Dissecting “Fran”

If you hang out in CrossFit gyms or around the community then you know “Fran.” Yesterday morning my fellow trainer and I decided to give the old girl a whirl. We were short on time and wanted something intense to hold us over until Monday so Fran seemed like a smart choice, besides who doesn’t like “Fran?” I should have known I was in for an ass-kicking.

If you don’t know “Fran”, you’re either blessed of living a deprived life it’s hard to say for sure but this workout is literally the bedrock of CrossFit as it was one of Greg Glassman’s first workouts. It’s a simple two exercise circuit done in a descending rep scheme of 21-15-9. The athlete must complete 21 Thrusters or a combination Front Squat to Overhead Press, then immediately transition to 21 Pullups. Once completed the athlete returns to the barbell for a further 15 reps and so on and on, until finished. The top time for “Fran” so far stands at just under 2 minutes, and was set in 2009. My own best time so far is 4:48 seconds, and that’s slow compared to the fire breathers I know and Fran continues to stump me. I have no problems with Diane or Elisabeth though go figure.

I like to think I’m a fit guy, I routinely finish most CrossFit workouts in the top 25% of men in CF, in fact I regularly workout with a Thruster weight of 155 for reps of 10 or more but something about the speed and intensity of “Fran” makes 95lbs feel like 1000. Add some Pullups in there and things get crazy real fast. I think a lot of this can be attributed to adrenaline and urgency. This is the first area where I think I lost time; I came out too fast and burned out on my first set of Thrusters.

It sounds counter-intuitive but I think most people actually need to slow down a little on their reps while doing the Thrusters  One perfect smooth flowing rep after another is more efficient then half-ass awkward jerky reps. I got in a hurry on my first set and had balance issues when I failed to let the bar rest on my shoulders and fingertips. I had to slow to reset my stance and that cost time. Also as I fatigued I was not dropping with the bar and letting gravity do the work, I kept catching on my shoulders then dropping which is something I’m very careful not to do when working out. Right around rep number 18-19, I had to stop for a 3 second break. This was really a mental issue and I’m sure I could have gone the last 3 reps without issue and saved time. My second set was broken down into 8 and 7 reps respectively with the last set going unbroken.

The second time leach in this workout is poor planning ahead of time. My bar had been set up pretty close to the Pullups bar but on hindsight I could have moved it another two steps closer. I was pretty satisfied with my pull-ups overall, but I do need to work on my butterfly kipping. It kept falling apart and every time I had to reset cost at least a second. My first set was broken up into 15 and 6 reps respectively, the second set was unbroken and the third as well. A few tweaks here and there and I think I could drop my time down near the 3 minute barrier in the next 4 weeks when I plan to retest.

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