Don’t Beat Up Your Triceps Before Doing Overhead Presses

squat rack
Photo credit:

I learned the hard way that I need to be more “planful” in how I lift and when I lift.

Actually, as anyone who regularly reads this blogspot knows, currently, I lift on Sundays and Thursdays. On Sundays, I go to the gym with my wife and she does her thing, and I do mine. Thursdays I typically go alone since up until recently, she had to be at work at 5:30 in the morning and my gym opens at 5 (though this week, her schedule’s all mixed up, and she went with me on Tuesday and will again tomorrow).

But I chose to lift today instead of tomorrow, mainly because I noticed that the free weight room seemed abandoned and I’d have unrestricted access to the power rack, which I tend to dominate on days I do back squats and overhead presses.

I’ve been feeling guilty because on Thursdays, the person I call “tall, strong, formerly broken foot guy” does squats and gets to the gym about half past 5. That’s when I’m just starting or in the middle of my overhead press routine, so he either has to wait until I’m done with the rack or use the Smith machine. I know the power rack is his first choice, so I thought maybe Wednesdays would be better for him and for me (no more guilt).

One other piece of info before getting into how my lifts went this a.m. Yesterday, in addition to the usual cardio and Kasey the Killer Chiropractor core work, I did some semi-intensive triceps work. I’m still bothered about my poor bench press performance and thought I could get some extra triceps training in to bring them up to par. As it turns out, my timing was bad.

Now on to Wednesday morning and life in the power rack.


Main Lifts

Back Squat in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
8x 95lbs/43.0913kg (warm up)
3x 120lbs/54.4311kg
3x 135lbs/61.235kg
5x 155lbs/70.3068kg
3x 170lbs/77.1107kg (joker)
2x 185lbs/83.9146kg (joker)
1x 195lbs/88.4505kg (joker) PR

overhead press
Image credit:

Overhead Press in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
3x 60lbs/27.2155kg
3x 70lbs/31.7515kg
4x 80lbs/36.2874kg
1x 90lbs/40.8233kg (joker)
0x 95lbs/43.0913kg (joker) failed rep

Assistance Lift

Dumbbell Bent Over Rows

10x 50lbs/22.6796kg
10x 50lbs/22.6796kg
10x 50lbs/22.6796kg
10x 55lbs/24.9476kg
10x 55lbs/24.9476kg

Core Work

Balancing on one foot
30 seconds each side

Leg Back Raises
Lx10, Rx10
Lx10, Rx10
Lx10, Rx10

Leg Side Raises
Lx10, Rx10
Lx10, Rx10
Lx10, Rx10

Alternating Arm/Leg Raises (Bird Dog)
10x each side
10x each side
10x each side

Hopefully, the first thing you noticed is that I made a new PR in my back squat. The biggest issue as I go heavier, is my outer quad area, which is slowly getting stronger. It burns and struggles as I add more plates to the barbell and put it on my back. Getting out of the hole of a squat is murder sometimes, but I’m better able to tolerate a heavier barbell now.

My previous PR of a couple of weeks ago was 190, so 195 seemed like it should be doable. In this case, it was. I was actually tempted to try a fourth joker at 200 pounds even, but my legs were feeling pretty shot and I thought I’d save that one for next week.

triceps extI was pleased that only giving myself 2 days rest rather than 3 didn’t inhibit my squats. I was a little more dubious at hitting a new PR in the overhead press, since last week’s PR of 100 pounds for 1 rep was hard-won.

As it turns out, things didn’t work out so well. Not at all.

I was surprised on my third working set that I could only manage 4 reps and not the expected 5. This was the harbinger of more bad news. In the first joker, using a 90 pound barbell, I barely got 1 rep in. I wasn’t deterred yet, and increased the weight to 95 pounds, then waited over 2 minutes to ensure recovery.

Didn’t work, though. I failed the rep and wondered what the heck happened.

Then I remembered that I gave my triceps a pretty good workout yesterday. Here’s what I did:

Overhead Cable Triceps Extension w/rope

15x 40lbs/18.1437kg
10x 50lbs/22.6796kg
10x 55lbs/24.9476kg
10x 60lbs/27.2155kg
10x 65lbs/29.4835kg

Barbell Bench Press

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg
10x 95lbs/43.0913kg
10x 95lbs/43.0913kg
10x 95lbs/43.0913kg

After I finished my 35 minute cardio session, I worked in those triceps exercises with the idea of having them recover by next Sunday in a supposedly stronger state. However, when I impulsively (well, semi-impulsively) did my lifts today, I neglected to consider that the overhead press works the triceps as well.

I don’t think I’m making excuses when I say that my triceps were not in a recovered state when I launched into overhead presses this morning. Classic case of not resting this muscle group sufficiently before pounding the heck out of it again.

That’s it. No more lifting until Sunday, even lighter assistance lifts. This could have been a really good workout all the way around if not for my error in judgment. Lesson learned.

I was stuck for an assistance lift since they’re typically used to break through a plateau in a trouble lift, and I’d already exhausted my triceps, which seem to be my weakest area. I settled for dumbbell bent over rows just for giggles, doing the first 3 sets with a 50 pound dumbbell and going up to 55 pounds for the final 2 “boring but big” sets.

After that, the usual core work (though my balancing sucked this morning), and then home.

tate press

I mentioned triceps earlier, and yesterday, quite by accident, I came across some information about something called the Tate Press. It’s supposed to be a killer bench press supplement, because it not only targets the triceps, but mimics a bench press-like motion.

The link I just posted goes to which contains a brief video tutorial as well as text instructions on this exercise. I think I’ll try it as my assistance lift next Sunday. I also hope that my triceps recover sufficiently to let my bench press finally start improving, at least a little bit.

All complaining aside, I really am pleased at being able to become consistently stronger in most of my main lifts, especially the deadlift and back squat. I’m continuing to lift pain-free, although my lower back and quads are sore and tired right now.

I think it was Mark Rippetoe who said something like strength training isn’t what happens in the gym, it’s what happens during the recovery. That’s when your muscles and nervous system adapt to produce more strength.

Here’s to happy recovery.

On the Internet, everyone squats. In real life, the squat rack is always empty. You figure out what this means.

Steve Shaw


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