Trust you must

Skullcrushers. Yeah, that sounds bad-ass and cool and a little scary. It’s a wicked tricep workout that’s good for two reasons beyond the fun of saying it. It’ll give me strong(er) triceps, which will help in the final push on a bench press. And I bet they’ll help define the upper part of my arms. (I’m in this to get strong, but liking the way my arms look in a little summer top is a bonus I won’t pretend to not care about.) Anyway.

Today’s workout had me doing Skullcrushers. I did 3 sets of 10 with 33 pounds last time, and my arms quivered almost uncontrollably. So today we did the 45-lb bar — actually a slightly heavier bar, 48 pounds, if we’re counting. Which I am. “5×5” Ben said. Oh boy.

If you’ve never done these, picture this. You lie down, arms extended and bar above you like you’re going to bench press. Then, keeping your elbows pointing up you lower the bar back towards your face then push it back up. The fire in the triceps is unbelievable. And 48 pounds, which is almost half my bench max, felt like at least two or three times that about halfway through pushing it up the second or third time. This was one of those workouts I thought Ben would surely stop partway through, or at least modify. But no. One agonizing rep after another, I feared I would literally crush my skull with the bar. That’s not badass — that’s bad YouTube material!

Strong triceps = a strong bench. I'm working on it!

My right tricep burned so fiercely all I did between sets was rub it and hope we’d call it a day. (Hours later I can barely move it, it’s so sore.) But no respite. I finally risked sounding like a crybaby in front of Ben, something I’d usually rather walk on hot coals than do in the middle of a workout. “It’s cramping,” I ventured, rubbing my arm dramatically. I was pretty terrified it would cramp until it locked up and I’d drop the bar. If I want my upper arms nice toned, you can image I prefer my face dent-free.

But when it gets this hard, you must trust  your coach’s faith in you, and by virtue of that, your own strength. If Ben doubted I could make it he would be standing behind me, hands under the bar. And except for two or three reps where I think he might have actually helped me (I didn’t want to ask), he stood off to the side, watching, shouting ‘UP!’ and even slapping my left arm to get the muscles to fire so the right arm wasn’t doing all the work.

So that was it. If he believed I could do it then I must be able to. No matter how insanely heavy it felt, no matter how much that tricep burned and cramped, no matter how much my arms shook, I must be able to do it. So I did. I finished all five sets of five and was rewarded with the comment that even coach can’t do that many skullcrushers at half his bench press weight.  So there. I’ll see you Skullcrusher, and raise you one.

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