Upper body strength - stuck at level

Over the last months I’ve consistently moved myself up to Intermediate Level 4 strength training. :facepunch:

However, I now feel stuck at this level because my upper body strength doesn’t seem to improve further - I’ve been at this level for about 10 weeks now (with rest weeks etc), and for the leg exercises am definitely ready for the next level, but I just can’t seem to master the upper body strength exercises fully, particular Level 4b - I still can barely do the push up and high plank series without needing longer breaks inbetween :weary:

It’s made harder by the fact that I quickly get aching wrists when putting weight on them (particularly side planks).

Any ideas for how to move beyond this? Should I just do the upper body parts of Level 4 but several times a week? I know there’s also the dedicated upper body strength session, but I definitely fail those.

Thanks for advice!

1 Like

Some things that have worked for me.

Yoga sessions
Beginner Strength 3 + 4 and Upper Body A (So beginner 3A on Monday, Upper Body A on Wednesday, Beginner 3B on Friday), skipping Upper Body A on recovery weeks)
Steel Mace 360 swings

1 Like

So I’ll say two things:

  1. you’re not alone, I’ve been doing SUFF strength since I started in October, and it’s definitely geared more towards lower body and core strength. Planks (soooo many planks) are a great exercise, but limited above core. I supplement with pushups and pull-ups on the bar (that hangs over my trainer that I can hang onto to keep from passing out in 9H).

  2. my wrists have come to hate me over the years, too, and it’s not just a strength or weight issue. Age and (prior) injury in my case. I use and recommend something like these:

(That’s not me.)

They are cushioned, they rotate, they take stress off the wrist, and allow more natural/neutral positioning of the hands and arms. They are designed for pushups, but I use them in SUFF (and yoga) for any sort of load-bearing exercise to protect my wrists. Works great.

Biomechanics caveat in the link.


@Malte great question. @ErickT has great suggestions. I would revisit Beginner Level 3B and Level 4A and B as well as Upper Body Strength under Yoga. Master these before returning and moving on. I would slow down the pace of each rep. Some people do have challenges with their wrist when performing strength. There are a few easy exercises would be to squeeze a ball such as a tennis ball, wrist curl with a water bottle or can of soup or beans or take a towel in both hands extended at shoulder level and roll the towel up in your hands. Push up handles that @OPT_A suggested can be very helpful as well.

I would differ from the previous suggestion in that I would not advise continuing the same level of strength during your recovery week. Recovery is very important and duration and intensity needs to be backed down by a significant amount for adaptation to take place.

All the best for your training ahead!


Thanks @Coach.Simon.B !

One quick follow up - what’s the rationale of going back to Beginner 3b and 4a? That seems like quite a step back from Intermediate 4.

Definitely will look at Yoga upper body strength and wrist exercises.


1 Like

Hey @Malte My logic on going back to beginner 3-4.

  • I found Intermediate 4-6 to be too hard on my shoulders/upper back/wrists and was struggling with fatigue.

  • I did the In-Season XC plan after TOS which adds in Upper Body A… so 3 days of Strength + the cycling workouts + advanced yoga… that is a lot of total body fatigue. Going back to Beginner 3+4 made a huge difference and I feel like I’ve gained a lot.

1 Like

Hi @ErickT - really helpful explanation, thank you!

I did Upper Body A for the first time today, and surprisingly made it through, so will add that to my regime. Seems like it’s the 60s high planks with push ups in Intermediate 4B that I’m struggling with, so will be interesting to see if it improves that.

1 Like

I struggle with the same exercises in intermediate 4 and also can make it through upper body A. In upper body A the interval durations are quite short, while they are long in intermediate 4. That’s the main difference. Maybe extend some of the intervals in upper body A manually?

1 Like

One thing that could be cool is a set of short “building blocks” videos for strength exercises that we could use alongside the standard strength videos to focus on weaknesses