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The 10 Best Strict Press WODs for Massive Upper Body Strength and Muscle Gains

Send your upper body strength gains through the roof.

Strict Press WODs are a great way to build solid upper body strength, power and muscle.

The Strict Press is also known as the Overhead Press, Shoulder Press or Military Press.

In this article I have included Strict Press WODs variations with barbells and dumbbells in order to give you a greater variety of choice.

Strict Press Technique

When it comes to technique, take this great advice from Stronglifts:

“Here’s how to Overhead Press with proper form…

Stand with the bar on your front shoulders, and your hands next to your shoulders

Press the bar over your head, until it’s balanced over your shoulders and mid-foot

Lock your elbows at the top, and shrug your shoulders to the ceiling.

Hold the bar for a second at the top. Then lower it back to your front shoulders and repeat. Don’t use your legs, keep them straight…

The Overhead Press is a full body, compound exercise. Your shoulders and arms press the weight over your head while your legs, lower back and abs balance you.

The Overhead Press is one of the best exercises to build strong, muscular and healthy shoulders with bigger arms.

To avoid shoulder pain, Overhead Press with a narrow grip so you don’t flare your elbows. Then shrug your shoulders at the top. Press the bar over your head, lock your elbows and shrug your shoulders towards the ceiling. This engages your traps and prevents shoulder impingement.”

Strict Press WODs

Select your next workout and forge shoulder of steel.

WOD 1 – CrossFit Total

Sum of the Best of Each Lift

  • Back Squat
  • Shoulder Press
  • Deadlift

Attempt each lift 3 times. The weight must increase after each successful attempt at each movement. The weight may not be decreased after the first attempt. A failed rep counts as an attempt. Take the Back Squat and Shoulder Press (aka: Strict Press) from the weight rack.

There is no time limit for each lift or for the length of the session in which they are all performed, but they must all be performed during one session (i.e., athlete cannot leave the area to rest or perform other activities between the three lifts).

Score is the sum of the best of all three lifts.

Good Score for “CrossFit Total”

– Beginner: <500/<300 lb

– Intermediate: 600-800/300-500 lb

– Advanced: 800-1,000/500-700 lb

– Elite: 1,000/700+ lb

Strict Press WODs Tips and Strategy

In the days leading up to the “CrossFit Total,” perform mostly endurance/bodyweight workouts–your body will be fresher and ready for a max load test if you stay away from heavy lifting for a few days.

During the WOD, take your time. Rest for several minutes between attempts. Adequate rest will ensure that you find your true “CrossFit Total.”

And warm up aggressively…


General Warm-Up

5 minutes of double- or triple-under practice.

Then, 3 rounds with an empty barbell of:

  • 5 Deadlifts
  • 5 Power Cleans
  • 5 Should Presses
  • 5 Bent Over Rows
  • 5 Back Squats

Specific Warm-Up

For each lift use the following schema:

  • 5 reps at 30% of 1RM
  • 3 reps at 50% of 1RM
  • 2 reps at 60% of 1RM
  • 1 reps at 65% of 1RM
  • 1 reps at 75% of 1RM
  • 1 reps at 85% of 1RM

First attempt in the workout should be about 90-95% of 1 rep max.

Intended Stimulus

“CrossFit Total” should feel heavy and slow. There should be several minutes of rest during the WOD. You should feel mentally exhausted at the end of “CrossFit Total” due to the number of times you have to come face to face with maximal loads.

If you’re brand new to the movements, increase the reps and decrease the load so you can practice the movements; but if you have some experience with these lifts, complete the WOD as prescribed and use it to measure your personal strength gains over time.

Scaling Options

“CrossFit Total” is a heavy, not-for-time workout designed to test your max strength capacity on three of the most critical lifts in functional fitness. If you’re new to these movements, increase the volume (repetitions) and decrease the load to practice the mechanics.


Back Squat, heavy 5 reps

Shoulder Press, heavy 5 reps

Deadlift, heavy 5 reps

(Work up to a heavy set of 5 repetitions for each of the 3 movements.)

Beginner A

Back Squat, 3-3-1-1 reps

Shoulder Press, 3-3-1-1 reps

Deadlift, 3-3-1-1 reps

(Work up to 2 sets of 3 repetitions, and then 2 heavy singles. Increase the load with every new set—the dash between the numbers tells you to go up in weight. These should feel pretty heavy.)

Beginner B

Back Squat, 5-5-5-5-5 reps

Shoulder Press, 5-5-5-5-5 reps

Deadlift, 5-5-5-5-5 reps

(Complete 5 sets of 5 reps for each of the movements. Increase the load with every new set—the dash between the numbers tells you to go up in weight. The last couple of sets should feel very challenging.)

WOD 2 – Popeye

3 Rounds Without Breaking

  • 30 Curls (2×25/15 lb)
  • 30 Strict Presses (2×25/15 lb)
  • 30 Lateral Raises (2×25/15 lb)
  • 30 Hammer Curls (2×25/15 lb)
  • 30 Upright Rows (2×25/15 lb)
  • 30 Push Presses (2×25/15 lb)
  • 30 Curls (2×25/15 lb)
  • 1 minute Rest

Increase weight each round. See how heavy you can go. No Time limit once the round has begun.

Once you start the first set of 30, you can’t put the weights down or rest them on any surface. You can stop moving and hold the weights in your hand, but you cannot let go of the Dumbbells.

Once you complete a full round, rest for 1 minute, then pick them back up and go again. This time, you have the option to increase the weight.

Start light, don’t burn out. Rest before you burn up too quickly. The hard part will be the grip so play it smart.


Intermediate: Use 20/10 lb dumbbell weights.

Beginner: Use 20/10 lb dumbbell weights. Reduce repetitions to 21 reps.

WOD 3 – Painstorm XXI

For time

  • 30 Burpees
  • 30 Deadlifts
  • 30 Burpees
  • 30 Cleans
  • 30 Burpees
  • 30 Strict Presses
  • 30 Burpees
  • 30 Push Presses
  • 30 Burpees
  • 30 Jerks
  • 30 Burpees
  • 30 Swings
  • 30 Burpees
  • 30 Sumo Deadlift HIgh-Pulls
  • 30 Burpees
  • 30 Snatches (Left Hand)
  • 30 Burpees
  • 30 Snatches (Right Hand)
  • 30 Burpees
  • 30 Man Makers

Use one pair of Dumbbells (55/35 lb) throughout

Use the same pair of dumbbells throughout. Originally the WOD was designed as “choose your own weight.” If you’re looking for an Rx weight consider 50/35 lb.

One man maker consists of a dumbbell push-up, two renegade rows (one per arm), and a squat clean thruster.

Score is the time on the clock when the last repetition of Man Makers is completed.

Strict Press WODs Movement Standards

Most of the weighted movements (Deadlifts, Cleans, Strict Presses, Push Presses, Jerks, Sumo Deadlift High-Pulls, and Man Makers) are intended to be done with two Dumbbells.

As in most CrossFit workouts, olympic lifts (Cleans & Snatches) are power (not squat) unless otherwise stated.

Snatches are with a single Dumbbell, one arm at a time.

Dumbbell Swings are an uncommon movement and this workout (which is from 2007) does not explicitly state whether the swings should be single- or double-dumbbell swings. But double Swings would be awkward, so we assume it’s single Dumbbell Swings.

We also assume the swings are Russian style (to eye height) instead of American (overhead), which is safer since dumbbells don’t have handles for swings.

Strict Press WODs 4 – 215 Children

Strict Press WODs For Time

  • 2,150 metre Run
  • 21 Air Squats
  • 5 Burpees
  • 21 Shoulder Presses (2×50/35 lb)
  • 5 Burpees
  • 21 Lunges
  • 5 Burpees
  • 21 Bicep Curls (2×50/35 lb)
  • 5 Burpees
  • 2,150 metre Run
  • 2:15 Plank Hold
  • 1 Push-Up
  • 9 Unbroken Push-Ups
  • 9 Unbroken Push-Ups
  • 6 Unbroken Push-Ups

With a running clock, complete the prescribed work in the order written as fast as possible (“For Time”).

Score is the time on the clock when the last round of the Unbroken Push-Ups is completed.

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