In 2014, we introduced the first year of the, now annual, CrossFit Roots Benchmark Series. Because of the constantly varied nature and black box concept of CrossFit programming, we felt the need to implement a method to test the programming in relation to the goal of increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains. Benchmark testing has long been a part of CrossFit and Coach Glassman has written about it numerous time. As an affiliate, we felt we didn’t have a good system in place to test our athletes’ progress and this element of hte program was getting overlooked. In addition, we found that some of the most rewarding days came when athletes retested a workout they had done and saw huge progress.

OVERVIEW

The protocol developed was simple. Select 12 benchmarks to test on a set, recurring basis – in the instance of this year, we will test the same benchmark once every four months. This means that athletes will do 12 benchmarks (Ok, it’s actually 13 because we couldn’t decide!) three times each in the course of one year.

HOW DO WE SELECT THE BENCHMARKS?

What do you do when you’re faced with the task to select 13 workouts that will best test the progress and development of fitness for a large and varying population of everyday athletes at the shop? We started our search by narrowing it down to CrossFit benchmark workouts – including Girls, Heroes, Open, Regionals, and Games workouts. From there we went to a great resource from the CrossFit Journal, “A Theoretical Template for CrossFit’s Programming.”

In this article, creator and founder of CrossFit, Greg Glassman, walks through the logic behind creating a template “to allow for a wide and constantly varied stimulus, randomized within some parameters, but still true to the aims and purposes of CrossFit as described in the “What is Fitness?” issue.” Who better to take advice from on how to test the fitness progress of a general population using constantly varied, functional movements, at high intensity, than the founder of CrossFit?

The template divides exercise movements into one of three modalities: metabolic conditioning, gymnastics and weightlifting. Metabolic conditioning is described as monostructural movements such as running and rowing and are commonly referred to as “cardio.” The gymnastics modality is all things bodyweight and weightlifting is basically all movements with an external load. This puts every CrossFit movement into a category and then by following our template we combine our modalities every way possible. Some days are monostructural only, while the next is a combo of gymnastics and weightlifting, and then maybe the next is a triplet of all three – monstructural, gymnastics, and weightlifting – as in the workout Helen (running, pull-ups, and kettlebell swings).

With the movements categorized, and the singlets, couplets, triplets, and chippers all on the table for consideration – we dove one layer deeper and classified movements as high or low skill gymnastics, and light, medium, or heavy weightlifting.

I then searched through workouts that grouped together would create a broad test and not bias an one area – such as heavy weightlfiting or high skill gymnastics.

From there I had it narrowed down to about 20 possibilities and I began filtering using 2 criteria: constant variation in movements and time domain. We want to make sure we’re not just testing power cleans and pull-ups over and over and we need to ensure that we’re hitting short, medium, and long time domains. This is usually the time in the yearly process and an extensive spreadsheet develops that looks at every element – total reps, high skill, time domains, below parallel, hip flexion, hip extension, power version of a movement vs. from the ground, strength days – to name a few. We tend to get a little crazy with all of the details but we also keep in mind that it doesn’t make much sense to apply perfect science to something that isn’t a perfect science. One of our favorite quotes is that coaching is a balance or art and science and we try to stay true to both.

Once we’re done with all of that I sit down with Nicole and we walk through it. We’ll discuss any questions that come up, the logic behind the process, and any thoughts or concerns. It’s just one last step in our checks and balances to make sure we’re keeping it constantly varied, general and as unbiased as possible. After that meeting, finalizations are made, the schedule is laid out on a calendar which we use in conjunction with our weekly programming and we watch the PR’s roll-in!

APPLICATION

We follow the CrossFit mainsite on a 2-week delay. The benchmark series fits perfectly into the mainsite rest days, which occur every fourth day. That amounts to 7-8 rest days over the course of one month. We look at the upcoming weeks and figure out where the benchmarks fit in nicely.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE
All you have to do to participate is come to class! You’ll know the benchmarsk for the year (they’re listed below!). Make sure to log your score in SugarWOD as you’ll want to track your progress over the course of the year. You’ll be surprised at how far you can come in a year!

THE 2017 CROSSFIT ROOTS BENCHMARK SERIES

Oh, and finally, the Roots 2017 Benchmark Series! 13 workouts performed once every three months over the course of one year that span a wide range of skills, drills, and time domains. The workouts highlighted in yellow are repeat tests from this year so we can look at a two year improvement in a few areas.

WHAT WERE THE PAST BENCHMARK SERIES WORKOUTS?

2015 Benchmark Series
2016 Benchmark Series