This article is broken into two parts:
Part I: 6 Benchmark Workouts
Part II: Use Your Results to Determine which bias is right for you
Part I: Introducing the ZOAR Fitness Benchmark Workouts
The goal of our benchmark workouts is to reveal exactly where you sit in terms of current fitness levels in a variety of different fitness tests, but also to determine where your strengths and weaknesses lie relative to your competition.
We have created a well-rounded test that will show your readiness to compete in the Sport of Fitness.
Each benchmark workout is unique in its design yet they all share the quality of being incredibly effective.
For each of our six benchmark workouts we have included an overview section, a description video, and score / time tiers to show where you fall relative to the competitive field. Record where you fall in each tier so you know your (relative) weaknesses.
The last section of this article is where you will find out (based on your fitness test results) which kind of bias you need in your training. It is my goal to help you understanding your results so you can have the most effective training plan moving forward. Having programming tailored to your unique individual needs is essential for progress in the Sport of Fitness. After reading the workout tiers for each workout, scroll to the bottom to determine next steps as to how these results should impact your future training regime.
If you have any questions about execution of benchmark workouts or interpreting your results please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Workout #1: “Breath of Fire”
Novice: <4 Rounds
Proficient: 4-6 Rounds
Intermediate: 7-10 Rounds
Competitive: 10-13 Rounds
Elite: >13 Rounds
Breath of Fire is a test of aerobic capacity for experienced Functional Fitness athletes. For the athletes who will accumulate 10+ rounds, this workout will have over 30 transitions. Focus on smooth, relaxed technique and moving with purpose when transitioning between elements. The difference between 4s and 8s transitions over the course of 10 rounds is 2 full minutes. Decide ahead of time if you will use a belt for the squats and grips for the toes-to-bars.
For novice and proficient athletes this workout will be more a test of movement and positional integrity with respect to respiratory fatigue. Will you be able to maintain positions and technique as you get tired?
Regardless of which athlete you are, this workout will live up to its name.
Workout #2: “Ride & Die”
Ride & Die is a test of anaerobic and lactic power. For very fit, powerful athletes this workout will be all out from the beginning, sprinting the bike and doing unbroken touch-n-go sets of deadlifts. For others, you will need to do some level of pacing. Decide whether you plan on doing big sets of deadlifts and going slower on the bike, or if sprinting the bike and small, quick sets is the way to go. Decide if you will use a belt for your deadlifts, ideally one you can quickly undo so it doesn’t restrict your breathing on the bike.
This workout will be more challenging for smaller athletes, considering bigger athletes are at an advantage on both movements. Likely, if you are an athlete that needs to pace this workout, you still need to work on getting stronger and more powerful. For powerful athletes, especially males, less than a second per calorie is a very real possibility. Can you hang on to that pace?
Workout #3: “The Circus”
Novice: Did Not Enter Part II
Proficient: Entered Part II – Finished Part II
Intermediate: Finished Part II (0-25’ HSW)
Competitive: Handstand Walk (25-200’)
Elite: Handstand Walk (> 200’)
The Circus is a test of gymnastics density, movement capacity and skill. In other words, how many reps of a given bodyweight movement can you pack in the shortest amount of time. The real question being tested here is: Can you continue to move well, being effective and efficient, while experiencing high levels of local muscle fatigue?
The movements go from simple to complex, which means you have to be confident in your muscle-ups and pistols.
Be realistic with yourself. Pick a goal and go for it. Maybe that means finishing Part I of the workout. Maybe that means finishing Part II. Or maybe it means pushing the pace in order to get a competitive distance on the handstand walks. Elite tier athletes will think of the entire workout as a buy-in. Will you earn the right to walk on your hands?
Workout #4: “Hot & Heavy”
Intermediate: 2-3 Rounds Rx
Competitive: 3-4 Rounds
Elite: >4 Rounds
Hot & Heavy is a test of strength under fatigue. Without the prerequisite strength, you won’t be able to complete any snatches. Many athletes will (or should) scale this workout to get the right stimulus. A high percentage of people will struggle to maintain overhead squat positional strength through the T-Spine and shoulders as their respiratory rate rises. The ability to brace your core hard while moving and breathing is a very specific skill which has huge implications for the Sport of Fitness. Decide in advance if you will wear a belt, lifters, knee sleeves, wrist wraps, etc.
Keep yourself accountable. Pay attention to how much rest time you are taking between reps. Hold yourself to a lift every 30s, every 20s or for some every 10s. Aim for no misses. Your intensity can only go as high as your consistency. Make every single lift…then move faster.
Will you be able to maintain skill, technique and precision when you are tired?
Workout #5: “Pain Cave”
Pain Cave is a test of lactic power and movement capacity. It is unique not only because it has a ergless cyclical movement (running) where bodyweight is a factor, but it also features barbell movements in a chipper style. There is one total mile of running with 120 reps of light barbell work dispersed between the runs. The quicker your cycle time is for the barbell movements, the less total time you will be holding the bar. But there is a trade off…go out too quick and you will be forced into a pathetic version of a run, sucking your efficiency. You will have to find that line and toe it.
Novice athletes will struggle to move the bar efficiently and will be forced to take lengthy breaks within each set, which will dramatically increase their overall time.
Proficient and Intermediate athletes will be forced to break up the “40s.” Competitive athletes will go unbroken, but there Run pace will be slower dramatically.
Competitive and Elite athletes will move with efficiency and speed through each part and have minimal transition time. Which athlete will you be?
Workout #6: “Supertotal”
Novice Total: 940/630lbs
Intermediate Total: 1165/935lbs
Proficient Total: 1395/935lbs
Competitive Total: 1640/1100lbs
Elite Total: 1820/1220lbs
Supertotal is the ultimate test of strength. In order to post an incredible Supertotal an athlete must be able to be advanced in both weightlifting (Snatch and C&J) and powerlifting (Squat, Press, Deadlift) movements.
The bench press in powerlifting is replaced with a strict shoulder press to better test the demands of the Sport of Fitness.
The lifts can be completed in any order and you may take as many attempts as necessary at each movement. Make sure you are warmed up properly and that you have a gameplan if things go well or poorly. Take your time between attempts and make sure you are fully recovered before your next lift.
Part II: Understanding Your Results
The benchmark workouts where you have the biggest deficit relative to your competition is where you want to direct more of your training focus, energy and time.
In most local competitions, as well as online qualifiers like the Open and Sanctioned events the points system works in such a way that the workouts where you perform the worst hurt your overall score the most. Even if you have four near perfect executions in the first four weeks of the Open, all it takes is one bad performance on week five to knock you way down the standings.
Therefore, it only makes sense to train in such a way that you are constantly working to improve weak points and minimize deficiencies.
Next | Avatars: Which of our 3 Programming Tracks is right for you to maximize your ability in Competitive Functional Fitness?
Avatar #1: Needs Strength Bias
You found yourself in a higher Tier (Novice → Elite) in the “engine” workouts (Breath of Fire & Pain Cave), but you took a hit on the other four workouts where strength and power was a limiter. You also performed at least adequately in the Circus, a gymnastics focused workout. Your performance in gymnastics workouts is aided by the size of your frame, which is on average slightly smaller than other people you compete against. You will be best served in the future by doing workouts that focus on strength and power development. If this sounds like you, you need strength biased programming.
Your programming should nail down these much needed areas through multiple strength or accessory pieces each training day. It should focus on developing functional, lean muscle mass to improve work capacity on workouts where your smaller size puts you at a disadvantage. After strength work, there should often be high power interval style piece to work on sport-specific applications. Lastly, it should touch on gymnastics and overall conditioning to keep the engine humming on all cylinders.
Avatar #2: Needs Conditioning Bias
You found yourself in a higher tier in the power and strength workouts (Ride & Die, Hot & Heavy, Supertotal), but you fell in the standings on the other three workouts where sustainability, efficiency and aerobic capacity were limiters. You performed adequately in the Circus, a gymnastics test. You will be best served in the future by doing workouts that get you out of breath frequently. In addition, you’ll benefit from longer, more enduring pieces to develop aerobic capacity and economy, as well as effective, consistent movement. If this sounds like you, you need conditioning biased programming.
Conditioning biased programming focuses on those workouts that require raw capacity. You should program lots of four different style of conditioning: low, easy aerobic work, intervals, Met-Cons and anaerobic finishers. Rest time between each piece of the workout should be specified and athletes should hold themselves accountable on the clock to make sure they are maximizing their engine not just during a training piece, but also between training pieces. Developing an engine does not only happen during the work, it also happens during the recovery. We don’t rest, we recover.
Avatar #3: Needs Gymnastics Bias
You found yourself doing well in strength and power events where your size played to your advantage. Interestingly, you did better on workout #1 (Breath of Fire) than workout #5 (Pain Cave) even though both were longer workouts. This is in part because being bigger allows you put more energy into an erg (i.e. the rower in Breath of Fire), but that same size poses an issue on workouts where you must move your own body (i.e. the running in Pain Cave). In addition, you likely did the worst of any of the benchmark workouts on Workout #3 (The Circus) because it consisted of only body weight and range of motion exercises, which put your big frame at a disadvantage. You will be best served in future training by doing workouts that focus on moving your body weight, like gymnastics and range of motion exercises. If this is you, you need gymnastics biased programming.
Gymnastics bias programming is typically for Big & Tall Functional Fitness athletes, and it focuses on developing capacity in movements like Pull-ups, Muscle-Ups, Handstand Push-ups, Handstand Walking, Pistols, Double Unders and Running. Skill progressions and midline accessory work will be stables of the program. Strength and conditioning in other areas should be maintained through a frequent strength work and Met-Cons.
Are your gymnastics movements holding you back from reaching your potential?
Statistics show five movements are far and away the most likely to show up in local competitions and online qualifiers like the Open. That’s why this program focuses on improving “The Big Five.”
1) Muscle-Ups (Bar & Ring)
2) Handstand Push-Ups
3) Handstand Walks
If your capacity in these movements is holding you back from taking your fitness to the next level, this program is for you!
1-on-1 Coaching for CrossFit® Athletes
Your Plan Includes…
• Customized workouts tailored to your needs
• Video calls with your coach every training Cycle
• Video analysis – having “eyes” on your technique
• Strength & Energy Systems Testing
• Access to all ZOAR paid content
• A “Welcome to the Team” box of ZOAR gear
• No commitment. Cancel Anytime.
Ready to join the ranks?
Email me to start the next chapter in your journey.