Resources > The Complete Guide to RFT WODs

The Complete Guide to RFT WODs

In CrossFit, we love a good acronym. All of our workouts are made up of acronyms somehow!

There's WODs (workout of the day), EMOMs (every minute on the minute), AMRAPs (as many rounds or reps as possible), and now we're going to talk you through RFTs (rounds for time). There's much to talk about when it comes to Rounds For Time workouts, and they make up the bulk of standard training in most CrossFit gyms.

While EMOMs and AMRAPs offer an interesting challenge, nothing beats the simplicity and diversity of an RFT WOD. Everyone moves to their own pace, and completion times are all over the show!

Let's take a closer look at everything you need to know about them and how to program them for yourself!

What Is An RFT WOD?

Well, if you're new to CrossFit, then the whole abbreviation thing might seem a bit strange! But, if you're a hardened CrossFit veteran (or at the very least, an enthusiastic box buff), you'll know that abbreviations and acronyms are what CrossFit stands for (did you see what we did there?)

RFT stands for Rounds For Time, and it really is that simple to explain. You'll be set a workout with a handful of movements and told to complete those movements repeatedly until you complete the number of specified rounds.

Pressing weight overhead

Via Unsplash

Here's the fun part: there are no rules to an RFT WOD. Everything is for the taking when it comes to doing them! So, you might see one that only includes two movements, but you're expected to do twenty (yes, twenty) rounds before you can finish. Another time, you might see one with ten or more movements, but you might only need to do two or three rounds to finish it.

Usually, we give RFT WODs a time cap, but that's more so that we can allow people to finish the workout in a generic one-hour box session. If we didn't time cap RFT WODs, some of them might take hours to complete (though we don't recommend programming any that are that savage).

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1,000s of RFT WODs, with full definitions and scaling options. Filter based on equipment you have and skills you know. Download now for free.

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How To Pace an RFT WOD

So, how does one go about pacing an RFT WOD? Well, first, you need to know where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

It's easy to say, but it's hard for most people to get right. Take a look at this workout:

3 Rounds For Time
10 Handstand Push-Ups
15 Pull-Ups
20 GHD Sit-Ups
Time Cap: 10 Minutes

So, here we present a generic RFT WOD. Sure, this one is a little on the complex side with a heavy gymnastic focus, but it helps to show our point.

Let's imagine for a second that we're really good at Handstand Push-Ups. We can speed through ten reps in less than twenty seconds like they're nothing over and over again (and with three rounds, that means we're only doing thirty reps total). Now let's imagine that Pull-Ups are about average for us. Fifteen reps are hard, but they're not out of the realm of possibility. We can get them out in about thirty seconds, no problem.

That means those two movements take about a minute to complete (without fatigue, of course). Now, we come to GHD Sit-Ups. Let's assume for this example that we are AWFUL at GHD Sit-Ups. Like, five-rep-sets-at-a-time-with-about-thirty-seconds-rest-between-them awful. It's going to be a slog to get through those reps, and twenty can easily take us two minutes in itself.

All of a sudden, you're looking at each round taking you about three minutes. Multiply that number by three, and you're completing this in nine minutes (again, without fatigue). That means you'll be pretty close to the time cap.

That's why it's important to analyse your strengths and weaknesses before going into one of these WODs. You might think the time cap is generous, but you're forgetting to look at your weaknesses as a factor that might slow you down to the point of sheer panic when it comes to the last minute of work!

Using A Time Cap

Generally, in an RFT WOD, you'll be given a time cap to complete it by. It may involve anywhere between two and twenty movements (though twenty is definitely on the hefty side of things). The specified rounds are usually set to give you a challenging race against the clock while not being so overly intense that it feels like a consistent sprint pace just to finish.

Back squat

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While RFT WODs might sound like one of the most simple WODs to program, there's a precise science that goes into them. You've got to evaluate how long one round will take you, then multiply that number by how many rounds there are. Don't forget to account for fatigue over time and think about strengths and weaknesses that might speed up or slow down the time respectively. There's a whole list of things you've got to get right before you can finalise an RFT WOD.

Of course, just because time caps are common practice doesn't mean they're necessary to you. As we've mentioned, coaches mostly use them to help their athletes aim for a time and complete a workout in their allotted slot for the day. If you're happy to work at your own pace, then you can avoid the time cap scenario entirely.

Example RFT WODs For Different Modalities

We think it's time to show you some general RFT WODs to get you in the mood. You can pick whichever ones you want from the ones down below to give a try or find 1,000s of Rounds for Time WODs in our online generator and mobile apps here. Don't worry; we won't focus on the time caps this time; we'll just give you the rounds and the movements.

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Weightlifting RFT WODs:

3 Rounds For Time:
15 Burpees
15 Thrusters
15 Box Overs

5 Rounds For Time:
20 Power Cleans
20 Push-Ups

3 Rounds For Time:
10 Strict Press
10m Handstand Walk
10 Strict Press
10m Sandbag Carry

4 Rounds For Time:
3 Deadlifts
6 Front Squats
9 Power Cleans
12 Kettlebell Swings

10 Rounds For Time:
12 Calorie Row
12 Squat Snatch

Gymnastic RFT WODs:

3 Rounds For Time:
20 Handstand Push-Ups
10 Pull-Ups
20 Burpee To Targets
10 Toes-To-Bar

4 Rounds For Time:
16 Chest To Bar Pull-Ups
12 Calorie Ski
8 Burpee Box Overs
4 Muscle Ups

3 Rounds For Time:
5 Chest To Bar Pull-Ups
10 Pistol Squats
15 Handstand Push-Ups

10 Rounds For Time:
10 Handstand Push-Ups
10 Pull-Ups

3 Rounds For Time:
100 Double Unders
50 Toes To Bar
25m Handstand Walk

Monostructural (Cardio) RFT WODs:

3 Rounds For Time:
400m Run
400m Row
400m Ski
400m Assault Bike

5 Rounds For Time:
60 Double Unders
1km Run

3 Rounds For Time:
6 Burpee Box Over
12 Calorie Assault Bike
18 Kettlebell Cleans

4 Rounds For Time:
20 Calorie Row
20 Double Unders
20 Calorie Ski
20 Double Unders

8 Rounds For Time:
8 Burpees To Target
16 Box Jumps
32 Calorie Row
64 Double Unders

Person running

Via Unsplash

(in)Famous RFT WODs

Rounds for time WODs are probably some of the most popular choices for created WODs in Crossfit. For that reason, there are too many to choose from to pick out the most infamous of the bunch! Still, we'll try to do our best! If you're brave enough, give one of these a go!

DT
5 Rounds For Time:
12 Deadlifts
9 Hang Power Cleans
6 Push Jerks

DT is the most popular RFT WOD out there. It's so well-known that they introduced multiple iterations involving doubling the number of rounds, doing a unilateral variation with kettlebells, or simply making the barbell movements heavier. For reference, the barbell weight is 70/47.5kg (or 155/105lb).

If you want to see DT in action, we recommend you check out the following video of Annie Thorisdottir doing it:

Heavy DT
5 Rounds For Time:
12 Deadlifts
9 Hang Power Cleans
6 Push Jerks

We don't usually double up on infamous WODs, but we feel like DT deserves it. Heavy DT is a formidable WOD, designed specifically for those of us on the stronger end of the spectrum looking for a fresh new challenge. Heavy DT is exactly the same as regular DT, but it uses heavier weights. The barbell weighs 90/65kg now (or 205/145lb). As if DT wasn't already hard enough.

You can check out Heavy DT at the 2015 CrossFit Games below, you’ll notice the pacing is deliberately slower here, even with the elites at work:

The Seven
7 Rounds For Time:
7 Handstand Push-Ups
7 Thrusters
7 Knees-To-Elbows
7 Deadlifts
7 Burpees
7 Kettlebell Swings
7 Pull-Ups

The Seven is a great example of an RFT WOD that looks easy but definitely isn't. Most people we know who have tackled The Seven come in with an overzealous attitude. They think that seven reps of every movement aren't nearly enough to challenge them. While this might be the case for rounds one and two, they'll definitely start to take their toll on you by rounds three and four.

The Seven is a relatively long workout, but here’s a video to help you decide if it’s for you:

Bull
2 Rounds For Time:
200 Double Unders
50 Overhead Squats
50 Pull-Ups
1 Mile Run

Bull introduces us to the savagery of an RFT WOD that only features two rounds. While it might seem like it's over quickly, remember that you're settling down for 400 Double Unders, 100 Overhead Squats and Pull-Ups, and a 2 Mile Run before you finish the workout. This one is going to suck, and we'll be surprised if you have anything left to give on that last mile!

The quality isn’t great, but this official video from the CrossFit YouTube channel highlights the best (or worst) bit of Bull:

Luce
3 Rounds For Time:
1K Run
10 Muscle Ups
100 Air Squats

Again, this one might not look too terrible to the more advanced CrossFitter. However, you must wear a 10kg weighted vest for this, and the Air Squats will completely obliterate your legs for the run. Speaking from experience, this one is going to catch up with you quickly.

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Benefits Of RFT WODs

You can probably already tell from the popularity of RFT WODs that they come with a plethora of benefits. You'll be hard-pressed to find any avid CrossFitter who isn't willing to put in the time and effort to work through an RFT WOD and give it all they've got.

Scalability

One of the best parts about RFT WODs is how scalable and accessible they are. No matter what kind of movements are being thrown in the middle of the workout, if they're not accessible to you right now, you can always find another option that'll help you.

This helps drastically in the box since you'll be working with people with all sorts of backgrounds and abilities. While some WODs might include more Rx-heavy movements, you can still get the novices to join in and put in their best time.

Competition

We feel like we're not in the minority when we say that the competitive element of RFT WODs is a big positive. Most people who get into CrossFit look for some kind of competition to push themselves beyond the points they ever knew possible.

RFT WODs are one of the best ways to compete with your friends and rivals in the box. Whether you're all doing the same movements or you're choosing different scaling options, the workout ends up being a riveting race to the finish line for all those involved!

Practice Under Fatigue

One element of training that can be missed in other workouts (namely EMOMs) is practising movements under fatigue. It's a big part of what sets the elites apart from the beginners. If you have the control and capacity needed for the toughest Rx movements even when your heart rate is sky-high, and your body is aching, then you'll be in the best shape to power through an RFT WOD without any worries.

The more RFT WODs we do, the easier it becomes to learn how to develop movements under fatigue. It's one thing practising your skills at the end of a workout to see how you do, but it's an entirely different thing to include said skills in the middle of a WOD and still be able to put in the work for them!

Preparing to snatch

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Drawbacks of RFT WODs

In the interest of full disclosure and clarity, we don't only want to talk about the benefits. There are definitely a few drawbacks to RFT WODs, which manifest more frequently in novice box goers. If you can avoid any of these, then you'll see nothing but gains from the RFT WODs you take part in.

Compromise Form

Good form is something that every CrossFitter strives for. However, when it comes to racing your friends in the competitive fashion offered by RFT WODs, you may end up crossing the line of good form. It's human nature to want to beat your friends in a competition, and sometimes to achieve that, we'll cut corners.

Cutting corners with your form isn't ideal, but it is a causal condition of RFT WODs. As you progress through the rounds, you'll start to fatigue. That fatigue will begin to take away from the efficiency of your movements. For example, you might stop firing your hips as effectively in a Clean and rely more on your biceps or forearms. It's not ideal, but it's something you can work on with time (and the ability to accept defeat).

Complacency

This one is a bit more specific than the others. It only applies if you're consistently setting yourself RFT WODs without time caps. We don't always encourage time caps (since quality work is achieved without a race against the clock), but we certainly recommend you use them at least a few times a week.

Forcing yourself to complete a workout in a time frame (or stopping the workout exactly when that time frame hits) is a great way to push your capabilities and realise your potential. If you simply create RFT WODs without a time cap all the time, you'll never learn how to move quicker or with more efficiency. It can lead you down the path of complacency, where gains go to die!

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How To Program Your Own RFT WOD

Remember! You can generate 1,000s of RFT workouts in seconds with our online generator and mobile apps here.

Finally, we always like to finish these off by looking at how we can program our own WODs. RFT WODs are a joy to program, provided you know what you're doing. There's a perfect recipe to creating an RFT WOD, and most of that comes down to trial and error before you figure it out exactly.

For example, include too many rounds or too many complicated movements, and you've got yourself an RFT that's far too difficult to complete in a given time frame. On the flip side, include too few rounds or easy movements that only play to your strengths, and you've got an RFT that's over in no time and didn't even allow you to break a sweat.

Jumping

Via Unsplash

You've got to channel your inner Goldilocks when it comes to making an RFT WOD. It can't be too tame, and it can't be too hard. It has to be "just right."

If you are looking at making your own RFT WODs, we recommend starting with a simple formula and working it out from there. Start with 5 Rounds For Time, no matter what the movements are. That'll help you find a decent pace for how long it'll take you to complete certain movements.

The movements you include are up to you, but we recommend about five movements, each offering a different medium to work with (there can be slight overlap if need be). For example, you might want to do the following:

10 Push-Ups (Pushing Movement + Gymnastics)
10 Calorie Row (Horizontal Pulling Movement + Monostructural)
10 Pull-Ups (Vertical Pulling Movement + Gymnastics)
10 Front Squats (Lower Body Pushing Movement + Weightlifting)
10 Kettlebell Swings (Shoulder Stabiliser + Weightlifting)

All of these movements can be included in the same workout. Nothing is directly burning out the muscles required for any of the other movements. If you can work with this formula, you'll always find success with RFT WODs.

Summary

That's all you need to know about what makes an RFT WOD. They're one of the foundations of modern CrossFit programming. You'll find that most of the famous Hero WODs and Benchmark WODs are RFTs themselves, so they're definitely commonplace around these parts! If you're looking to program them yourself, we highly recommend them! We have the most fun when it comes to programming RFTs compared with any other WOD.

Generate 1,000s of RFT WODs

1,000s of RFT WODs, with full definitions and scaling options. Filter based on equipment you have and skills you know. Download now for free.

Rated 4.7/5 based on 1685 ratings

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