If you kept up with your pre-ski season workouts and want to maintain fitness through the season, or if you’re in resolution mode with 2015 upon us, this workout can help you keep things interesting when you’re not on the slopes. This time, rather than focusing on lower body exercises that’ll help you hone your strength and stability for skiing, we’re bringing some upper body movements into the mix.

Skiing and snowboarding are clearly lower body dominant sports, but we can’t neglect our upper bodies. Being stronger up top will help you stay balanced, and I’ve also found upper body strength essential on the rare occasions where I end up…not on my feet. And, depending on the exercises, movements that look to be upper body only can actually help with lower body and core development.

An Upper Body Developer Workout

Lift: Work up to three sets of five (3×5) push presses at a moderate to heavy weight, i.e. 75% of your one rep max. Do a minimum of five warm-up sets at increasing weight with no more than 10-pound jumps. 1:00 rest between sets. The goal here is pure strength and power development.

Accessory 1: Three rounds, bench press five reps at a moderate weight, i.e. 70-75% of your one rep max, then immediately move into bench pressing 15 reps at a light to moderate weight, i.e. 50% of your one rep max. (With a one rep max of 165 pounds, I would do 115-120 pounds and 85-95 pounds, respectively.) The goal here? To do a few heavy reps, then burn out your bench press muscles, including your triceps and shoulders.

Accessory 2: For time, complete 50 strict pull-ups. The goal with this portion of the workout is to just plain get stronger.

Conditioning: 15:00 AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) of 10 alternating jumping lunges (20 total), 10 toes to bar or knees to elbows, 10 bodyweight squats, 10 burpees.

Push Press

The push press is great for developing shoulder strength, but it’s also ideal for developing power and overall body awareness. Begin with an empty barbell in a rack to warm up, then add weight as you’re comfortable doing so. Position yourself under the barbell with your hands just outside shoulder width. Wrap your entire hand around the bar and position your elbows at a 45-degree angle down so the bar is resting on your shoulder muscles. Tighten your back and abs, stand up to un-rack the barbell and take one or two steps back. Position your feet shoulder width apart and look straight ahead.

Upper Body Workout: Push Press (1)

Begin the movement by dipping down into a ¼ squat being careful not to lean forward on to your toes, or let your knees pass over your toes. Drive up through your feet, push your knees back, explosively extend your hips, and push the bar straight over your head, putting your head through the window that the bar and your arms create when you’re fully extended. The sequence “dip, drive, press” works well for me.

Upper Body Workout: Push Press (2)

Click here for a video, and remember, don’t lean back as you’re pressing up.

Bench Press

Though the bench press is one of the most revered and popular upper body exercises out there, it’s also easily misunderstood. Sure, you’ll develop upper body strength, power, and muscle in your chest and triceps, but as with the push press, there’s more to doing it correctly than meets the eye. With the bench press, your entire body needs to be a part of the equation; learning how to engage your legs, hips and lats during the movement will make it more effective. You’ll also be able to move more weight.

Begin laying on a bench with an empty barbell on the rack and add weight as it’s appropriate for you. Grip the bar at shoulder width or slightly wider, and hang on tight to encourage tension in your arms. Pinch your shoulder blades together to create tension in your back, and try thinking about turning your pinky fingers inward to create tension in your lats. Keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle out from your body will evenly distribute the weight between your triceps, shoulders and chest.

Plant your feet solidly on the ground and actively push through them. This creates overall body tension and will give you more control. Take a deep breath, actively lower the weight straight down until the barbell touches your chest, then use your entire body, including your legs, to drive up. Always, always use a spotter, especially as the weight gets heavier.

Upper Body Workout: Bench

Click here for a video. (You’ll get good instruction and a few giggles out of this one.)

Strict Pull-ups

Pull-ups don’t just use every muscle in your upper body; they’re great for developing overall core strength and body control. Though I do a handful of different types of pull-ups as part of my CrossFit workouts, we also frequently train strict pull-ups because they’ll just plain get you stronger.

Using an overhand grip on the bar, start from a dead hang with your arms fully extended. I go shoulder-width apart – an excessively wide grip can place extra tension on your shoulders – but it’s good to mix your grip width up once in a while.

Upper Body Workout: Pullups (1)

Look straight ahead, squeeze your legs together, and tighten your core. Imagine pulling with your lats, not just your biceps, and pull your shoulder blades back and down. When your chin clears the bar, lower back down in a controlled fashion.

Upper Body Workout: Pullups (2)

Click here for a video. Don’t have a strict pull-up yet? Don’t worry. Try using resistance bands (start 1:00 into this video) and jumping pull-ups to help get you there.

Jumping Lunges

We call these “Satan lunges” at my CrossFit gym, and if you do enough of them, you’ll want to change the movement’s name as well. The goal with jumping lunges is to work on explosive power, but also on coordination. Lunges require balance, and making them dynamic takes a traditional movement to an entirely new level.

Begin in a lunge position with your front leg in an ideal squat position – toes slightly turned out, knee above and slightly turned out from your ankle, and your foot firmly planted on the ground. Your back knee should be right under your hip. Push off your front leg, switch your legs in the air, and land with the opposite foot forward. Your knees, hips and ankles should end in the exact position they started in, but with your opposite foot forward. Rinse and repeat. One rep includes a lunge on both sides.

Upper Body Workout: Lunges (1)

Click here for a video.

Toes-to-Bar or Knees-to-Elbows

We’re all about the explosive power, coordination, and core strength building with this workout. Toes to bar involved getting your entire body coordinated from your toes to your fingers. To do strict toes-to-bar, begin in the same position you’d use for a strict pull-up, engage your lats by pulling up slightly, bend at your hips and raise your legs up until your toes touch the bar between your hands. Lower your legs back down, and repeat. There are two different styles of strict toes-to-bar in this video demo.

Upper Body Workout: Toes to Bar (1)

Upper Body Workout: Toes to Bar (2)

Upper Body Workout: Toes to Bar (3)

For some CrossFit workouts, we’ll use kipping toes-to-bar in order to cycle through repetitions faster. It takes time to develop the coordination, but if you have kipping toes-to-bar, you’ll be able to do more rounds of the workout in this article. To perform kipping toes-to-bar, begin the same way you would with strict toes-to-bar – hanging from the pull-up bar with your shoulders active and hands shoulder width apart. But by using a controlled swing, as demonstrated in this video (0:46), you’ll be able to bring your legs up more easily and cycle through repetitions faster.

Can’t quite get toes-to-bar down? No problem. Scale them in the workout by using knees-to-elbows. Click here and here for videos.


The word “burpee” strikes fear into the hearts of athletes everywhere, myself in particular. There’s just something about them both incredibly valuable additions to any workout and absolutely terrifying. In its simplest form, a burpee involves getting down to the ground and standing back up.

To execute a burpee, begin in a standing position. Bend your knees slightly, bend at the waist, place your hands shoulder width apart on the floor in front of you. Lower the rest of your body down while kicking your feet out behind you. Let your chest touch the floor, then bring your feet back into their original position, stand, and jump. Click here for a video.

Are any of these exercises new to you? If you try this workout, be sure to let us know how it goes!

*Any exercise you read about on this site are to be attempted at your own risk. It’s always a good idea to perform weightlifting movements with a partner and/or spotter. Any action taken based on the contents of this website is to be used solely at your own discretion, risk and liability. Always consult appropriate health professionals before proceeding with any action related to your health and exercise regimes While the information provided in this article is believed to be accurate, the author assumes no liability for the use or misuse of information.

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