We’ve been hearing from you lately that you’d like to see more “benchmark” workouts. And we are listening (see today for further evidence of this). But why? Why do you want benchmarks? And why should we be doing them?
First, let’s define a benchmark. Merriam-Webster defines benchmark as:
a) something that serves as a standard by which others may be measured or judged
b) a point of reference from which measurements may be made
c) a standardized problem or test that serves as a basis for evaluation or comparison
So what we’re looking for is a standard or a test against which we can measure progress. This is very important in the gym setting as it provides direction and motivation for training. We see benchmarks come up a lot in weightlifting - PRs anyone? But how do to use the same idea when it comes to our conditioning.
In a CrossFit gym, we retest workouts. Now we could write (and have written) tests that we intend to repeat to measure improvement. But what’s awesome about CrossFit is that we’re not the only one’s doing it! You may stack up well against those in your community but what if I want a broader stroke to measure myself against?
You’re in luck. CrossFit, a global fitness community, has the benefit of having tests that have been written for just this purpose. They are consistent across all languages, continents, and even genders. Movement is truly a universal language and you can test your fitness against someone thirty thousand miles away from you by performing one of these standardized tests.
There are two “types” of benchmark workouts that we see in CrossFit. There are “The Girls” and there are “Hero WODS.” Usually, if you’ve been around CrossFit for at least a year, you’ve probably heard of the most famous of Hero WODs, “Murph.” This is traditionally done by gyms around the nation on Memorial Day. It’s appropriate because the purpose of Hero WODs is to memorialize or pay tribute to a fallen service man or woman, whether they be military, LEOs or firefighters. There are hundreds of Hero WODs and more being made as friends and family of the fallen pay respect to those who have sacrificed.
Outside of Murph, retests of Hero WODs don’t happen all that often. The odyssey of participating in a Hero WOD is a challenge in and of itself and the purpose of the workouts is honoring those named for the challenge. However, we can look at these like benchmarks as you can still measure your performance against others who have completed the same workout. Hero WODs almost always tend to be long, arduous and challenging, with movements, prescription weights and time domains rarely found as regular parts of your typically CrossFit class.
Girls WODs however are much more common and probably much more tested. Think of these names and ask if you’ve had a crack at these ladies before:
“Grace,” “Diane,” “Nancy,” “Annie,” “Fran”
Any sound familiar? Again, if you’ve been around CrossFit for at least a year, you’ve probably heard a name or two off this list. Today in class, we’re getting after one of the original ladies: Cindy. The Girls WODs are known for their relative simplicity and their “classic” construction: usually couplets (2 movements, alternating) or triplets (three movements, alternating) with opposing compound full body movements. For more on this, check out this original article written by CrossFit founder and CEO Greg Glassman about the first six Girls. You’ll also find out why he decided to “name” these workouts :)
So as you start to see a few more benchmark workouts in your regularly scheduled programming, keep track. They serve an awesome purpose and can be excellent tools to inform our approach to training so we continue to progress.
There is a common joke amongst CrossFitters that instead of asking “What’dya bench (bro)?” you’ll instead hear, “What’s your Fran time?” Hopefully now, you’ll understand a little more as to why.
For a look at the first 15 Girls, click here. There are 21 girls in total.
Metcon - “Cindy” AMRAP 20 minutes:
15 Air squats