The 16 Greatest CrossFit Hero WODs

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CrossFit Hero WODs are arguably the greatest additions to the sport.

That is a lofty statement, I know…but think about what they represent.


Men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their countries and communities, many of whom were avid fans of, and adherents to, CrossFit workouts. These are people who you would look up to if they were with us today and who still inspire long after they were killed or died.

Although CrossFit Hero WODs are generally some of the toughest workouts the sport has put out, the heighted desire to honor these heroes via our participation in and performance of these workouts makes them more “manageable” than other WODs might be.


The weights are heavier…but we can handle them. The runs are longer…but the wind is at our backs. The pain is intense…but we are better able to tolerate it.

“How many Hero WODs are there?” you might ask. A lot to be sure; here you have your choice of some of the greatest Hero WODs ever. Do one…they’re good for your soul.

The 16 Greatest CrossFit Hero WODs


hero wods

Equipment: Barbell, bumper plates, plyo box, pull-up bar/rack, jump rope

Nutts is named after Lieutenant Andrew Richard Nuttall. Lt. Nuttall was killed in action in Afghanistan on December 23rd, 2009.

Nutts is one of those WODs that seems pretty reasonable when you’re first starting off, but quickly gets pretty out of control. Personally, when I’m just starting to break a sweat after the pull-ups and faced with the 100 wall balls…well, I’ll sum up my feelings in a single syllable.



Equipment: Air runner, pull-up bar/rack, weighted vest (optional)

Murph is named after Lieutenant Michael Murphy. Lt. Murphy was killed in Afghanistan on June 28th, 2005.

You knew Murph was going to make this list. As I’m writing this in late May 2023, we’re t-minus one week from Memorial Day…the official day for the world to take Murph on. If this is you, check out our article on Murph variations, as well as our article on good times to beat on Murph for elite athletes, beginners, and master’s athletes, alike!


Equipment: Barbell, bumper plates

DT is named after Staff Sergeant Timothy P. Davis. SSgt Davis was killed in Afghanistan on February 20, 2009.

One of the most popular CrossFit Hero WODs, DT has found his way into a number of different CrossFit competitions, to include the Rogue Invitational and the CrossFit Games. With very minimal equipment requirements, you may as well add “my garage or basement championship!” to these events!

Even with a single barbell and only 3 movements, DT can get tricky. Check out our write-up of DT and develop your vest possible strategy for success!


Equipment: Gymnastics rings

JT is named for Petty Officer 1st Class Jeff Taylor. PO1 Taylor was killed in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005.

Rumor has it that JT is the first of the CrossFit Hero WODs.

Score one for the “bodyweight ninjas of the world”!

This is one of the classic, “ohhh…this doesn’t look so bad; I’m going to blow through this!” kinds of workouts. In reality, by the second round, you may well be doing singles…during the push-ups. Of course JT made our list of best upper body CrossFit WODs; if you (somehow) have some more in the tank after this bad boy, give one of the others a try!


Equipment: Barbell, bumper plates

Kalsu is named after 1st Lt. James Robert Kalsu. 1Lt. Kalsu was killed in Vietnam on July 21, 1970.

You knew Kalsu HAD to make this list. Arguably (although I’ve never met anyone who has argued against) the most difficult Hero WOD (of the first major grouping of Hero WODs, at least), Kalsu really tests your determination and mental grit.

5 burpees doesn’t seem like a lot, but they’re always in the back of your mind. That abject fear you feel as the seconds tick into the 50’s each round doesn’t stop until you finish this bad boy.

Don’t expect to be “saved by the bell” either; you’re not finished until you hit that 100th heavy thruster.

A true, hero’s Hero WOD!


Equipment: Barbell, bumper plates

Randy is named after Randy Simmons, a LAPD SWAT team member. Simmons was killed on February 7, 2008.

Randy is both one of the most popular CrossFit Hero WODs as it is one of the CrossFit Benchmark WODs. There is just something about one’s ability to do 75 “light” snatches that can tell you a lot about many of their fitness strengths and weaknesses.

Personally, I just try to survive! Those grand plans I have for 3 sets of 25…well…lololololololol.

If you are able to go unbroken, your reward is finishing somewhere in the ~2:10 range (don’t be fooled by the title of the video; he had to run another ~100 feet at the end!)


Equipment: Air runner, GHD

Michael is named after Lt. Michael McGreevy. Lt. McGreevy was killed on June 28, 2005 in Afghanistan.

In my old globo gym days, I used to love doing Michael. Jumping off the treadmill down to the old school back extension machine before doing a bunch of…questionable sit-ups to finish off each round…felt great (and, understandably so, turned some heads!)

The contrast between the back extensions and the sit-ups is high and being able to quickly recover at each stage is the heart of the workout (don’t let anyone tell you anything about the run being the hard part!) If you have to, take a break (literally get off of/out of the back extension machine) rather than going unbroken with these. Your lower back will really thank you throughout the rest of your day!


Equipment: Gymnastics rings, kettlebell

Nate is named after Chief Petty Officer Nate Hardy. CPO Hardy was killed on February 4, 2008 in Iraq.

In addition to being one of the great CrossFit Hero WODs, Nate is one of the best kettlebell workouts and is another popular CrossFit competition WOD. Another tough workout with very little space and equipment requirements, there isn’t much of an excuse not to give this one a try in the old garage or basement.

…and at 25 rounds for “elite”, you “only” have to do 50 muscle-ups!


Equipment: Plyo box

Chad is named after SEAL Chad Michael Wilkinson. SOCS Wilkinson died on October 29, 2018.

Who would have thought that doing 1,000 (yeah, one thousand) reps of anything could be surprisingly…fun?

I know I didn’t and truth be told, this isn’t the most engaging of the CrossFit Hero WODs. However, if you have good music (or a good podcast), a good system for tracking your steps (IMPORTANT!) and the mindset to honor a hero who loved this very workout, the time will fly by (and you will have gotten a pretty good workout in to boot!)

Mr. Joshua

Equipment: Air runner, GHD, barbell, bumper plates

Mr. Joshua is named after SEAL Joshua Thomas Harris. SO1 Harris died during combat operations on August 30, 2008.

To be honest, at first glance, nothing here seems too overwhelming. I mean, just about everyone is going to need to break the deadlifts (and probably rest once or twice on the GHD), but the run is manageable and none of the movements are particularly daunting.

150 GHD sit-ups and 125 decently heavy deadlifts put a lot of strain on your core, though. Things always feel harder at the end of WODs, but Round 1 and Round 5 in Mr. Joshua feel entirely different.

You’ll feel your core during the run on this one. Now that is saying something.


Equipment: Barbell, bumper plates, plyo box

McGhee is named after Corporal Ryan C. McGhee. Cpl McGhee was killed in Iraq on May 13, 2009.

While I don’t think anyone really ever ends up doing singles in this one (like they might in JT), don’t expect these to be your “easy” part of the workout either (like I know you’re all thinking right now).

To be honest, there really isn‘t an optimal resting period in this one; the deadlifts are heavy, the box always requires a bit of focus (unless you want scuffed shins like mine!), and the push-ups are always…there.

Like any of the CrossFit Hero WODs, when you feel like you’re going to get stuck, just keep the hero you’re honoring in mind and keep going.

The Seven

Equipment: Barbell, bumper plates, pull-up bar/rack, kettlebell

The Seven references seven Central Intelligence Agency officers. The seven CIA officers were killed in Afghanistan on December 30, 2009.

Depending on what your general skillset is, you probably look at this one and think something like “easy, hard, easy, hard, hard, easy, easy”. Being a smaller guy. I lick my chops thinking about the bodyweight movements and even the deadlifts seem manageable. Those heavy thrusters and swings, though…those two movements alone will probably account for half of my final time!

Knowing that just about everyone will have a “sticking point” on this one, you really have to move quickly on the “easy” movements to make up for barbell drops or handstand push-up kick downs.

Also, whatever you don’t multiply 7 by 7 by 7…you should know why!


Equipment: Gymnastics rings

Ryan is named after firefighter, Ryan Hummert. Hummert was killed in Maplewood, MO on July 21, 2008.

A less “famous” Hero WOD, but commendable (and formidable) just the same, Ryan is not really something you want to take on if you’re stomach is still recovering from last night’s Mexican food. Being up in the air so long on the muscle-ups and hitting the ground (and jumping high) 105 times probably isn’t the best recipe for gastrointenstinal relief!

As it is, Ryan presents a great opportunity to work fatigued gymnastics while also putting your mental toughness to the test. It is one thing to do that many burpees. It is a completely other thing to have to jump a whole foot to finish off each rep!


Equipment: Gymnastics rings

Jason is named after SEAL Jason Dale Lewis. SO1 Lewis was killed in Iraq on July 6, 2007.

Those first 100 squats seem pretty tedious to start the workout, but the trade-off seems fair: only 5 muscle-ups immediately after.

By the last “set” of the couplet…well…a quick set of 25 air squats has never felt so depressing…20 muscle-ups immediately after to close this one out!

All in all you got 250 squats and 50 muscle-ups…even the most adept bodyweight ninjas cringe when thinking of this one!


Equipment: Barbell, bumper plates, pull-up bar/rack

Badger is named after Chief Petty Officer Mark Carter. CPO Carter was killed in Iraq on December 11, 2007. 

The dumbbell version of this is probably my all-time favorite hotel CrossFit workout, although the OG version is up there with the greatest CrossFit Hero WODs, as well. That 95-pound barbell feels so (deceptively) light to kick things off and you’ll probably think you’ll just touch-and-go throughout the workout.

90 reps of squat cleans are still 90 reps of squat cleans, though. Try to reclaim your bearings each round during the run (except the last run…go really fast on that one to close things out!)


Equipment: Air runner, barbell, bumper plates

Travis is named after First Lieutenant Travis Manion. 1Lt. Manion was killed in Iraq on April 29, 2007.

When I was working out back at the university gym, for a period of time, this was our “Saturday Morning Special” workout. A few of us literally did this every Saturday morning for about 2 months straight. To be honest, half the time I only used 115 pounds and we always took the bar from the rack…and it was still a killer (thankfully I wasn’t going out on Friday nights during that time…otherwise I probably really would have died doing this one!

If you choose to scale this one on your Saturday mornings like I did…no shame. You still have an entire weekend ahead of you to enjoy!


Equipment: Barbell, bumper plates

Donny is named after Specialist Donald L. Nichols. Spc Nichols died in Afghanistan on April 13, 2011.

81 deadlifts and 81 burpees…what could go wrong?!

To be fair, if you’ve given CrossFit Open 22.2 a try, this will seem like a bit of a walk in the park (heh…not really, but it should seem a little easier!

The real issue with this one is its “teasing” quality. Everyone loves a descending ladder. Everyone hates an ascending ladder. Here, you get that wonderful feeling of the reps going down each round…only for them to ramp back up on the back end.

It probably goes without saying, but that second set of 21 is going to feel just a little bit different than that first set. Plan accordingly!

Do One of These CrossFit Hero WODs…Today!

We’ve been over all of the reasons why you should be doing CrossFit Hero WODs. If you’re not “busting through a wall” ready to do one now…check your pulse.


Having trouble picking one? Do you have a barbell, 110 pounds worth of weights (or something close to it) and a little bit of space? Congratulations; DT is going to be your first Hero WOD.

Photo of 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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