Your Guide to CrossFit Benchmark Workouts

This is how you measure progress in CrossFit.

CrossFit isn’t like other sports. Instead of having a few standard lifts to get good at or a set of specific physique goals, CrossFit is all about training a little bit — well, a lot — of every aspect of fitness. If anything, it’s like strongman in that respect: athletes need to be strong and well-conditioned. But without a specific set of lifts, how do you know if you’re improving?

That’s where CrossFit benchmark workouts come into play. Instead of chasing two or three numbers — say, a 500-pound deadlift — CrossFit will have you looking to run faster, lift heavier, and master wild gymnastic moves like the handstand walk. Benchmark workouts are designed to push and test your fitness levels on all fronts: strength, endurance, and skill.

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Since the first set of benchmark workouts was released by CrossFit in 2003, the sport has developed an endless variety of standardized workouts to test your fitness and measure your progress. Here’s everything you need to know about CrossFit benchmark workouts.

What Is a CrossFit Benchmark Workout?

CrossFit benchmark workouts — also called benchmark WODs — are standardized CrossFit workouts meant to compare your progress to other CrossFitters (and your past self).

Some of the most famous benchmark workouts have women’s names. The idea here, put forth by Greg Glassman, the founder and former CEO of CrossFit, is that these workouts are so tough that they hit you like hurricanes. These are also given women’s names. 

Glassman assigned names traditionally associated with women to the original benchmark workouts released in 2003 — namely, Angie, Barbara, Chelsea, Diane, Elizabeth, and Fran. He referred to these workouts collectively as “The Girls,” a practice largely still used.

Other benchmark workouts are named for people who served in the military, like Murph. But the name is not what makes a benchmark workout.

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CrossFit is meant to improve and test a wide range of fitness capabilities. The goal is to create all-around athletes rather than someone who specializes only in one area. Benchmark workouts are therefore meant to test a variety of skills and capacities.

Still, certain consistent pieces make up a CrossFit workout, including benchmarks. These are:

Monostructural Movements

Think of your “typical” cardio workout — rowing, running, cycling. A session on an air bike or ski erg, or even a bout of jumping rope. In CrossFit, athletes and coaches refer to these types of exercises as monostructural.

The idea with monostructural movements is that they’re meant to improve your aerobic conditioning and fitness. You might be accustomed to tacking these types of movements onto your training as a low-intensity warm-up or cool-down. But in CrossFit, these exercises are typically interspersed with others to create a multi-modal “jack of all trades” training experience.

Some examples of monostructural movements follow:

Weightlifting Movements

Herein lies the tests of strength — how effectively can you move a seemingly immovable object?

Sometimes, weightlifting in CrossFit does refer to the actual competition lifts used by Olympic weightlifters — the snatch and clean & jerk. There’s a reason why the GOAT — six-time CrossFit Games champion Tia-Clair Toomey — and legendary CrossFitters like five-time Fittest Man on Earth® Mat Fraser are seasoned, experienced, competitive Olympic lifters. 

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Other times, however, CrossFitters use modified versions of these barbell exercises such as power cleans, squat cleans, and shoulder-to-overhead presses (where you press the bar up using any method you prefer). Competitive powerlifts like deadlifts, squats, and even bench presses also frequently show up in CrossFit competitions and WODs.

Weightlifting in CrossFit also refers to any movements that involve lifting weight. Even hefting around odd objects — more traditionally associated with strongman competitions — like sandbags is considered weightlifting in CrossFit.

Some examples of CrossFit weightlifting movements are below:

All of these movements may be performed with a variety of implements, ranging from barbells and dumbbells to kettlebells and sandbags.

Gymnastics Movements

This category is the bane of many CrossFitters’ existence, but it’s the bread and butter of others. Many CrossFit greats — both established and up-and-coming — have a background in gymnastics.

The youngest women ever to podium at the Games, Mal O’Brien; 2020 CrossFit Games bronze medalist Kari Pearce; and Pat Vellner, a consistent fixture on the CrossFit Games podium, come to mind here.

Often referred to as “high-skill” movements, gymnastics exercises are also common centerpieces of CrossFit WODs and benchmark workouts. Anything you might associate with swinging from a bar or otherwise manipulating your own body weight falls into this category.

Here are examples of the gymnastics-focused moves you might find in WODs and benchmark workouts alike:

What Are the Best CrossFit Benchmark Workouts?

There aren’t consistent, established standards for measuring progress in CrossFit. Yes, you can keep track of your PRs (personal records). You can measure how fast you can do different WODs over time. If you couldn’t use the Rx (prescribed, or as written) weight when you first started doing a workout and now you can, that’s progress. One-rep max events speak for themselves.

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But in general, there isn’t just one standard of success like there is in powerlifting and weightlifting. Because of this, what constitutes the best benchmark workout is subjective. What do you want out of a benchmark workout? Considering those factors are perhaps a better measure of its effectiveness.

If you work out in a CrossFit box, you’ll do benchmark workouts along with everyone else as a part of your regular programming and WODs (workouts of the day). 

But if you tend to work out alone — or want to put in extra training outside of class — choose which benchmark to test based on your current goals.

If you’re looking to test your progress getting stronger with a barbell, a bodyweight-only benchmark workout might not be the one you’re looking for. 

On the other hand, a bodyweight-only benchmark workout might be exactly what you’re looking for if your primary focus is strength but you still want to be challenging yourself and improving your calisthenics.

Here are some examples of high-quality CrossFit benchmark workouts for you to integrate into your programming.


This benchmark workout is a classic example of combining strength, endurance, and different mods of exercise. A strength movement — the thruster — clashes with a gymnastics movement — the pull-up — to test how well you can hold up under multiple kinds of pressure.

For time:

  • 21 thrusters
  • 21 pull-ups
  • 15 thrusters
  • 15 pull-ups
  • 9 thrusters
  • 9 pull-ups

Women: 65-pound barbell

Men: 95-pound barbell

Athletes of any gender can scale the weight as necessary to match their strength and experience level. Just make sure you’re writing down which weight you use each time you do the workout so you can have a fair comparison of your times.


This WOD is an excellent example of not needing a barbell to set a tremendous challenge for yourself. It is by no means an easy benchmark, but this is one of those CrossFit benchmark workouts that you can do with little to no equipment. That makes it an ideal benchmark for CrossFitters without access to a gym.

For time:

  • 1-mile run
  • 100 pull-ups
  • 200 push-ups
  • 300 air squats
  • 1-mile run

Women: 15-pound weighted vest

Men: 20-pound weighted vest

Regardless of gender, athletes can choose to forego the weighted vest — just make sure you mark it down as scaled when you’re keeping or posting your score.


This benchmark workout is bodyweight-galore. No equipment, no gym — nothing but you and the movements. This is a classic CrossFit chipper. You’ll chip away at all one hundred reps of each exercise before being allowed to start on the next one.

For Time:

  • 100 Pull-Ups
  • 100 Push-Ups
  • 100 Sit-Ups
  • 100 Air Squats

Angie is a bodyweight-only benchmark, but it’s anything but easy. Scale your movements as needed — think, inverted rows if you can’t yet do pull-ups — but rest assured that it will still be a big challenge.

CrossFit Total

If you’re looking for a strength-focused CrossFit benchmark workout, this is it. The CrossFit total is largely structured like a powerlifting competition. You get three attempts to max out three lifts. Just replace the bench press with the overhead press and you’ve got yourself a CrossFit ball game.

For the sum of the best of three attempts of each lift:

Any modifications you need, as always make sure to mark them when you’re recording or posting your progress.


This benchmark is a quick and intense sprint to the time cap. You’ll combine strength with gymnastics in a dramatic fashion. And don’t worry, you won’t miss out on conditioning — being able to breathe and stay calm is a tremendously important skill you’ll develop and test with this WOD.

For time:

  • 21 Deadlifts
  • 21 Handstand Push-Ups
  • 15 Deadlifts
  • 15 Handstand Push-Ups
  • 9 Deadlifts
  • 9 Handstand Push-Ups

Women: 155-pound barbell

Men: 225-pound barbell

Athletes of any gender can select a weight that they can lift for this many reps. You can also perform pike push-ups, incline push-ups, or regular push-ups if need be.

As always, just make sure you record how you’re scaling it so you can judge yourself consistently across multiple workouts.

How Often Do You Do CrossFit Benchmark Workouts?

Depending on what else is going on in your training, you might want to re-test various benchmark workouts between every month and every three months

Re-testing your benchmarks will tax your body a great deal. You’re always striving to improve in CrossFit — but similar to testing a new one-rep max, you’ll be putting in a true all-out effort when you re-test your benchmarks.

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If a benchmark takes a particularly high toll on your body — for example, if you can’t walk for days after the 150 wall ball shots called for in Karen — plan to go even harder with recovery surrounding a benchmark testing day.

As a CrossFitter, recovery is always paramount. Dialing in your sleep, nutrition, warm-up, and mobility routines, and managing your stress levels are just as crucial to success as your work on the gym floor. Focus particularly hard on recovery when you’re testing your benchmarks.

How to Train for CrossFit Benchmark Workouts

In most strength sports, you’ll train specifically for one purpose. In CrossFit, you’re training to get good at multiple things at once. Because CrossFit competitions and regular programming are meant to be unpredictable, you’ll rarely if ever be training for one workout.

But there might be some occasions — Memorial Day, for instance, when many CrossFitters do Murph — where you want to get better at a specific benchmark workout. Here’s how to go about it.

Do Your Regular WODs

Generally speaking, CrossFit WOD A will help you get better at CrossFit WOD B and vice versa. Since these workouts are designed to help improve your skills and strength across multiple aspects of fitness, even strength-oriented workouts will likely have an endurance component. And speed-oriented workouts will likely help you get stronger.

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Say you’re aiming to try your hand at Heavy DT — a nasty combination of deadlifts, hang power cleans, and push jerks. You won’t only have to be strong to heft those weights. This benchmark workout also requires you to perform five rounds of multiple reps per exercise.

Because of this, preparing for Heavy DT means getting stronger and more skilled with heavy barbell lifts. It also means developing a tremendous amount of mental grit and physical endurance across your entire body. Since most CrossFit WODs develop all of these to some degree, you can often simply continue training as normal to get improvement in benchmarks.

Add Skill Days

Even as you’re getting stronger and increasing your endurance, you can’t get better at skills you don’t practice. This is especially true of barbell work and gymnastics — you can be as strong as you’d like, but it’ll be hard to pull off high-rep muscle-ups if you’ve only tried them once before.

In between your benchmark workouts, take note of your weak points and practice those in special skill sessions. These sessions don’t need to be particularly high-intensity (although they can be). Instead, think of skills sessions and skills days as opportunities to iron out your weak links before attempting a benchmark workout again.

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For example, your Fran time might have been slower than it could have been because your wrists kept needing readjustment during your thrusters. Spend time cleaning up your thruster technique in short skills sessions before or after your workouts — or on their own skills days

You can keep the weights relatively light to minimize interference with your main workouts. But make sure you’re getting in enough volume to really grasp those techniques. That extra practice can make all the difference next time you go after a benchmark WOD.

Recover Well

The importance of recovery in CrossFit cannot be overstated. You’ll need plenty of sleep, food, and mobility training to stay at the top of your game. Without devoting adequate time and energy to recovery, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to keep improving — or even maintaining your long-term health. prescribed to women. For women, this might mean dropping to a lighter weight than prescribed for women. 

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If you’re nonbinary, you’ll have to select the weight that aligns best with your strength, experience level, and skills. This might mean using one of the prescribed binary gender weights, or you might wind up averaging the two or simply selecting a different weight that works best for you.

But how much should you reduce the weight? It depends on the workout.

If it’s a high-rep WOD that’s emphasizing speed, select a weight where you can go unbroken — perform reps without putting the bar down — for as long as possible while still challenging yourself. If it’s meant to be a heavier workout, choose a weight that feels heavy while still allowing you to complete the prescribed number of reps.

How to Scale CrossFit Benchmark Workouts

The beauty of CrossFit is that you can scale — or modify — any workout according to your current skills or experience level. Can’t perform kipping pull-ups? That doesn’t mean you can’t do a benchmark workout that includes them. Here’s how to scale CrossFit benchmark workouts to be more accessible to you.

Modify the Movements

The first barrier of entry for many CrossFitters is that they can’t perform the movements they find in benchmark workouts. If you see muscle-ups in the workout, you might reject the entire workout right away if you can’t do them.

A person doing a handstand push up.
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Instead of avoiding a workout that includes a movement you can’t do, use an alternative. For example, instead of giving up because there are muscle-ups in your way, substitute dips, band-assisted dips, or even close-grip push-ups. Can’t perform handstand push-ups? Try pike push-ups, decline push-ups, or wall walks.

Think about the movement pattern of the RX movement. Is it a pull or a push? Meant to tax your grip? Aim to produce a similar stimulus and build your strength and skills from there.

Lower the Weights

This one is fairly self-explanatory. If the RX weight is too challenging for the number of reps prescribed — or if it’s well above your one-rep maxuse less weight. There is absolutely no shame in using less weight than prescribed.

Even if you start with the RX weight, you might have no choice but to use less load to finish the workout. Simply take note of when you make the change so you’ll know for next time.

If necessary, use an empty barbell. In the case that that’s too heavy for you, switch the lighter dumbbells. Build up your strength and work your way up as you can.

Consult an Expert or the CrossFit Website

If the workout you’re looking to do is an official CrossFit workout used in competition, the official CrossFit website will typically have specific scaled versions available for different Age Group and Adaptive Athletes. You can typically find modifications there that will provide the same stimulus as the RX workout.

You can also consult a qualified coach who is experienced with modifying workouts for a wide array of athletes.

Record Results Accurately

One value of benchmark workouts is that you can use them to help you compare your results to other people’s. In that context, consistency is important. If you’re performing inverted rows instead of pull-ups, make sure you reflect that when you record or post your results. That way, other people who have performed the same modification can compare themself to you and vice versa.

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Even if you’re just comparing results to your past and future self, keep the same consistency in mind. That way, you’ll know when you’re able to scale up a movement, for example. Even if your time seems to get a little slower, it’ll be a huge accomplishment to use the RX weight or movements. But you won’t be sure how much you’ve improved if you don’t jot it down.

More on CrossFit Training

You’re all set to crush your upcoming CrossFit benchmark workouts. You know what they are, why they exist, and how to make the most of them. But you’re still itching to learn more about CrossFit training.

Lucky for you, we’ve got plenty where this came from. Check out these CrossFit training articles to round out your know-how.

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