New Strength Class Cycle: King Kong

I’d like to start off the explanation for our upcoming strength cycle with a story…

Once upon a time, CrossFit was in it’s infancy. It was the dawn of an age that was ripe with promise and replete with enthusiasm, but lacked the finesse and panache of CrossFit as we now know it. There was no such thing as the “CrossFit Games,” those ugly toe shoes were all the rage and good Isabel times were measured in dozens of minutes, not seconds. In fact, during this period muscle ups were so scarcely achieved by so few in the community that (I’ve been told) Greg Glassman would personally fly out to your garage gym (no affiliates then!), shake your hand and give you a tee shirt if you ever posted a video of it on mainsite. Afterwards, legends of your prowess would quickly spread throughout the CrossFit message boards and your legacy as a firebreather would forever be set in stone.

Indeed, simpler times.

So it was during this period that a certain CrossFit coach set out to design a workout that was truly impossible – one that would test the upper limits of both strength and gymnastics ability for anyone in the sport. His creation was King Kong, and it goes as such:

Three rounds for time:

1 Deadlift (455/320)

2 Muscle Ups

3 Cleans (250/175)

4 Strict Handstand Push-Ups

The original programmer had this to say about it:

“When I edited the video I put a line in the intro about us being skeptical about whether or not any human could finish the WOD. That wasn’t hyperbole – I really didn’t think Okonsky could finish it, & didn’t know if anyone else could.”

It was first completed by a former Powerlifter turned Marine / CrossFitter Matt Okonsky, with a time of 7:37. You can see it in all its beauty and ugliness here:

It was a workout so difficult that even Jason Khalipa, the vanilla gorilla himself, was bested by it the first time around.

Of course, since then the sport has progressed, and the seemingly impossible mountain that is King Kong has now been vanquished in under 2 minutes (

And yet it remains a proverbial Everest for many in the CrossFit world, and for good reason. It takes two essentially diametrically opposed skills – brute strength and high level gymnastics – and pairs them in a workout together. To complete this workout, you need to have a comically strong deadlift, some pretty stout legs, and the ability to push your body upside down and whip it up above gymnastics rings.

In other words, you gotta be a beast. And while there are plenty of great CrossFitters out there that maybe can’t complete all parts of King Kong, I can tell you this – if you are one of the few that CAN, then you are assuredly no slouch.

This cycle is going to take this workout and use it as a basis for organizing a strength program. The cycle will focus on strong pulling (deadlifting, primarily), front squatting, and lots and lots of shoulder, back and accessory work to move you closer to that next step in your gymnastics progression. A typical week might look something like the following:


Heavy Deadlifting

Glute Ham Developers

Seated Dumbbell Press

Ring Rows


Heavy Front Squatting

Shoulder Taps

Strict Dead-Hang Muscle-Up Pull-Throughs w/feet on floor

Strict Pull Ups

We’ll begin and end the cycle testing “King Kong.” Now – clearly – not everyone will tackle this workout Rx. In fact, it is a rarity to do so. But your progress on this workout can be manifest in a heavier deadlift, a better clean, a scaled-up gymnastics movement, a faster time or any combination of the former. It will be a great cycle for anyone who wants to drastically improve their pulling off the ground and overall squatting, but also would like to put in some serious work on some high-level gymnastics and bodyweight training, particularly for the upper body.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask your individual strength coaches or hit me up via email at

Mike Hara

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