A couple of weeks ago, we retested a classic CrossFit workout called ‘Fran’ here at the gym. (see what Fran is HERE) In my class briefings, I said, “This is the ‘bench press’ of CrossFit workouts.” What I meant by that is that this is the workout that you can use to gauge your fitness level to other CrossFitters. If you tell someone you have a 2:30 Fran, they know you are a badass. Just like if you tell someone you have a 365-pound bench press, people know that you are strong.
So the question that someone asked me was, “Is the goal to have a 365-pound bench press and a 2:30 Fran for a man?” The answer is No. I used bench press in my example because that is the classic meathead exercise, but to me, it’s not a true test of upper body strength.
This is not to say that someone who can do both a 365-pound bench and a 2:30 Fran is not a fit individual, because they most certainly are. Still, I would not train specifically to be good at these workouts only.
The natural question is then, “What are the tests that we should use to gauge fitness?”
Here are my Six Fitness Tests that you can use to measure your fitness level.
- Overhead Press – 1x Bodyweight
- Power Clean – 1.5x Bodyweight
- Back Squat – 2x Bodyweight
- Fran – Under 3:30
- 5k Run – Under 21:00
- L-Sit – 1:00+
There are three strength tests. These are important because resistance training is part of a well-rounded exercise program. Testing these barbell movements allows you to see if your resistance training is effective or not. There are two cardio tests. One is a CrossFit workout that involves lots of intensity and high skill; the other is a classic long aerobic test. You have to train your skills and intensity to be good at Fran, and you need to have cardio sessions that are 20:00 or longer to be good at a 5k run. The final test is an L-Sit. This is the ultimate test of core strength, and to be good at this, you have to work your entire core using dynamic and isolating movements regularly.
I am a little biased, keeping Fran in my fitness tests and eliminating the bench press, but here is my reasoning. Horizontal pressing is not a complete test of upper body strength, and a vertical press is. That does not mean that you don’t train horizontal pressing; just it is not your focus. Fran is a perfect combination of push & pull + intensity. Yes, to be good at it, you need to have the awkward kipping pull-up, but that doesn’t take away from the test. You need to practice, develop, and refine your ability to kip and generate power with your hips dynamically. This is a skill that everyone should have, and everyone should practice.
Compare your weights and times to these tests and see where you need to improve your fitness. Is it pressing strength or leg strength? Do long cardio or intensity and skill work? You can use these standards to mold your exercise program to make you more well rounded. Of course, the ultimate training program consists of CONSTANTLY VARIED FUNCTIONAL MOVEMENTS PERFORMED AT RELATIVELY HIGH INTENSITY.