If you’re a crossfitter, then chances are you realize you need to work on your pressing strength.  Unfortunately, you’ve probably been going about it all wrong.  It’s not really your fault.  There really aren’t any good plans to increase upper body pressing power for crossfitters, until now.  Keep reading for a killer 6 week training plan.

The main problem with most crossfitters who try and increase their pressing strength, is that they artificially limit their plans to just a few exercises and keep repeating them over and over.  This will work for a while, but once you are solidly into the intermediate phase of your crossfit career this isn’t really going to work.  You will need to introduce more exercises and work on the muscle groups that are limiting your strength.

Crossfitters are further hamstrung by the notion that the bench press is a non functional exercise.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I can’t tell you how many times I hear some mediocre coach saying, “well have you ever had to lie down and press something off of your chest?”

This is the worst type of logic.  We don’t select the movements in crossfit because we are likely to do that exact thing in real life.  We select them because they will train our bodies so that they can do real life tasks better.  I mean if this were really how we trained then I’d probably prescribe a lot of email deletion for time!

So we know that we need to use a wide variety of exercises, but which are the best ones for crossfitters?  Well I’m glad you asked, because this list will surely answer that question for you.


Best Pressing Exercises for Crossfitters 

Strict Press

Bench Press

Weighted Dip

Dumbbell Press (Bench/Overhead)

Push Press


You’ll notice that all of these are compound exercises.  Compound lifts, are almost always preferred over single joint, isolation lifts.  I’m not saying that single joint lifts aren’t beneficial, but they are definitely secondary to these main movements.

You will also notice that I don’t include the jerk because it really isn’t a strength building exercise.  It is a technique that allows you to lift the most weight overhead.  A good analogy would be the kipping pull up.  We don’t kip to build strength, we kip to better utilize what strength we have.

Here’s list of some great accessory lifts for over head pressing.


Pressing Accessory Movements 

Skull Crushers

Tricep Extensions

Front, Lateral, Rear Shoulder raises

Upright Row

Chest Flyes


Now that we have a list of some of the exercises we need to do. Lets talk about the actual plan and how we can use it to best benefit our pressing strength.

This plan is designed to be 6 weeks in length.  You can execute the version I’ve given you here, or you can pick your own exercises from the primary and secondary lists and simply do the prescribed loads with those.

Likewise, if you are seeing good progress after 6 weeks and want to continue, take a deload week and then do another 6 week cycle, picking different exercises.  Ideally after the first 6 week cycle you will be about 20lbs higher on your bench press and weighted dip, and 10-20 lbs on shoulder pressing movements.

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Week 1 and Week 2

These two weeks are designed as intro weeks.  I’m going to take a wild guess and figure you are probably not pressing with this amount of volume twice a week.  So take it easy for the first two weeks and if you want to back off on the loads by 5% feel free to do so.

Week 1 and 2

The secondary movements should be done with a high regard for correct form. No one’s impressed with a lot of weight and shit form.  Take your time and really isolate these muscle groups.

Week 3 and Week 4

These two weeks are the first for adding in some intensity in the form of establishing 5 and 3 rep maxes.  These are not true maxes, but they are the heaviest you can handle with good form.

Week 3 and 4

This two weeks are going to be pretty intense in terms of the rep maxes, as well as the total volume of pressing.  It’s important to really give it max effort when the weights get heavy and don’t be afraid to take 3-5 minutes between sets if you need to.

Week 5 and Week 6

These final two weeks are going to be the most intense.  Overall volume drops off a little bit, but the percentage of max stays elevated throughout.

Week 5 and 6

In the last week don’t be afraid to be aggressive with the 5×5.  I bet you end surprising yourself and probably setting a few PR’s.  In fact, you might be using your previous 5 rm that you set a few weeks ago for these sets.

Final Thoughts 

I expect this program to work for almost anyone.  I would recommend that everyone bench press for one of their primary movements; however, because it really hammers the triceps, which are almost always a weakness for crossfitters.  Just make sure you continue to WOD 3-4 times a week, eat enough quality food, and you will be reping your previous max in no time.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Solid program, however its not for CrossFitters only. Actually this exactly what CrossFitters do regularly. Your concept of what CrossFitters do or don’t do is a bit off. First off, CrossFit DOES believe that the Bench Press is a functional movement. This is a misnomer that really bothers me lol. Don’t where it came from. Never met a CrossFitter that didn’t Bench and the Bench Press is actually in 2 of the original Girl WODs where as the Back and Front Squat aren’t in any. Your list of best pressing movements for CrossFitters are all movements that are done on a regular basis at every CrossFit box. The accessory stuff, I agree should be included more (except the flyes)

    • I’m going to have to disagree with you on the bench press. Sure it’s in those wods but how many gyms regularly program it for strength work? My experience has been that it’s thrown in there every now and again at best. To my thinking that doesn’t count as programming lol. I fully understand that crossfitters do and follow a variety of programs, but I don’t see this kind of thing outside of custom programing for an athlete. Thanks for the thoughtful comment though!

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