Since 2003, CrossFit's original founder Greg Glassman created "The Girls" workouts. If you've been doing CrossFit for some time, you'll know them as Angie, Barbara, Chelsea, Diane, Elizabeth, Fran, Helen and Grace. Each and every one one of them are more infamous than the next for the physically demanding on the body. Jackie is very much included in the top ten ranking of killer workouts, but as is the tradition in CrossFit, we keep coming back for more to beat our old PRs.
So if you're someone who's going to attempt or trying to maximise your score on the CrossFit benchmark workout, Jackie, then this ultimate strategy guide is for you.
I'm going to go over the workout possible scaling options, time domains, and I'm going to go over some special strategies that should help you maximise your score.
What is CrossFit Benchmark "Jackie"?
50 Thrusters with an empty barbell
This workout should be a burner. It's not quite as intense as Fran, but you should be roughly aiming between a 5-10 minute range to complete the workout. The best athletes in the world did Jackie at regionals and finished in the low 5-minute range - something to aim for!
If Jackie takes you 13 - 14 minutes, then you should absolutely scale this workout. I might even go as far as to say this should be a sub-8-minute or sub-9-minute workout. And if it's not, you're not necessarily getting the stimulus we want.
Warming up for Jackie
When it comes to warming up for this workout. I wouldn't do anything other than just simply practice the movements.
Maybe add a little weight to the thruster bar just to get a little bit of a stimulus and practice just a couple sets of maybe 200-metre row, 15 barbell thrusters and five pull-ups.
So first things first, with the rower, it's very simple. You're just yanking on that chain until you roll the 1000 metres. I would suggest setting the rower to countdown from 1000 metres. That tends to be what I like to row, and we will talk a little bit about the strategy of how to pace on the rower.
But if you want a deep dive on how to maximise your rowing efficiency, from your stroke rate to your power output, check out the link below.
After the rower, we're going to move over to the unweighted barbell. It's a very simple movement. It's a thruster.
With the unweighted barbell, you don't need to be too crazy concerned about making sure that every bit and piece is perfect.
You're essentially taking the bar, picking it up, getting into the front rack position, then going into a full squat, so hip crease below the top of the knee. You then complete the movement by fully extending your arms and hips. With an unweighted bar, you can move really fast.
Moving onto the pull-up, you can do whatever variation you want, from strict to butterfly pull-up. The key is that your chin has to go over the bar and then pass under the bar in the dead hang position.
So whether it's strict, kipping, or you butterfly, as long as you pass through a fully extended elbow and get your chin above the bar on that horizontal plane. That is a good rep.
Scaling The Movements
So with that being said, if you can't hit this workout, or you don't feel like you're going to be able to do those movements to the standards, then there are a few things we can do.
We can scale reps, range of motion, and the load on the bar.
If you've ever listened to my podcasts that I do with Make WODs Great Again, John Wooley called the Scale and Bail podcast, I always talk about how when you scale, workouts are several ways to do it. You can scale your range of motion, you can scale your reps, and you can see all the weight.
If you're unable to do a full squat, you can scale the movement by squatting onto a medicine ball, a box, or even a chair.
You could change the reps by doing 30 instead of 50 thrusters.
In addition, you could go with a lighter thruster. So rather than doing thrusters with a 45-pound bar (RX males), I could hold a 15-pound dumbbell in each hand.
Alternatively, I could scale down further and hold a trainer bar which weighs in at 15 pounds. I could do thrusters with the trainer bar, or instead of thrusters, I could just do hand thrusters.
Hand thrusters are full-depth squats, and just put my hands up in the air (like you just don't care). That would be a great scale.
If I was having, you know, maybe my grandmother do Jackie, in some way shape or form, I probably have her scale down the amount of rowing she has to do.
We'd do 30 squats with hands above our head, possibly with a broomstick, if we really wanted her to have a bar.
Then, we would modify the pull-ups heavy heavily. We could use a PVC pull-down with a band; that would be a very, very skilled approach.
If you're trying to RX it, the first sticking point is the 30 pull-ups. For some people, this is frankly too much volume and ultimately increases the likelihood of getting hurt.
If you're trying to learn strict pull-ups, you can check my free guide below.
Another scaling alternative for pull-ups is slightly changing the movement to jumping pull-ups or, similarly to the thrusters, reducing the pull-up volume from 30 to 15.
You can do all kinds of different pull-up modifications: the main key here is high effort and high output. You want your score falling somewhere in that five to 10-minute range.
If you're scaling, you don't want to be finishing at the five minutes mark. That means you've probably scaled a little bit too much. But, on the other hand, if you've scaled this workout and ended up in that 7 to 10-minute range, that is a great sign that you scaled properly.
The bottom line is: to get the stimulus for Jackie, we need to have some form of pulling on the row, some sort of pressing with a squat, aka thruster or some version of it, and then some sort of pull-up.
Strategies for Jackie That I know you will love
Okay, so if you've decided to hit Jackie as prescribed. Now, I would love to go over a few of the strategy pieces and the gear that I suggest you use in this workout.
First, let's talk about the gear and then we'll get into the strategy.
So there are only two pieces of gear that you might use for this workout. The first is some form of gymnastic grip could be really beneficial for you that you don't need them on the rower.
You don't need the grips for the barbell, but you might want them for your set of pull-ups. When we get to the strategy, I'm going to tell you, that if you want to get your best score, you really need to push max effort on the pull-ups.
A lot of times, when people go max effort on pull-ups, guess what, they rip their pretty little hands. So I would suggest investing in some form of grips.
To help prevent your hands from ripping, you can either go the old-school approach to shave your calluses and then go bare hands on the pull-ups. That's what I've typically done in the past.
Alternatively, if you haven't shaved your calluses, I would suggest wearing a pair of grips that should lock me into the pull-up bar.
If you rip in the middle of a workout, even if you're 15 reps in, those last 15 reps with bloody ripped hands are going to hurt your score.
PLUS, those ripped hands are going to hurt the rest of your workouts for the remainder of the week and maybe a month.
So invest in a pair of grips.
Secondarily, we also have you could use weightlifting shoes.
Ideally, with Jackie, you want to look for more lightweight weightlifting shoes so that they're not going to weigh you down too much on the pull-ups.
What you'll notice is that when you're wearing weightlifting shoes, the heel is raised up. So this is half an inch rise above the heel which makes the squatting pattern easier.
If you've ever used weightlifting shoes or put a 5-pound plate underneath your heels (or maybe worn high heels, which I personally haven't), you will be able to squat a lot more easily.
That's going to make those thrusters easier.
Alright, now let's talk strategy.
Regardless of which option you're choosing to pursue this workout, you should be smoked by the end of this workout.
So let's start with the rower.
This particular workout, it would be more beneficial to have a hips-high rowing technique rather than a squatty rowing technique. You're trying to engage your hamstrings a little bit more, which is the more proper way to row.
Keeping your hips high and your knees slightly extended will help you load your hamstrings and glutes rather than smoking your quads. Because you will smoke your quads on the thrusters, the pacing technique I would use for the rower will allow you to leave a little bit in the tank.
For me, I'm going to come out like medium strong, I'm going to go kind of hot in the middle, and then I'm going to slowly taper down a little bit towards the end.
So that I'm finishing this row with a nice deep breath, allowing myself to calm down before I hit the barbell.
When I do get to the barbell, I don't waste any time. I pick it up, and I'm going to try to do 50 unbroken. Same allies for the pull-up bar. It's worth noting that not everyone's gonna be able to do that.
The main mistake to avoid here is going full send on the rower. If you sprint on that 1000-metre row, you will crash and burn on the thrusters in the pull-ups, and you're gonna sacrifice a lot of time.
So I'd rather you have a little bit in the tank for the first half of the workout, which is the row and then for the second half of the workout, you're going to have more energy to attack it with a full head of steam.
To pace on the row, I'd aim to be in the mid-150s, to leave a little bit in the tank so that I can push it on the thrusters and the pull-ups.
If you do the math. If it takes you, 2 minutes per 500 metres. That means after 4 minutes, you'll be done on the 1000-metre row, and then you have plenty of time to attack the other two movements if you want to stay in that 5 to 10-minute range.
Then when it comes to the thrusters, you're going to be tired, so expect it, and then want you to hit a big set. Ideally, you don't want to do any more than 2 or 3 sets on the 50 thrusters.
If you need to rest, I would recommend bringing the barbell on your back, taking your hands off, and allowing yourself to take in a much bigger breath. If I put the bar down and start walking around, I will be wasting a lot of valuable time.
If I have the barbell on my back, I can take 2 or 3 breaths and get back in the front rack. And then I'm back to my thrusters.
For the thruster cadence, I breathe out when the bar is coming back down. So it's going out on the way up, in on the way back down.
This is going to allow you to ensure that you're getting enough oxygen into your lungs to power through all 50 of those reps. So don't hold your breath.
Make sure your stance is strong, as you shouldn't be moving around at all.
Good squatting stance.
So for the squatting stance, I suggest feet are positioned outside of the shoulders, and then just rep those suckers out.
In the middle of the workout, you can actually think about focusing more on pressing with your arms, and then when your arms get tired, press with your legs.
I do whatever it takes in my mind to just keep moving on the thrusters. So keep moving. 50 seems like a lot, but again with this light, empty barbell, 2, maybe 3 sets or if you can push it 1 unbroken set is the ideal way to attack this.
If you have to do more than 3 sets, then chances are it would have been smart for you to scale down that weight or that range of motion.
So after we are done pushing the thrusters, you've done that set of 50, you are at the last section of the workout.
Depending on your ability level, you might only have 20 seconds left of exercise; right when we get to that pull-up bar for me, I should hopefully be able to do those 30 unbroken pull-ups in less than 30 seconds because the butterfly cadence is going to be so fast.
Don't waste any time transitioning that bar. If you're someone who needs to scale down and maybe do single reps. You know, single reps is actually a very valid way to do this workout.
I've seen people get really solid scores doing stuff like this where they literally do a rep drop down, jump back up to a rep, right, and they just do this for all 30 reps.
That's going to be a lot more beneficial than doing a set of like four or five and than just walking around the gym and wasting a tonne of time.
So try to find a nice steady cadence on the pull-ups. If you can, maybe before you get there, try to break up the thrusters and the pull-ups. It'd be cool to try to take a steady pace on the rower that still hurts a little.
Then on the thrusters, I break up into a set of 30 by using the rack on the back technique. Take 2 or 3 breaths, 20 more reps, that's my 50. Put the barbell down, don't drop an empty barbell, or else your coach might kill you.
Then for the 30 pull-ups; you could do 12, 10, 8, that would be a great way to break it up. I like descending rep schemes; you could try to break it up into 2 sets, or do sets of 5.
Or if you really wanted to, come up with a rep scheme ahead of time. What I don't want you to do, is get over this bar, and just pray and do 10 reps, and then you're smoked.
For some athletes like myself, I'm going to leave everything I can possibly can on the table coming from those thrusters into the pull ups, where hopefully, by the time I get to the 30th rep, I can hardly move.
Because I'm going so fast, and it's not going to look pretty. It's going to look a little bit sloppy. But again, my goal here is to maximise my time.
How To Pace Jackie
Okay, so with those pacing things in mind, let's go over the pacing.
I don't want max effort on the rower. Maybe like 90% on the rower 85 to 90%, then the thrusters are more like 90 to 95%. THEN full effort on the pull-ups if you're trying to maximise your score and you've done this workout before.
Remember, singles can be really effective if you're efficient at jumping up and into each rep with that nice strong kip. Otherwise, come up with a predictable rep scheme that you can stick with.
I like to write it on a whiteboard and really focus on it to make sure I'm pushing as hard as I can.
When it comes to attempting this workout, make sure you don't crash and burn on the rower and then fail on everything else. Leave a little bit in the tank, finish strong, crush Jackie, and get your best score.
If you're someone who wants to get coaching like this, get strategy, get feedback from coaches, upload a video of your pull-ups and your thrusters and your rowers and have a coach analyse it.
There's only one final thing left to say, and that's ENJOY! Have fun and comment below on what score you got.