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The Best CrossFit Shoulder Workouts for Explosive Strength and Power (RX, Scaled, Beginner)

Jonah Lomu, Painstorm XII and the Hercules Complex, how many of these WODs have you tried?

CrossFit shoulder workouts are a great way to build upper body strength and improve your movement. They will also help to make your shoulders more resilient against injury.

The shoulder is one of the largest and most complex joints in the body. The shoulder joint is formed where the humerus (upper arm bone) fits into the scapula (shoulder blade), like a ball and socket. Other important bones in the shoulder include:

  • The acromion is a bony projection off the scapula.
  • The clavicle (collarbone) meets the acromion in the acromioclavicular joint.
  • The coracoid process is a hook-like bony projection from the scapula.
Overhead-PressSource: CrossFit Games

The shoulder has several other important structures:

  • The rotator cuff is a collection of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder, giving it support and allowing a wide range of motion.
  • The bursa is a small sac of fluid that cushions and protects the tendons of the rotator cuff.
  • A cuff of cartilage called the labrum forms a cup for the ball-like head of the humerus to fit into.

The humerus fits relatively loosely into the shoulder joint. This gives the shoulder a wide range of motion, but also makes it vulnerable to injury. Add the following WODs into your training and have fun.

Shoulder Workouts


  • AMRAP in 15 minutes
  • Back Squat (1½ bodyweight)
  • Shoulder Press (¾ bodyweight)
  • Deadlift (1½ bodyweight)

Start with 1 rep each. Increase each by 1 rep per round.

Complete an ascending ladder of the 3-movement complex, increasing by 1 rep per round. So, perform 1 back squat, 1 shoulder press, 1 deadlift. Then 2 back squats, 2 shoulder presses, 2 deadlifts. Then 3 of each, etc. until the 15 minute clock stops.

shoulder workouts

For each movement, pick loads that are heavy but allow you to easily complete 3-4 reps when fresh. As fatigue sets in and the reps increase, break each movement into smaller sets so you can maintain solid mechanics.

Intermediate Option
Complete as many reps as possible in 15 minutes of:
1 back squat, 1 shoulder press, 1 deadlift
2 back squats, 2 shoulder presses, 2 deadlifts
3 back squats, 3 shoulder presses, 3 deadlifts

Use body weight for the squats and deadlifts and 1/2 body weight for the presses.

Beginner Option
Complete as many reps as possible in 15 minutes of:
squat, 1 push-up, 1 deadlift
squats, 2 push-ups, 2 deadlifts
squats, 3 push-ups, 3 deadlifts

Use ½ body weight for the deadlifts.

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