Question of the Week: It’s Open Gym What Should I Do? Part 3

This weeks piece is part 3 of the Open Gym series. We’ve discussed the importance of mastering and improving the basics (9 foundational movements) and using the Athletic Skill Levels Chart. This week we’ll move on to using The Benchmarks: the famous CF WOD’s, The Girls, The Heroes and other named workouts! To recap the beginning of the Open Gym series we’ll start here.

You can probably find yourself in one of the four following categories when it comes to open gym time.

1. AHHH this is too much freedom I don’t know what to do!!! I’m not going!

2. Hmm… I’ll do what everyone else is doing.

3. There’s so many things to work on what should I do!?!?!?

4. I have a game plan and I’m sticking to it.

If you’re in one of those first three this article is for you! Lets start with the basics to help you first establish what is going to be the productive use of your time. We’re going to assume that we all have the same goal here, to improve our fitness. There are 3 methods in which we will highlight our efforts.

1. Technique, Consistency then Intensity of the 9 Foundational Movements.

2. Following the Skill Level Chart (Today’s Topic)

3. Using and analyzing Benchmark workouts to define your programming.


This article will begin covering the third strategy, The Benchmarks. 

Benchmark (noun): a standard of excellence, achievement, etc., against which similar things must be measured or judged.

The purpose of using these benchmarks is to compare our results against a past version of ourselves or to others. For our purposes we only need to know a measurement against ourselves. If we can find an improved score: more reps, less time, more rounds, new max, best height etc then we know we’ve made progress towards our goal of improved fitness. Here is the list of WOD’s every CrossFit athlete should instantly be able to state when questioned (if you go to another box and they ask please, please, please don’t embarass us!)

Before you complete these workouts it can not be understated the importance of doing these (and every other workout) to the highest standard. I have to make this remark because without 100% adhearance to the standards you’ll set yourself up for perceived failure. For example if in your first attempt at Fran your last 9 pull ups your chin doesn’t get over the bar. Now when held to 100% standard in your second attempt, it’s a different workout, a more difficult workout. Standards are in place to make sure you’re measurements are good and valid, remember that when you feel like shorting your squats. You are setting yourself up for disappointment in the future.


Now the benchmark WOD’s at the top of the list to complete, in no particular order:

Fran, Helen, Fight Gone Bad, Diane, Cindy, Nancy, Annie, Grace, Isabel, Jackie, Karen, CrossFit TotalMary

This is the starters list. Until you have all of those scores in your journal and logged to memory you are still a rookie. Now this list is just the beginning and we’ll extend from this later. But your first task is to complete each of these workouts as closely to RX’d as possible. This will take you 13 sessions if you have not completed any of them. These scores and numbers are as important as any you will keep.

After the completion each of these workouts journaling them is incredibly important especially as you begin advancing to higher levels of fitness. So how do you journal. Write the workout. Modifications from the prescribed workout. The time you finished or reps completed during the time allowed. WRITE EVERYTHING YOU THINK COULD POSSIBLY BE EVEN SLIGHTLY IMPORTANT. You think you’ll remember but when you don’t redo that workout for two years you will forget that you used, WRITE IT DOWN. A quick example.

"Fran", For Time: 21-15-9 Thrusters(95), Pull Ups 2:41

The workout: "Fran", For Time: 21-15-9 Thrusters, Pull Ups

The weights you used: (95#)

Any modifications from exactly as it was written: for example if you used bands or jumping pull ups. You would write which bands or how high the jumping pull up bar was(exactly, which means you’d have to have measured).


Once you’ve completed all of the 13 benchmarks listed above it’s time to begin the breakdown. Start with RX’d vs Scaled list.

RX’d: FGB, Cindy, Nancy, Grace, Jackie, CFT

Scaled: Fran, Helen, Diane, Annie, Isabel, Karen, Mary

We’ll consider the RX’d list as completed for the time being and we won’t return until all of the others have been completed RX’d. Now we will priortize this list. Which one in your own estimation are you closest to finishing? Pick that WOD and only that WOD. What kept you from doing that WOD RX’d? The answer to that question will tell you what you’ll be working on. Let’s look at an example, Diane. I have a couple strict handstand push ups, but the most I’ve done in a day is 20, I can’t get 45 in one workout. There’s an excellent starting point. Work on the skill/strength needed to complete the WOD as prescribed. Once you’ve built the strength, skill and confident to give it a shot RX’d do it then add it to your RX’d list and move on to the next closest. Continue to do this until all 13 of these workouts have been completed RX’d!

This is exactly how I started my CrossFit life… I think I can do that, holy crap that was way harder than I thought. Work, work, work, let me try again… RX YES! On to the next!





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