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  • Dr. Allison Andre, DPT

5 Epic CrossFit Girl WODs to Test Your Fitness Limits!


In the realm of CrossFit, where strength, endurance, and determination collide, there is a unique breed of workouts that embody the spirit of challenge and resilience. These WODs known as 'The Girls', serve as benchmarks to monitor and track your fitness journey and progress They embody the essence of female strength and serve as a testament to the incredible capabilities of women in the world of fitness. And they are among my favorite WODs that CrossFit has to offer!


Today, lets embark on a journey to explore my personal favorites among the Girl WODs; each carries its own distinct character, inviting athletes to push their limits, surpass their expectations, and discover new depths of strength.


As we celebrate these workouts, it is important to recognize the integral role they play in fostering a community that embraces inclusivity, camaraderie, and empowerment. Through their representation and challenging nature, Girl WODs have shattered stereotypes and demonstrated that strength knows no boundaries of gender. They have become a symbol of inspiration for athletes around the globe, motivating individuals to break barriers, overcome obstacles, and embrace their own unique potential!



woman weightlifter in a CrossFit Competition


 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 


1. FRAN CROSSFIT WOD


CrossFit Fran WOD



Prepare to be swept away by the intensity of Fran, a workout that will make you feel like a storm has hit you! This iconic CrossFit Benchmark was crafted by none other than Greg Glassman, the visionary founder of CrossFit, during his early days of gymnastics training in his humble garage gym. Seeking a way to augment his gymnastics skills with the added challenge of weights and an endurance test, Glassman birthed the workout we all have come to both love and fear—Fran. This workout, with its deceptively simple combination of thrusters and pull-ups, has become a rite of passage in the CrossFit community, pushing athletes to their limits and leaving them both exhilarated and humbled.


"Fran teaches you the power of intensity. It's a short, brutal workout that leaves you questioning your sanity, but it's in those moments of discomfort that growth happens." - Chris Spealler, CrossFit Athlete

This classic girl WOD is short, brutal, and leaves you gasping for air. Fran consists of two simple yet devastating movements: thrusters and pull-ups. The goal is to complete 21 thrusters followed by 21 pull-ups, then 15 thrusters and 15 pull-ups, and finally 9 thrusters and 9 pull-ups, all performed for time. The prescribed weight for thrusters is typically 95 pounds for men and 65 pounds for women. The combination of explosive thrusters and demanding pull-ups creates a workout that pushes your limits and tests your mental and physical strength.


Modifications & Strategies


Fran can be a real beast, especially for beginners. If you're new to CrossFit or still developing your strength, don't feel discouraged. You can definitely scale this workout to suit your abilities. Start by reducing the weight for thrusters to a manageable load, or even use dumbbells instead of a barbell. Focus on mastering the technique of the movement, ensuring you squat low and drive the weight overhead with power. As for pull-ups, there are several options. You can use bands for assistance, allowing you to work on your pulling strength while gradually reducing the support as you improve. Jumping pull-ups are another option, where you use your legs to assist in the upward movement.


For intermediate athletes looking to challenge themselves, performing Fran as prescribed is the way to go. Push through those thrusters and pull-ups with determination, striving to complete the workout as quickly as possible while maintaining good form. Take advantage of the explosive power generated from the hips during the thrusters and find a rhythm in your pull-ups that allows you to keep moving efficiently.


Advanced athletes, get ready to unleash your full potential on Fran. This is where you can really push your limits and test your fitness. Aim to perform the thrusters unbroken, tapping into your strength and endurance. For the pull-ups, you can experiment with different variations such as chest-to-bar or butterfly pull-ups, challenging yourself to complete each set with fluidity and speed.


When facing Fran, it's important to approach the workout strategically by breaking up the reps in a calculated manner. By doing so, you can maintain a steady pace and keep the momentum going. Keep your rest breaks short, allowing yourself just enough time to recover before diving back in. Remember, Fran is designed to be a fast and intense workout, typically taking less than 10 minutes to complete, and even as little as 2, 3, or 5 minutes for advanced and elite athletes. Scaling the workout appropriately is key to ensure you can move through the movements swiftly and efficiently. So, analyze your abilities, choose the right modifications, and aim to conquer Fran with speed and determination.



 


2. CINDY GIRL WOD


CrossFit Cindy WOD


Cindy was introduced as a benchmark in 2005 and may appear deceptively simple (and perhaps even easy), but don't be fooled! I absolutely relish the challenge that Cindy presents, as it demands finding the right pace and persevering through a grueling 20 minutes of continuous work.


“The human body is an incredible machine, but most people only get out of that machine what their mind allows them to.” Rich Froning

Cindy is a benchmark workout that tests an athlete's endurance and bodyweight movements and consists of as many rounds as possible (AMRAP) in 20 minutes of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 air squats. This combination of simple yet challenging movements creates a workout that requires stamina, muscular endurance, and mental fortitude. It's defiantly one I look forward to popping up in the programming!


Modifications & Strategies


Cindy is all about the foundational movements of CrossFit, and it's designed to make you sweat, burn, and push through the pain and can be easily modified to suit different fitness levels and abilities. If you're just starting out, focus on nailing proper form and choosing scaled variations that allow you to keep moving consistently. Think band-assisted pull-ups or knee push-ups to build strength and gradually work your way up.


If you're an intermediate athlete, it's time to crank it up a notch. Take on Cindy as prescribed, aiming to complete more rounds and maintain a steady pace throughout the 20 minutes.


Now, if you're an advanced athlete looking for a fun twist, let me introduce you to "Mary." It's like Cindy's rebellious cousin who brings a whole new level of excitement. Mary is a modified version of Cindy that shakes things up with a different set of movements, and it is soooo much fun! In this 20-minute AMRAP, you'll tackle 5 handstand push-ups, 10 single-leg squats (alternating legs), and 15 pull-ups. It's all about testing your shoulder strength, balance, and coordination while keeping that same continuous, time-based challenge.


Consider the following strategies when tackling Cindy:

  1. Start at a manageable pace that allows you to maintain consistent movement throughout the workout. This is key! Avoid going all-out from the beginning and burning out too quickly. Consider trying to complete a round ever minute, 90 seconds, or every 2 minutes. Find a pace and try to stick to it.

  2. Consider breaking up the reps into smaller sets to avoid fatigue.

  3. Maximize your workout time by transitioning quickly between exercises. Minimize any unnecessary rest or downtime between movements. I always perform the push-ups and air-squats directly under the pull-up bar to avoid unnecessary movements. Make your transitions between movements and rounds as efficient as possible. Find a good rhythm and stick with it.

  4. As the continuous nature of the AMRAP can be challenging. Stay focused, embrace the discomfort, and keep pushing through.


 


3. DIANE BENCHMARK


CrossFit Diane WOD

Diane, one of the original Girl WODs, made its debut on the CrossFit Main Site on June 25, 2004. This timeless classic, much like Fran, seamlessly blends weightlifting and gymnastics. However, unlike Fran, Diane takes the challenge up a notch by increasing the weight involved.


Diane is a true test of strength and power, testing the ability to lift heavy loads while maintaining a stable and controlled handstand position, significantly challenging your core. This workout consists of a classic 21-15-9 rep scheme for time of deadlifts and handstand push-ups.


The prescribed weight for deadlifts is typically 225 pounds for men and 155 pounds for women, placing a significant load on the barbell. This weight should be challenging but manageable, allowing athletes to maintain proper form throughout the workout.


Modifications & Strategies


For beginners, it is important to prioritize proper technique and gradually build strength before attempting Diane as prescribed. Starting with lighter weights for the deadlifts, such as using a kettlebell or dumbbells, can provide a solid foundation for proper deadlift mechanics. This modification allows beginners to focus on mastering the hip hinge movement pattern and gradually progress to using a barbell.


Handstand push-ups can also be scaled for beginners. Using a box or elevated surface to perform pike push-ups is an effective modification. This variation reduces the amount of bodyweight being pressed, making it more accessible for beginners while still targeting the shoulders and developing pressing strength.


Intermediate athletes who are comfortable with the movements can aim to increase the weight for deadlifts, challenging themselves with a load that is challenging yet manageable. They can also progress to performing strict handstand push-ups, ensuring full range of motion and control in the movement.


Advanced athletes may choose to perform Diane as prescribed, using the recommended weights and executing strict handstand push-ups for the ultimate challenge. For those seeking additional intensity, adding a deficit to the handstand push-ups by placing the hands on plates or parallettes can increase the range of motion and difficulty.


To conquer the Diane workout, here are some effective strategies:

  1. Break up the repetitions strategically to allow you to take short rest breaks, maintaining a consistent pace throughout the workout. For example, you can divide the 21-15-9 rep scheme into 3 sets of 7, 3 sets of 5, and 3 sets of 3, taking short rests between each set.

  2. Form and technique are everything on Diane! Keep a strong core during deadlifts and engage your shoulders and core during handstand push-ups.

  3. Minimize the time spent transitioning between exercises. Move smoothly from the deadlifts to the handstand push-ups and vice versa.

  4. Scale appropriately. If you're new to Diane or still working on building strength and proficiency in deadlifts or handstand push-ups, it's perfectly fine to scale the workout!


 


4. HELEN WOD


CrossFit Helen WOD

Helen made its debut on the CrossFit Main Site as the Workout of the Day on August 9, 2003, initially without an official name. However, in November of the same year, it was christened "Helen" and accompanied by a quote from Helen Keller, adding an inspirational touch to the workout.


“We an do anything we want as long as we stick to it long enough.” -Helen Keller

Helen, a challenging CrossFit Girl WOD, combines cardiovascular endurance, strength, and stamina; consisting of three rounds for time, incorporates running, kettlebell swings, and pull-ups. Helen will challenge both your aerobic capacity and your ability to perform explosive movements under fatigue. The 400-meter run pushes your cardiovascular limits, while the kettlebell swings engage your posterior chain and the pull-ups target your upper body and grip strength and will push you to your limits.


Modifications & Strategies


For beginners, it's important to focus on pacing and maintaining a steady effort throughout the workout. Scaling the distance of the run or opting for a brisk walk/jog can help you build endurance while keeping the intensity manageable. Choosing a kettlebell weight that allows for proper form and completing modified pull-up variations, such as band-assisted or jumping pull-ups, can help beginners build strength and work towards performing unassisted pull-ups.


If you are an Intermediate athlete, aim to perform Helen as prescribed, focusing on improving your running speed and maintaining consistent sets and reps for the kettlebell swings and pull-ups. Experiment with different kettlebell weights to find a challenging yet manageable load allowing your to complete the swings with good form and control. You can also work on progressing towards strict pull-ups or exploring kipping or butterfly pull-up techniques to increase efficiency and speed.


“The first goal in Helen is to push for unbroken sets on the work inside the gym. In order to do so, we are looking at pacing the runs to ensure we can accomplish these numbers in big, consistent chunks across all three rounds. Just like on “Nancy”, we would rather slow down the runs a touch if that allows you to hold onto the bell and pull-up bar. If we have the movements on the inside of the gym unbroken without a doubt, it’s the opposite approach – it’s a question of how hard can we push the running. For athletes with previous scores, doing the math for what split they need to hold across the three rounds will help them feel out if they are on track when they leave the building after round one.” – Ben Bergeron

Ultimately, the strategy for Helen involves finding a balance between intensity and sustainable effort:

  1. The 400-meter runs in Helen can be a significant factor in your overall time. Find a pace that allows you to maintain a steady rhythm and doesn't exhaust you too early.

  2. Break up the kettlebell swings and pull-ups strategically: The 21-15-9 rep scheme in Helen can be mentally and physically demanding. Consider breaking up the kettlebell swings and pull-ups into manageable sets to avoid burnout. If you can, perform this work unbroken, pace yourself and breathe to control your heartrate.

  3. Aim for smooth and efficient transitions between the runs, kettlebell swings, and pull-ups. Minimize the time spent transitioning between exercises to maximize your overall time and keep the intensity high.

  4. The final round of Helen can be mentally challenging, but it's crucial to dig deep and push through. Push yourself to maintain a strong pace and give your all in the last set of kettlebell swings and pull-ups.


 


5. GRACE BENCHMARK

CrossFit Grace WOD

Grace (like most classic CrossFit WODs) looks deceptively simple, and was first published June 24, 2004. It's a single full-body movement for time; a pure test of strength and speed, and it's a favorite among many CrossFit enthusiasts. The challenge is simple but intense: complete 30 clean and jerks for time. The prescribed weight for Grace is typically 135 pounds for men and 95 pounds for women.


The clean & jerk should be approached with a weight that feels manageable and allows you to perform repetitions swiftly and with proper form. Grace is all about speed and technique. The goal is to find a weight that allows you to maintain a steady pace and rhythm throughout the workout. By the end of the WOD, you should feel the combined effect of the intense efforts from the run and the clean & jerks, leaving you with a similar sensation to completing a fast mile—exhilarated and accomplished.


Modifications & Strategies


Now, let's talk modifications. If you're just starting out or not quite comfortable with the prescribed weights, don't worry! Grace is highly scalable. You can reduce the weight to something that challenges you but allows you to maintain good form and complete the reps with intensity. Start with a weight that feels manageable and focus on honing your technique and building confidence. As you progress, gradually increase the weight and challenge yourself to lift heavier.


The strategy of Grace is all about finding the balance between speed and efficiency:

  1. Choose an appropriate weight where you can cycle through quickly without compromising your technique.

  2. Break up the reps strategically. Some athletes (like myself) prefer to perform quick singles, while others may choose to break it into smaller sets, like sets of 5 or 10, with short rest intervals in between.

  3. Work on refining your clean and jerk technique to maximize efficiency. Practice smooth transitions between the two movements, minimizing any wasted energy.

  4. Grace is meant to be a fast-paced and intense workout. Push yourself to maintain a consistent speed and avoid taking unnecessary breaks.


 


These challenging workouts push athletes to their limits, testing their physical and mental fortitude. Each WOD carries its own story and character, inviting individuals to step outside their comfort zones and discover new levels of strength and resilience.


As we reflect on the Girl WODs, we also acknowledge the remarkable community that surrounds them. CrossFit has fostered an environment of inclusivity, camaraderie, and support. These workouts bring people together, encouraging them to cheer each other on, share experiences, and celebrate victories both big and small.


So, whether it's the heart-pounding intensity of Fran, the enduring challenge of Cindy, or the sheer power of Grace, the Girl WODs continue to captivate and motivate athletes around the world. They remind us that we are capable of achieving greatness, pushing beyond our perceived limitations, and embracing the journey of self-improvement.


So, lace up your shoes, grab your kettlebell, and embrace the spirit of the Girl WODs. Let them be a constant reminder that strength comes in many forms, and through dedication, perseverance, and a little sweat, we can overcome any challenge that comes our way. Keep pushing, keep striving, and let the Girl WODs be a catalyst for unleashing your true potential in the world of fitness and beyond!



Listing of all the CrossFit Girl WODS

 

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