I Tried The Acid Bath CrossFit Workout And It’s As Bad As Everyone Says It Is

Woman in CrossFit gym rowing, face contorted with effort
(Image credit: davidf / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Hulking bodies stumble forward, faces contorted with pain. 

Not the description of a Renaissance painting or a zombie apocalypse, but the closing stages of Acid Bath at the 2018 Dubai Fitness Championships. It was the first time the world had seen the CrossFit workout which has since become synonymous with suffering in fitness. 

What is the Acid Bath workout? You have to complete 500m on a Concept2 SkiErg, 500m on a Concept2 RowErg and 1,000m on a Concept2 BikeErg as fast as possible. It seems simple but it’s its own special kind of awful.

“Right as the workout finishes, that’s when the pain starts,” five-time fittest man on earth Mat Fraser told film crews at the Dubai event.

CrossFitters tend to like hard things, so when a friend suggested a detour from my usual training to attempt the Acid Bath workout during a Saturday session, my curiosity got the better of me.

Acid Bath Workout

Complete the following for time.

  1. 500m Concept2 SkiErg
  2. 500m Concept2 RowErg
  3. 1,000m Concept2 BikeErg

What I Learned Doing The Acid Bath Workout

1. The Aftermath Is Worse Than The Workout Itself

The workout isn’t a walk in the park. My heart rate spiked immediately, the skiing obliterated my core, and by the end, my legs felt like lead. 

Initially, however, I didn’t think it was as bad as everybody says. There was a point on the rower when I felt fairly calm and in control even though I was working hard. 

The discomfort in my muscles wasn’t overwhelming once I finished, what I didn’t realize was that the worst was yet to come. 

A minute or two after finishing I, along with two others who had done the workout with me, collapsed into a heap, lungs gasping for air and stayed there for a good 15 minutes unable to properly catch my breath. The only time I’ve experienced something similar is after attempting Fran (21-15-9 of thrusters and pull-ups).

2. Pacing Goes Out Of The Window

I know that, of these three movements, rowing is a strength and skiing is a weakness, so for a longer workout made up of these movements I would aim for a steady pace on the SkiErg, saving my energy to excel on the RowErg.

But this is a short workout. Male athletes in Dubai were given a six-minute time cap to get it done, while female competitors had only a marginally more generous seven minutes. 

I aimed to spend 1min 40sec on each machine, so I had to drop the hammer from the off  and flirt with pushing myself too far and blowing up. 

Even with my nemesis the SkiErg slowing me down, I made up time in the row and bike segments to finish in 5min 33sec.

For context, the male winner in Dubai was Roman Khreniikov with a time of 4min 54sec, while Laura Horvath won the female side with 5min 23sec.

3. Transitions Are Important 

As with many other CrossFit workouts, this test is “for time”, which means complete it as fast as you can. I could have completed it marginally faster if I hadn’t lost a few seconds clumsily transferring between machines. 

I hadn’t preset the damper on my rower to the setting I wanted, and getting off the machine my heel caught in the footplate. 

If a workout with transitions crops up in competition like the CrossFit Open, these seconds could be enough to move you up or down the leaderboard.

Harry Bullmore
Staff writer

Harry covers news, reviews and features for Coach, Fit&Well and Live Science. With over a decade of training experience, he has tried everything from powerlifting to gymnastics, cardio to CrossFit, all in a bid to find fun ways of building a healthy, functional body.