The CrossFit Benchmark Workout Annie is one of the most popular CrossFit workouts out there. In fact, it was one of the very first CrossFit workouts that I ever did!
But it's also one of the most challenging workouts, and many people struggle to get a good score. But with the right strategy, you can massively improve your score and get the best possible results.
In this article, I'll cover all the tips and tricks that will help you get your best score possible and explain the movement standards so you know that you're doing it properly.
After that, I'll take you through how to scale to get the proper stimulus because not everyone should be doing any as Rx'd. And last but not least, I'll take you through my strategy and how you can prevent one of the most horrifying injuries this workout can cause - AKA money butt.
What is the Annie workout?
Here's a quick overview of the Annie workout. It consists of:
So you do 50 double unders, then you do 50 AbMat sit-ups, and then you do 40 double unders and 40 AbMat sit-ups and so on.
The key to this workout is to pace yourself properly and not burn out too early - but that's not all.
To help you get the best possible score, you also need to nail the technique of each movement, so let's take a look at the standards for each one.
Double unders standards
Double unders are pretty simple in theory.
All you have to do is jump a rope and make sure the rope spins under your feet twice while you're in the air.
This is easier said than done - and it was actually one of the hardest movements for me to learn when I first started out.
If you're someone who needs to get better at double unders, I have a completely free double under training guide that will help you level up your double unders once and for all so that you can get your best score ever.
If you can do double unders, no sweat, then you're going to want to do your 50-40-30-20-10 sets completely unbroken, or at least do consecutive reps of double unders to get the most out of the workout.
In most rule books, the rope should be rotating forwards, although some people choose to spin it backwards.
If you struggle with your double unders but still want to take on Annie, you can also technically intersperse singles and tripping into your double unders.
So hypothetically, let's say you're doing some double unders, and you trip. You wouldn't count that last rep; you'd just start from where you left off, not counting that last one because it didn't make it all the way through.
And then you could do a couple of singles (these also wouldn't count) before transitioning back into double unders.
If you wanted to, you could also do something like single, double, single, double. But obviously, you'd only be accumulating reps for this workout when you're doing double unders.
Now let's talk about the standards of the AbMat sit-ups, otherwise known as butterfly sit-ups.
If you're lucky enough to have an AbMat, you need to find the end of the mat that has more of a lump (there's a tapered end and a lumpy end with a bump on it). The lumpy end goes in the small of your back where your lumbar is.
To use it, you need to sit right in front of your AbMat and put your feet into what's called a butterfly position. This is where your legs are bent and out to the side, and your feet are together. Then, lay back all the way until your upper shoulders hit the ground behind you.
From there, you can begin your sit-ups. Stretch your arms out behind you and touch the floor behind your head with your hands. Then, sit up and engage your core.
Once you're upright, the standard is to touch the floor in front of your toes - some people post amazing Annie scores with barely touching the back of their heels, so don't make this mistake because you'll only be cheating yourself.
If you don't have an AbMat, you can still do the Annie. The mat just serves as a lower back support that helps you to engage your core more than if you go without. If you don't have an AbMat but need some additional support, try placing a couple of towels under your back.
Now let's talk about the stimulus.
Based on what I've seen, Annie should be a fast workout where you finish in a maximum of 10-12 minutes. Some of the fastest Annie times in the world are in the 5-6 minute range. Usually, it all comes down to how fast you can do your sit-ups.
However, this 10-12 minute window may not be realistic if you can't do all the double unders unbroken or struggle with the AbMat sit-ups - so what should you do? Should you just force your way through the workout and get a score of 22 minutes?
The short answer is no.
With CrossFit, we give you these standard workouts, and then you modify and scale to get the desired stimulus.
So if you can't finish the workout as prescribed, your goal should be to either modify the reps or modify the movements or range of motion so that you can finish within that 10-12 minute range or under.
Let's take a look at some of the scaling options you can incorporate into your next Annie workout.
Double unders scaling options
One of the most common scaling options is swapping out the double unders for single unders. This is a two-to-one technique, which means you'd do 100 single unders followed by 50 sit-ups, and then 80 double unders and 40 sit-ups, and so on.
The reason I'm not a fan of this substitute is that you're not attempting double unders at all, so you're missing out on an opportunity to progress to the full movement.
Alternatively, you can scale by substituting two single unders per one double under. But most people turn them into tiny jumps and, as a result, don't practice their coordination very much or advance to the double unders.
Scale down reps
One of the options I like is scaling down the reps and still doing double unders. For example, you could cut the double unders in half, so you're doing 25 double unders and 50 AbMat sit-ups and so on.
The good thing about this scale-down is that it forces you to get good at double unders. And, compared to someone who can do this workout unbroken, chances are you're still going to be jumping just as much because you're going to be failing reps, tripping and restarting.
My personal opinion? I think scaling down the reps while keeping the prescribed movement is the best option for upskilling and getting the most out of your workout.
Count all your attempts
You can also count your double under attempts - so if you're tripping, you can still count them as a completed double under. This option is a quick and easy way to reward yourself for practicing the movement rather than just throwing in the towel and sticking to singles, as so many people do.
The penguin clap
Another one of my favorite drills is the penguin clap.
The Penguin clap is a great drill that gets the rope out of your hand but still helps you practice the jump, wrist spin, and the timing for double unders.
To do it, put the rope down, and jump with your typical double under jump - so it's a pretty big solid jump. And then, as you're in the air, clap your hips twice with my hands.
This should be almost identical to the cadence, speed, height and rhythm of the double under.
If you can't do any double unders right now, I'd recommend the penguin clap over the two-to-one singles Annie.
AbMat sit-up scaling options
So, now it's time to talk about your scaling options for the AbMat sit-ups.
Anchor your feet
If you want to scale your sit-ups, you can simply take dumbbells or plates or something to anchor your feet and un-butterfly your legs, so you can slide your toes underneath the dumbbells.
This makes it much easier to engage your hip flexors and pull yourself up into the sit-up.
Hanging knee raises
If you have a bar or something to pull yourself up with, another option is to just jump up and do hanging knee raises.
This gets the core involved, simulates a sit-up motion and contracts the abdominal wall, making it a great scale.
Reduce your range of motion
The final scale you could choose is reducing your range of motion.
To do this, take a pad or something similar and place it behind your AbMat. Then, when you do your sit-ups, you're not going back as far, so there's less exertion involved.
The ultimate Annie strategy
Onto the most important part of this article: my ultimate strategy for getting the best Annie time possible.
Double unders strategy
If you want to absolutely destroy Annie the next time you hit that WOD, you need to get really good at double unders so that you can easily do 50 unbroken.
So if you're someone who's constantly tripping up after five or six reps, try our double unders unleashed course. This is an incredibly 8-week training program that's helped thousands of athletes to learn 50 plus unbroken double unders.
Aside from just being good at double unders, there's a mistake I see being made all the time with Annie that messes up so many athletes' time.
This is where you start your set of double unders or in the middle of the workout, and then trip. Because Annie is such a rapid workout and you're so worried about losing time, you try to rush back into it and trip again and again.
But here's the thing: the most commonly rushed aspect of Annie is the very first double under of each set.
Luckily, there are a couple of things you can do to make your first double under as seamless as possible.
The first is to make sure you're leaving your rope in a perfect 'U' shape, so when you're ready to jump back into your double unders, you can pick up the rope and begin immediately instead of getting tangled up.
An even bigger mistake I see time and again is people starting the set by doing a double under and missing the rep because they haven't found their rhythm yet.
To counteract this, try starting with a single under to help you get into the rhythm and timing to prevent you from tripping. This goes for every time you have to restart. Don't rush in with a double under, stay controlled, keep your composure, and do a single under for the very first jump.
There are also a couple of techniques you can use to help you get through your reps quicker.
Firstly, you can actually do a kip sit-ups. To do this, bring your hands back so they touch the floor behind your head and then throw them forwards to give yourself momentum as you drive yourself forwards.
With this technique, you'll also benefit from not wasting as much time under tension with each sit-up.
The final tip for these sit-ups is all about avoiding the most horrifying injury of all of CrossFit: Monkey butt!
Monkey butt is the rash that occurs on your upper butt cheeks/lower back, where you tend to make contact when you're doing a tonne of AbMat sit-ups.
Ok, I admit, it's not a big injury - but it's definitely painful. And if you have it, it will really hurt when you shower for several days.
So what can you do to prevent this hilarious yet horrible injury?
All you need is some sort of padding in front of your AbMat. This could be a yoga mat or even a full-blown gymnastics pad. Anything is better than doing all of your sit-ups while making contact with the rubber floor (ouch).
There you have it, everything you need to know about how to get the best score possible on Annie.
By following the tips in this article, you'll be sure to improve your time and get a great workout in the process.
If you want to smash your next Annie, double unders and more, check out WODprep Academy for all of the other training material that we have to help you become a more well-rounded athlete - or your money back!