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The 21-15-9 CrossFit Workout, Explained

These 21-15-9 Workouts Will Have You Sweating Buckets in 15 Minutes or Less

strong black athlete in a gymnasium doing barbell and weightlifting exercises to strengthen shoulders and biceps showing a lot of effort and in red sportswear

CrossFit workouts are known to be basic yet fast-paced, intense, and brutal — after all, that's why people are drawn to them in the first place. Pushing yourself to these levels pumps up your adrenaline, making you stronger both mentally and physically. While there are many types of workouts well-known by the CrossFit community (often called Workouts of the Day or WODs), one of the most popular ones is the 21-15-9 workout. Here's how it works.

What Is a 21-15-9 Workout?

In a 21-15-9 workout, the numbers refer to the number of reps performed. There are usually two to three exercises, explains Jade Jenny, head Level 1 CrossFit coach and co-owner of Champlain Valley Community Fitness. The athlete performs 21 reps of each exercise, then 15 of each, then nine of each, as fast as they can. Since the reps go down every round, it allows the athlete to push equally hard in each round even if they're tired. The workout usually lists the movements with higher and lower recommended weights next to each one. Easier movement modifications are often listed as well.

This rep scheme is short, taking anywhere from five to 15 minutes, depending on the number of exercises included in the workout. The goal of a 21-15-9 workout is to keep moving through the reps with no rest, trying to complete the workout as fast as you can, Jenny explains. Athletes will often compare the times they get with fellow members at their gym, writing scores on a public board. Or they'll get competitive with themselves and aim to perform the workout faster the next time.

CrossFit's "Fran" Workout:

Here is an example of a well-known 21-15-9: the CrossFit benchmark workout known as "Fran."

Equipment needed: A barbell or dumbbells and a pull-up bar or set of rings

Description: With correct form, complete 21 reps of the two exercises below (21 thrusters followed by 21 pull-ups), then 15 reps of both exercises, and finish with nine reps of both. The workout is to be completed "for time," which means as fast as you can.


21-15-9 reps for time:
Thrusters (95/65 lbs.)

Intermediate: If a 65-pound barbell is too heavy, complete the intermediate workout below using a 55-pound barbell.

21-15-9 reps for time:
Thrusters (75/55 lbs.)

Beginner: If a 55-pound barbell is too heavy, and you can't yet do pull-ups, complete the beginner workout below. Use 10-pound weights to perform dumbbell thrusters, and do ring rows instead of pull-ups.

21-15-9 reps for time:
Dumbbell thrusters (15/10 lbs.)
Ring rows

21-15-9 Workouts

Here are some other examples of 21-15-9 workouts. You can basically take any two or three exercises and perform them using this rep scheme. If you don't have any equipment or are traveling, this type of workout works well with bodyweight moves. If the workout below does require equipment, use an appropriate weight for your fitness level.

21-15-9 Bodyweight Workout:

21-15-9 reps for time:
Air squats

21-15-9 Dumbbell Workout:

21-15-9 reps for time:
Dumbbell overhead shoulder presses
Box jumps
Dumbbell deadlifts

21-15-9 Kettlebell Workout:

21-15-9 reps for time:
Russian kettlebell swings
Image Source: Getty / koldo studio
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