Benchmark workouts are a staple in CrossFit® training and in most other strength and conditioning programs. If you’re taking your workouts seriously, it’s best to keep your scores, times and lifts in a journal or an online tracking system. One of the best ways to stay motivated is to continue to feel and see progress. The main way you’ll know if you’re progressing is by actually improving your score, time, lifts, amount to which you scale a movement, etc. It’s helpful to see your performance gains.
A common question among those who do CrossFit® is this: How often should I retest benchmarks? Here are some guidelines.
How to Know When to Retest Benchmark WODs
1. Which Ones to Retest
Retest the ones that are related to what you’re currently focused on. For example, if your focus is doing your best in the Open, then retest workouts that have burpees, toes-to-bars, chest-to-bars, rowing, thrusters, wall balls, barbell cycling, muscle ups — you get the point.
If you’re focused on building strength right now, throw in some tests like Linda, CrossFit® Total, The Other Total, King Kong, etc.
If you’re focused on your engine, test your mile run or 5k row each month. Your gymnastics? Throw in Nate or Nasty Girls.
For Your Muscles
2. How Often to Retest
Retest a WOD or benchmark about one to two times a week. Again, this varies depending on how often you train, what your goals are and what you’re focusing on. But if you train pretty seriously for at least an hour a day, five times a week, then it would be helpful to throw in a benchmark or retest a WOD you’ve done in the past about once a week. This will help you gauge your fitness as well as help keep things fun.
It’s best to continue to work on combinations that are specifically designed to help you improve your weaknesses as well as individualized drills, skill and core work and strength. You don’t want to get in the habit of just doing whatever benchmark you see because you like it, it looks fun or because others are doing it… because then you’re not going to be hitting the stuff that would be most helpful for you to do.
3. How Long Between Retesting
It depends but as a general guideline, three to sixth months is likely appropriate. There are times when you may want to retest something each week for a period of time but not likely a benchmark, hero WOD, Open WOD, max lift, Regionals WOD or something that requires greater intensity.
You may want to retest a WOD that you’ve done very recently so that you can see how a different strategy plays out (like during the Open). Or you may retest a certain skill or work capacity piece more often (like your 50-calorie row for time, three-minute max burpees, or 30 muscle-ups for time) because you’re working hard on improving that area of your fitness. But for the major benchmarks, you’ll likely want to have at least three to six months of consistent, focused training before retesting them again.
You may go years without retesting certain benchmarks. You’ll always want to make sure that you have a clear purpose behind why you want to do it, which brings me to my last point.
4. Why Retest?
Have a clear purpose for doing it before you do it. You may want to retest some WOD because it’s a really fun one, you’ve been training seriously for a while and it’s time to do something you enjoy. You may want to retest because you’ve been working on your barbell cycling each week since the last Open and you’re ready to see if it’s paid off in a WOD like 16.3.
You may want to try Cindy again because you did it when you just started CrossFit® a couple of years ago and now you want to try it with RX pull-ups instead of with a band. You may want to do Diane because last time you did it you did too many HSPU unbroken at the beginning and spent a lot of time resting.
Have a clear why before you jump into a WOD, talk it out with your coaches or training partners and make sure it fits well with your current training program. Make sure it makes sense to do!
Following a strong program is just part of the equation. There are a lot of great programs out there but you have to understand that you’ll only get the best results if your mind is working for you. If you’re putting in a lot of hours in the box each week but still wanting to perform better on a more consistent basis, make sure you’re training your mentality too.