Thursday, November 4, 2010

What are benchmark workouts?

While the majority of CrossFit workouts are developed with constant variance in mind, you may have noticed several workouts that you may have repeated, sometimes more than twice. These are called “benchmark” workouts and a variety can be seen hanging on the wall in the gym.
But what makes a benchmark workout different from a “regular” WOD? Why are these workouts special? We’ll use this entry to explore why.
By definition benchmark workouts are the “…most challenging, formative, and expressive of the CrossFit fitness ideal.” Greg Glassman has also said “This convenience and logic inspired our granting a special group of workouts women’s names, but anything that leaves you flat on your back and incapacitated only to lure you back for more at a later date certainly deserves naming.” Benchmarks can be used as a gauge for progress, a way to be challenged physically and mentally, and as a way to bring the CrossFit community together.
Indicators of progress can be completing a benchmark without any modifications or by finishing your workout just one second faster. Either of these can be considered great achievements by the individual and something to strive for. When participating in a benchmark workout, form and intensity should share your attention equally. While a reduction in form may produce a faster rep, your energy level will wane faster as you waste energy performing an inefficient movement.
On paper some of the benchmarks look pretty…well, easy.


I made the mistake of underestimating Jackie. (1,000 meter row, 50 Thrusters at 45lbs. , and 30 pull-ups. One round for time.) This looked fairly straightforward and easy. The post workout result was me lying on my back in a puddle of my own sweat wondering “Is this Rabdo?”. This is part of the mental aspect of approaching a benchmark: avoiding the Psyche. Knowing that these benchmarks are difficult makes them unique, especially if you have done them before. I’m looking forward to the next time we have Jackie as a workout and overcoming not only the physical aspect of the workout but also the mental strength I will gain from doing something that I know was previously a challenge.

These benchmarks can bring us together as a gym. When you have done these and sweated out alongside other local athletes, you have something in common that others do not. When you visit other gyms you immediately have something to discuss, because you’ve all suffered the same 150 wall ball shots of Karen.

While we will repeat benchmarks, you will rarely repeat a workout in one month and definitely not within two weeks. So next time that you see one on the board you may be a bit nervous, but embrace the opportunity to challenge yourself at your highest level, knowing that everyone around you is going to be doing the same.

Even if the name is Fran.
by Mike Thurk

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