Pull up

A lot of people are concerned with their horizontal strength—how much they can push on the bench and pull on the bent-over row—but few people place as much stock in what they can move vertically. The pull-up and standing overhead press are perhaps the purest measures of strength in that plane. Constantly working on those two moves will not only leave you with an impressive V-taper, but it can drastically improve your overall upper body strength and stamina.

The “scored” nature of this CrossFit-inspired workout forces you to challenge yourself in the pull-up and overhead press. In other words, you’ll always work to complete more reps in the time allotted, in this case 2.5 minutes per set, for five sets total.

After a full-body warm-up, begin by grabbing a barbell or dumbbells that are 50% of your bodyweight. Perform standing overhead presses for 2.5 minutes, working at a steady pace the entire time. If necessary, pause briefly, then continue the set until time expires. At the end of 2.5 minutes, immediately hit the pull-up bar.

Kipping pull-ups, where you use your body’s momentum to complete more reps, are allowed and even encouraged since your goal is to complete the most reps possible. After 2.5 minutes worth of pull-ups, begin standing overhead presses again. Rest if you must – just know that every second spent sucking wind is cutting into your potential score.

“Going to your absolute max in recurring sets like this is one of the most difficult and beneficial workouts I’ve ever done,” says Andy Petranek, owner of Petranek Fitness in Santa Monica, Calif. “It is both physically and mentally taxing and forces you to push past barriers.”

It is 25 minutes of total work – certainly shorter than a typical back and shoulders day – but will leave your lats, delts, bi’s and tri’s begging for mercy. At the end of five rounds, add up your total number of reps on both exercises. That number is your score. Repeat this workout once a month to gauge your progress.

Standing overhead press

The Vertical Strength & Stamina Workout Routine

5 Rounds
Standing Overhead Press
2.5 min.
50% bodyweight
2.5 min.

Score is your total number of reps.

* Kipping pull-ups are acceptable. You may choose your grip, so long as your chin clears the bar each time.

NOTE: Rest between rounds is up to you, but it is a running clock of 25 minutes (5 minutes per round, 2.5 minutes per exercise).

Need more motivation? Below are some sample ranges provided by Petranek. Remember that your score is a combined total of your standing overhead presses and pull-ups from all five rounds:



130 – 189