Chelsea Crossfit WOD: A more hardcore take on the classic exercise trio

A man doing push ups next to some dumbbells in a Crossfit gym.

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When exploring options for quick, no-frills workouts to build strength and cardiovascular endurance, look no further than the Chelsea WOD. While this Crossfit benchmark WOD workout looks deceptively similar to the classic Cindy workout, it’s actually quite a bit tougher.

To complete Crossfit’s Chelsea WOD, set a timer for 30 minutes. Every minute on the minute, perform:

  • 5 pull-ups
  • 10 push-ups
  • 15 air squats

Every minute on the minute (EMOM) means that if you finish a round with a remainder of the time left, simply rest for the remainder of the minute. If you begin to run behind the clock, simply complete as many rounds as possible in the remaining time. Your score for the Chelsea workout is the number of rounds completed in 30 minutes.

If you complete all 30 rounds, consider yourself a total badass – you just did 50% more calisthenics reps than is required in the entirety of the notoriously tough Murph challenge.

Why consider the Chelsea workout

A man doing pull ups in a darkly lit gym.

Seeing Chelsea written on paper will inspire most people to think of it as a variation of Cindy or Angie. However, Chelsea is particularly difficult since it’s 50% longer than Cindy. If your fitness level is such that you don’t find Cindy challenging, then Chelsea may be a good option for you.

I find that adding a circuit-style calisthenic workout at least once per week does wonders for the physique as well as pure endurance and muscular endurance goals. These types of “push, pull, legs” bodyweight workouts are also notoriously quick. Chelsea is one of the longer ones, and even so it’s only 30 minutes long.

Since it’s a high-intensity EMOM session, it also doubles nicely as a stand-in for regular cardio or HIIT-style training, if you’re looking to mix things up (or if you’re trying to fit this into a fat-loss routine of some sort). After all, it’s already been shown that this style of training can burn around 260 calories in 20 minutes!

Chelsea is also a great option to fit into your routine if you are training for Murph. While Chelsea doesn’t require the use of a weight vest / plate carrier, it mimics the grueling demand of Murph fairly well.

How to get a good score on Chelsea

Getting a good score on Chelsea is largely a function of two things:

  1. Your fitness level in general, and
  2. Your efficiency of movement and practice at the three classic calisthenic exercises

If you plan on trying to max out Chelsea (or simply just go for a PR), you may want to assess any areas of weakness. If you know you have a hard time with strength endurance in your push-ups, now is a good time to work on that. If you tend to gas out five minutes into HIIT training, then add in some extra VO2 max work.

One of the advantages of the Chelsea workout is that since it includes pushing, pulling, leg work, and cardio into one workout, it will naturally teach you what you need to work on to improve your score next time.

Variations of the Chelsea WOD

A man doing deficit push ups on some dumbbells in a boxing gym.

Half Chelsea WOD

Due to their time efficiency, we’re big fans of half-WOD variations, like the Half Murph and the Half Cindy. The Half Chelsea is no exception, and it’s exactly what it sounds like:

To complete the Half Chelsea WOD, set a timer for 15 minutes. Every minute on the minute, complete 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 squats. Just like in the full Chelsea, if you fall behind the clock at any point, just continue to complete rounds for the remainder of the 15 minutes. The number of rounds you complete during this time will be your final score.

Scaled-down Chelsea

Of course, it’s always acceptable to scale down any workout that is too challenging for you. The most obvious ways to scale Chelsea down would be to either shorten the time (as in the modification above) or to sub pull-ups for a different exercise. If pull-ups are a challenge for you, use ring rows or jumping pull-ups instead.

“Limited equipment” Chelsea

If you don’t have access to a pull-up bar, you can easily use dumbbells, resistance bands, or two chairs to perform a row variation in lieu of pull-ups.

Additionally, if you don’t have access to any pulling implements, just try the workout with only squats and push-ups. This is also a very productive way to train, even though it neglects the back and biceps.

A quick warning about Chelsea

While it’s easy to get excited about a new workout, especially one that seems so simple, make sure to think this one through beforehand. The sheer number of reps in Chelsea would lead me to highly suggest at least trying the Cindy or Half Cindy before this one. 10-20 minutes is quite a bit shorter than 30, and keeping the pace in Cindy is tougher than it sounds.

If you’re planning to try Chelsea, I would at least make sure that you’re proficient in push-ups and pull-ups in advance. Pushing into muscular failure over and over during the same workout can easily lead to some nasty elbow tendonitis if you’re not paying attention (ask me how I know!).

Luckily, if you do develop any aches or pains from a workout such as this, it should be easily resolved within a couple of weeks, if you take the proper steps to remedy the problem instead of continuing to smash your elbows again and again.

So … how will you do on Chelsea?

The only thing left to do is to go try Chelsea and see for yourself how you do! I’m a firm believer that a classic exercise tri-set like push ups, pull ups, and squats is one of the simplest ways to develop above average strength, muscularity, and endurance. Give it a shot, you may become a believer too!