I’m a personal trainer — this CrossFit-inspired 12 Days of Christmas workout torched my body in 30 minutes

Person performing a kettlebell swing with arms extended in front
(Image credit: Getty images)

The 12 Days of Christmas CrossFit workout is one of the most renowned of the holiday season, putting members through the wringer with a 12-move combo of full-body exercises capable of torching every muscle group. It’s the gift you never asked for — and never wanted. 

With 12 exercises to complete in the style of the famous 12 Days of Christmas song — meaning you’ll add an exercise each round and run them back down to the starting exercise each time — and a time cap of just 35 minutes, I haven’t seen many people escape without collapsing into a sweaty heap afterward, including me.

But we like to do things a little differently at Tom’s Guide, so rather than hit you with another of the best CrossFit workouts you can find anywhere, we’ve designed a TG-approved 12 Days of Christmas WOD for you to try from home or the gym. Here it is— and good luck.  

What is the 12 Days of Christmas CrossFit workout? 

The 12 Days of Christmas workout consists of 12 movements and the reps descend according to the 12 Days of Christmas song. Unless you’re an advanced athlete, it’s unlikely that you’ll complete the CrossFit WOD in less than 20 minutes, and even that’s a serious achievement. 

Each CrossFit box does things differently, which means the time cap and list of exercises might change from place to place, year to year. Here’s a look at previous 12 Days of Christmas workout movements.  

How many movements are in the 12 days of Christmas workout? 

Two women performing an ab workout on exercise mats with right leg on the air and opposite arm tapping the foot

(Image credit: Getty images/ Westend61)

Unsurprisingly, there are 12 exercises to complete in the 12 days of Christmas workout. You’ll start with 1 rep of your first exercise, complete 2 reps of your second exercise, and then move back to your first exercise for 1 rep. Do the third exercise for 3 reps, the second for 2 reps and the first for 1 rep. Continue until you reach the twelfth exercise for 12 reps, eleventh for 11 reps, tenth for 10, and so on, running the whole way back down to your starting exercise. 

We recommend using your smartphone or a whiteboard to track your progress and help you keep on top of the reps. Trust us, when the physical and mental fatigue sets in, you’ll be thankful.

How many reps are in 12 Days of Christmas? 

You might look at the 12 days of Christmas workout and think it looks easy, but this WOD (Workout of the day) kills you with volume. That means you don’t need to go as heavy as usual because you’ll be running the exercises through multiple times. Just how many reps will you achieve by the time you finish? If you finish within the 35-minute time cap, you’ll manage a whopping 364 reps — almost one for each day of the year.  

The Tom’s Guide 12 Days of Christmas workout

We recommend checking each exercise and practicing a few reps beforehand to make sure you know how to scale to suit your ability. The workout uses minimal equipment to allow you to move with efficiency and consistency. It’s also worth playing the song to remind yourself how the format works. 

Here’s a list of the exercises:

  • 1 Barbell clean and press
  • 2 barbell overhead press
  • 3 burpees

Image of person performing a gorilla burpee by jumping feet forward and jumping into the air

(Image credit: Getty images/ Unknown)
  • 4 barbell front squats
  • 5 plank hip dips
  • 6 sit-ups

an illustration of a woman doing a sit-up

(Image credit: Shutterstock)
  • 7 barbell fast-stop deadlifts
  • 8 plank toe taps

an illo of a woman doing plank toe touches

(Image credit: Shutterstock)
  • 9 American kettlebell swings

American kettlebell swing from the hips up against white background

(Image credit: Shutterstock)
  • 10 sprawls

Person performing a high plank and then jumping forward with feet outside of hands for sprawl

(Image credit: Getty images)
  • 11 bentover rows
  • 12 push-ups

a photo fo a woman doing a push up

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

How to do the 12 days of Christmas workout with a partner 

If you’ve got a mate in mind who feels just as sadistic — we mean, festive — as you, split the reps on a you-go-I-go basis or work in synchro if you don’t want to reduce your reps. 

The first and second exercises are brutal as you’ll complete one clean and push press, follow up with two overhead presses, then move back to your clean and push press for one rep before progressing straight on to 3 burpees. There’s a mix of barbell and bodyweight work, which gives you time to recover your grip strength away from the bar. Only one exercise uses alternative free weights — the American kettlebell swing. If you can, use a kettlebell or dumbbell or substitute for an exercise of your choice if you only have a barbell to hand.

Remember not to lift toward your maximal weight ranges despite the low rep count — the overall volume is high, so you’ll feel exhausted even shifting half of what you’d lift for those reps in another environment. Set a timer for 35 minutes and record your score so you can repeat it next year. 

If it feels too easy, scale accordingly, and the same applies if you're losing time with weights that are too heavy. It should feel challenging but you could be able to complete reps unbroken for each exercise before moving to the next.

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Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.