Chin up

Ask any CrossFitter about the first time he tried “Murph,” “Linda” or “Fight Gone Bad,” and it’s guaranteed he’ll have a story to tell. These are some of the most notoriously brutal Workouts of the Day (WOD), the standard by which all other WODs are measured. But within that elite group of WODs, one stands above all others: “Fran.”

The Benchmark of CrossFit WODs

Fran is recognized as THE benchmark because even though many CrossFit workouts don’t look like much on paper, Fran is especially deceptive. A 95-pound barbell is pretty light, and pull-ups just take practice. But after two minutes, even elite athletes hit a wall, struggling to maintain speed and intensity.

The key to approaching Fran is to proceed with caution. Drop the weight down to 65 pounds and perform assisted pull-ups if you have to. If you think 90 total reps is a piece of cake and attack it full bore, you’ll have extreme soreness at best, and rhabdomyolysis— a life-threatening condition where broken down muscle tissue can actually poison your blood—at worst.

Are you ready for Fran? Check out the workout on the next page. 


If you’re already conditioned to CrossFit’s high-intensity functional movements, by all means hit Fran like a freight train. In highpower, short-duration workouts, athletes must outrun fatigue. Fran is similar to an 800 meter sprint: It will push you to your anaerobic threshold and beyond. Fran can be completed in less than two minutes by top CrossFitters. Try to get through the round of 21 without dropping the barbell or breaking up the pull-ups. Kipping pull-ups (which utilize momentum) will also help.

The round of 15 is where the lungs, legs, and forearms burn and you realize you’re in a serious fight. Experienced CrossFit athletes can push through the pain and complete unbroken sets. If you have to chop up sets, try to keep the rest time short.

The Fran Workout

Exercise Reps
Barbell Thrusters 21, 15, 9
Pull-ups 21, 15, 9

Rob Orlando is the owner of Hybrid Athletics in Stamford, CT, which specializes in combining CrossFit and strongman training.