By definition, the CrossFit fitness model is performing “functional movements that are constantly varied at high intensity,” which typically means you’ll never see the same workout twice.
However, benchmark workouts are a regular part of CrossFit programming and serve as an excellent measure of fitness performance when they’re included periodically and irregularly in programming.
The benchmarks are named after women and are often referred to as the CrossFit girls. In an article published by the CrossFit Journal in 2003, Founder Greg Glassman tells us he drew inspiration from the National Weather Service using short, distinctive female names to name storms when titling the workouts.
“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.” – Greg Glassman
So in case you didn’t know, Mr. Glassman is a bit of a cheeky guy, but hey, we’re not going to argue his logic.
Since the inception of the original six CrossFit girls, which Glassman said are known for “their magnificent capacity to root out weaknesses and humiliate you with them,” the list has grown to a whooping 21 WODs, all of which test your fitness, your stamina and your mental fortitude every step of the way.
Every one of the CrossFit girls workouts will touch on at least one of the 10 components of fitness, in this article we take a look at the CrossFit girls and discuss how they can help to build and measure specific components.
Introducing the CrossFit Girls
Tests: Endurance, Stamina, Speed
100 pull ups
100 push ups
100 sit ups
Don’t let this saucy devil fool you — just because the moves are all gymnastic or bodyweight-based, doesn’t mean it’s “easy” by any stretch of the imagination.
To put Angie into perspective, the WOD takes most athletes 20 to 30 minutes. You’re in the zone the whole time. What zone? The worst one — the cardio endurance zone. Because athletes can string these movements together into longer and continuous sets, your heart rate will stay elevated through the entire duration of the workout.
Pull ups tend to be the limiting factor for every almost athlete who sets up to complete Angie. With every movement, your stamina, or the ability to do the same movement utilizing the same muscles over and over and over again, will be tested.
By utilizing bodyweight movements, you also have the opportunity to test your speed. The faster you move, the faster you’re done.
This workout is truly one every athlete can attempt. To scale this workout, try doing ring rows or band-assisted pull up instead. Push ups can be scaled with a band or by going to your knees.
Tests: Speed, Coordination, Endurance, Power
Your abs should be prepared for total domination. This WOD is relatively short and sweet, but prepare to feel the burn.
This type of workout is all mental — you do the majority of the work in the first round. Just when you feel like your mid-section is about to cave in, it’s time to jump up and nail some double unders. Just when you feel like your lungs are going to collapse, it’s time to lay back down and catch your breath while doing sit ups.
It’s a nasty one, but it’s a goodie. Depending on your skill level, expect a time anywhere from three to 12 minutes.
Tests: Agility, Strength, Stamina
20 pull ups
30 push ups
40 sit ups
Rest 3 minutes
For a bodyweight burner with a short break in between, give Barbara a try! She’s a great on-the-go WOD as the only piece of equipment you need is something to pull up on.
Barbara is one of many girl WODs that underscores the importance of pull ups. They will most likely be the most difficult part of the workout for most athletes even though there are less pull up reps than any other movement. Get your lats ready to move!
Tests: Endurance, Stamina,
30 minute EMOM
5 pull ups
10 push ups
Chelsea is Cindy’s evil twin sister — the exact same workout, just longer. This means pace is ultra important. You should be moving at a speed you can maintain for thirty minutes without having to take significant breaks in order to get the full effect.
Remember that the pull ups will most likely be the most difficult aspect of this workout despite the fact that there are only five in each round. The rep counts may seem low, but in turn that means that you can knock out lots and lots of rounds in 30 minutes. In short, you’re going to be tired, but keep moving.
Tests: Agility, Stamina, Speed
20 minute AMRAP
5 pull ups
10 push ups
Cindy can sneak up on you. Her low rep counts and low-impact movements mean you easily knock out a round or more a minute, depending on your skill level. This WOD is purely about moving your bodyweight over and over again. Like Barbara, Angie and Chelsea, this workout is all about the pull ups.
You should set a pace that you can keep up for the entirety of the AMRAP and your breaks should be few and far between.
Tests: Strength, Speed and Power
Deadlifts (225 pounds)
Handstand push ups
Diane is a nasty combination of gymnastics and weight lifting. The good news is that the movements complement one another — lots of HEAVY pulls followed by body weight pushes. The bad news is that your shoulders may just fall off towards the end.
This WOD should be quick — you should be able to complete all the movements in under ten minutes, so scale your deadlifts accordingly.
Tests: Strength, Power, Endurance and Agility
Cleans (135 pounds)
Elizabeth and Diane have many similarities in that they both combine heavy weight lifting with gymnastic movements. Similar to Diane, you will also find that the cleans and ring dips complement each other — you will pull and then push.
Your chest and shoulders will be fried after this WOD. According to the CrossFit Journal, the beauty in Elizabeth, Diane and Fran is that people who excel at moving the weight loads will most likely struggle with the bodyweight movements and vice versa. This means that all three of these girl WODs will bring everyone from beginners to CrossFit pros to their knees.
Tests: Stamina, Strength, Speed, Endurance
Run 800 meters
30 kettlebell swings (2 pood)
30 pull ups
Ready for your lungs to be on fire? Eva is a feisty girl and a lung scorcher for sure. The heavy kettlebell swings ensure that your shoulders will be nice and roasted before you even get to the pull ups.
Not only is she tough, but Eva is a long WOD. A great time is anywhere from 35 to 45 minutes. The keys to success? Pace yourself accordingly and catch your breath on the run.
Tests: Power, Stamina and Speed
Thrusters (95/65 pounds)
Ah Fran. This little lady can strike fear into the hearts of even the bravest men. Since her creation, CrossFit has been kind enough to develop mutant versions that make us feel a bit pukey just reading about them, like Frantasy Land, but the truth is Fran all by herself is one tough cookie.
While not actually an Olympic movement, the thruster tests your power and stamina in a dynamic couplet. Athletes who are able to focus on being explosive out of the squat and thrust the bar over head enjoy some of the fastest recorded times in this event.
Stamina comes into play during the the 15-rep part of this WOD scheme, which many athletes claim is the hardest. Like Angie, speed is important in this workout, but in a different way. Some of the fastest Fran times are in the 2 minute range, and done right this workout can be over in a blink. Fran is more of an all-out effort, where athletes gun as fast and hard as they can to get through the work.
Give it a try. Scale the weight if needed, and considering using bands or ring rows if you don’t yet have pull ups. She’s a puking good time, this gal.
Tests: Stamina, Endurance, Speed, Power
30 Clean and Jerks (135/95 pounds)
Grace is longwinded, but fun. The weight is heavy, but not impossible by any stretch of the imagination.
With Grace, managing your rest time is extremely important. You can eat up so much time in this WOD trying to catch your breath or avoiding putting the bar over your head. Remember to keep a tight core and to wear a weight belt to keep from compensating with your lower back as you get fatigued.
Ideally, this should be a FAST workout, taking anywhere from two and a half to five minutes. If you don’t feel that time frame is an achievable goal, drop your weight — this WOD is meant to be a showcase of speed and power.
Tests: Cardiovascular Endurance, Strength, Agility and Speed
400 meter run
21 kettlebell swings (1.5 pood)
12 pull ups
If not being able to breath and smoked shoulders sounds like a good time to you, then Helen is your girl.
A good score for a reasonably fit athlete is somewhere between 10 and 12 minutes, although athletes have posted scores as fast as seven and eight minutes.
Regardless of your time, the point is that this WOD should be quick. If you can’t complete it in under 18 minutes, you should consider scaling as appropriate.
Tests: Strength, Stamina, Power, Speed
30 snatches (135/95 pounds)
Isabel is quick and nasty. As a female, snatching 95 pounds 30 times is quite a feat unless you’re Brooke Ence, so scale your weight to a point where you can move it quickly without taking long breaks.
A good score can fall anywhere in the two to 6 minute range. If you’re extra elite, you can try to beat the world record, which is under a minute. Yikes!
Tests: Power and Speed
Row 1000 meters
50 thrusters (45 pounds)
30 pull ups
Jackie is quick and nasty, incorporating lots of pushing and pulling. The thrusters are light weight, but don’t let your guard down. The high rep count immediately after the 1000-meter row means you’ll be struggling to breathe by the end of it.
If you’re in ideal shape, you should be able to complete Jackie with a sub-ten minute time. Because you’re rowing for meters and not calories, conserve energy in the beginning and incorporate power and speed with the thrusters and pull ups.
Tests: Accuracy, Endurance and Speed
150 Wall Balls (20/14 pounds)
Nothing quite measures your accuracy like hurling a 20-pound ball at a 10-foot target 150 times. Seriously, nothing.
If you’ve never smacked yourself in the face with a wall ball, be prepared for a dose of that kind of fun.
Accuracy is of paramount importance in this workout. While it certainly tests your speed, endurance and stamina as well, it’s only an accuracy error that will get you a “no rep.” After doing 150 of these babies, no one wants to have to do 151 to be done with the workout.
Tests: Stamina, Agility and Endurance
Run 400 meters
30 box jumps (24 inch box)
30 wall balls (20 pound ball)
Kelly is a brute among even some of the nastiest WODs. You know it’s a bad WOD when you catch your breath during the run. With that being said, your legs will hurt and your lungs will probably bleed, or something similarly dramatic.
Your ability to succeed in this workout depends on a few things. First of all, a great pace is important as Kelly is a longer WOD. Second of all, you have to be able to keep moving, meaning your endurance is definitely going to the come into play. Lastly, you need to be able to survive in the pain cave during this WOD. After you’ve run over a mile and done over 100 wall balls, your legs are going to start to feel like jelly — dig deeper and finish strong.
Deadlift 1.5 times Bodyweight
Clean 3/4 bodyweight
For 10/9/8/7/6/5/4/3/2/1 rep rounds for time
Linda is for the guys and gals who love a good “bro sesh,” and who don’t want to be able to move tomorrow.
The focus of this gal is all on strength. In Linda, you’re moving weight in relation to your body weight, making this ideal for measuring strength capacity in every athlete.
The descending rep scheme might look appealing, but trust me, the set of 2 is just as hard as the set of 10.
Obviously, newer athletes will need to work towards the RX weight. Begin at a percentage of bodyweight that you can move comfortably 10 times, and try again with more weight in six to eight weeks.
Be sure to have a spotter or two on hand for this workout, as it can really get gnarly and you might need the help.
Tests: Strength and Stamina
5 rounds for max reps
Bodyweight bench press
Lynne is another one where it would be a great idea — no, a necessity — to have an experienced spotter while you’re doing your bench press.
Lynne is a hybrid of Linda and pretty much any other girl WOD, seeing as pull ups have a dominant appearance in more than 50 percent of the girl WODs.
Your score will be the total number of bench presses and pull ups you do each round at the end of the fifth round.
Tests: Endurance, Balance and Coordination
20 minute AMRAP
5 handstand push ups
10 pistols, alternating legs
15 pull ups
First, you’ll go way up and then you’ll go way down. Mary is quite the rollercoaster ride. This nasty combination of gymnastic and body weight movements will leave you with quivering quads and lats for days.
Tests: Endurance, Agility and Speed
Run 400 meters
15 overhead squats (95 pounds)
Hello Jello legs! To succeed in Nancy, you’ve got to have a great pace and take short breaks. You want to transition between movements quickly.
These overhead squats are pretty heavy for women and moderately heavy for men, so strategize how you’re going to break them up and stick to your rep scheme. It takes a lot of effort to set up for an overhead squat — either a snatch or a clean and jerk, depending on your strength — so drop the bar only when necessary.
Tests: Endurance and Strength
20 minute AMRAP
Run 400 meters
Max rep pull ups
Have you noticed a pattern yet? CrossFit HQ LOVES pull ups. This WOD actually looks pretty tame compared to many of its counterparts, but the trick is all in the first word on the second line — max. When you max out your pull ups in Nicole, you should be going all in — hands tearing, shoulders screaming-type of maxing out. That’s what makes this workout a true test.
The interesting thing about this WOD is that the run doesn’t count towards your scoring. Your total will be the number of pull ups you were able to complete in 20 minutes, so keep that in mind when deciding where to break and how to pace yourself.
With any benchmark workout, make sure you record your time, weights used, and any other details (such as ring rows, or the color band you used with pull ups) every time you do it. Keep these mixed into your regular training, and between these tests, be sure to incorporate daily workouts that will help you improve in the ten key areas of fitness.
You’ll be setting PRs and raising the bar on your goals in no time!