Introducing the Fran Workout
In terms of the benchmark WODs done in CrossFit, none is likely better known than the Fran workout. Simple and plain, just like the name, this workout is a couplet of two common CrossFit exercises that draw heavily on core strength: the thruster and the pull-up.
Each of these exercises is performed for three rounds in the classic 21-15-9 repetition sequence. The last bit of technical information about this workout is the weight used for the thruster which is prescribed at 95 pounds for men and 65 pounds for women.
Now, with the basic information about Fran out of the way, let’s talk about how to use this workout to get more fit, whether you are 18 or 80.
Getting to the Fran Workout
First off, when I first started trying to get back in real shape at the age of 38 it was very difficult. I could not do the Fran workout for the first year I was doing CrossFit. I was terrible at pull-ups — I had no idea how to kip correctly and was constantly bothered by various strains. My thrusters weren’t much better.
Over time though I learned to kip. And as my body continued to adapt to the resistance and intensity of my exercise routines, the strains and soreness eventually faded away. And eventually I developed the ability to do all 45 of the 95 pound thrusters and kipping pull-ups. The Fran workout was now achievable.
My time is still terrible compared to real elite athletes who can do Fran in under two minutes (yeah, I know… those guys are flying through those thrusters like they are lifting a broomstick!) But just getting to the point where you can complete Fran is an accomplishment many will never attain.
To those of you who may be older or working through losing weight, don’t worry at all if you can’t do Fran! One of the BIGGEST points of programs like CrossFit is the concept of scaling.
Scales for Fran
Here are some substitutions for those of you who may not be ready to do Fran as prescribed just yet.
- Reduce the weight of your thrusters as needed
- Do a scale for pull-ups
My dad is 75 and he would have a hard time doing a thruster with even 30 pounds for 45 total reps. If that’s the case for you, then don’t be afraid to drop your weight.
If weight is not an option at all, feel free to substitute air squats followed by air presses. There’s no shame in this — the point is to get a workout in that fits your skill level, not to die on the floor trying to perform Fran.
If you struggle with pull-ups, try ring rows. If you’re not able to do a ring row effectively, there are plenty of other scales for pull ups. One of my favorites is to pull yourself to the bar in a type of reverse bench press, where you’re pulling yourself to the bar instead of pushing it up.
Completing even this lower resistance couplet will help you achieve what elite fitness looks like for you. The BIG key is simply building the strength to do functional movements. Even when you are 80, you will want to stand up on your own won’t you?
So don’t be afraid of Fran. She won’t bite. She will hurt some, but you will feel much better after a shower and a protein shake and you will be that much closer to elite fitness for your stage in life.