We test and review fitness products based on an independent, multi-point methodology. If you use our links to purchase something, we may earn a commission. Read our disclosures.

There’s beauty in simplicity. This is the case with the Fran workout, a benchmark WOD that challenges CrossFitters to blast through a short but challenging duo of exercises designed to improve strength and stamina simultaneously.

RELATED: CrossFit Girl WODs

It doesn’t matter if you’re a CrossFit beginner or a CrossFit Games hopeful; getting your Fran technique and strategy down pat is essential to CrossFit success. Plus, you’re sure to pull some great gains while you’re at it.

RELATED: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to CrossFit Exercises

Amanda Capritto, CPT, CES, CNC, CF-L1, CSNC, and GGR Senior Staff Writer, breaks down the WOD and provides pointers to help you post your best time yet!

What Is the Fran Workout? 

Fran-WOD

When the timer begins, you’ll have to blast out 21 thrusters before moving onto a set of 21 pull-ups, followed by 15 thrusters, 15 pull-ups, then 9 thrusters, and 9 pull-ups. Your score is determined by the total amount of time it takes you to complete all reps as prescribed.

RELATED: How to Do CrossFit Workouts At Home

It’s only three rounds. Elite CrossFitters can demolish the WOD in mere minutes. But looks can be deceiving—it’s a total-upper body blaster and will torch your cardio capacity.

Greg Glassman came up with this WOD as a means to increase his upper body strength and stamina and improve his abilities as a gymnast. Bored by lateral raises and bicep curls, he conceived of a WOD that would give him the same feelings he’d get from working on the rings or parallel bars.

Fran Movements: How-To

Fran only involves two movements, so picture-perfect form is a must.

Pull-Ups 

Large sets of pull-ups are a tall order. Combining them with a difficult barbell movement like the thruster is downright dastardly. Just to refresh, here’s how to do a strict pull-up:

  1. Grab a pull-up bar with an overhand grip.
  2. From a dead hang, pull your body up to the bar using your arms and back muscles.
  3. Continue until your chin rises above the bar. Squeeze your lats at the top.
  4. Slowly lower yourself back down.

RELATED: What Muscles Do Pull-Ups Work?

pull-up gif

“Strict pull-ups are great for building strength and muscle, but they’ll cost you lots of time and energy during the Fran WOD,” says Amanda Capritto, CPT, CES, CNC, CF-L1. “For that reason, it’s recommended you learn how to do kipping pull-ups and use those instead.”

CrossFit critics love to hate on kipping pull-ups, claiming they’re not “real” pull-ups because they let you use your hips and legs to “kip” your way up to the bar. However, kipping pull-ups require strength, muscle, stamina, and skill to perform, and, more importantly, they’re significantly faster than regular pull-ups, making them invaluable for cutting down your Fran time. 

Here’s how to do kipping pull-ups with proper form:

  1. Grab a pull-up bar with an overhand grip, then start swinging.
  2. As your legs come forward, close your hips and prepare for the pull.
  3. Explosively pop open your hips and pull hard with your arms.
  4. Bring your chin over the bar, then push away from the bar to swing back down.
  5. Use your swinging momentum to cycle into the next rep.

“You’ll want to be able to do at least three or four regular pull-ups before moving onto kipping pull-ups,” says Amanda. “Practicing beat swings, knees-to-chest, and toes-to-bar movements will all help when it comes time to learn the kipping pull-up, too.”

kipping-pull-ups

Thrusters

The thruster is 50% front squat, 50% push press, and 100% lethal. It’s exhausting to move a barbell throughout that massive range of motion once, let alone 45 times during the Fran WOD.

Typically, you’d start a set of thrusters with your barbell on a rack, but the Fran CrossFit WOD tasks you with cleaning it from the floor to begin, making your job that much harder. 

So, our step-by-step instructions will start you out with the barbell on the floor:

  1. Stand over your barbell with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Reach down and grab the bar with an overhand grip.
  3. Drive through your heels, extend your knees and hips, and bring your elbows forward under the bar to clean it to the front rack position. Catch it in a squat.
  4. From the bottom of your squat, drive through your heels again and push the bar into the overhead position, using the power from your legs and hips to assist your arms.
  5. Bring the bar back down to the front rack position and immediately cycle into your next rep by dropping into a squat again.

“Cycling thruster reps is all about economy of motion,” says Amanda. “You want to shoot up from the bottom of your squat and use that power to drive the bar overhead. If you’re mostly relying on your arms to get the bar overhead, you’re going to burn yourself out.”

RELATED: Thrusters Workout

barbell-thrusters

What Is a Good Fran Time?

For beginners, finishing anywhere between six and ten minutes is acceptable, but you want to be as close to six minutes in order to produce the intended stimulus of the WOD. Intermediate CrossFitters, on the other hand, should shoot for between four and six minutes.

For the advanced, a sub-three-minute Fran is considered very impressive, but elite CrossFit athletes get it done even quicker. Mat Fraser, five-time CrossFit Games Champion, did it in 2:07, while Tia-Clair Toomey, six-time CrossFit Games Champion, got it done in 2:13.

RELATED: Mat Fraser’s Home Gym

How to Do Fran: Strategy and Tips

Performing 45 reps of thrusters and pull-ups, whether you break it into the trademark 21-15-9 rep scheme or not, is already some impressive volume in and of itself, but the goal of Fran isn’t to fill an exercise quota. The goal is to keep moving, and you gotta go fast!

Man using jammer arms for pull-ups

“Smaller sets seem intuitive to manage the volume, but going unbroken is key if you’re planning to post your best time,” says Capritto, CPT and Level-1 CrossFit coach. “If you absolutely have to, breaking the first round into two sets of 11 and 10 could work. Breaking the second round into 8 and 7 reps could work as well, but extra breaks means extra time, which ultimately could kill a would-be PR run.”

Minimizing your time on transitions is key as well. For that reason, you want to place the barbell down between sets so it doesn’t roll away. You can drop it from overhead on the very last round to save time and energy, but you can’t risk letting the bar get away from you mid-WOD.

Also, as useful as it is for improving grip strength, don’t chalk up between rounds. Applying chalk costs you time, and in a WOD as short and fast as Fran, every second counts!

RELATED: Best Lifting Chalk

How to Scale Fran

If you find yourself resting often, chances are you’re going to be too heavy or too hard for your current fitness level. We get it; Fran’s tough, but it’s not meant to be a slow and steady slog.

That’s why we recommend modifying the movements or scaling the WOD to ensure you can keep yourself moving and grooving from buzzer to buzzer.

Beginner Fran

Thrusters and pull-ups are hard. Some people reading this right now are still working towards their first pull-up, so performing Fran as prescribed is not realistic or possible.

RELATED: Pull-Up Progression

best lifting chalk rings

Luckily, there are many movements we can sub in for thrusters and/or pull-ups in order to build our fitness foundation and get prepared to slay Fran down the line:

  • Front Squats and/or Push Press: Breaking your thrusters into slightly less technical movements will help you build the muscles you’ll need to tackle the real deal later. Choose front squats or the push press exercise to start, but you can do both if you’re poco loco.
  • Jumping Pull-Ups: Jumping pull-ups are great practice for real pull-ups. They essentially eliminate the concentric phase of the movement while emphasizing the eccentric phase, letting you work the right muscles with less effort.
  • Ring Rows: Ring rows also work the same muscles that pull-ups, but they’re easier and less exhausting.
  • Banded Pull-Ups: Adding a resistance band will make the pull-ups easier, but it will also slow down your transitions. Keep that in mind.

RELATED: Best Resistance Bands

These simple substitutions will make Fran much easier when starting out. If you find yourself flying through the WOD, however, then it may be time to kick things up a notch.

Intermediate Fran

Intermediate CrossFitters usually can manage repetitions of thrusters and pull-ups alone, but doing them in large sets at the prescribed weight and the speed you need to succeed is brutal.

Amanda catching a barbell in the front-rack position

“If you’re burning out mid-WOD but modifying the movements is too easy, then going lighter on the weight might be the best choice for you,” says Amanda Capritto, CPT, CES, CNC, CF-L1. “Try taking 10 or 20 pounds off the barbell weight, using an empty barbell or even a light pair of dumbbells instead.”

RELATED: Best Dumbbells

Common Fran Mistakes

Fran is a simple WOD, but there’s plenty of room for error.

Going Too Heavy 

The goal of Fran is to keep moving from the moment the timer starts until all reps are laid to waste. If you can’t manage to get more than a few reps in at a time without dropping the bar or coming off the pull-up bar for a breather, then chances are you’ve gone too heavy.

“It’s more important you go lighter or scale the pull-ups than it is to do the prescribed weight,” says Amanda. “You should be able to go unbroken, or pretty close to unbroken, on each set to get the intended stimulus from the WOD.”

Poor Thruster Technique 

Thruster technique can be a total runtime-killer, too, as failing to cycle smoothly from the squat portion into the push press portion of your thruster will sap your energy, possibly prematurely pushing you past the red line.

“You need to smoothly transition from the squat to the push press and vice versa,” says Amanda. “Starting out with a squat clean is a must as well, as doing a power clean before squatting will waste time and energy.”

Equipment Needed for Fran

Performing Fran at your local CrossFit box means you’ll have the tools you need at your disposal, but what if you prefer to get in your “workout of the day” from your home gym?

If that’s the case, you might need some of the following.

Barbell

A high-quality barbell is a must for the thrusters, but choosing an Olympic barbell over other barbell types often is more conducive, especially considering you start each set with an Olympic squat clean.

Our favorite Olympic barbell is the Rogue Ohio Bar, but check out our full list of the best Olympic barbells for everything you need to pick the right barbell for your home gym!

RELATED: The Definitive Rogue Ohio Bar Review

Bumper Plates

You’ll really, really, like really want to drop that barbell after the final set when you’ve reached your absolute limit, and using anything other than a high-quality set of bumper plates will leave you with a dented, damaged or downright broken gym floor.

RELATED: Best Bumper Plates Guide

Barbell Collars

Barbell collars could be considered optional for slow, controlled lifts like the deadlift, but you definitely want them keeping the plates in place while you’re flinging the barbell up and down during the thrusters.

Spilling the plates off one side of the barbell will not only ruin your Fran time, but could result in a serious injury as well. Just save yourself the time and heartache by slapping on a pair of barbell collars for this one, will ya?

RELATED: Best Olympic Barbell Collars Guide

Rig or Pull-Up Bar 

Having a fully-equipped rig or power rack in your home gym is a luxury that will make working out at home an absolute pleasure, but we understand that they’re pricey and take up a heck of a lot of space.

REP fitness multi grip pull up bar in use

So, if you can’t quite swing a swanky rig, purchasing one of the best pull-up bars is the least you could do. It’s a must for doing the Fran WOD, but pull-ups are one of the best bodyweight movements anyway.

Trust us; you’ll be happy to have one.

Cross-Training Shoes

You could technically tackle the Fran WOD wearing any old sneakers. Heck, you could even go barefoot if that’s your thing. That said, it’s not a coincidence that many pro CrossFit athletes sport a fresh pair of Reebok Nanos.

RELATED: Reebok Nano X3 Review

Wearing specialized footwear helps improve ankle mobility and provide a flatter, more solid base to improve the power of your heel drive. A pair of the best cross-training shoes, therefore, gives you an advantage over other types of footwear.

Fran Workout: FAQs

Is Fran the hardest CrossFit workout?

Most of the CrossFit benchmark workouts, including Murph, Filthy 50, King Kong, and The Seven, are designed to be tough, but Fran is ostensibly the toughest of them all.

RELATED: How to Train for Murph

Why is the Fran workout so important? 

“Fran is commonly used as a benchmark for CrossFitters to measure how they stack up against other athletes worldwide,” says Amanda Capritto, CPT, CES, CNC, CF-L1, and GGR Senior Staff Writer, “but it’s not just that. Fran requires strength, skill, and stamina, meaning that someone with a good Fran time possesses very good all-around fitness.”

What is the fastest Fran time ever?

Many of CrossFit’s biggest names land in the two-minute zone, but there’s some contention over the crown regarding the official world record.

In 2022, Noah Ohlsen went viral for posting a video of him finishing Fran in 1:49, as the world has seemingly forgotten that Zac Hare completed the WOD in 1:47 years earlier.

Weeks after Ohlsen posted his video, Marisa Flowers snatched the crown by posting a video that depicted her doing Fran in an unprecedented 1:45. As far as we’re concerned, Flowers is the Fran GOAT.

Further reading

When Is the Best Time to Buy a Treadmill? Cover Image
When Is the Best Time to Buy a Treadmill?

When is the best time to buy a treadmill? We give you the inside scoop on when you can expect to save big! Read more

7 Common Treadmill Mistakes to Avoid and How to Correct Them Cover Image
7 Common Treadmill Mistakes to Avoid and How to Correct Them

Check out these seven common treadmill mistakes you might be making plus how to fix them. Read more

NOW Sports Plant Protein Complex Review (2024): A Solid Plant-Based Alternative to Whey Cover Image
NOW Sports Plant Protein Complex Review (2024): A Solid Plant-Based Alternative to Whey

Our NOW Sports Plant Protein Complex review takes a look at the formulation, taste, solubility, price, and value of this plant-based protein powder. Read more

These Cable Shoulder Workouts Will Fire Up Your Delts Cover Image
These Cable Shoulder Workouts Will Fire Up Your Delts

Tired of the same tired shoulder training routine? Spice things up with cable shoulder workouts during your next sesh! Read more