WODs & Circuits – The Ultimate Guide to Upper Body CrossFit Workouts

CrossFit training is one of the best ways to implement strength conditioning into your workout routine. It’s based on exercises and movements that are performed in everyday life like squatting, pulling and pushing.

Some athletes and gym-goers live by CrossFit regimes and use some of their specially crafted routines to build upper body strength in ways that aren’t possible with other methods.

Upper Body Crossfit Workouts

https://nanbf.org/the-ultimate-guide-on-the-push-jerk-for-crossfit/In this article, we’ll be going over the basics of how to use CrossFit WODs and circuits to build upper body strength and explain a few of our favorite routines to get you in top shape!

What Are WODs And Circuits?

A Workout of the day (WOD) is basically what the primary workout for that day is, based on what your own specific workout needs are.

A lot of gyms and personal trainers use these as a point of reference to see how you perform and develop over a certain time period.

These workouts aim not to specialize in any specific sport or activity, rather to concentrate on the fundamentals of strength training and physical fitness. This means they can be used by anyone of any level of fitness.

Circuit training is a much more universal term in the world of fitness. It refers to a set routine of activities, often assembled together to cover a wide variety of muscle groups and fitness characteristics.

CrossFit circuits will differ based on what your own needs are in terms of strength training and for upper body strength building it will largely consist of weight training exercises.

The main aim of CrossFit workouts is to cover a wide basis of physical characteristics without focusing too heavily on one specific body part or activity.

This means you’ll end up with a great level of overall fitness and strength but likely won’t make you great at any one particular sport or activity.

Fundamental CrossFit Upper Body Movements

Anyone familiar with CrossFit will know that most of the exercises are based around some core, fundamental movements or activities. In the exercises on our list, you might not need to use all of these fundamentals and you will need to learn some more complex ones.

However, these are some of the basic movements that are included in a lot of CrossFit exercises:

  • Shoulder Press - This exercise starts with a bar weight resting on your shoulders and your elbows out slightly in front of the bar. Use your shoulders and upper arm to push the bar directly up over the middle of your foot to full extension above your head. Then, slowly lower the bar back down onto your shoulders.
  • Push Press - This works in a very similar way to the shoulder press. The only real difference is that you want your torso to dip down slightly, bend your knees and use your whole body to give the bar a push up above your head.
  • Push Jerk - This movement combines aspects of the previous two. However, here you want to extend your legs quickly to help propel the bar upwards in a more rapid movement.
  • Push up - This is a pretty universal exercise that you’ve probably done before. To do it properly, place your hands on the floor a shoulder width apart and keep your back and legs straight. Lower yourself down until your nose touches the ground. Then slowly push yourself back up until your arms are fully extended.
  • Pull up - This is another well known movement, but it’s important to do it properly to realize the most improvements. Start by hanging from a bar with your feet off the ground. Then, pull yourself all the way up until your chin is above the bar. Finally, lower yourself back down until your arms are fully extended again.

Look, One Hand WOD

As the name suggests, this exercise is all about focusing on one arm at a time. It’s designed to increase in intensity as you progress and can be tailored over longer periods to change as your body develops. This is the basic method for this exercise:

5 sets of the following:

  • 6x left arm dumbbell push press
  • 6x right arm dumbbell push press
  • 8x left arm dumbbell row
  • 8x right arm dumbbell row
  • 10x left arm dumbbell curl
  • 10x right arm dumbbell curl

This is a pretty demanding exercise because you should try to complete it without putting the dumbbell down between sets. Of course, if you can’t manage to get through the whole thing without putting down the weight, try to fill that down time with a different activity.

Burpees are a good idea for this one because they will keep your arms working without putting too much of a strain on them for the next set. Hey, nobody said these workouts were going to be easy!

JT (With Or Without Equipment)

This exercise is a CrossFit classic and traditionally calls for the use of ring dips. However, if you don’t have access to such equipment and are trying to carry out the same workout at home, you can use a chair or a low wall in your backyard to do them instead. Here’s how it works:

Sets of 21, 15, then 9 of the following:

  • Handstand push ups
  • Dips (ring or otherwise)
  • Push ups

Handstand push ups always seem daunting for new CrossFitters so you should only attempt these if you feel confident in your existing abilities. If you want to start trying them out, it’s always best to start off with someone spotting you and you should always perform these with a wall or something to balance against if you need to.

This exercise is a great workout for your biceps and triceps, specifically. Because the reps for this exercise reduce gradually as you go through them, you might find it a little easier than the previous exercise.

However, this is still a very intense workout and is a great way to measure your progress over a long period of time. The reps for this exercise can easily be adjusted lower for beginners or increased as your body develops.


This is another classic CrossFit WOD and it’s a little more beginner friendly than the previous one we’ve looked at. Again, this exercise is focused on developing different arm muscles without maxing you out too much on any particular one. This is what you have to do:

5 Set Of Each Of The Following:

  • Bodyweight bench press (maximum reps)
  • Strict pull ups

It might seem like quite a simple routine but it’s a good benchmark and a way to measure development over time. Because there’s no cap on the number of reps you complete in each set, you can measure your reps like a score and track the number to see how much you improve over time.

By strict pull ups, we mean pull ups that start with you hanging vertically from the bar with your feet off the ground, then pulling yourself up until your chin is over the bar. Doing this properly is the best way to realize maximum improvement from these exercises.

15 minute Cindy AMRAP

The Cindy workout is a staple of CrossFit regimes and consists of the same movements however you want to do it. AMRAP simply means ‘as many reps as possible’. Here’s how it’s done:

AMRAP in 15 minutes:

  • 5x handstand push ups
  • 10x strict pull ups
  • 15x push ups

Because this exercise is based around completing as many of these sets as possible within 15 minutes, it’s another good way to measure progression over time. Also, because you’ll always know how much time this exercise will take, it’s a convenient one to work into a whole day of training or a circuit.

Again, the handstand push ups aren’t the most beginner friendly movements so you should only attempt them if you’ve practiced and have a supporting wall or spotter with you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does CrossFit Build Upper Body Strength?

Yes, many CrossFit exercises are designed to specifically develop upper body strength, so it’s pretty easy to tailor a CrossFit workout routine to this. However, the main aim of CrossFit strength training and workouts is to build strength and fitness across the whole body, through a variety of different exercises, without too much specialization.

For that reason, if you’re only interested in developing upper body strength, carrying out an entire CrossFit workout routine would not be the best idea. Although, you can easily work some of their upper body exercises into your own circuit or routine.

What Is The Hardest CrossFit WOD?

One of the hardest CrossFit WODs is probably the Filthy 50. This routine consists of 50 reps of 10 different exercises and is meant to be completed as quickly as possible.

When done properly, you’ll definitely feel the burn from this workout. However, there are many other CrossFit WODs that are just as hard as this one, if not even more challenging!

What CrossFit Workouts Target Your Back?

There are plenty of CrossFit workouts out there that can target the muscles in your back specifically. You can combine these with your own workout routines and create a circuit with them too. These are some of the best for targeting your back:

  • Wide grip strict pull ups
  • Deadlift
  • Barbell rows
  • Dual KB rack carry
  • One arm dumbbell row
  • Sumo stance good morning


Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how CrossFit exercises and WODs for Crossfit can be implemented into your workout routine.

We’ve only discussed a few exercises here and there are hundreds of others that you can check out and choose from as well.

Whatever you choose, we’re pretty sure it’ll lead to some pretty big gains and improvements very quickly!

Kevin Harris