The Ryan WoD: Goal Times, Tips, and Safety

Pull-ups.
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CrossFit Hero WoDs are known for their brutality. They often leave athletes lying in heaps on the gym floor, catching their breath for minutes. It’s a small price to pay compared to the heroes who have given their lives—the ones commemorated in the popular CrossFit Hero WoDs. 

The Ryan CrossFit WoD is a Hero WoD that contains muscle-ups and burpees, two classic (and tough!) CrossFit movements. The workout, which was first posted on the CrossFit main site as the workout of the day for October 8, 2008, honors Ryan Hummert, 22, of Maplewood, Missouri. 

Hummert, a firefighter, was killed by sniper fire on July 1, 2008, as he stepped off his truck at a scene, responding to a call. Hummert is survived by his parents Andrew and Jackie Hummert. 

The Ryan CrossFit WoD is as follows: 

5 Rounds For Time

  • 7 muscle-ups
  • 21 burpees, to target 12 inches (for men) or 8 inches (for women) above reach

The Ryan CrossFit WoD

Score: The Ryan WoD is scored “for time,” meaning you complete all of the rounds as fast as possible.

Equipment Needed: Gymnastics rings (or pull-up rig for bar muscle-ups), burpee target

Level: This is an advanced WoD that can be modified for beginners.

Goal Times: 

  • Beginner: 10 to 15 minutes
  • Intermediate: seven to 10 minutes
  • Advanced: five to seven minutes
  • Elite: less than five minutes

The goal times above refer to goal times for people who can perform muscle-ups and burpees to target. If you substitute the muscle-ups for pull-ups or another modification, your time will likely be faster for your given fitness level. 

Benefits

As expected, there are numerous benefits you'll gain by completing the Ryan WoD.

Gymnastics Skills 

The four main categories of CrossFit movements include strength, endurance, speed, and gymnastics. Gymnastics includes things like handstand push-ups, pull-ups, toes-to-bar, and muscle-ups. Practicing any variation of muscle-ups will improve your gymnastics skills. 

Cardiovascular Endurance

Burpees: you either love them or you hate them. But, let’s be real—most people hate them. Regardless, burpees are a phenomenal exercise for improving your cardiovascular endurance. Not many exercises compare to throwing yourself onto the floor and picking yourself back up, over and over again. 

Real talk, though. Burpees will have your lungs on fire, and five rounds of 21 comes out to 105 burpees. Expect heart strength gains! 

Muscular Endurance 

Cardio endurance isn’t the only thing burpees are good for. Continuous movement helps to improve muscular endurance, which refers to how long your muscles can sustain movement under a given load. In the case of burpees, the load is just your body weight, but that’s plenty to improve muscular endurance. 

Muscle-ups or any variation of muscle-ups can help with muscular endurance, too, though not to the same degree as burpees since you likely won’t be performing as many reps of muscle-ups as you would burpees. 

Step-by-Step Instructions

For the Ryan WoD, you need gymnastics rings or a pull-up rig, depending on whether you’ll do ring muscle-ups, bar muscle-ups, or a modification. You’ll also need a target for your burpees. This can be as simple as using chalk to mark a spot on a wall. 

If you’re using rings, make sure to set them up high enough to where your feet don’t drag the ground, and with enough room that you won’t impale someone exercising near you during your muscle-ups.  

How to Do Muscle-Ups 

Before you attempt muscle-ups, know that there’s a lot of preliminary training that goes into this exercise. Most people can’t just walk into a CrossFit gym and rep out some muscle-ups. You first need to establish the requisite strength in your back, core, hips, and arms, as well as develop great body awareness that allows you to efficiently perform this exercise. 

That said, here are the step-by-step instructions for muscle-ups:

  1. Hang from the rings with a false grip (thumbs on top of the rings, not wrapped underneath). 
  2. Begin to kip by alternating between an “arch” and “hollow” position. 
  3. Once you gain adequate momentum, propel your body into the air by thrusting your hips forward and pulling down on the rings as if you’re doing a straight-arm lat pulldown. Your body should become nearly horizontal. 
  4. Quickly flip your elbows behind you and bring your body back to a vertical position, with your chest over the tops of the rings. 
  5. Perform a triceps dip on the rings, pressing until your arms are fully extended. 
  6. Lower yourself back to the dead hang position in reverse order. Try to start another kip as you lower yourself to keep up your momentum.

To become more familiar with the movement, watch this video demo

How to Do Burpees to Target

Burpees to target are the same as regular burpees, except you have to jump up to reach a target. You might find yourself surprised at how this simple addition makes the move so much harder. To do burpees to target, follow these steps:

  1. Stand tall with your feet about shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Bend down and place your hands on the ground, simultaneously kicking your feet out behind you. 
  3. Lower your body to the ground (descend like you’re doing a push-up). 
  4. Push back up and hop your feet forward. 
  5. As you stand up, jump up to reach your target. 
  6. Start another rep by placing your hands on the ground once again.

Common Mistakes

As with any exercise programs, there is a risk of injury if moves are performed incorrectly.

Muscle-Up Mistakes 

The muscle-up is one of the most complex, most difficult CrossFit movements. As such, there’s a lot of room for mistakes. Here, you’ll learn about the three most common muscle-up mistakes and how to avoid them. 

Chicken Wing

The “chicken wing” happens to a lot of intermediate athletes who can kind of do muscle-ups, but not really. This occurs when, as you attempt to press yourself up at the top of the rings, one arm flips before the other, giving it the appearance of a chicken flapping its wing. 

This can lead to faulty movement patterns long-term (bad movement habits are hard to break) and, at worst, a shoulder, chest, or tricep injury. It’s smarter to modify muscle-ups and focus on building the necessary strength instead of resorting to the chicken wing just to say you did muscle-ups.

Lack of Hip Drive

The hip drive is arguably the most important part of the muscle-up. Without it, you won’t get nearly high enough to flip your torso over the rings. The hip drive occurs at the end phase of your kip and is responsible for helping you achieve the horizontal position needed for successful muscle-ups. If you have a weak hip drive, practice movements that train your glutes, hamstrings, and hip flexors. Try barbell hip thrusts, power cleans, and deadlifts

Kipping Before Strict

Many coaches will argue that no one should kip, ever. Most CrossFit coaches will tell you that you should master a strict muscle-up before trying to kip. The reasoning behind this? If you can do strict muscle-ups, there’s a good chance you have enough body control to kip without putting yourself at risk for injury. If you can’t perform strict muscle-ups, you might injure yourself while attempting kipping muscle-ups.

Burpee to Target Mistakes

You might think you can’t go wrong on burpees, but there are actually a few prominent mistakes. 

Not Jumping High Enough

This mistake is unique to target burpees because regular burpees don’t have a jumping requirement. If you don’t reach your target, you might get “no repped” and have to repeat the rep. 

“Worming” the Push-Up 

There’s some debate as to whether “worm” push-ups are okay during burpees. This happens when athletes lower their body completely to the ground and then do a sort of roll, first lifting the torso, then the hips, then the knees, and finally the feet rather than performing a standard push-up where your entire body lifts in sync. 

Landing on Toes 

When you hop your feet back in, try to land flat-footed. Landing on your toes can put extra stress on your knees or cause you to fall over. 

Modifications and Variations

Every CrossFit WoD is scalable; there are several modifications for all movements, and a coach can help you determine how to best scale a workout. The goal is always to preserve the stimulus of the workout, which, for the Ryan WoD, means you should be able to move quickly through all five rounds. 

For example, if you can perform a few muscle-ups but have to take a break in between each rep, a better strategy would be to perform chest-to-bar pull-ups so you can keep moving. 

You’ll also want to modify for any injuries, as well as pregnancy. Talk to a coach about modifying for specific conditions. 

Muscle-Up Modifications

Don’t worry if you can’t do muscle-ups. Typically, only the best with years of training can perform muscle-ups, but there are plenty of modifications to choose from. 

Floor Muscle-Ups 

Try these if you’re pretty close to getting your first muscle-up. Position the gymnastics rings as if you’re going to do suspension rows with them. Practice the muscle-up turnover from this low position: Hang horizontally with your arms extended, thrust your hips upward, and flip your elbows to perform a triceps dip. 

Chest-to-Bar Pull-Ups

This is another great modification for athletes who are pretty close to achieving the muscle-up. With chest-to-bar pull-ups, you pull more forcefully so that your sternum grazes the bar, rather than sticking with the usual chin-over-bar standard. 

Strict Pull-Ups 

If you still need to work on your pulling strength, sub in strict pull-ups with or without a band for assistance. This will help you develop the back, arm, shoulder, and core strength needed for muscle-ups.

Ring Rows

Beginners can work on their pulling strength with this modification. Use gymnastics rings or a TRX system to pull horizontally. 

Burpee to Target Modifications

If the burpee to target move doesn't suit your fitness level, you can always sub it out for one of the following moves.

Regular Burpees

If you can’t jump to reach a target for any reason, simply perform regular burpees. You can do a little hop when you stand up, or just complete the rep by standing.

Up-Downs or Sprawls

Up-downs, also called sprawls, are burpees without a push-up. For these, follow the same steps as you would for burpees, but eliminate the push-up portion. 

Walk-Outs

Burpees are too high-impact for some people. If that’s the case for you, try walk-outs. Bend over to put your hands on the ground, walk your hands forward until you’re in a plank, and then walk your feet in to meet your hands. Stand up, turn around, and go for another rep.

Beginner and Intermediate Ryan

Beginner Ryan
  • 5 rounds for time 

  • 7 pull-ups

  • 21 up-downs

Intermediate Ryan
  • 5 rounds for time

  • 7 chest-to-bar pull-ups 

  • 21 burpees

Safety and Precautions

As always, safety comes first while performing the Ryan WoD.

Warm Up 

Every workout should start with a warm-up. A warm-up prepares your body for exercise by improving blood flow to your muscles and loosening up your joints. For the Ryan WoD, you’ll want to focus your warm up on your back and shoulders, as well as your hips.

Cool Down 

After the workout, a cool-down can help you recover. Try going for a five-minute walk or spending some time foam rolling and stretching the muscles you just worked so hard. 

Make Space 

It’s so important to make and define space in a CrossFit gym, especially if you’re working out with a big group. Ensure you have enough space for burpees—you don’t want to kick anyone or be kicked! If you’re doing ring muscle-ups, make sure you have enough room to kip without hurting others or hitting your feet on anything. 

Gear Up

Make sure you have any necessary gear ready to go before the workout. For the Ryan WoD, you don’t need much, but you might want to wear grips for the muscle-ups (or whatever modification you choose). Lots of ring or rig work can put a lot of wear and tear on your hands and lead to blisters. Chalk can also help prevent you from slipping and falling off of the rings or bar.

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Article Sources
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  • CrossFit Level One Training Guide, Second Edition. CrossFit; 2019.

  • “Ryan” WOD. WODWell; 2019.