5 Upper-Body Benchmark Favorites

Updated September 16, 2023

You may be looking for some upper body WODs because your legs are far stronger than your upper body or because you want massive shoulders and pecs! I’ve compiled a list of my five favorite WODs that will put your arms, chest, shoulders, and back into overdrive…

1.) Mary

In 20 minutes, complete as many rounds/ reps as possible of…

  • 5 Handstand Push ups
  • 10 1-leg squats, alternating legs (aka, pistols)
  • 15 Pull ups

Though a few pistols are thrown in, the handstand push-ups and pull-ups completely tax those shoulders! Perform as many strict pull-ups as possible each round to kick it up a notch further.

2.) Lynne

5 rounds of…

  • Max reps Bench Press @ bodyweight
  • Max reps strict Pull ups

Compared to most other benchmarks, this WOD is not for time. You can rest as needed when needed (between sets). Get through this workout, recording your max number of bodyweight bench press reps and pull-ups each round. The pull-ups are “strict,” classic pull-ups without kicking, kipping, or flailing around. Again, this is a pure strength workout without concern for time. It’s an excellent measure (benchmark) of how much your upper body strength has improved over time.

3.) JT

For Time: 21-15-9 repetitions of…

  • Handstand push ups
  • Ring dips
  • Push ups

This is a Hero WOD named after a Navy petty officer, Jeff Taylor, who died while serving in Afghanistan for the US military in 2005. From HSPU to ring dips to push-ups, this WOD is all upper body and another excellent benchmark for testing your progress.

4.) Nicole

Perform as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes of…

  • 400m run
  • Max rep pull ups (note each rounds pull ups)

Here, you’ll perform pull-ups until failure while your heart rate is very elevated from a quick 400m run. Poor endurance? Expect to work on your aerobic fitness here! You’ll be shocked at how hard it is to maintain your max reps as you go through the 3rd round and beyond.

5.) Nate

As many rounds as possible in 20 minutes of…

  • 2 muscle ups
  • 4 Handstand push ups
  • 8 2-pood kettlebell swings (using a 32kg/ 72lb kettlebell)

Named for Chief Petty Officer Nate Hardy, this Hero WOD spices up the upper body mix with a more dynamic exercise. In this case, kettlebell swings are a big hip/ posterior chain exercise. The reps are low, which I really enjoy. The movements are all highly technical, which becomes more of a challenge as fatigue increases each round/ minute. This one requires a lot of skill and focus to continue for the full 20 minutes.

Enjoy testing yourself and getting the upper body you always wanted!


WOD Planet