The Chad Workout: Tips for Success

It’s November, which means the Chad workout is just a few days away!

Introduced in December 2018, Chad has become a Veteran’s Day tradition for many gyms.

The workout is fairly straightforward, but it’s deceptively taxing on the body and the mind.

In this post, we’ll share some tips for approaching the Chad workout so you’re ready for action this Veteran’s Day. But first, a little background.

History of the Chad Workout

Chad Wilkinson was a 22-year active duty Navy SEAL who died by suicide on October 29, 2018, leaving behind a wife (a CrossFit level four trainer) and a daughter.

Shortly before his death, Wilkinson completed 1000 weighted step-ups in his garage as part of a training plan to climb Aconcagua in South America.

Dave Castro, who was friends with Wilkinson, completed the same workout in December 2018 and posted it as a tribute on social media. Thousands of athletes followed suit–creating a new hero WOD in the process.

Today, Chad is more than just a workout. Wilkinson’s family–in partnership with GORUCK and CrossFit HQ–are using the workout to raise awareness of (and funds for) veteran mental health initiatives.

You can learn more about the workout (and this amazing cause!) here.

What is the Chad Workout, Exactly?

We’ve spoken about the Chad workout in vague terms, but now, let’s get more specific.

The Chad workout consists of 1000 step-ups to a 20-inch box, completed as quickly as possible. The RX version calls for a 45-pound ruck (weighted pack) for guys and a 35-pound ruck for ladies.

It’s fairly straightforward, especially compared to many hero and benchmark WODs with more technical movements. In fact, you can do it almost anywhere, as long as you have a sturdy 20-inch surface for the step-ups.

Begin in front of your box with both feet on the floor, wearing your ruck on your back.

Step up on the box with one foot, then the other, fully extending knees and hips at the top of the movement. The rep is complete when both feet have returned to the floor.

Continue in this fashion, alternating your starting foot until you’ve accumulated 500 reps on each leg.

Scaling Options for the Chad Workout

Most CrossFit workouts have less intense versions, and Chad is no exception.

If 1000 step-ups with a rucksack isn’t in your wheelhouse, you can reduce:

  • Your pack weight (or skip wearing a pack altogether)
  • Your box height
  • The number of reps
  • All of the above!

For example, you might commit to 500 reps wearing 15-25 pounds or 200 reps with body weight. We can also attest that 1000 reps with no ruck is a great workout!

Not sure whether (or how) to scale? Here are a couple of things to consider.

First, can you complete 1000 reps with good form? You’ll need to keep your core engaged to protect your back and to keep your knee in line with your toes. Common mistakes include:

  • Allowing the knee to track past the toes
  • Letting the knee cave inward as you drive with your leg
  • Shifting your weight too far to one side as you step

Your best bet, if you do these things, is to skip the pack until you can dial in your form. It may also help to decrease the height of the box by a few inches.

Second, has your recent training included box step-ups or similar movement patterns (think lunges, squats, etc.). Going from zero training to Chad will absolutely SMOKE your legs. Start with 200 step-ups (or maybe even less!) and live to fight another day.

Finally, how long do you think it’ll take you?

Many people finish Chad in about 45 minutes to an hour. You might want to consider scaling if you think you’ll be stepping much longer than one hour.

Still not sure? You can always modify it on the fly. We recommend reducing the weight or the box height if you haven’t completed your first 100 reps in about 4-5 minutes.

Additional Tips for the Chad Workout

Hopefully, by now, you know how to approach Chad from a physical standpoint. But anyone who’s ever done Chad knows this workout is at LEAST 50 percent mental.

So, let’s discuss some tips for keeping your head in the game, shall we? Here are a few tips:

  1. Remember that hero WODs are supposed to be tough. Think about Chad Wilkinson and our other military heroes anytime you think about giving up.
  2. Embrace the suck. Accept the fact that it’s going to be challenging. And then, remind yourself that you can do hard things.
  3. Talk to yourself in the third person (i.e., “you can do this!” instead of, “I can do this!” Studies suggest that this simple reframe may increase perseverance during difficult tasks.
  4. Start with a rep scheme in mind. I prefer a descending ladder (like 200-200-150-150-100-100-50-50), but you can break it up any way you like. Use a mini whiteboard to keep track.
  5. Avoid long breaks. Your brain will tell you to sit down and rest. DO NOT LISTEN because you won’t want to get back up (trust me–I’ve done it). Rest for 10-15 seconds at a time, tops.
  6. Misery loves company, so share a box! Find a partner and step to opposite sides or corners. Having a partner will help motivate you and keep you on track.
  7. Play a motivating playlist or podcast to keep your spirits high.

Above all, believe in yourself. You’ve got this, and you’ll be so proud when you’re done!

But if you need a little cheerleading and camaraderie, and if you’re in St. Louis, we can help. We’ll take on Chad on Saturday, November 11th, at 8:15 a.m. Grab your spot in Wodify if you’re a 26-er, or click here to drop in.

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