Arm Workouts to Build Muscle and Functional Strength for CrossFit

The following 3 arm workouts will test and improve your arm strength across different time domains and formats. They will help to show you how well your body copes under fatigue as well.

When people think about training their arms they often focus singularly on biceps, which is a huge mistake. To be technical for a minute, the muscle group being discussed here would be more accurately termed the “forearm flexors” which include the biceps, the brachialis, and several other muscles and supporting muscles. The triceps are hugely important for arm strength, as are strong and mobile shoulders. 

Arm strength involves many additional factors such as grip and forearm strength as well, so these workouts will test these aspects of your arm strength in many functional settings. If you are also keen to isolate and grow your arms in terms of muscle size and strength, then consider the exercises below the workouts as well. 


  • For Time
  • 27 Thrusters (95/65 lb)
  • 4 Legless Rope Climbs (15 ft)
  • 21 Thrusters (95/65 lb)
  • 3 Legless Rope Climbs (15 ft)
  • 15 Thrusters (95/65 lb)
  • 2 Legless Rope Climbs (15 ft)
  • 9 Thrusters (95/65 lb)
  • 1 Legless Rope Climb (15 ft)



Ring dips


21-15-9 of:

Ring Dips


These exercises will help you to grow stronger and more muscular arms. This will help with the workouts above as well. 

If you haven’t been training biceps directly, then no direct biceps work is needed to keep your gains, so long as you’re doing plenty of pulling work. But if you’re used to training biceps directly, 4-6 direct sets per week are recommended to keep the size on.

Most intermediate-advanced lifters need at least 8 sets of direct biceps work per week to make gains. However, you might be able to gain bicep size on even lower set numbers if your program has lots of pulling work for the back.

Most people respond best to between 14 and 20 weekly sets on average.

While the biceps are involved in shoulder flexion (and can thus get pretty sore from chest flys, for example), and can be taxed significantly through close grip pulling during back training, their direct work is based on a large variety of curls of different kinds.

As a rough rule, arms are split in 2/3 triceps and 1/3 biceps. Both need to be trained to achieve balanced and strong arms that are effective for performance. Check these 7 exercises out:


Two arm overhead cable curls are an excellent isolation exercise for adding definition to your biceps. Cables have the advantage of providing constant tension during the movement and they provide resistance to help build strength in the upper arms. This exercise targets the biceps brachii (2 heads of the biceps), brachialis (middle of the arm in between the biceps and triceps) and the brachioradialis muscles (forearms).

This is a great exercise to get a full stretch in the biceps on the “negative” which is the eccentric portion of the movement when the muscle elongates or lengthens.

Fix up one cable station on either side of your shoulders, at a height slightly higher than your shoulders.Attach a stirrup type handle to each pulley.
Select a weight that is comfortable to you, and make sure you attach the same weight on both sides of the machine.
With your feet at a distance of shoulder’s width apart, stand between the two machines.
Stretch your arms to their respective sides and gab the handles with an underhand grip of your hands.
Keep your arms and shoulders in a straight line.
Curl your arms towards your shoulders by flexing your biceps. Exhale as you do so.
Curl until your forearms touch your biceps. Hold there for a count of one.

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