Wod Strats – Kalsu Fully Reviewed
updated January 1, 2019
The Hero WOD Kalsu is a workout that honors Bob Kalsu, who was killed in action in Vietnam in 1970. This is a hugely challenging workout. In fact, it is so difficult that a number of easier versions of it have been created.
In this article, we identify some key strategies that will help you to conquer Kalsu.
What Kalsu Looks Like
Kalsu is a timed workout. You start with 5 burpees and then go directly to thrusters with 135 (men) / 95 (women) pounds for the rest of the first minute. As soon as minute two rolls around, you stop doing thrusters and drop down for another 5 burpees. You then spend the rest of that minute doing thrusters. You continue this burpees, thrusters rotation on the minute until you have completed a hundred thrusters.
Kalsu is considered one of the toughest hero WODs of them all. Considering that there are close to two hundred of them, that is certainly saying something! In order to make Kalsu more accessible to all ability levels, the following variations have been adapted from the original.
Variations of Kalsu
Rather than five, do three burpees. Then go to thrusters just as with the original Kalsu, but lower the poundages to 95 and 65 pounds.
Rob Orlando's Kalsu with Power Cleans
With this version, you replace the thrusters with power cleans. Apart from this change, it is the same workout;
- 5 burpees on the minute
- Power cleans for the remainder of each minute until you have done 100
The weight used on the power cleans 225 pounds.
The Strongman version of Kalsu replaces thrusters with tire flips. So, you do five burpees and then perform tire flips for the remainder of each minute until you have completed one hundred tire flips.
Who Was Kalsu?
The first step to nailing a Hero WOD is getting yourself informed about the hero who is being honored by the workout. That will provide you with a higher purpose and a greater reason to push through when your body is screaming out for relief.
This workout honors Robert James ‘Bob’ Kalsu who was born in Oklahoma in 1945. Bob was a star football player, In fact, he was an All-American tackle at the University of Oklahoma in 1967. He entered the army in 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War, in order to fulfil his ROTC obligation. He became a 2nd Lieutenant with Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 11th Artillery, 101 1st Airborne Division.
Bob was killed in action on February 21st, 1970 after being caught in the midst of a mortar attack near the Ashau Valley.
Learn the Moves
When it comes to the Kalsu Hero WOD, there are only two moves. However, in order to be more efficient (and safe) you need to learn how to do them properly. The two exercises you do will differ depending on which of the fours Kalsu variations you choose to take on.
Let’s take a look at all of them.
When done properly, the burpee is quite possibly the most effective metabolic boosting exercise that exists.
It has four athletic comments:
- A squat
- A martial arts style sprawl
- A push up
- A vertical leap
The key to success with this exercise is to break it down into these four parts.
Here’s how to do it:
- Squat: The final phase of the squat should look like a sitting frog. You’ll also return to this position before the vertical jump. Hip mobility often stop people from jumping the feet far enough forward to have heels on the floor. Make sure to rock your weight back into your heels and to lift your chest.
- Sprawl: This extends the legs and positions you in a plank. Don’t jump too far - arms at 90 degrees, palms level with chest and shoulders over wrists. Don’t sag - engage your core and use a posterior pelvic tilt to lock it in.
- Push Up: This is where most people muck up the burpee. You should not sprawl all the way to the floor without control, bounce your chest off the floor, or lift your chest and arch like a cobra.
- Leap: Always start the leap from the squat position. This stable platform allows you to drive through the lower body and propel your way into the air. While in the air, make sure to achieve ‘triple extension,’ which means you’ve fully extended not just the arms, but the ankles, the knees,and the hips. Getting into triple extension requires starting from a bent position, in which all joints are primed for action.
In order to perfect the burpee, you should start slow, perfect each stage, and then add speed when you are confident that you have nailed your form.
Thrusters are a complete body movrment that can help work on strength or metabolic endurance. The movement combines a conventional bar squat with a shoulder press. It is one of the most complete full body exercises that you can do, combining both upper and lower bodies.
Start in a front squat position, with the ba resting across your shoulders. Lower into a complete squat,and then come back up and go straight into a full shoulder press, with your arms above your head.
When doing this exercise, it is important that you don’t let the weight control you. Stick out your chest and lift your elbows to avoid rounding your upper back. Keeping the elbows up will also keep them from hitting into your thighs as you descend into the full squat.
As you fatigue, be sure to hold you back straight in order to avoid potential injuries to the shoulders or spine.
Though technically difficult, this explosive exercise is a fantastic all-round power builder.
- Stand with a loaded bar in front of you. Squat with your feet under the bar, and your hips higher than your knees. Grip the barbell overhand, palms just wider than shoulder width apart.
- Raise the bar above your knees; push in your hips, while driving up hard with your legs to give the weight momentum. Keep the brt close to your body throughout. You also want your shoulders over the bar as long as possible.
- Forcefully extend your hips, knees and ankles, keeping the bar close to your body. Shrug your shoulders upward hard. Your toes should leave the floor as you drive up forcefully.
- On reaching full extension, lower your body under the bar, and drop and rotate your elbows down and your arms around the bar.
- Flex your hips and knees into a semi-squat and catch the bar on the top of your shoulders. Stand up straight by extending your legs.Tense your core muscles to stabilize your body and punch your elbows forward to fix the bar. Your feet should be spread slightly to the sides.
- Keeping your back flat, let the weight down under control to your thighs, and return the bar to the floor.
This complex movement demands excellent technique, balance and control. Practice with light weights until perfect form has been achieved before you start going for time.
The Tire Flip is a great functional exercise which allows for greater load distribution than most conventional resistance exercises. With this exercise you are able to combine pushing and pulling the weight away from your body.
On the downside, the tire flip places your lower back in a more vulnerable position than either the squat or the deadlift. It is also a very demanding exercise, which leaves you open to poor form when fatigue sets in.
Here is how you should perform the tire flip:
- In your setup, you want to drop down into a deep squat in front of the tire. Now wedge the tire between your fingertips and your chest. Set yourself up with your arms at shoulder width and your fingers spread wide, wrapping them under the tire.
- Maintain a straight spine as you bring your chest to rest against the tire. Flex at the elbows and biceps as if you were about to do a barbell row.
- Fire your glutes, squeeze your shoulder blades together and flex the lats. Now drive forward as if you were moving into a tackle. Drive the tire up and over with a chest press. Do this as explosively as possible.
Kalsu is a deceptively simple workout that will take everything that you have got. Apart from ensuring that you’ve got your form down pat and that you are pacing yourself, there is not a lot of ‘strategy’ involved in this one. It’s simply a matter of bearing down and grunting it out.
Other WOD Strats
On the minute (until you complete 100 reps of thrusters).