The Grace WoD: Goal Times, Tips, and Safety

The Grace Workout of the Day is a benchmark workout for CrossFit athletes.

A man completes a push jerk overhead under grey skies.
Eric Nelson / Getty Images.

When CrossFit founder Greg Glassman developed a new series of difficult workouts in 2003, he gave them female names. With good reasons: CrossFit girls’ WoDs are so physically demanding they leave you feeling like you’ve been through a National Weather Service hurricane. 

During Grace, you'll perform 30 clean and jerks—one of the more technical and difficult movements known to the fitness world—as fast as you can. Here’s your step-by-step guide on how to complete Grace and get your best time yet. 

The Grace "Girl" WOD

Score: Grace is scored “for time,” which means you complete the WoD as fast as possible.

Goal times: 6–7 minutes for beginners; 4–5 minutes for intermediate athletes; 3–4 minutes for advanced athletes; less than 3 minutes for elite athletes.

Equipment Needed: Barbell and bumper plates.

Level: Grace is an advanced workout with moderately heavy weights, but it can be scaled down to intermediate or beginner levels.

Benefits

Few lifts compare to the clean and jerk when it comes to overall improved athleticism. Here are a few benefits you can expect from performing Grace, which consists of 30 clean and jerks.

Total Body Strength

You can expect to increase strength in your legs, core, and upper body as you get more proficient at the clean and jerk: This complex lift combines a deadlift, squat, and press into one seamless movement.

Speed

To successfully complete a proper clean, you need to be quick. The turnaround (explained below in the step-by-step) requires speedy elbows and a fast recovery to retain smooth movement patterns. 

Power

The clean and jerk may top all other lifts in terms of building power in the posterior chain. During the entire movement, your hamstrings and glutes are loaded with the heavy weight of the barbell, forcing them to perform explosively under tension. 

Step-by-Step Instructions

Overall, Grace is a pretty simple WOD. The clean and jerk is a highly technical Olympic lift and requires a great deal of focus, strength, and speed.

Equipment and Set up

For the Grace workout, you need a barbell and bumper plates. For men, the prescribed weight is 135 pounds. With a 45-pound barbell, you’ll need two 45-pound plates.

For women, the prescribed weight is 95 pounds. On a 45-pound barbell, you’ll need two 25-pound plates. However, in CrossFit, most female athletes use 35-pound barbells, which means you’ll need 30 pounds on each side. 

How to do the clean and jerk

1. Setup: Set your feet about hip width apart, with your toes turned out just slightly. Similar to a deadlift, your shoulders should hover over the barbell, with your hips higher than your knees. Keep the barbell in light contact with your shins during setup.

2. The first pull: This occurs when the barbell initially breaks contact with the floor and ends when the barbell passes your knee. This is essentially a deadlift, but you haven’t stood all the way up yet. Your spine should remain in a neutral position (not overly flexed or extended).

3. The second pull: This refers to the portion of the clean where the barbell passes your knee and approaches your hips. This part of the clean should be explosive, giving the bar momentum for the next step. During the second pull, extend your hips fully (a coach may que you to squeeze your glutes). 

4. The third pull or turnover: As you finish the second pull, use your arms, shoulders, and traps to elevate the bar as high as possible (often called a “high-pull”) and drop beneath the bar. Most athletes simultaneously shift their feet into a squat stance during the third pull, so they can catch the bar in a squat if needed — you don’t need to squat for Grace. 

5. The catch or receiving position: After the third pull, catch the barbell in the front rack position. Your elbows should point forward and your triceps should be parallel to the ground. Keep your eyes forward and chest high. 

6. The dip: Now you’ve completed the clean and are moving on to the jerk. The dip refers to the downward loading motion where a lifter descends into a quarter squat (dip depths vary). Make sure to keep your torso upright, elbows high, and most of your weight in the back of your heels. The dip speed should be smooth and steady: A good dip allows a stretch reflex to take place.

7. The drive: After the dip, you’ll use your legs to explode upward in what’s known as the drive. You don’t use your upper body as much as you’d think—a good drive will lift the weight slightly off of your shoulders without any movement from your upper body (a good drill to practice). Your upper body completes the drive with any extra power needed to push the bar completely overhead. 

8. Overhead receiving position: In Grace, you can do a push jerk or a split jerk. The main difference between the two is foot positioning (in a split jerk, your feet land in a lunge-like stance). Whichever variation you choose, the overhead receiving position consists of locked-out elbows overhead. You must completely lock out overhead before beginning to lower the bar. 

9. The return: Many athletes simply drop the barbell from overhead during Grace, completing each rep as a single. However, it’s not always safe to drop the bar from overhead, especially if you’re near other athletes. To return the bar to the set-up position, lower it in increments: First Let the bar descend to the front rack position, then to the hang position at the hips, then to the ground. 

Common Mistakes

While Grace is a relatively simple workout, it is by no means easy. Many athletes make these common mistakes:

Not Scaling to Fitness Level

All CrossFit workouts are scalable. That is, you can modify them to match your fitness level. Grace is one of the easiest workouts to scale because it only consists of one movement.

The prescribed weights are relatively heavy for the average person, so don’t be embarrassed to scale—many people do! You should reduce the weight on the barbell to one you can confidently lift 30 times with good form. 

Skipping a Proper Warm Up

Warming up is an essential component of all workouts. Warming up gets blood flowing to your muscles, mobilizes your joints, and prepares your body for the intense stimulus it’s about to endure.

A good warm-up for Grace would include 2 to 5 minutes of monostructural movement (biking, jogging, etc.), dynamic stretching, and practice reps of the clean and jerk with lighter weights.

Flawed Technique

The clean and jerk isn’t an easy movement. It requires a great deal of practice to perfect, and even the most elite CrossFit athletes spend time practicing the clean and jerk with empty barbells or PVC pipes to ensure they retain good form. Here are some of the most common technique flaws seen in the clean and jerk:

  • Poor setup: Though seemingly simple, the setup is perhaps the most important portion of the clean and jerk. If you start the lift badly, there’s a high chance you’ll end it badly. Common setup flaws include hips that are too low, barbell too far from the shins, and an overly flexed or extended spine.
  • Barbell strays from the body: All good Olympic lifts have one thing in common: a tight bar path. The barbell should remain as close as possible to your body for the entirety of the lift. If it strays, you risk failing the lift. 
  • Lack of full extension of the hips during the clean: If your hips don’t fully extend (remember: squeeze your glutes) during the second pull, you aren’t giving the bar as much momentum as you could. This cuts your clean short and sets you up for a faulty front-rack receiving position.
  • Leaning forward in the dip: Losing an upright torso in the dip is a surefire way to fail the jerk. During the dip, keep your core tight, eyes forward, and elbows high. Your triceps should remain parallel to the ground for the entirety of the dip. 
  • Not locking the elbows out overhead: If you want to hear your coach yell, “No rep!”, don’t lock your elbows out overhead at the end of the jerk. You definitely don’t want to hear that during Grace, so be sure to extend your arms fully in the overhead receiving position. 

Modifications and Variations

Like mentioned above, Grace is scalable to all fitness levels. Here are a couple of ways to modify the workout. 

Reduce Weight

If the prescribed weight is too heavy for you to successfully complete 30 clean and jerks, reduce it—simple as that! Ideally, the weight would allow you to perform at least five reps unbroken and/or complete all of the reps in less than five minutes.

Limit Movement

Some athletes may have injuries or other conditions that limit their range of motion. For example, a shoulder injury may prevent you from receiving the bar overhead. In that case, your coach might recommend that you just do 30 cleans, eliminating the jerk portion until your shoulder heals.

Always talk with your coach about making modifications for injuries, limitations, or other health concerns. 

Safety and Precautions

As with all workouts, it’s critical to take precautions before attempting Grace. Just a little bit of effort can be the difference between a successful workout and a futile one.

Start With a General Warm-up

A general warm-up intends to increase blood flow to your muscles, slightly elevate the heart rate, and prime your body for exercise. This should last about 5 to 15 minutes and include some sort of monostructural movement—walking, jogging, cycling, jumping rope, rowing,etc.—at an easy pace. A general warm-up also usually includes dynamic stretches to loosen up the hips, ankles, shoulders, and spine. 

Do a Specific Warm-up

After your general warm-up, move to a warm-up that’s specific to Grace. Start with an empty barbell or PVC pipe and practice your cleans, squats, presses, and jerks. Slowly add weight and do a few clean and jerks each time you add weight. Work up to the weight you want to use for the workout. 

Hydrate and Eat Before

Always drink water and eat before exercising. Failure to do so could result in dehydration or hypoglycemia. You can eat a full meal two to three hours before working out, or eat a snack 30 minutes prior. A balanced ratio of carbohydrates, protein, and fat is best.

Scale if You Need To

Don’t risk an injury just to get “RX” next to your name. If the prescribed weights are too heavy, scale down. If you’re unsure about the weight to choose, talk to your coach. Additionally, talk to your coach about scaling for injuries, pregnancy, or other health conditions.

Cool Down Afterward

Grace is a tough WOD that will take a toll on your body. It elicits both a cardiovascular and neuromuscular response, so take some time to cool down after the workout.

Stretch your legs, hips, core, and upper body. Walking, jogging, rowing, or cycling for two to five minutes post-workout can help prevent lactic acid build-up and delayed-onset muscle soreness.

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