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When the Going Get Weird, the Triceps Turn to Jell-O

I train alone & it’s been that way for nearly all of the fourteen years that I’ve been seriously training. That’s not to say I haven’t scheduled training with others from time to time to push myself & them (many thanks Andy, Justin, Derek, Maria, Aaron, etc) but a majority of the time it’s just me & an iPod. & in all honesty I enjoy the alone time, there’s a Zen-like quality to it, I regain my focus, & it’s a great way for me to unwind when training after work. But the biggest problem I have with training alone is that it’s so hard to push yourself to the next level (not to mention having to always ask someone for a spot when needed). Now training alone has advantages. For example: you workout at your own pace, you don’t hold someone up, you aren’t waiting around for someone to show up, & when resting between sets you get to watch the freak show that’s taking place around me. Well maybe freak show is the wrong word but up until two & a half years I trained at dirty bodybuilding-type gym. Now I train at a fancy health club type gym (not by choice but more because of it’s location to my house). I think it’s a safe bet that most serious lifters know the cliental that train there.

Between sets I generally do two things. The first thing is count my breaths (sounds crazy but it keeps me focused on the task at hand). The second thing is I watch the people around me. When I say watch I don’t mean creepy-stalker kind of watching. I’m not following people to their cars or anything like that. I’m just watching what they do, how they do things (i.e. their form), & how they’ve changed. By change I mean when you train for awhile at the same gym for awhile you see the same guys & girls training. You’ll see those around you who get results (get bigger/smaller/cut/whatever) & then you see those who do the same things every day & nothing ever happens. I firmly believe that while I don’t know everything I’ve got a good grasp of training knowledge & what I’m doing in the gym. Honestly, I laugh to myself (& sometimes out loud too) when I see those people who do the same exercises day in day out & they’re not getting any results or their results have stopped. I also laugh to myself when I see people (often the same as those previously mentioned) doing exercises with such poor form that it’s become a completely different exercise that isn’t working anything. I don’t think I’m being mean or elitist I think all of us with a good knowledge of training make judgments about those guys. You know the one of the guys I’m talking about, he’s the one wearing the t-shirt that’s at least one size too small (barely covering his gut), his shorts are too short exposing way too much of his chicken legs, he knows everything & isn’t afraid to tell anyone who will listen how much he knows, & lastly his form is horrible.  

Well the other day I decided to turn the observations inward towards myself, maybe I walked past the mirror in the hallway with my shirt off one too many times. I just recently got back on track with training & such because of a few set backs. Up until recently I’ve been struggling with training for over a year due to injuries & two surgeries’s to correct both carpel tunnel & some nerve damage. & Since September 2008 I’ve been back at it hard core instead of sporadically training around pain/injury. Since then I’ve regained most of my strength & more importantly my physique is almost where I want it again. However, I noticed that my arms were lagging behind & I couldn’t figure out why. Luckily I’m very anal retentive & log every workout. I only log the exercise, the number of reps (I’ve checked my ego long ago & could careless about how much I can bench, squat, etc), & also number of calories burned during cardio. Looking at the previous four months of workouts I discovered I was the guy doing the same thing over & over. My triceps workouts consisted of only the following exercise: one-arm dumbbell extensions, one-arm cable extensions, V-bar pushdowns, & reverse-grip pushdowns. Four months of doing that & only changing the number of reps &/or weight used. I felt like a huge hypocrite but in my defense I’m usually in a hurry so I do what’s open & not too crowded. So being disgusted with myself I set out to create a triceps routine to shake things up for one workout & absolutely destroy my arms for one day; & then from there make it a point to regularly review my logs & never ever let myself go several months doing the same things over & over.


In preparation for the planned destruction of my triceps I didn’t train arms all week & did some research. I was specifically looking for unusual triceps exercises. Deep down I was hoping to get some weird looks at the gym by doing something no one had ever seen. I couldn’t find anything too crazy so instead I decided to make sure I do exercises I haven’t done in a long time. I set out to do five exercise & five sets of each (yes folks…twenty-five sets of triceps in one day). Some would call it overtraining but I think that a little overtraining here & there can be beneficial. I also set the goals of completing the entire workout in under an hour & increasing the weight with each set.

It all starts a half hour before the show. I drank two servings of my homemade pump/nitric oxide formula (I figure a little extra wouldn’t hurt). I also downed a 5-Hour Energy ™ just to be on the safe side. When I get to the gym I change, fill my water bottle, & put on Naveed by OLP to psychic myself up (also it brings back good memories). I don’t believe in stretching &/or long warm ups for that matter. I grab a ten pound dumbbell bang out about fifty reps with each arm to get the joints primed. & then the fun begins:

Exercise 1:

Close-grip Bench Press – 5x5
This was chosen for the mass building qualities & that I recently discovered I was able to bench press again (pain in the palm of my hand that was a side effect of the surgeries is gone). So I excited to actually bench again. I treated this a little differently then the traditional 5 x 5. I didn’t rest two minutes between sets. Instead I just took the time to add twenty pounds & then take ten breaths. Honestly, this was easy. I felt good.

Exercise 2:

One-arm Reverse-grip Pushdowns – 5 x 10
Not exactly the exercise you’d choose for mass but I figured why not. In reality I chose this because these have always required a lot of concentration (for me anyway) to do right. I figured after doing the close-grip bench presses this would be a good way to maintain my groove. I only rested about a minute between sets & managed to increase the weight with every set.

Well at that point my arms were starting to be a mess. I actually had to stretch for a few minutes just to continue on.

Exercise 3:

Push-ups – 5 x 15
Now these weren’t regular push-ups. My hands were very close & I used twelve-pound dumbbells has handles for the push-ups. Sounds easy but after banging out the previous ten sets in less then twenty minutes I was dying. The first five of every set were a cake walk but the last ten were pure hell. My arms were shaking & I was damn near hyperventilating. By this point my shirt was drenched & I was in pain. My arms were pretty much worthless.

Exercise 4:

Rope Pushdowns – 5 x 20
An oldie but a goodie. I figured after the first three this was a good way to keep the pump going & I haven’t done these in forever. That’s because there’s only one rope attachment at the gym that’s just the right length & it’s almost impossible to find. & apparently the stars aligned & I was able to find it that day. Kept my form good & managed to increase the weight with each set.

Again, I needed to stretch & rest a little. I could barely move.

Exercise 5:

5 x 25
You’ll notice that there’s no exercise listed. That’s because I don’t know the name of this exercise (& I believe you-me I tried like hell to find it). Basically you lay on a bench & take two dumbbells & hold them together over your chest. & then you press upwards similar to a dumbbell press. I suppose the movement is comparable to the close grip bench press. You just move the weight up & down keeping the dumbbells together over your chest & the  Believe it or not I got this from a Men’s Health about five or six years ago. When I did this I had the bench inclined slightly so I could monitor my form. My arms were trembling through out this & I don’t have the first clue how I was able to complete five sets. But I did increase the weight each time (it may sound weak but it started at 15 pounds & went to 25 pounds on the fifth set). Got up with a great pump in both the triceps & chest.

After the workout I grabbed the same ten pound dumbbell & struggled through another fifty reps to end the torture. I even got up the courage to do fifteen minutes on the elliptical machine (burned 268 calories by the way). I managed to change into my bathing suit & sat in the sauna for twenty minutes meditating while listen to Bob Marley’s Redemption Song over & over.

In hind site I only hit one of my goals but it’s alright – I finished the workout in sixty-two minutes missing the sixty mark by two minutes but I did increase the weight with each set (not including the push-ups). Some may ask why I left dips out. Well, the simple answer could be I’m just a wimp but the truth is I still have one hold over from the surgeries & that is a little weakness in my wrist making dips difficult. Maybe in a couple months dips will be back into the routine.

It’s been thirty-six hours since the workout & as I type this my triceps are killing me. Was my little experiment worth it? I think so. If nothing else just for that fact that I set a goal & reached it. Did I magically gain six inches on my arms over night? No. But did I (maybe) break a plateau? Yes I think I did. Oh, & Andy next time we train we’re doing this with biceps mixed in.

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