plank shoulder taps (10 each arm)
  • 20 leg swings (10 each leg)
  • 10 Romanian deadlifts (light weight)
  • 10 deep lunge stretches (five each leg) 
  • 5 bodyweight pause squats (hold three seconds in bottom)

Ask Your Coach for Scaling Options

If barbell cleans and ring dips don’t suit your current fitness level—or if you have an injury, limited mobility, or other limitation—discuss proper scaling options with your coach. CrossFit coaches are trained to offer modifications for all athletes that allow them to achieve the intended stimulus of the WoD while remaining safe. Failure to modify as needed can result in injury, and in CrossFit, safe is always better than sorry.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.