4 Wild Variations on Benchmark CrossFit Workouts

We’re all familiar with our share of CrossFit benchmark workouts. Whether it’s one of the Girls, a Hero WOD, or one of Dave Castro’s wild ideas that has wormed its way into CrossFit mythology (14.5, anyone?), these workouts exist to see how far into the pain cave you’re willing to go. And then, for some reason that I still can’t wrap my mind around, we often choose to put ourselves through this rigamarole more than once just to see if we’re any fitter.  

I don’t get it. I do it, but I don’t get it. My thought process is further complicated when I see variations of some of these benchmark workouts, and I think to myself, “Yes, you should absolutely complete Murph after jumping out of a plane. Why wouldn’t you do Murph after jumping out of a plane?” To which my brain’s only response is, “Because you don’t have a plane, Brooke. But if you get one, definitely jump out of it and do a bunch of pull-ups.”

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Until I get that plane, I’m going to have to live my greatest exercise fantasies through the antics of others. Luckily, the internet is there to help. For example…

Skydiving Murph

The benchmark variation that started it all. Allison Brager seems like a pretty cool chick. She loves CrossFit and also has a PhD in neuroscience, which means she likes adrenaline and dopamine. Clearly, she doesn’t do anything at 50%, so the logical solution was to jack her adrenaline and dopamine up as high as she could by jumping out of a plane and then performing Murph. Brager, along with Ro Asgari of LYNX Barbell, built a mobile rig and teamed up with Skydive Atlanta to make it all work. The result is one of the most epic workouts we’ve ever heard of.

Bamboo 14.5

Moving from the most epic to the most humble, we can’t forget the heartfelt 14.5 effort from Kie Drea. During the 2014 CrossFit Open, Drea found himself in the small village of Trashigang, Bhutan. Instead of scrapping the workout (which would have been perfectly reasonable), Drea fashioned a “barbell” out of bamboo and used sacks filled with rocks to make up the weight for the 95lb descending thruster/burpee ladder. Judged and cheered on by a few locals, Kie’s attempt was cut short not because of athletic ability, but because it just got dark. Two years later, Drea apparently successfully redeemed himself after completing 16.5 in the grass, with notably updated equipment. 

Burpee Mile

There are workouts that inspire, and then there are those that simply question athletes’ sanity. The Burpee Mile falls into the latter category. A “burpee” is arguably the ultimate benchmark for fitness — almost everyone can do one, but to do them with efficiency, speed, and over a long period of time takes strength and mental fortitude. The concept of the Burpee Mile self explanatory: burpee broad-jump for a mile, which means you’ll probably be burpee-ing for about two hours. It looks as terrible as it sounds, but simplicity of the movement means that anyone can attempt the Burpee Mile. If you do, we have just one piece of advice: wear kneepads.

4 on 1

Back in 2013, in what might be the most elegant and simple “variation” on a benchmark workout, Dan Bailey completed King Kong, Fran, Diane, and Grace back to back to back to back. Not only that, he did it against four fresh athletes. HQ combined the four workouts into one mega workout and assigned each benchmark to one of their athletes (including a very different looking Brooke Ence). Dan, on the other hand, just went straight through.

Bailey completed King Kong in 2:43, Fran in 3:27, Diane in 6:38, and Grace in 3:26. Ultimately, he was “bested” by the team of athletes who were able to finish the mega workout ahead of Bailey by 1:47, but that doesn’t take away from his ridiculous performance. Anyone who has done any one of these benchmark WODs knows how they make you feel, and to think of someone pushing through that pain is impossible to comprehend. This year may go down as one Bailey would like to forget, but his 4 on 1 performance will live in fitness folklore forever.