13 min 54 sec – Fitness Level 0 – Beginner athlete
12 min 26 sec – Fitness Level 25 – Beginner athlete
10 min 58 sec – Fitness Level 50 – Average athlete
08 min 42 sec – Fitness Level 75 – Average athlete
07 min 19 sec – Fitness Level 90 – Advanced athlete
06 min 30 sec – Fitness Level 95 – Advanced athlete
05 min 37 sec – Fitness Level 98 – Elite athlete
04 min 43 sec – Fitness Level 100 – Regional athlete
What is Karen?
Karen is one of the CrossFit Girl benchmark workouts (WODs). This WOD was first introduced in 2008 on the main site.
Karen is one of the simplest WODs out there as it consists of just 150 wall ball shots with 20 lbs medball for men on 10 feet (3.05 m) target and 14 lbs medball on 9 feet (2.7m) target. All this work is for time.
Karen may sound simple but only about ~0.01% of best CrossFit athletes should be able to do Karen unbroken. The 0.01% number is just a simple guess, but after doing CrossFit for almost a decade, I know only two people who were able to finish Karen unbroken RX.
What is a good time for Karen?
It is almost impossible to finish Karen faster than 4:20 as unbroken Karen will take you about 4:20-4:40 depending on your height and length of arms/legs. This time to beat is only for the best of the best who can finish all 150 wall ball shots without dropping the ball.
According to our app WOD Time Calculator, advanced athletes should aim for 6-7 minutes, average athletes should be able to finish Karen in about 10 minutes, and beginners should try to finish it under 14 minutes.
How to get a good time in Karen?
There are two things that will involve your final time. The first is the technique of wall ball shots and the second is reps/sets strategy you are going to use. Both are very important and may significantly improve your final time.
The Technique of Wall Ball Shots
There are three things that will help you improve your wall balls speed and decrease your fatigue during wall balls.
1) Don’t stand too close to the wall
Perfect spot does exist during wall balls.
If you are too close, the ball will take a longer time to return to you, it will bounce only slightly from the wall, and you may have a harder time hitting the 10/9 feet mark.
If you stay too far away, you will yourself stepping forward all the time and using too much power to throw the ball against the ball.
I am 5’10,” and I found that about 2 feet (~60cm) away from the wall is the perfect spot for me. In that case, medball will always bounce back into my arms, and I don’t need to spend any extra energy.
The perfect spot may differ if you are taller or smaller than me. It is not hard to find it. Medball should always return back into your arms, you should keep standing at one place, and you shouldn’t have a hard time getting the ball over 10/9 feet line.
2) The throw
Wall ball shots are full body exercise and the energy for you wall balls should come from arms, legs, hips, and jump.
Many beginners make a mistake when they throw medball with only their arms. This is ok if you are doing an only small set of 10 reps but it is not ok if you need to finish 150 reps.
Make sure to use the similar technique you are applying for heavy thrusters. Start your squat, speed it up at the top phase, jump little and throw your medball at the same time.
This will allow you to use the full body to get the ball as high as possible without overfatiguing your shoulders and arms.
3) The catch
Last important part of the wall ball shots is the catch.
Try always to return in front of your face when you throw the ball. This will allow you to catch medball little later (= less energy spend holding a medball) and you will save energy in your arms and shoulders by not keeping them up all time.
When you catch the ball, make sure to don’t stop in the standing position. Continue down to the squat and rebound in the bottom position then continue with the strategy described in the previous “The throw” part.
Reps/sets strategy for Karen
There are two kinds of people. The first group doesn’t mind about huge sets of wall balls and the second group that can’t mentally stand any number of wall balls larger than 20.
If you are from the first group, you may try to go for about 80% of your max wall ball set and then finish with multiple 20% sets. You will need a longer rest between sets but by completing a massive chunk of wall balls during the first set will save you a lot of time.
For example, you may do 80 wall balls unbroken and then finish with 20+20+15+15.
If you are from the second group, you should aim for multiple tiny sets that you can do anytime, under any level of fatigue. Even 30 sets of 5 or 50 sets of 3 may be a faster strategy for you than doing 10 sets of 15 reps.
If you decide to go for so many sets, you have to minimize rest between the sets.
Transitions between sets will look something like this. You will throw your last rep, let the ball fall, take two breaths while the ball drops and pick up the ball immediately with a squat clean. If you need longer rest, make it only every 5-10 sets.
For example, my Karen PR is 5:58 by doing 30 sets of 5 reps, and I improved my time by 2 minutes with that strategy (+ I had a one year of progress). I was always scared of Karen, but after doing 30 sets of 5 reps, it didn’t feel so bad. Don’t forget that rest between sets have to be super quick.
No matter, what strategy you will use, make sure to have perfect technique on wall ball shots as described sooner in the article. Bad technique will make Karen your worse nightmare.