Review: “Froning – Fittest Man in History”

Last night I watched Froning: Fittest Man in History, a new documentary film that was just released on iTunes and Amazon.

If you don’t follow CrossFit, the film is about Rich Fronting, who won the CrossFit Games four years in a row from 2011 to 2014.

To provide you some broader context in the online qualifier for the Games he came in first place out of 110,145 athletes worldwide.

I am a bit fascinated by Rich. In addition to this movie I have also read his 2013 memoir titled First: What it Takes to Win.

I am struck by how very different we are. He was athletic, active and fearless as a kid playing tons of sports and competitive in everything, even chores.

He was outside all the time, surrounded by tons of cousins who were like brothers growing up. In comparison, I was funny but quiet and focused on academic success with just an older sister often doing her own thing.

My sports were more individual – swimming, golf, tennis – and I lived in a neighborhood where there were few kids and you had to drive from house to house to go trick-or-treating.

Extracurricular activities included piano lessons and cotillion. Yet similarly both of us were raised by very loving parents who instilled a strong work ethic.

Our time and energy have led us to very different pursuits and outcomes in life yet we are somehow both passionate about CrossFit.

Today, it is of no revelation that the guy is an absolute beast. The film share his stats:

  • Height – 5’9″
  • Weight – 195 lb.
  • Chest – 43.7″
  • Waist – 33″
  • Hips – 39″
  • Upper Arm – 16.5″
  • Thighs – 25.5″

And I’m not really surprised to find out that he is a “dude” into “dude stuff”. He likes to shoot guns and lift weights.

There is a short montage of him on dirt bikes, ATVs, playing sports and goofing around. His friends explain that “He’s a very simple guy” and like “a 12-year old boy with a lot of money.”

If his life were on the big screen Rich says he’d want it to be a Michael Bay or Marvel movie. But it is not fair to only characterize him as some good ol’ country boy as to his credit he is also accurately portrayed as a devoted husband and father.

Rich’s success over the years has been attributed to the fact that his competitors haven’t figured out how to beat him because they haven’t discovered how to out train him.

His cousin Darren explains how when they first started CrossFit back in 2010 that he and Rich would do one workout per day taken directly off the main website.

Over time that then evolved into two-a-days and then eventually three and four workouts per day.

As many comment in the film, Rich loves programming and he knows what he’s doing. One of the highlights of the film is that they then show a regular day of training for Rich:

  • 10:00AM – 10 Rounds of Row 250 meters (Rest 2:1 work ratio)
  • 11:30AM – 5 Rounds of 10 Deadlifts (225#) + 20 Wall Balls
  • 1:05PM – For Time 21 Weighted Pistols (65#) + 15 Clean & Jerks (185#) + 9 Muscle-ups
  • 1:25PM – For Time 21 Paralette Handstand Push-ups + 15 Snatches + 9 Muscle-ups
  • 3:00PM – 6 x 3 Snatch work
  • 7:30PM – Frantasy Land WOD = 21-15-9 reps of Thrusters (95#) & Pull-ups; 15-12-9 reps of Thrusters (115#) & Chest-to-bar pull-ups; 12-9-6 reps Thrusters (135#) & Bar muscle-ups

He believes his training is the epitome of CrossFit as it is based around high intensity, functional movements and constantly varied.

He is one of the best lifters in the sport and he dominates in the competitive arena. One talking head in the film says of Rich and his competitors, “He permits them to workout with him.”

The story of his rise is not epic as much as it is a reflection of his focus and commitment. At his first appearance at the Games in 2010 he famously failed on the rope climbs and it cost him the championship.

But rest be assured he fixed that problem and crushed the rope climbs in 2011 and took his first title.

Similarly in 2013 he was thrown into the pool during one of the workouts and he took 30th due to his weakness as a swimmer. Even after winning that year he remembered where he had fallen short in his performance and worked on his swimming.

In 2014 he took 8th place in the beach event that included an open water swim. The man is human. He has flaws but he strives to get better everyday. Rich does not rest on his laurels.

The film is not Oscar-worthy. It lacks some thrill as you already know the outcome from the beginning nor does the director do much to build up the suspense.

Perhaps because Rich already published a memoir they don’t rehash his life story too much. Much of the focus is on the 2014 Games.

Nevertheless, he is inspiring. Rich loves working out and challenging himself to see what the human body is capable of.

Watching all his energy and effort makes me want to try harder at the gym and put in more time.

His high school baseball coach notes at one point in the film that with Rich he was the “first to get there, last to leave.”. He also seems to be having fun. He can’t not workout out or do something athletic.

At the end of the film he explains that despite winning the CrossFit Games four years in a row and being crowned by many the fittest man in history that he is not satisfied.

He simply states, “There is still more to do.” Like many, I’ll be watching to see what’s next.

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