Home » Fitness For Beginners » Why CrossFit’s Fran Will Never Fail…

Why CrossFit’s Fran Will Never Fail…


On a brisk summer day in 2003 (around August 6th). The CrossFit main site posted this WoD:

21-15-9 for time
85 pound thrusters

Unknown to CrossFit athletes at the time, history had just been made. This was not only the first time that a 21-15-9 rep scheme had been posted to the main site, but it was also the first time “Fran” had been posted to the main site. She wasn’t named yet, and she was using 85 pounds instead of 95, but that was quickly fixed when on August 26 of that same year, Fran appeared named and in her current form on the main site.

In his article at the Box Mag, titled “Breaking the Game: WilL CrossFit’s Benchmark Ladies Stand the Test of Time“, Logan Gelbrich (@functionalcoach) makes the observation that as we as CrossFit athletes improve, are the measurable benchmark tests that we’ve established, still applicable tests? He makes some great points in his article, but I tend to think of it a little differently…

CrossFit’s definition of intensity (paraphrased slightly) is “moving large loads, long distances, quickly”. What has really been excelled at in the past 10 years or so is the “long distances, for time”. Distance in most cases refers to range of motion. So everyone has gotten really good at metabolic conditioning and, seemingly, the community has determined that we should now be more focused on “moving large loads”, aka “Getting Stronger”. Need I mention how jacked Dan Bailey looked at the 2013 Games? The “lean” athletes aren’t consistently placing in the top slots, except for athletes like Garret Fisher. The more muscled athletes are consistently placing higher.

Given that athletes overall are getting stronger and that one of CrossFit’s foundational principles is that all fitness should be measurable, is a workout like Fran or any of the other named girl workouts still an accurate measurement of a perceived level of fitness? My answer is a resounding yes. Sure, Fran is only 95 pounds, but Fran isn’t about the reps, it’s about the time taken to complete all 90 reps (add up the thrusters and pull-ups). Metabolic Conditioning alone will get you pretty far, add a dash of strength to make the 95 as easy as 45 and you’re getting better. But for the best time, you need that mix of both metabolic conditioning and strength. Think about how many strong guys almost puke at their first true CrossFit workout? Think about how many runners, struggle with 95 pounds overhead. It goes back to the methodology of “Cross Functional Fitness” or what CrossFit is all about. The definition of intensity includes both large loads and fast times.

The owner of my gym can routinely get 200-300 pounds overhead depending on the lift (snatch, press, jerk, etc…), well above the 95 lbs that Fran requires. I’ve seen him butterfly 50 chest to bar pull-ups in about a minute or so. But I’ve yet to see him get his Fran time below 2:00 minutes (currently sitting at 2:01 as of this writing).

I think it’s going to be a long time coming before we see legit full-rep Fran times drop below 1:00, or even 90 seconds or less.

I’m not going to go full bore and say that Fran and the other named girls will never be obselete, but I will say that they will last the sport of fitness a long time to come.

What are your thoughts? Are the named girl workouts still viable fitness benchmarks? Should they be revised? Added to? Answer in the comments below…