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by John Welbourn

“Kalsu”

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CrossFit Football Benchmark WOD

84.4K 696
  • For Time
  • 100 Thrusters (135/95 lb)
  • 5 Burpees to start and at the top of every minute

Start with 5 burpees. Then complete as many thrusters as possible until the minute is up. At the top of the minute (1:00) complete another 5 burpees. Repeat each minute until 100 total thrusters are completed.

Score is the total time it takes to complete all 100 thrusters.

Good Score for “Kalsu”
– Beginner: 22-30 minutes
– Intermediate: 19-22 minutes
– Advanced: 15-19 minutes
– Elite: <14 minutes 

Tips and Strategy

Prior to the start of the workout, decide how many thrusters you can realistically complete every minute (remember you always start with 5 burpees). Stick with that number, no matter how much it hurts. For example, if you get 5 thrusters every minute, you’ll be done in 20 minutes.

Intended Stimulus

This WOD should feel REALLY hard. This is a mental test as much as it is a physical one–the ticking clock (the one that tells you it’s time to do burpees AGAIN) feels like an enemy within minutes of starting the workout. Embrace the burning lungs and legs. Scale the load/volume so you can finish in 30 minutes or less; but don’t scale “the suck” out of “Kalsu.”

Scaling Options 

Just like the other CrossFit hero workouts, “Kalsu” is grueling and unforgiving. Scale the load and/or reps so you finish in 30 minutes or less.

Intermediate
100 Thrusters (95/65 lb)
5 Burpees to start and at the top of every minute

Beginner A
100 Thrusters (75/55 lb)
3 Burpees to start and at the top of every minute

Beginner B
50 Thrusters (45/35 lb)
3 Burpees to start and at the top of every minute

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namesake photo
Background: The "Kalsu" Hero WOD honors 1st Lt. James Robert Kalsu, 11th Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army, who was killed in action on July 21, 1970 in the A Shau Valley, Vietnam. On lists of the hardest CrossFit workouts, "Kalsu," is a frequent contender.

The workout was designed by John Welbourn @johnwelbourn of CrossFit Football (now @johnniewod) and former Navy Seal Andy Stumpf.

The CrossFit Football website is no longer live but according to a post on John Welbourn's blog, it appears "Kalsu" was first shared on June 23, 2009. The first mention in the CrossFit forum was in October that year.

In the same post, John reveals how "Kalsu" was created as a collaboration between himself and Andy (giving Andy the lion's share of credit).

John also notes that 1st Lt. Kalsu was an All-American Offensive Tackle who played a single season with the Buffalo Bills (US National Football League) before leaving professional football to serve in Vietnam. 1st Lt. Kalsu was offered a deferment as a professional football player, but opted to honor his commitment to serve in the military.

See also (similar format): "Hotel Hell" Benchmark WOD, "Stephen Russell" Hero WOD
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