CrossFit is a unique style of fitness, drawing from different disciplines and styles of exercise to create hybrid workouts, which are known as WODs (workouts of the day), and are posted daily on CrossFit's website.
In a 2015 study published in the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers had trouble defining a CrossFit workout as either aerobic or anaerobic. They concluded that it was a whole-body workout with elements of strength and aerobic endurance.
These workouts have turned into a competition within members of the CrossFit community, culminating in the CrossFit games, an international competition with similarly grueling workouts as the WODs.
Read more: 10 CrossFit Workouts Debunked
With so many different workouts it can be difficult to pick the best ones. Thankfully, CrossFit makes it simple with their "benchmark workouts." These are routines specifically designed to set a benchmark for your fitness level. You complete the baseline workout every few months to see how much you've improved in your CrossFit training.
There are 15 original benchmark workouts on the official CrossFit website and 11 new ones. They all have female names and are affectionately known as "The Girls." The two most well-known workouts out of the 26 girls are Fran and Grace.
Fran is relatively simple at first glance:
- 21 thrusters
- 21 pull-ups
- 15 thrusters
- 15 pull-ups
- 9 thrusters
- 9 pull-ups
The goal is to complete the entire workout in as little time as possible.
Thrusters are a whole-body exercise. You hold a barbell in a front squat position, squat down until your thighs are parallel to the ground, then stand up and press the weight overhead. The prescribed weight for thrusters is 95 pounds.
It's important to know that pull-ups in CrossFit are slightly different than regular pull-ups. They are known as "kipping pull-ups," in which you use your legs to swing your body up to the bar, making it slightly easier to complete more repetitions.
Grace is even more simple, but still as difficult to complete. You have to complete 30 clean and jerks as quickly as possible. A clean and jerk is an exercise that involves picking a weighted barbell up from the ground, lifting it up to your shoulders and then pressing it overhead. The standard weight for Grace is 135 pounds.
Read more: 16 Essential CrossFit Moves
WOD From Hell
If those workouts aren't challenging enough for you, The Box, a CrossFit magazine, interviewed CrossFit athletes and asked them what their hardest workouts ever were. One athlete, Patrick Burke, had a particularly challenging workout:
- 15 barbell cleans (155 pounds for men, 100 pounds for women)
- 30 toes-to-bars
- 30 box jumps (24-inch box for men, 20-inch box for women)
- 15 muscle-ups (10 for females)
- 30 push presses (40-pound dumbbells for men, 25 pound dumbbells for women)
- 30 double-unders
- 15 thrusters (135 pounds for men, 95 pounds for women)
- 30 pull-ups
- 30 burpees
- 300 feet overhead walking lunges (45-pound plate for men, 25-pound plate for women)
If you're looking to ease into a CrossFit routine the CrossFit Journal has some excellent alternatives to the benchmark workouts. For example, instead of having someone do the traditional Fran, they would do thrusters with 25 pounds instead of 95 pounds and ring rows instead of pull-ups.
Another scaled down workout in the same article was "Diane." Originally, this workout calls for 225-pound deadlifts and handstand push-ups, completed in three sets of 21, 15 and nine repetitions, respectively.
The alternative version is to deadlift 50 pounds and replace the handstand push-ups with dumbbell shoulder presses using 10 pounds.