7 CrossFit Moves, Demystified

The Box Jump is a classic CrossFit move that gets your heart pumping while building explosive muscle power in the legs. (Photo: Syda Productions/Shutterstock)

Are you curious about CrossFit but too intimated by those hard-core gyms to find out more? I know I am. I consider myself to be pretty fit, and I know my way around most strength training moves like bicep curls and lunges. But box jumps? Those sound scary. And handstand pushups? I wouldn't know where to begin.

If this sounds like you, you're in for a treat. I got the low-down from CrossFit coach Samantha Orme, founder of Brooklyn's CrossFit Virtuosity, on what those crazy moves mean and how to do them. Here are some of the most popular CrossFit moves you might see on the WOD (Workout of the Day) at your local box (CrossFit gym).

And before you get started, don't forget: As with any new workout plan, talk to your doctor first so you know what pace and what kind of workout will be best for you.

Box Jump

-Begin with a short box (6-12 inches) and work up in height as you're comfortable.
-Start with your feet underneath your hips, standing about a foot in front of your box.
-Push your butt back and hinge your torso forward, loading your hamstrings. Swing your arms behind you. Your knees should be bent slightly but should not be forward of your toes.
-Swing your arms forward as you jump onto the box.
-Your landing position should be solidly in the middle of the box. Never aim for the edge.
-Land with your weight in the middle of your feet, your full foot on the box (not just your toes!), your knees tracking over your toes (not caving in), your back in a neutral position, and your chest up. Your butt should be back in your landing position.
-Stand fully on the top of the box to complete your rep.

To get down from the box, Orme says don't jump down, as this could place too much strain on your Achilles tendon. Instead, she recommends stepping down from the box before you jump up again for your next rep.

Air Squat

-Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointed slightly out.
-Initiate the movement by pushing your butt back and down.
-Keep the weight in the middle to back of your foot; don't come onto your toes.
-Make sure your knees are tracking over your toes throughout the movement. Don't let them cave in.

"Maintain your lumbar curve," said Orme. In other words, keep your chest upright so that your lower back doesn't start to round. Drop down until your hip crease is below the level of your knee cap, then return to standing with hips and knees fully extended.

Shoulder Press

-Start with your feet hip-width apart and your hands just outside your shoulders.
-Hold the barbell so that it rests on the "shelf" created by your shoulders.
-Use a closed grip with your thumbs wrapped around the bar.
-Keep your elbows down but slightly in front of the bar. Make sure that you're engaging your core and keeping your midsection tight to support your spine.
-Press the bar overhead, keeping the whole body tight.
>-Move your head out of the way of the bar; the bar should move in a straight line.
-In the overhead position, your elbows should be locked out, your shoulders should be active, and the bar should be over or just behind the middle of your foot. The overhead position should be very active.

"Think about pressing up on the bar to engage the shoulders fully," said Orme.


-Start with your feet between hip and shoulder width apart.
-Stand with your feet under the barbell so that when you look down, the barbell crosses your shoelaces.
-Reach down for the barbell, bringing your shins forward so they just touch the barbell but don't roll it forward.
-Your hands should be just outside your legs, just wide enough to allow your knees to be between your arms; your arms should be straight.
-Your shoulders should be just in front of the bar, your neck should be neutral. (Look at a spot on the floor about 3 feet in front of you, notes Orme.)
-Lift your chest and engage your lower back muscles without dropping your butt.
-Drive through your heels to stand: the bar should skim the front of your shins and thighs.
-As you stand, your hips and shoulders should rise at the same rate until your legs are straight.
-At the top, your legs should be straight, your hips should be open. Don't hyperextend, or lean back, at the top as this can lead to back injury.

Kettlebell Swing

-Start with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
-Push your butt back and put your hands on your knees (think baseball outfielder). Bring your hands together between your legs and pick up your kettlebell with both hands. Your palms should be facing you with your thumbs wrapped around the handle. This is the bottom stage of your swing.
-Driving through your heels, stand up quickly to propel the kettlebell forward.
-Use the momentum of the kettlebell to transition into the next rep. As it reaches the bottom position, drive through your heels and stand up fast again.

"At the top of the swing you're aiming for the bell to reach chest height," said Orme, adding, "it's totally okay if the first couple swings don't make it that high." As the kettlebell comes back down, shift back into your starting position with the weight on your heels, and your butt moving backwards.

"This is NOT an arm exercise," Orme pointed out. Rather, all of the momentum should come from your explosive hip-opening motion. Your arms should be loose and relaxed like ropes. Your back should remain in a neutral position throughout the swing.


"Be ready to sweat!" said Orme when I asked her about burpees. This move is basic, but it packs a punch when it comes to conditioning.

-Stand with feet under hips.
-Bend down and place your hands on the floor in front of your feet.
-Kick your feet back so that you're in a push-up position.
-Lower yourself to the floor.
-Peel yourself back up off the floor.
-Jump your feet back up to your hands.
-Stand and jump off the ground.

Orme's tip for burpees is not to worry about doing a perfect push-up every time. "Since we usually use this as a conditioning exercise, we don't want you to be stopping because you don't have the strength to do any more push-ups," she noted. "Flop on to the ground, worm yourself up, and keep going."

Handstand Pushup

According to Orme, you should be very confident upside-down before you attempt to do a handstand pushup. You should be able to hold a handstand at the wall for at least 60 seconds and easily complete 20 standard, full range-of-motion push-ups before you even think about giving this one a try. (The video above gives you some drills to practice that can help you build the strength you need to do a handstand pushup.)

-When you're ready to give it a go, place a mat under your head for protection. (Things may not go as planned on your first few attempts!) Place your hands on the ground about a foot from the wall. Kick up to your handstand.
-Engage your abs and pull yourself into a straight body position. Your back should be neutral; don't arch! Look straight forward, not at the wall or at the floor.
-Lower yourself until the top of your head touches the mat.
-Aim to touch the top of your head closer to the wall than your hands so that you're in a tripod position.
-Once your head touches the floor, maintain your tension and press back up until your arms are straight.
-If you don't make it off the ground, try putting your knees on a box, placing your hands about a foot in front of the box and your head about a foot in front of your hands (again, on a mat!) Get your hips as far over your hands as you can, and push up from there.

So are you ready to try it?