While CrossFit typically programs different workouts every day to expose its athletes to a variety of exercises, there are certain WODs that are periodically repeated. One classic example is “Fran,” a brief but challenging workout that is now a staple in boxes worldwide. But what is CrossFit Fran, and why is it so popular? In this blog post, we’ll explain what the Fran workout is and why we do it. We’ll then share some tips on how to best approach this beast of a WOD.
Fran is a high-intensity, time-based workout that combines two fundamental movements: thrusters and pull-ups. The workout consists of 3 rounds of each movement and follows a “21-15-9” rep scheme. This means that, in the first round, you perform 21 thrusters, then 21 pull-ups. In the second round, you do 15 reps of each, and in the third round, you do 9 of each. Your score is the time it takes you to complete all 3 rounds. The goal is to go as fast as possible while maintaining proper form and technique. Times typically range from 7-9 minutes for beginners, 4-6 minutes for advanced athletes, and under 3 minutes for elite athletes.
Fran is one of many “benchmark WODs,” which are standardized workouts that measure your progress as an athlete. You keep track of your score so that, when you re-do the workout 6 months or a year later, you can see how you’ve improved. Read more about the purpose of benchmark WODs here!
Breakdown of the Exercises
A thruster is a compound movement that combines a front squat with an overhead press. For Fran, athletes traditionally do this exercise with a barbell, however you can modify to use a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells if needed. The movement starts with the barbell at shoulder height in a front rack position. You then descend into a full-depth front squat. As you ascend out of the squat, explosively drive the barbell overhead, locking out your arms at the top. This exercise engages multiple muscle groups, including the legs, core, shoulders, and arms, making it a highly demanding and effective movement. Check out the video tutorial covering all the major points of performance for the thruster below:
Pull-ups are a well-known upper-body exercise that target the muscles in the back, shoulders, and arms. The movement starts by hanging from a pull-up bar with elbows completely extended and finishes once your chin is above the bar. The CrossFit world is home to many variations of pull-ups. In this workout, most athletes perform either kipping or butterfly pull-ups. Both styles allow you to create momentum with your core and lower body to assist the motion. See the videos below for demonstrations. For those who don’t have these movements down yet, feel free to perform them strict, with a band, as jumping pull-ups, or swap for ring rows. Find the option that works best for you!
Tips for Completing Fran
To complete this workout as prescribed, or “Rx,” male athletes must perform the thrusters with 95 pounds and female athletes with 65 pounds. However, if this weight is too heavy, scale it down! It’s ALWAYS better to use a weight that allows you to maintain good form and move at the desired intensity. The weight should be light enough that you can perform the thrusters in large or even unbroken sets. Additionally, if you can’t do pull-ups just yet, switch to any of the modifications discussed above. Like the thruster, you should pick a pull-up variation that allows you to complete the reps in large or unbroken sets.
This workout is about speed; however, you don’t want to go too hard too fast and burn out after 1 round. To avoid this, consider how you could break up the reps to play off your specific strengths and weakness. For example, instead of doing all 21 reps of each exercise without stopping, maybe break it up into a set of 11 and a set of 10, or 3 sets of 7. Having a plan like this in place can help you maintain a better pace across the whole workout.
Weightlifting and gymnastics movements, like those featured in Fran, are known for promoting buildup of calluses on your hands. Unfortunately, these calluses can rip, leaving you with minor but unpleasant wounds. Learn all about how to protect your hands during Fran in this blog!
As with any workout, be sure to physically prepare your body before beginning. Hydrate and eat to provide yourself with enough fuel to complete this taxing WOD. Warm up appropriately to prep your muscles, heart, and mind for the challenge ahead.
Key Takeaways About Fran
Now the next time you hear someone ask, “What is CrossFit Fran?” you can tell them that it’s both a stellar workout and a rite of passage in the CrossFit community. Fran combines high-intensity, total body weightlifting and gymnastics in a manner that truly pushes you to your limits. Furthermore, it provides you with concrete data that can be used to track improvements across your CrossFit journey. Lastly, while it can be exciting to test yourself in this manner, remember to always prioritize moving correctly and safely over quickly and/or heavily. We hope you decide to come try this WOD, and many others, at CrossFit LPF soon!