The 20:00 Cindy WOD: Girls Just Want to Have Fun!

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The number of conversations I’ve had with people that started with “…and my first ever CrossFit WOD was…Cindy!” is astounding.

People just love them some Cindy!

And with good reason; it includes three simple movements (pull-ups, push-ups, and squats) that just about anyone can do, just about anywhere.

@madfitsessions

One of the most popular “CrossFit Girls”, Cindy is regularly programmed as a metcon in CrossFit boxes. It’s 5-10-15 repetition scheme has inevitably snuck into a number of workouts.

What is the Cindy WOD?

Cindy is a 20-minute AMRAP WOD (“As Many Rounds/Repetitions as Possible in 20 minutes”). Each round consists of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 air squats.

Beginners new to CrossFit find the Cindy WOD to be an excellent “on-boarding” workout due to the familiarity of the movements involved. Cindy is also advantageous in a class setting because everyone, whether they are beginners or CrossFit Games athletes, will finish at exactly the 20-minute mark. No feelings of “I’m going to slow!” for newbies!

Good Cindy WOD Times and Scores to Beat

I can still remember being incredibly proud after my first Cindy WOD. I completed just over 11 rounds and really felt like I had given my all!

Less than a year later, I passed the 20-round mark. At this point I was even prouder at the very tangible progress I had made, almost doubling my previous score!

Of all of the CrossFit Girl WODS, the Cindy CrossFit workout is the best for benchmarking. As you progress on your CrossFit journey, watch yourself move down the fitness levels list!

Cindy WOD Strategy

Getting a great Cindy score requires a little bit of strategy, mainly in regard to pacing. Although the movements are relatively simple, the sheer amount of repetitions takes a toll over 20 minutes.

Make it an EMOM

Regardless of your fitness level, the easiest way to “organize” the Cindy WOD is to turn it into an EMOM (“‘Every Minute on the Minute’ do x amount of repetitions or rounds”).

@recgymkirrawee

A beginner might approach it as E2MO2M (“Every second minute on the second minute”), completing a round every 2 minutes, aiming for a score of 10 total rounds.

More advanced athletes can shoot for a true EMOM, finishing up the Cindy WOD with 20 total rounds.

The most ambitious CrossFitters regularly aim to complete 3 rounds every two minutes (I can’t figure out a good acronym for this…so let’s just say a round every 40 second!). At this pace, they’ll finish up with a blazing 30 rounds!

Whichever approach you go for (even something in between), break the workout into a number of “mini-benchmarks”. Focusing on completing the current round by the end of the current minute is a lot easier, both physically and mentally, than getting stuck focusing on the full 20 minutes!

Break as Needed

Breaking up individual sets of each movement can be as beneficial as breaking the workout into one and two-minute increments. 

@ingerindubai

In most cases, doing the entire set of 5 pull-ups each round will be the way to go, but a quick 3-2 can also work when under fatigue. 

Push-ups, which oftentimes turn into the most challenging components by the middle of the workout, can be broken into 6-4, or 5-5 sets. Air squats can usually be handled in 2 sets, as well.

Kipping Pull-ups?

I have completed the Cindy CrossFit workout “strict” (not kipping any pull-ups), “semi-strict” (kipping some sets of pull-ups, going strict on others), and “kipping” (kipping for the duration). 

All of these are viable options.

@crossfit

Most people won’t be able to rep out strict pull-ups over the course 20 minutes. However, for those who are able to, sets of strict pull-ups are actually faster in the Cindy WOD. The sets are small enough that you finish one or two reps of strict pull-ups before you’d even get into your kipping cadence. 

If you’re confident in your ability to do between 100 and 150(!) strict pull-ups over the course of a 20-minute AMRAP, I would give this approach a try.

Mixing kipping and strict pull-ups is not a strategy I recommend. If you think you might want to start with strict pull-ups and move on to kipping, you’ll likely wear yourself down at a faster rate than the time you would save from doing some rounds of strict pull-ups. 

Kipping from the outset is slightly slower and adds a bit more of a cardio element due to the energy necessary to create momentum and full-body involvement in the movement. However, kipping can really save your arms for the 15 reps of arm-heavy repetitions (pull-ups, push-ups) each round. Even if you’re aiming for 10 rounds, that is 150 reps to get through!

Scaling the Cindy WOD

Cindy is an excellent fitness challenge, even if you have to make some adjustments. 

If you’re still working on pull-ups, feel free to add a band. Push-ups can be done with knees on the floor and box squats can substituted for full air squats.

If you are confident in your ability to do all of the movements as prescribed, but don’t think you can keep things up for 20 minutes, give 15-minute, Short Cindy a try!

The Advanced Cindy WOD?

While the Cindy WOD is a staple in CrossFit boxes around the world, it hasn’t been featured on the elite stage in some time. CrossFit Games-level athletes haven’t been “ranked” in Cindy since 2009…

CrossFit recordkeeping has…evolved since 2009!

Even back in the old, old days of CrossFit, top athletes were putting up impressive numbers (the top females scores were 28 rounds; the top male scored 38 round!)

These days, you’re more likely to see “Chelsea” or “Mary” as unofficial versions of “Advanced Cindy”.

While Chelsea is more of a grind, lasting an additional ten minutes (for those who are able to keep the pace, that is!), Mary keeps the familiar rep scheme and ups the movement difficulty.

Significantly

Athletes took on Mary at the 2019 CrossFit Games. The performances were…predictably impressive.

If you’ve hit 21+ rounds on Cindy at least a couple of times, I’d say you’re ready for Chelsea. 

Mary on the other hand…let’s just say you’ll definitely want to keep your pull-ups in that workout!

Go do the Cindy WOD!

If you’ve been doing CrossFit for even a little while, there is no reason not to give Cindy a try!

@crossfit

You rocking your workouts in your garage or basement? As long as you have a pull-up bar, you have no excuse not to do the Cindy CrossFit workout this week!

Just be sure to keep close tabs on your performance; I wouldn’t want you to miss out on experiencing a similar 11-round-to-20-round improvement like I did!

Or if you’ve done enough “bodyweight ninja” work this week and want something fast and heavy, load up your barbell and give Grace a try. You know you’re going to give all of the CrossFit Girls a try at some point, anyways!

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AUTHOR

Tom, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, ISSA-CPT, PN1-NC, DPA, CAPM has been CrossFitting for over 10 years. He has participated in a number of team and individual CrossFit competitions across Europe and the United States. He was the 2012 Chick-fil-A Race Series champion (North Georgia Circuit) and has put together a few gnarly garage and basement gyms in his time!

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