23 Hardcore Upper Body CrossFit Workouts

Table of Contents

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Upper Body CrossFit Workouts

Just recently we had several days in a row really stressing our lower body muscles and legs. There have been a few workouts lined up that rather focused on the core, glutes, hamstrings, and quads. We did countless squats, back squats, wall ball shots, burpees, lunges, sled pushes, heavy carries, and all that good stuff followed by a day skiing and then – finally – storming up a mountain…

We were all finished and felt that our legs definitely needed a break!

Well, it didn´t take more than about half a day and the first WhatsApp message dropped in: “Who is working out today??? Anybody got a good idea for today’s WOD?”

The answers made clear that working out sounded like a good plan, but the lower body and legs were considered “untouchable“.

We needed upper body workouts that solely consisted of upper body exercises which seemed to be an unsolvable challenge as a classic CrossFit wod always also stresses your lower body.

The resulting challenge of finding CrossFit upper body workouts was accepted by the team and in fact, we were able to find workouts packed with upper body exercises which we would like to share with you now.

So if you find yourself in the same situation as we were that day, we got you covered – check out our list of upper body CrossFit workouts:

upper body wods - strong legs

23 Upper Body Crossfit Workouts

#1 Lynne

As Many Repetitions as Possible in 5 Rounds of:

    • Max Bench Press (bodyweight)
    • Max Pull-Ups

Perform As Many Repetitions as Possible (AMRAP), unbroken, of Bench Press. Rest as needed before completing as many Pull-Ups as possible, unbroken. Continue in this manner for 5 rounds.

An AMRAP would normally need a time cap. Here there is no time cap – one “round” is over once you have finished your unbroken numbers of bench presses or pull-ups. So you can´t stop, take a break and then continue with bench presses or pull-ups.

The intended stimulus is to finish each round with a comparable number of repetitions but without taking super long breaks in between rounds.

upper body Crossfit wod - bench press

#2 "JT" - CrossFit Hero WOD

21-15-9 Reps For Time

    • Handstand Push-Ups
    • Ring Dips
    • Push-Ups

How to scale this workout:

    1. reduce the number of reps to: 12-9-6-3 or 15-12-9
    2. replace Handstand Push-Ups with Pike Push-Ups
    3. replace Ring Dips with banded Ring Dips
    4. replace Push-Ups with Knee Push-Ups

One of the nicest upper body wods to build upper body strength!

“JT” will see you pressing with your arms in several different directions using several different movements.

You will feel this workout in your upper back, shoulders, triceps and chest.

upper body Crossfit wods - push-ups
fit guy doing elbow plank
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#3 Break Up / Make Up

This is a partner workout consisting of two parts:

Part A: “The Break Up” – both partners complete this part together!

EMOM for As Long As Possible (until one partner can´t finish the necessary number of reps anymore):

    • 1st minute: 1 Push Press (125/85 lb) + 1 Burpee
    • 2nd minute: 2 Push Presses (125/85 lb) + 2 Burpees
    • 3rd minute: 3 Push Presses (125/85 lb) + 3 Burpees
    • etc…

10-minute Rest (stick to exactly 10 minutes!)

Part B: “The Make Up”

6 Rounds (alternating*) for Time of:

    • 5 Squat Cleans (125/85 lb)
    • 10 Pull-Ups
    • 200 meter Row

*One partner works on a round while the other performs a max hollow hold. Once the second partner has to break his hollow hold, partner #1 must interrupt his round until partner #2 continues his hollow hold.

Yes – we know! This workout also stresses your legs! But the focus clearly lies on upper body muscle groups which let “Break Up / Make Up” qualify as an upper body workout.

If you are not happy with the burpees then replace them with push-ups.

upper body crossfit wod - partner wod

#4 Go To Hell

For Time: 5-7-9-11-13-15-17 reps of:

    • Russian Kettlebell Swings (72/53 lb)
    • Pull-Ups
    • Push-Ups

This is an upper-body CrossFit workout that is quite self-explanatory.

Go hard, embrace the suck and enjoy the pain!

upper body Crossfit wod - kettlebell swing

#5 Ladder Up

AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) in 7 minutes:

    • 1 Pull-Up – 2 Push Presses (75/55 lb)
    • 2 Pull-Ups – 4 Push Presses (75/55 lb)

Continue with this pattern, adding 1 Pull-Up and 2 Push Presses each round.

This workout only takes seven minutes, but these seven minutes translate to complete upper body destruction.

Try it out!

upper body Crossfit wod - pull up

#6 Michael Kiefer

EMOM for 20 minutes

Odd Minutes:

    • 5 Bench Presses (65% of 1RM)

Even Minutes:

    • 8 Hand Release Push-Ups
shoulder to overhead header
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#7 Stay At Home

6 Rounds for Time

    • 25 PVC Overhead Squats
    • 20 Sit-Ups
    • 15 Hand Release Push-Ups

#8 Joseph Marchbanks Jr.

For Time: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 Reps of:

    • Alternating Dumbbell Snatches (75/45 lb)
    • Handstand Push-Ups

Comment: We tried this upper body wod and initially got fooled by the simple looks of this wod. Don´t get fooled as we did! This workout is absolutely nasty! Thank God it´s a decreasing ladder…

#9 Push and Pull

21–15 -9 Reps

    • Push Jerk (95/65lbs)
    • Pull-Ups

This is a little “Fran” variation – thrusters replaced with push jerks. This makes it a true upper-body CrossFit workout. If you are looking for a push-pull style workout, here it is – just for you…

#10 Swing it Hard

20-Minute AMRAP:

    • 20 American Style Kettlebell Swings
    • 1 minute Plank Hold

You might think “great, I can use the plank hold to get some rest…” – well, try it and see if you still think that way after the workout!

seated dumbbell press header
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#11 Kettlebell Ladder

Perform 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 repetitions of:

Right arm:

    • One Arm Kettlebell Swing followed by
    • Kettlebell Clean followed by
    • One Arm Kettlebell Push-Press

–> these three movements combined count as one repetition!

Then perform the same pattern with your left arm before continuing again with your right arm and the next lower number of reps.

Males use a 45lbs / Females use a 25lbs kettlebell.

This truly is an upper-body workout that will get you sweating in no time. Three movements packed into one repetition containing a swinging motion and also an overhead press activates more muscle in less time and is a tough fitness challenge even for tough athletes.

#12 Blackjack

For Time:

    • 20 Push-Ups, 1 Sit-Up
    • 19 Push-Ups, 2 Sit-Ups
    • 18 Push-Ups, 3 Sit-Ups
    • 17 Push-Ups, 4 Sit-Ups
    • …continue this pattern until…
    • 1 Push-Ups, 20 Sit-Ups

Don´t start too fast and find your pace! Split your push-ups up into sensible packages.

#13 One Hand WOD

Complete 5 rounds

    • Left Arm Dumbbell Push Press, 6 Reps
    • Right Arm Dumbbell Push Press, 6 Reps
    • Left Arm Dumbbell Row, 8 Reps
    • Right Arm Dumbbell Row, 8 Reps
    • Left Arm Dumbbell Curl, 10 Reps
    • Right Arm Dumbbell Curl, 10 Reps

Complete 5 sets of 36 reps without putting down the dumbbell. Each time you set the dumbbell down, you must do 5 push-ups.

Find a weight that lets you do many reps in a row but also try to go as heavy as you can.

upper body crossfit wod - dumbbell row

#14 Flower

For Max Reps, to the tune of the song “Flower” perform the following movements for every mention of:

    • “Bring Sally Up:” Hold top of the Push-Up
    • “Bring Sally Down:” Hold the bottom of the Push-Up (keep chest an inch off the ground)

For sure, you know the “Bring Sally Up, Bring Sally Down” – challenge.

This is a nice upper-body workout that makes even more fun when done as a group!

a kettlebell in a cloud of chalk
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#15 Secret Service Snatch Test

AMRAP in 10 minutes

    • Alternating Kettlebell Power Snatches (24/16 kg)

Within 10 minutes perform as many alternating power snatches as possible!

We do not know if the Secret Service really does this as some sort of fitness test, but the name of this wod sounds really cool, doesn´t it?

If you can finish 200 reps or more within 10 minutes you can call yourself an “elite CrossFit athlete”.

#16 Blackjack (Assault)

AMRAP in 21 minutes

    • 21 calorie Assault Air Bike
    • 21 Kettlebell Swings (53/35 lb)
    • 21 AbMat Sit-Ups

Yes, you will also need your legs for this workout – we won´t argue about that. Still, we rather felt this workout in our core and upper body than in our legs.

That is why we decided to add it to this list…

upper body crossfit workouts - assault bike

#17 Hercules Complex

21-15-9 Reps for Time

    • Deficit Strict Handstand Push-Ups (10/7 in)
    • Push-Ups
    • Strict Presses (50/35 kg)

Do you want to build maximum upper body strength? Then try this upper-body CrossFit workout!

Deficit Handstand Push-Ups are really very tough for most athletes, so you might consider doing a scaled version here.

The number of reps doesn´t look all too bad, but once started this workout feels much longer than it initially looks.

upper body Crossfit workouts - handstand push-up

#18 Living Room Mash 38

EMOM For as Long as Possible

    • 1 Push-Up
    • 1 V-Up
    • 2 Push-Ups
    • 2 V-Ups
    • Continue with this pattern, adding 1 Push-Up and 1 V-Up every minute.

Keep adding one repetition to the number of reps you did in the previous round until you can´t finish the number of reps anymore within one minute.

When doing V-Ups, keep your legs as straight as possible!

#19 John Florio

For Time

    • 10 Bench Presses (75% BW)
    • 10 Ring Dips
    • 20 Bench Presses (50% BW)
    • 20 Diamond Push-Ups
    • 30 Bench Presses (35% BW)
    • 30 Push-Ups

John Florio is a hero wod. Warning: Diamond Push-Ups could suck really bad!

upper body wod - diamond push-up

#20 Walk The Wall

For Time

    • 40 Bench Presses (Bodyweight)
    • 40 Wall Walks

Looks like nothing, feels like hell! Remember: “for time” means “go fast”!

#21 Upper Body Cindy

AMRAP in 15 minutes

    • 5 Handstand Push-Ups
    • 10 Pull-Ups
    • 15 Push-Ups

#22 The Thirteen

13 Rounds for Time

    • 26 calorie Row
    • 8 Strict Pull-Ups
    • 21 Shoulder-to-Overheads (95/65 lb)

13 rounds!!! Be prepared for a massive, super-long upper-body workout!

The fastest of us finished at around 50 minutes. Some did not finish at all, because this wod was just too much!

Shoulder-to-overheads could be Strict-Presses, Push-Presses, Push-Jerks, or Split-Jerks.

#23 Core and Shoulders

21-15-9-6-3 repetitions of:

    • Hollow Rocks
    • Strict Press (95/65 lb)
upper body wod - hollow rocks

How Often Should You Work Out?

Keep in mind that all of the listed workouts are high-intensity workouts! You need rest days for regeneration. This means if you are already an experienced athlete, you can aim for a 3-day work – 1-day rest cycle.

Lesser experienced athletes should rather aim for a 2-day work – 1-day rest cycle and beginners will get challenged enough by a 1-day work – 2-days rest cycle.

female athlete with kettlebell
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