The Fran WOD: Goal Times, Tips, and Safety

Includes Thrusters, Overhead Presses, Pull-Ups, and More

Created by CrossFit founder Greg Glassman, Fran is one of the most famous CrossFit WODs around, and one of the original "Girls" WODs. As a high school gymnast in the 1970’s, Coach Glassman was looking for a way to better condition himself for ring routines. After trying out lots of different weight and gymnastic movement combinations, he stumbled upon what is known today as Fran. The workout is particularly grueling and even Coach Glassman will admit he threw up after the first time he did it. 

Fran consists of 21 thrusters, which is a squat and an overhead press, 21 pull-ups, 15 thrusters, 15 pull-ups, 9 thrusters, and 9 pull-ups. The idea is to complete the workout as fast as you possibly can. But, what truly makes this benchmark WOD so grueling yet so satisfying is how perfectly both movements complement each other. They each contain what the other lacks — the athlete pushes on the thruster and pulls on the pull-up, working all main muscle groups. 

Score: This is a WOD for time, which means the athlete must finish the workout in as fast a time as possible. On average Fran takes about five to nine minutes to complete.

Equipment Needed: You'll need a barbell and pull-up bar. If you are completing the workout with the prescribed guidelines, the weight for the thrusters is 95 pounds for men and 65 pounds for women. Scale down from there as necessary.

Level: All levels can do the Fran. Athletes can scale down from the prescribed weights or movements to get to a level they can work at. If you're a beginner, don’t worry about prescribed weight or not being able to do a pull-up, for instance. There are plenty of variations.

Benefits

Fran is a total body, adrenaline pumping workout. For one, the thruster (a combination of a front squat and overhead press) is a full body workout by itself. They will quickly elevate your heart rate and work your glutes, quads, hamstrings, core, back, shoulders, and triceps. It’s no wonder the thruster is one of the most revered CrossFit movements.

But Fran isn’t just about bearing the weight of the thruster. It’s also about pulling your own body weight on the pull-ups. Pull-ups work your latissimus dorsi or lats, which are one of the main muscle groups of the back and sides. So, you are truly hitting almost every muscle group. This full-body workout added to the fact that you must complete it in as fast a time as possible makes Fran a true CrossFit benchmark. 

Step-by-Step Instructions

Begin Fran by standing in front of your barbell. At the sound of the beep, when the timer starts, power clean your barbell to begin your thrusters. There are two ways to start your thrusters when the barbell is on the ground. The first way, which is better for a beginner, is to power clean your bar up. Once you have the bar in the front rack position, begin your front squat directly into the overhead press.

The second way is to squat clean your bar from the ground, thereby eliminating that initial front squat since you’ll already be in the proper position from the catch. Whichever way you choose is fine, although the second method may save you some time. 

  1. Complete 21 thrusters. They can be broken up if need be. 
  2. Complete 21 pull-ups. The workout does not specify the type of pull-ups so you are free to do any type you prefer—kipping pull-ups, butterfly pull-ups, or strict pull-ups (strict pull-ups are not recommended as you will tire very quickly).
  3. Complete 15 thrusters.
  4. Complete 15 pull-ups.
  5. Complete 9 thrusters.
  6. Complete 9 pull-ups.

Make sure you catch your time at the end of the workout in order to score yourself properly. 

Common Mistakes

Proper form and good technique account for a large part of completing Fran in a successful time. Once your body begins to fatigue, usually around the fifteen round, your form may start to falter. If you notice this happening, drop the bar, take a second or two, and then get back to it.

Bad form can not only lead to injury, but it can also establish muscle memory that can hurt you in the future. 

Losing Your Form

Common thruster mistakes are leaning forward on the front squat, losing the front rack position on the press, and not locking out your elbows completely on the press. Keep the following verbal cues in mind while performing your thrusters. Weight in your heels and chest up on the front squat.

Elbow Position

Keep your elbows high the whole time—think about getting them almost parallel to the floor. Keep your core tight on the press and thrust your hips slightly if need be to finish with a strong lockout position. 

Breathing

Many people forget to breathe. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. That may seem obvious, but once your body reaches exhaustion, you may begin gasping for air instead of controlling your breath. Do your best to breathe smoothly throughout and avoid gasping.

Trying to Pace Yourself

Although form and mechanics are must, the hardest part of this workout is keeping a consistent pace the whole time. Since the idea of this workout is to finish in as fast as possible, it becomes a mental game that requires you to dig deep to fight for that next rep.

It won’t seem hard at first, but once you reach the round of 15, your body will start to fatigue. Don’t drop the bar—pick an attainable number to reach and get there, then take a three-second rest and get back to it. You are stronger than you think and Fran will show you that.  

Modifications and Variations

There are many ways to modify Fran. For starters, lighten the load of the thrusters. Try and find a weight you can do at least 15 thrusters unbroken at. Pull-ups can be modified as well by using bands, doing jumping pull-ups, or ring rows. All are acceptable ways to modify. Talk to your CrossFit coach to figure out the best way to modify the workout for yourself.

Variations on the workout exist as well. For those wanting to lift a heavier load, Fat Fran consists of the same rep scheme but at a thruster weight of 135 pounds for men and 95 pounds for women. During the pull-ups wear a weighted vest—40 pounds for men and 20 pounds for women. Frannie is a version with 50 double unders and 50 sit ups between each set of thrusters and pull-ups. 

Of course, the beauty of this workout is that you can create your own variations as well to make it as challenging as you’d like. 

Safety and Precautions

This workout can be modified or scaled for any athlete. If you are beginner, find a weight that is light enough for you to move through the thrusters easily without dropping the bar too often. It’s also important for beginners to modify the pull-ups if they need.

It is not recommended to try kipping pull-ups until you are able to complete at least two sets of six to ten strict pull-ups. This will ensure you have the proper latissimus dorsi strength to ensure you don’t get injured on the kip. 

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