Building Upper Body Strength: Beginner through Advanced

Upper body strength and stability is something everyone needs to improve. Not only do you need to be able to pull and push your own body weight to be better at life, but it's crucial to improving your Crossfit and gymnastics game. SPSC Crossfit's program regularly works on the upper body, but it takes consistent practice and work if you want to accelerate your progress towards getting strict pull-ups, dips, muscle-ups, etc. 

Since we, as coaches, want to see you succeed and get the most out of your training, we are providing three free templates based on your current skill level. It only takes 10-15 minutes for 3-4 days per week. The accessory exercises being provided can be done in addition to your normal workouts, either before or after classes. The templates and demonstrations of the movements are outlined in this blog. Remember, consistency and practice are necessary to make improvements here. Get after it!

Beginner Template (for those who have not accomplished unassisted pull-up and/or dip)

See below for photo demonstrations of movements.

Day 1

Ring rows: 4 sets of 8-12 (if 12 becomes easier, wear a weighted vest)

Scap pulls/retractions: 3 sets of 6-10

Push-ups: 4 sets of 6-12 ** Scale to incline push-up on a racked barbell (Keep elbows by your side- keep in mind elbow position while dipping)

Hollow holds: 4 sets of :30

Day 2

Batwings: 4 sets of 4-6 **hold top position for minimum of 5 seconds

Parallette dips: 4 sets of 8-10 **keep elbows point back. Elevate your feet to increase the range of motion.

Deadbugs: 4 sets of 10 *5 each side

Day 3

Ground-to-standing rope pulls: 4 sets of 6-10 ** the key is to lower yourself down with as much control as possible

Bicep hammer curls: 4 sets of 12 *each arm

Band tricep extensions: 4 sets of 12

Planks 4 sets of 1:00



Intermediate Template (looking to refine and get multiple pull-ups/dips & add skills)

See video below for demonstrations of each movement.

Day 1

Hollow Rocks - 4 x :20

Dips on GHD Handles - 4 x AMRAP (do not go to failure until last set; leave 1-2 reps in the tank)

Negative Pull-Ups or Chin-Ups - 4 x 5 w/ 5 second descent (you may alternate between pull-ups and chin-ups or do all one or the other)

Day 2

Wall-facing Handstand Hold - 4 x :30

Parallette Pushups - 4 x 10

Ground-to-Standing Rope Climbs - 4 x 6-10 (based on strength)

Day 3

Hollow Holds - 4 x :30

Box-Assisted Ring Dips - 4 x 5-8 (reps based on strength)

False Grip Ring Rows -  4 x 8

Day 4

Tripod to Headstand - 4 x 5

Ring Support Holds - 4 x :20

Assisted Pull-up - 4 x 6


Advanced Template (looking to improve handstands, muscle-ups, and efficiency in movement)

See video below for demonstrations of all movements.

Day 1

Ring Support Holds - 4 x :20

Pause Dips - 3 x 8 (2-3 second halt at bottom position)

Weighted Chin-Ups - 5 x 5

Day 2

L-Sit - accumulate 60 seconds of holds

Strict Handstand Push-up - 5 x 5-10 reps (don't go to failure)

Legless Rope Climbs - 5 x 2 (use foot clamp or ground-to-standing rope climbs if needed)

Day 3

Hollow Hold - 4 x :20

Arch Hold - 4 x :20

Ring Push-ups - 4 x 12

Bar Muscle-Ups - 10 min EMOM, 1-3 reps each minute (pick a rep number and stick with it for all minutes)

Day 4

Free standing or wall-facing handstand hold - 3 x 1:00

Ring Dip Holds - 4 x :20 (stay active in bottom position)

Toes to Bar - 4 x 10

Strict Chest-to-Bar Pull-up - 4 x 6


I'll end by saying that these templates are meant to be done within a one week period, but it's not crucial to do so. The 3 or 4 days may be spread out of 7, 8, even 9 days if that's all you can do. Hammering these skills on a regular basis is what will lead to improving your upper body strength. You may comment below with any questions. Enjoy!