The 20 Best Crossfit Upper Body Workouts and WODs

Crossfit is not about upper or lower body training, it is about strengthening the entire muscles throughout the body and developing speed, endurance, and mobility. But still, if you want to focus specifically on your chest, back, shoulders, arms, and core, you can check out the 20 best Crossfit upper body workouts in this article.

I’ve included various upper body Crossfit workouts, from beginner to advanced level. You can do some of them at home without equipment, while you need various equipment, such as dumbbells, barbells, and pull-up bars, to perform others.

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Okay, Let’s start!

The Best CrossFit Upper Body Workouts

  1. Pullup
  2. Dip
  3. Push Jerk
  4. Military Press
  5. Barbell Bench Press
  6. Barbell Thruster
  7. Bent Over Barbell Rows
  8. Kettlebell Swings
  9. Rowing
  10. Battle Rope
  11. Hanging Knee to Elbow
  12. Muscle-ups
  13. Ring Pushups
  14. Toes to Ring
  15. The Ring Row

1. Pull-Up

Exercise GoalBuild Strength, Mobility, and Muscle
Muscles WorkedLats, Traps, and Biceps
Exercise LevelBeginner to Intermediate
Equipment NeededPull-up Bar
Crossfit Upper Body Exercises

Pullups are a great exercise for developing strength, muscles, and grip. It works on various muscles at once, such as the biceps, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and core.

It is one of my favorite pull exercises that I do every alternate day. The best thing about this exercise is that it is bodyweight and requires no special instructions to perform. However, it can be challenging for you if you have a high body fat percentage or if you’re a newbie.

How to:

  • Lift yourself up and grab the pull-up bar with an overhand grip. Keep your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Brace your abdominal muscles and pull yourself up until your chin is close or above the bar.
  • Pause and then slowly lower yourself until your arms are straight. That’s one rep.

2. Parallel Bar Dip

Exercise GoalIncrease Strength, Mobility, and Muscle
Muscles WorkedTriceps, Chest, and Shoulder
Exercise LevelBeginner to Intermediate
Equipment NeededParallel Bar Dips
upper body crossfit workouts

Bar dip is one of the best upper body Crossfit workouts for all fitness levels. It strengthens various muscles throughout the upper body, particularly the chest, triceps, shoulder, and core.

How to do bar dips correctly

Set-up
  • First of all, grab the bar handles firmly and hoist yourself up.
  • Brace your abdominal muscles, look forward, and bend your knees slightly (if you like). That’s your starting position.
Execution
  • Bend your elbows and lower yourself down until your triceps are parallel to the floor.
  • And as you reach down, pull yourself up rapidly until you return to the starting position. That’s your one repetition.

3. Barbell Push Jerk

Exercise GoalBuild Strength and Explosiveness
Muscles WorkedShoulders, Core, and Arms
Exercise LevelIntermediate to Advanced
Equipment NeededBarbell

The push jerks work on several muscles at once and improve strength, agility, and endurance.

A research article published online in 2019 indicated that overhead pressing exercises such as push press, push jerk, or split jerk may be beneficial for enhancing power development and maximal strength.1Soriano MA, Suchomel TJ, Comfort P. Weightlifting Overhead Pressing Derivatives: A Review of the Literature. Sports Med. 2019 Jun;49(6):867-885. doi: 10.1007/s40279-019-01096-8. PMID: 30924081; PMCID: PMC6548056.

How to:

  1. First of all, place a bar in the squat rack to your chest height and stand in front of it.
  2. Bend your knees, reach under the bar, and grab the bar with both hands (shoulder-width apart) with an underhand grip, palms facing up.
  3. Keep your core tight, stand straight (in the shoulder-width stance) to remove the bar from the rack, and walk backward.
  4. Keeping the natural arch in your lower back, hold the barbell in front of your shoulders. That’s your starting position.
  5. Slightly bend your knees and push your hips back to lower yourself into a quarter squat position. And then, push through your heels to stand upright and press the bar overhead at the same time and lift your heels off the floor.
  6. Now land your heels back on the floor while holding your arms straight overhead.
  7. And now, return the barbell back to the starting position and repeat.

4. Barbell Military Press

Exercise GoalBuild Strength and Muscles
Muscles WorkedShoulders
Exercise LevelBeginner
Equipment NeededBarbell
Upper Body Crossfit workout

The standing military press is a compound workout that works on the shoulder and core. And increase your strength and pressing power that helps you in other compound workouts like the bench press.

How to do the Military Press

  • Place a bar into the squat rack, and put the desired weight.
  • Reach under the bar, and grab it with your hands wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Now, press the bar overhead until your arms are straight overhead. And then return the bar to your shoulder height (in front of you). That’s one rep!
  • Perform each rep in a controlled fashion.

5. Barbell Bench Press

Exercise GoalDevelop Strength and Mass
Muscles WorkedChest, Triceps, and Core
Exercise LevelIntermediate
Equipment NeededBarbell and Olympic Bench
CrossFit upper body exercise

The bench press is one of the best upper body workouts for increasing strength and building muscles, especially for the chest. It engages several muscles at once, such as the chest, shoulders, triceps, and core, and improves your total body strength.

How to:

  • Lay down on a flat bench on your back, place your feet flat on the floor, and grip the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Lift the bar off the rack and hold it over your chest (with arms extended straight). That’s your starting position.
  • Keeping your abdominal muscles tight, lower the bar toward your chest in a controlled manner until the bar reaches close to your chest.
  • Hold for a moment and then press the bar back to the start. That’s your one complete rep.
  • Perform each repetition in a controlled fashion and avoid arching the lower back during the movement.

6. Barbell Thruster

Exercise GoalBoost Strength and Power
Muscles WorkedShoulders, Core, Arms, and Legs
Exercise LevelIntermediate
Equipment NeededBarbell

The barbell thruster is a great exercise for the upper body. It works on shoulders, arms, and core, as well as strengthens quads and glutes.

How to:

  • Grab a barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart, and hold it on the front of your shoulder.
  • Lower into a partial or full squat and then thrust the barbell overhead as you return to the standing position.

7. Bent Over Barbell Row

Exercise GoalBuild Strength and Mass
Muscles WorkedBack, Core, and Biceps
Exercise LevelBeginner
Equipment NeededBarbell
Barbell Bent Over Row

The inverted row is one of the muscle-building back exercises that strengthen lats and traps.

How to:

  1. Grab a barbell with an overhand grip, with your just outside your hips.
  2. Stand upright in the shoulder-width stance and slightly lean forward, keeping your back straight.
  3. Brace your core and look forward, and pull the bar toward your lower abs until you feel the contraction in your back muscles.
  4. Pause for a moment and return to the start.

8. Kettlebell Swing

Exercise GoalIncrease Strength, Endurance & Power
Muscles WorkedShoulders, Core, Arms, & Hips
Exercise LevelBeginner
Equipment NeededKettlebell
Kettlebell Swings

The kettlebell swing is one of the highly effective exercises to develop aerobic power, muscle strength, and explosiveness.2Lake JP, Lauder MA. Kettlebell swing training improves maximal and explosive strengthJ Strength Cond Res. 2012;26(8):2228-2233. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e31825c2c9b

It works on multiple muscles from the lower to the upper body and helps improve overall performance.

How to:

  1. Holding a kettlebell with your hands, stand tall with your feet two times wider than hip-width apart, and keep your arms straight between your thighs.
  2. Slightly lean forward, so the kettlebell swings back between your legs, and then extending your hips, swing the kettlebell in front of you until your arms are straight, at least at your chest level.

9. Rowing

Exercise GoalIncrease Strength, Endurance, Power, Mass
Muscles WorkedBack, Core, Arms, and Rear Delt
Exercise LevelBeginner to Intermediate
Equipment NeededRowing Machine

Rowing is an excellent high-intensity exercise that works throughout the body, burn decent calories, and helps improve strength, power, and aerobic fitness.

10. Battle Rope

Exercise GoalIncrease Strength, Endurance, & Speed
Muscles WorkedShoulder, Core, and Arms
Exercise LevelBeginner to Intermediate
Equipment NeededCross Training Battle Rope
CrossFit upper body exercise

How to do battle rope workout

  • Grab the rope tightly with your hands, and stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Palms facing each other.
  • Lower your hips and whip ropes up and over in front of you for the maximum number of times.

11. Hanging Knee to Elbow

Exercise GoalStrength and Balance
Muscles WorkedCore and Back
Exercise LevelIntermediate
Equipment NeededPullup Bar

The knee-to-elbow is one of the advanced abs exercises that helps to build a strong core and enhance overall balance. It also improves grip strength and your ability to pull the body weight against gravity.

How to:

  1. Grab the pull bar with an overhand grip and keep your hands shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bring your knees up until they make a contact with your elbows. Your torso will slightly lean back as you bring your knees up.
  3. Return your knees to the start and repeat.

12. Muscle-up

Exercise GoalStrength, Balance, and Speed
Muscles WorkedUpper Body
Exercise LevelIntermediate/Advanced
Equipment NeededPullup Bar

Muscles-up is one of the advanced calisthenics and Crossfit workouts for the upper body that strengthens various muscles throughout the move and helps improve strength, speed, and mobility.

It combines both pull and push movement that requires decent strength, balance, and flexibility.

It can be difficult in the beginning, but once you practice, it’ll be easy for you.

How to:

  • Start by standing two to three steps away from the bar.
  • Walk and jump out to quickly hang onto the bar with your hands a bit wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep your thumbs on the bar with your other fingers instead of under it.
  • Pull yourself up until your chin crosses the bar, and from that position, perform a dip by pressing the bar downward.
  • Once you complete the dip, return to the starting position. That’s one repetition.

13. Ring Pushup

Exercise GoalStrength and Mobility
Muscles WorkedChest, Triceps, Anterior Delt, and Core
Exercise LevelIntermediate
Equipment NeededGymnastic Ring
Crossfit Upper Body workout with rings

One of the best things about Crossfit is that it comprises a variety of exercises, from powerlifting to Calisthenics. For example, ring pushups.

The ring pushup is a calisthenics exercise that helps strengthen your chest, shoulders, arms, and core while also improving balance, coordination, and strength.

The rings allow you to go deeper into your pushups and get more out of each rep.

How to:

  • Adjust the ring in an appropriate position and grab them firmly and get into a high plank position with your arms straight below your shoulders and toes on the ground.
  • Perform the suggested number of pushups in a controlled manner.

14. Toes to Ring

Exercise GoalStrength and Mobility
Muscles WorkedCore and Arms
Exercise LevelAdvanced
Equipment NeededGymnastic Ring

The toes to ring is one of the advanced abs exercises you can do to bolster your core strength. Having a sturdy core provides stability to your lower back and helps you perform other Crossfit upper body exercises efficiently.

How to:

  1. Grab the rings and hang onto them with your arms and legs straight.
  2. Keeping your arms extended, swing your legs back, and then raise them in front of you until your toes touch the ring.
  3. Return and repeat for the suggested reps.

Alternative: Toes to Bar

15. The Ring Row

Exercise GoalStrength and Mobility
Muscles WorkedBack, Core and Arms
Exercise LevelBeginner
Equipment NeededGymnastic Ring
Crossfit Workouts for upper body

The ring row is a beginner-level exercise for developing upper body muscles, particularly the back and biceps. Doing it consistently will help you build your strength for challenging exercises.

How to:

  1. Adjust the ring at an appropriate height and grab them firmly with a neutral grip.
  2. Extend your legs in front of you and lean backward until your arms are fully straight.
  3. Keep your core tight and back straight. That’s the start.
  4. Pull yourself up until you feel the full contraction in your back muscles.
  5. Pause for a moment and then slowly return to the start.

The Best Upper Body Crossfit Workouts at Home

When it comes to doing the upper body Crossfit workout at home, you have a limited option.

Here are the following exercises you can do at home:

  • Standard Pushups
  • Bench Dips
  • Burpees
  • Handstand Push-ups
  • Sit-ups

16. Standard Pushups

Exercise GoalStrength and Muscle Building
Muscles WorkedChest, Triceps, Front Delt
Exercise LevelBeginner to Intermediate
Best Crossfit move at home

The pushup is a traditional bodyweight exercise that works primarily on chest muscles and helps develop the upper body physique.

How to:

  • Place your hands on the floor with your arms directly underneath your shoulder.
  • Extend your legs behind you and get into a high plank position with your body straight from top to the bottom.
  • Keeping your core tight, perform as many pushups as you like.

17. Bench Dips

Exercise GoalStrength and Mobility
Muscles WorkedTriceps and Front Delt
Exercise LevelBeginner
Equipment NeededBench/Chair
dips exercise at home

The bench dip is an excellent exercise to build up tricep muscle. Strong triceps help perform various push exercises, such as pushup, bench press, overhead press, and push press effectively.

How to:

  • Start with sitting on the chair with your legs straight in front of you.
  • Keeping your arms extended and hands on the bench, lift your butt and slightly move your torso forward, now you’re ready to do dips.
  • Bend your elbows and lower your hips down toward the floor.
  • Hold for a second and then press back through your arms to return to the start.

18. Burpees

Exercise GoalStrength, Speed, and Mobility
Muscles WorkedIntegrated Full Body
Exercise LevelIntermediate
Equipment NeededNo

Burpee is an ultimate total body workout as it involves different movements, such as push-ups, squats, and jumping. It is a part of the HIIT workout program because it is explosive and burns decent calories in a short duration.

How to:

  • Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold your arms straight at your sides.
  • Lower your hips and bring your hands in front of your leg, and then kick your feet behind you. Now, you’re in a pushup position, complete one push-up.
  • Quickly bring your feet under your hips and then extend your hips to stand upright. And as you stand up, perform a squat and then jump quickly in the air with your arms straight overhead and then land your feet and repeat.

19. Handstand Push-up

Exercise GoalStrength and Mobility
Muscles WorkedIntegrated Full Body
Exercise LevelAdvanced
Equipment NeededNo

The handstand pushup is an advanced pushup variation that requires incredible core strength, balance, and control. It works on various muscles simultaneously, particularly the shoulder and triceps, and helps improve overall athleticism.

How to: You can’t directly perform handstand pushups unless you’re good at it. That’s why it is better to start with a wall handstand pushup, then a handstand hold, and then a handstand pushup.

20. Sit-up

Exercise GoalStrength
Muscles WorkedCore
Exercise LevelBeginner to Intermediate
Equipment NeededNo
Crunches for sturdy core

Although many compound exercises engage the core muscles, still, if you want to work the abs specifically, you can do situps. The sit-up is a classic bodyweight exercise for strengthening the abdominal muscles and improving the appearance of your six-pack abs.

How to:

  • Lie on the floor on your back.
  • Keep your legs bent and fingertips on your ears.
  • Lift your torso until you feel the work in your abs.
  • Return and repeat.

The 5 Best Upper Body Crossfit WODs

1. Crossfit Upper Body Circuit (AMRAP)

Do as many rounds as possible in 30 minutes

  • 10 Pull-ups
  • 20 Standard Pushups
  • 20 Sit-up
  • 10 Barbell Push Jerk
  • 10 Kettlebell Swing, each side
  • 10 Toes to Ring or Toes to Bar
  • 10 Bent Over Barbell Row

2. Upper Body EMOM Crossfit Workout

Every Minute On the Minute (EMOM) for 20 minutes.

How to: Spend one minute on each exercise. You can work for 40 seconds and take rest for 20 seconds.

  • Pull-ups
  • Parallel Bar Dip
  • Bent Over Barbell Row
  • Standard Pushups
  • Kettlebell Swing
  • Barbell Push Jerk
  • Sit-up
  • Barbell Bench Press
  • Rowing
  • Military Press
  • Battle Rope
  •  Hanging Knee to Elbow
  • Ring Pushup
  • The Ring Row
  • Toes to Ring
  • Bench Dip
  • Handstand Push-up
  • Ring Row

Note: You can exclude exercises that you can not perform and include others instead.

3. Ladder Crossfit Upper Body WOD

Suggested rounds: 2-3

Complete the ladder as quickly as possible.

  • 1 Muscle up
  • 2 Burpee
  • 3 Toes to Ring
  • 4 Barbell Push Jerk
  • 5 Pull-Up
  • 6 Barbell Bench Press
  • 7 Kettlebell Swing
  • 8 Parallel Bar Dip
  • 9 Bent Over Barbell Row
  • 10 Sit-ups

Perform the Reverse ladder as fast as possible

  • 10 Pull-ups
  • 9 Sit-ups
  • 8 Kettlebell Swing
  • 7 Hanging Knee to Elbow
  • 6 Bent Over Barbell Row
  • 5 Barbell Thruster
  • 4 Muscle-up
  • 3 Burpees
  • 2 Barbell Push Jerk
  • 1 Handstand Push-up

4. Go for Time (GFT) WOD

Complete as fast as possible:

  • 10 Burpees
  • 10 Muscle up
  • 15 Barbell Thruster
  • 15 Inverted Row
  • 15 Barbell Bench Press
  • 15 Hanging Knee to Elbow
  • 15 Parallel Bar Dip
  • 20 Standard Pushups
  • 15 Ring Row
  • 20 Sit-up
  • 2 minutes Rowing
  • 30 seconds Battle Rope

5. Upper Body Tabata WOD

Perform each exercise for 20 seconds with high intensity followed by 10 seconds of rest. (Time cap: 20 minutes)

  • Pull-ups
  • Standard Pushups
  • Situps
  • Burpees
  • Barbell Push Press
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Battle Rope
  • Hanging Knee to Elbow

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Murshid Akram
I'm a certified personal trainer, fitness blogger, and nature lover. I always learn more about exercise science and human anatomy so that I can provide the best information possible. I share science-based, practical, and logical information that can help you achieve your desired fitness goal.

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