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"Helen" Workout Guide: Master the CrossFit Benchmark like a Pro

Updated: May 30

Whether "Helen" was named after a mythological beauty or just a random woman, one thing is for sure: when you finish this workout, you'll feel a bit like a hero or heroine after an epic battle.


And maybe that's exactly the point - 'Helen' will have you fighting, sweating and sometimes cursing, but in the end you'll just feel unbeatable.


Ready to find out more about this special workout? Our article tells you everything you need to know!



What exactly is "Helen"?

Athlete doing kettlebell swings

"Helen" is a classic benchmark workout that is known in CrossFit for showing you where you stand with your training.


"Helen" consists of:


3 rounds for time of:


  • 400 m run

  • 21 Kettlebell Swings (1.5/1 pood)

  • 12 Pull-ups


Here are the details:


  • 400 meter run: Lace up your running shoes, because each round starts with a crisp 400 meter run. This is your chance to get up to speed.

  • 21 Kettlebell Swings: After running, grab the iron. Swing a kettlebell (24 kg for men and 16 kg for women) up between your legs and over your head. This not only gets your grip into play, but also challenges your hips and core.

  • 12 Pull-ups: At the end of each round, head to the bar for a dozen pull-ups. These test your arm and back strength and your ability to work effectively even when fatigued.



Where does "Helen" come from?

CrossFit athlete lying sweaty on the floor after a workout

The "Helen" workout is one of CrossFit's famous "Girls". The "Girls" are the superstars of the CrossFit workout world and each one has its own character - "Helen" is no exception.


The birth of a legend


Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, created the first "girl" workouts in the early 2000s. These workouts were designed to feel like hurricanes - fast, powerful and unforgettable. Glassman once said that he named these workouts after women because they are so intense that you feel like you've survived a hurricane after the experience.


Why "Helen"?


Exactly why the name "Helen" was chosen is not entirely clear. Some say it could be a reference to the historical or mythological figure (think Helen of Troy) whose beauty was legendary - as was the sheer intensity of this workout. According to other theories, the names are chosen at random, simply because they are catchy and stick.



What makes "Helen" special?

Athlete who trains and sweats outdoors

"Helen" is not just any workout, but a real test of your general fitness. It challenges your endurance, strength and coordination. It is therefore often used as a benchmark in the CrossFit community.


The great thing about "Helen" is that it really challenges every part of your body. It's short enough to push the pace, but long enough to push you to your limits.


It's like a mini circuit workout that leaves you breathless and at the same time puts a grin on your face because you know you've just accomplished something great.


It's one of those challenges you love to hate - hard and satisfying at the same time.



What do I need to bear in mind when executing "Helen"?

Athlete hanging from a pull-up bar

Ready to compete with 'Helen'? This workout is a real power session that will challenge you. But with the right technique and a bit of strategic know-how, you'll practically fly through this challenge!


Here are a few tips on what you should look out for when tackling "Helen":


  • Run smart, not hard: During the 400-metre run that kicks off each round, it's important that you don't burn off all your energy right at the start. Find a pace that is challenging but doable so that you still have enough left in the tank for the kettlebell swings and pull-ups. Remember: it's a marathon, not a sprint - okay, maybe a very fast marathon!

  • Swing like a pro: The kettlebell swings are all about the hip movement. You want to use the power from your hips and legs to get the kettlebell up efficiently. Make sure that you swing with a straight back and that the movement is fluid and controlled. Avoid rounding your back.

  • Pull-ups with a plan: Whether you're a pull-up monster or still working on your technique, manage your strength well. If you can do 12 pull-ups in a row, great! If not, no problem: break them up into smaller sets to avoid fatigue. Think about whether you do kipping, butterfly or strict pull-ups, depending on what your strengths are.

  • Breathe deeply: In a workout like "Helen" that spans three rounds, it's crucial that you breathe consciously and focus on the reps ahead of you. Use the time between exercises to recover briefly and make sure you are mentally ready to start the next round.

  • Keep an eye on the time: "Helen" is time-limited, so it's helpful to keep an eye on the clock. With the SmartWOD timer, you can track each round and see how much time you have left.


What if I'm still a beginner?


Then you can still do "Helen" - scaled. For example, you can shorten the running distance (e.g. to 200 m). Instead of American Kettlebell Swings, you could do Russian Kettlebell Swings (i.e. up to eye level instead of overhead). And for the Pull-ups, simply use a band or do ring rows. #noexcuses



See you next time, Helen!


You are now perfectly equipped to take on 'Helen'. Remember that the right technique and a well thought-out strategy are your best allies when tackling this intense workout. Use the tips we've discussed, take a deep breath and give it your all.


"Helen is not only a challenge, but also a great way to measure your progress and beat yourself. Every time you tackle Helen, you'll find that you've become a little stronger, faster and more resilient.


So take a deep breath, grab your kettlebell and get ready to conquer the pull-up bar!

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