Benchmark WODs are standardized workouts commonly performed in the CrossFit community. They are meant to be done with 100% effort so they can be used as a representation of your maximum CrossFit abilities. Each workout is given a name to make it easily recognizable and repeatable. Many are created in honor of veterans or first responders who lost their lives while serving our country. These are known as “Hero workouts.” Others are given women’s names and known as “The Girls.” In this blog, we’ll discuss why we do benchmark workouts and how to best prepare for them.
Why We Do Benchmark Workouts
Think of benchmark WODs like 1-rep max testing. They are completed periodically within your training as a method of tracking your growth over time. For example, you can complete one at the beginning of a training cycle and then again at the end. Compare your scores in each to see how you’ve improved.
These WODs can also point out our weaknesses. Once we know what areas we need to work on, we can tailor our training to target them. Addressing weaknesses can help us become more well-rounded athletes, both reducing our risk for injury and enhancing our performance.
Many boxes perform certain benchmark WODs to honor specific holidays or events, such as “Murph” on Memorial Day (see Part 1 and 2 of our blog on Murph for more information on this iconic hero workout). Trudging and/or sprinting through tough WODs with friends creates some pretty stellar memories!
Preparing for Benchmark WODs
Keep Track of Your Scores
We must remember where we started in order to see how far we’ve come. Therefore, it’s super important that you keep track of your scores each time you complete a benchmark WOD. Log them into apps such as SugarWOD or WodLog. Alternatively, you can write scores down in a workout journal or type them into the Notes app on your phone. Refer to this information before you repeat the workout to establish a goal for yourself. Some key information to track includes:
Your Score – The type of score you track will vary depending on the type of workout. It might be the amount of time it took to finish the workout (like in Grace), the number of rounds/reps completed (like in Cindy), or the amount of weight lifted (like in the Bear Complex).
Modifications – Did you scale/modify any movements or complete the workout Rx? Write this down so you know exactly how you performed the WOD.
Weights Used – If the workout has weights in it, make note of what you used so you can compare this information, too!
Extra Notes – Maybe you want to write down how hard the workout felt or what strategy you employed to tackle it. Feel free to log anything that could be useful to remember for next time!
Create a Game Plan
You want to head into a benchmark WOD with a clear idea of how you’re going to pace it, whether you’ll go unbroken or work in sets, etc. Luckily, these workouts have been done millions of times by CrossFitters worldwide. This means there is PLENTY of excellent advice out there to help you decide how you’ll approach each one. WODwell is a great resource, as it breaks down hundreds of benchmark WODs with instructions, tips, and scaling options. You can also ask around your box to learn all the best strategies from coaches and experienced members to set yourself up for success.
Take Care of Your Body
Train consistently and eat especially well leading up to big workouts such as these. Hydrate thoroughly throughout the day (see our recommendations and tips regarding hydration here). Sleep 7-9 hours every night. Warm up appropriately before beginning the workout. You want to place yourself in the best position to perform well!
Set Your Mind
Approach this workout with the same mindset you use when going for a 1-rep max or competing. This is an opportunity to really go for it! Know that it will be difficult, but worth giving your all. That being said, we recognize that our minds and bodies are not always ready for peak intensity. Therefore, you should ALWAYS check in with yourself first. Ensure that your expectations and performance are appropriate for what you are capable of that day and adjust as needed.
Given the popularity of benchmark WODs and how easy it is to compare our performance in them to that of others, it is crucial to remember why we do them in the first place. The main goal of exercise should be to improve our health. These workouts push us, mentally and physically, to become faster, fitter, and stronger. That will not happen, however, if we give our egos more attention than our form. So while, yes, we want to put 100% effort into these milestone workouts, never do so at the expense of moving properly. Prepare for them responsibly and of course, remember to have fun! We can’t wait to do them with you.