Brutal Crossfit Workout: Kalsu

(Last Updated On: October 22, 2019)


This is our third workout in the our new series of CrossFit workouts. This series features only the most brutal and difficult workouts crossfit has to offer. The kind that would make most men assume the fetal position and whimper in fear, maybe not but you get the picture. These are the best of the worst.

For this workout we are going to cover “Kalsu” This is one I have never attempted but I have heard of it’s brutality.


Every minute on the minute do 5 burpees then fill the remaining time with 135/85 pound thrusters. Goal is to hit 100 total thrusters for time.

This workout is actually a CrossFit Football WOD that is done in honor of Robert James Kalsu who played for the Buffalo Bills in the NFL in 1968. He then left the team to fulfill his ROTC obligation with the Army. He went on to serve his country in the war in Vietnam and was killed in action.

Katie Hogan Burpee

Initial Thoughts:

This bad boy combines two of the most hated exercises and puts them into one brutal WOD. The thrusters are no joke either at 135lbs. Add 5 burpees every minute to the thrusters and you have a pretty hellish workout. To be honest, there isn’t much to look forward to on this workout, it’s just one form of suck or another.

I can see myself getting worn down before the end of this workout so I hope my cardio is up to snuff. I am actually more worried about the cardio aspect than the heavy thrusters. We will see how it goes.


The Game plan:

Being that I had never attempted this workout and that I had heard it is particularly brutal I figured a game plan was in order for this one. The way I see it there are 2 methods you can use to tackle this beast. Method 1: Go crazy at the beginning when you are fresh and try to put a huge dent in the thrusters while you have the energy then gut it out the rest of the way. Method 2: Do a certain number of reps per minute throughout such as 6 thrusters per minute for as long as possible then work down from there. My ego wanted to go with method 1 but I decided method 2 would be the way to go since I have never done this one before and I would look pretty foolish writing this article if I were unable to finish, better play it safe.


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WOD Time

Using method 2 I decided to go with 5 reps per minute for as long as I could and take it from there down to 4 and 3 reps per minute. From the beginning it was clear that method 2 was definitely the way to go, it was also clear that I would not be doing 5 thrusters per minute for nearly as long as I had hoped, after about 3 sets of  I was already down to 4 and then 3 soon after. The real killer in this workout though is the burpees, they leave no time for rest and they add up fast. Going into this workout I had figured leg strength would be the main factor but it was the cardio that ended up being what kicked my ass. The burpee and thruster combination is even less fun then I had anticipated. By the 15 minute mark, it was clear that I was going to have to do some scaling back or I was not going to finish, it was getting to the point that pretty much all I was doing was burpees.  I scaled the burpees back to 3 per minute so I could continue.  At the 25 minute mark I was pretty well gassed and only about 60 thrusters in so I scaled the burpees back further to 2 per minute and put my nose to the grindstone to try and finish the beast. The remaining workout was still brutal even at only 2 burpees on the minute. I contemplated quitting countless times, between the 25-75 rep mark that is pretty much all I thought about. It’s the beginning and the end that are the easiest. The beginning because you are still fresh and the end because you are close to ending the suffering.  The 50 reps in the middle are basically pure torture, thinking about how tired you are and how far you still have to go will only make you think about throwing in the towel. This WOD is true a challenge both mentally and physically. Your average CrossFitter will be hard pressed to RX this one.  If you can Rx this, you my friend are a beast!

Another bit of advice,  I would try and do this workout later in the day if you can. I was pretty much spent the rest of the day after this and still pretty wiped out the next day too, make sure you have a rest day scheduled.

My very crappy time: 45:45 with burpees reduced.  If you can Rx this you are a better man than me.

Scale back options- scale weight back to 95 lbs for men, 65 lbs for women. Scale back burpees if needed. No shame in scaling this beast back.

Ryan Douglas

*Consult a physician before attempting this or any other exercise program