By Coach Ora


When I started CrossFit nearly nine years ago, “The Girls” -CrossFit Benchmark WODs were all the rage.  All the RX athletes knew their Fran time. It was like listening to a big fish story. It got better every time.  

Greg Glassman introduced the concept of a benchmark workout in 2003.  Glassman built six benchmark workouts: Angie, Barbara, Chelsea, Diane, Elizabeth, and Fran.  These workouts became known as “The Girls.”  

  • Angie: For time: 100 pull-ups, 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats
  • Barbara: For time: five rounds of 20 pull-ups, 30 push-ups, 40 sit-ups, 50 air squats, and 3 minutes rest.
  • Chelsea: Every minute on the minute (EMOM): 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 15 air squats for a total of 30 minutes.
  • Diane: For time: 21-15-9 reps of deadlifts (225/155lb) and handstand push-ups.
  • Elizabeth: For time: 21-15-9 reps of squat cleans (135/95lb) and ring dips.
  • Fran: For time: 21-15-9 reps of thruster (95/75lb) and pull-ups.

Glassman followed these benchmark workouts with Isabel, Jackie, Karen, Linda, Mary, and Nancy.

  • Isabel: For time: 30 snatches (135/95lb)
  • Jackie: For time: 1,000-meter row, 50 thrusters (45/35lb), 30 pull-ups
  • Karen: For time: 150 wall ball shots (20/14lb).
  • Linda: For time: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 reps of deadlift (1.5 BW), bench press (BW), clean (0.75 BW).
  • Mary: As many rounds as possible (AMRAP) in 20 minutes: 5 handstand push-ups, 10 pistols (alternating legs), 15 pull-ups.
  • Nancy: For time: five rounds of 400-meter run and 15 overhead squats (95/65lb).

The list quickly expanded to 21 WODS that test metabolic conditioning, gymnastics, and weightlifting.  Glassman’s goal in creating ”The Girls” was to get a baseline on the sick-to-wellness-to-fitness continuum as well as to gauge the general preparedness of fitness. Today there are 27 Girl WODs, if you separate the HERO WODS from girl names. ( Hero WODs are a different type of workout altogether.) 

What is the sickness/wellness/fitness continuum? 

This is what measures your fitness.  Glassman was looking for a definition of “fitness.” The four-part distinctive model helps to define this.  Wellness is to be average.  To be “well” is to be halfway between “sickness” and “fitness.”  If you are “well,” you are striving to be fit,  just as the sick are striving to be “well.”   You can find yourself at any time in the continuum.  

Glassman determined the best way to move your markers along the continuum is through constantly varied, high-intensity functional movements coupled with meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar. The benchmark workouts provide the elements of broad, general, and inclusive fitness in terms of movement.  Only by repeating workouts can we confidently measure our progress along the continuum.

But why “The Girls”? 

CrossFit has always been under the gun for its lack of sensitivity.  Clowns puking their guts out is an excellent example of CrossFit vulgarity.  But was Glassman being misogynistic when he named the benchmark WODs “The Girls”?  As a woman, I would answer back with a question, “have you ever done a benchmark WOD?”  In my humble opinion, it’s an honor.

In a 2006 CrossFit Journal article titled Benchmark Workouts, Greg Glassman explains that the logic of calling each of the Benchmark workouts by a female name came from the National Weather Service.  A “short, distinctive name written as well as spoken” communicates quicker and with less error than “more cumbersome” identification methods.  The National Weather Service has been naming storms after females since 1953. This is what inspired Glassman to name the benchmark WODs after women; anything that destroys you and leaves you devastated but lures you back to repeat it deserves being named. “I want to explain the workout once and then give it a name. I thought that anything that left you flat on your back, looking up at the sky asking ‘what just happened to me?’ deserved a female’s name. Workouts are just like storms; they wreak havoc on towns.” —Greg Glassman, Founder of CrossFit​. 

Where have they gone?

That was the question Dr. J asked me last month.  “What happened to “The Girl” WODS?” let’s bring them back and get a baseline on fitness. Dr.J is not wrong.  Starting in August, we will work our way through the first 12 benchmarks, starting with Barbara.  These benchmarks will give you a baseline of your fitness.  You will be able to see if you are sick, well, or fit. 

I recommend using an online calorie and macro counter, like MyFitnessPal, to log your food and beverage. This will give you more of a picture of where you are on your (diet) fuel intake. If the benchmark workout went better than expected, you can look at your log and see what foods fuel your fitness. If it went poorly, you know what you need to change in your diet.

Replace Wheat, Sugar, and Vegetable oil. The J5 protocol’s first step is to replace wheat, sugar, and vegetable oil.  Consuming these foods causes inflammation.  Inflammation in our joints makes us move slowly or awkwardly. Inflammation in our muscles causes us to be sore.  Inflammation in our organs (don’t forget your brain is an organ) causes sluggish behavior or, worse, intestinal discomfort.  To have a good workout and aid you in getting “well” or even “fit,” you need to cut these bad foods out. 

Here is a link to the PDF of Glassman’s article I referenced 13_03_Benchmark_Workouts.pdf (

Also, here is a link to the Wellness model I referenced.  Article – CrossFit: Forging Elite Fitness