Break the Box: How to Hack “Fran”

CrossFit Fran WOD

Whether you’re into CrossFit or not, you have to acknowledge that its benchmark WODs (Workout of the Day) are great measures of overall fitness. That’s why CrossFit trainers have their participants repeat them regularly to measure progress. If your time goes down or your “points” go up, you can be sure you’ve gotten stronger, faster, more durable, and probably leaner (as a positive side effect). 

For some out-of-the-box hacks to help you improve your performance on three of the most popular CrossFit WODs—called “Angie,” “Fran,” and “Fight Gone Bad”—we got in the box with Rob Orlando, a Reebok-sponsored CrossFit competitor and the owner of Hybrid Athletics in Stamford, CT. For each WOD, we suggest first giving it a try on your own to establish a baseline, then implementing Orlando’s tips as you improve. 

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Perform three rounds of barbell thrusters and pullups, completing 21, 15, and 9 reps of each. Record your time. 

21 Barbell Thrusters (95 pounds) 
21 Pullups 
15 Barbell Thrusters 
15 Pullups 
9 Barbell Thrusters 
9 Pullups 

Akin to a sprint, Fran measures power with two movements that involve practically every muscle in the body. The thruster is a combination of a front squat and push press; the pullup, as with Angie, may be done with a kip. 

8–10 minutes 


1) “As with most of CrossFit’s 21-15-9 workouts, the round of 15 is the heart of the pain zone,” says Orlando. “If you can’t do the round of 15 unbroken [without resting between reps], do three sets of five and watch the clock during your rest breaks. Try to limit yourself to three deep breaths between efforts.” Each time you repeat the workout, work to increase your reps from five. 

2) Because the bar is held with your upper arms parallel to the floor and the bar across the front of your shoulders (called the rack position), athletes have a tendency to drop the bar to the floor on rest periods. “Dropping the bar causes you to lose 20 seconds, minimum,” says Orlando. “Fight the urge to drop it, and get used to taking deep breaths in the rack position when you need to recover.” 

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