Tips To Avoid Upper Body Overtraining Designing a routine that won't break the joints of your upper body.

| October 25, 2014 by Truth Seeker |

In this post, I will present a few training guidelines designed to reduce the chances of overtraining the upper body.

1.The front deltoid is easy to overtrain.

Every pushing exercise works the anterior deltoids. As a result, you have to be careful when planning your pushing routine.

The keys to success are proper exercise selection and adequate recovery.


A poor upper body routine could like this:

Day 1: Bench press, Chest flys, Dips /Chest day/
Day 2: Rest/Legs/Back
Day 3: Overhead press, Front Raises, Hammer Strength overhead presses /Shoulders day/
Day 4: Rest/Legs/Back
Day 5: Close grip bench press, Overhead triceps extensions /Arm day/
Day 6&7: Rest

The routine above hits the front deltoids 3 days a week with heavy compound exercises. Unless you’re conditioned to handle the volume, your training will result in overtrained shoulders. A more sensible routine would look like this:

Day 1: Bench press, Dips
Day 2: Rest/Legs
Day 3: Rest/Back
Day 4: Overhead press

The overhead press is left as the only shoulder exercise because that’s all most people need. The close grip bench press is removed too. If you want to do it, you can do so on your chest day after your main bench press sets.

The second routine works the front deltoids hard too, but only twice a week. Moreover, movements like chest flys and front raises are removed because they are not essential and fatigue the area even further.

Note: The above is just an example. I don’t claim that it’s the best routine in the world.

Alternating exercises – Mark Rippetoe’s method

Another way to provide recovery for the shoulder is to alternate the bench press and the overhead press.

Week 1

Day 1: Bench press | Day 2: Rest | Day 3: Overhead press | Day 4: Rest | Day 5: Bench press

Week 2

Day 1: Overhead press | Day 2: Rest | Day 3: Bench press | Day 4: Rest | Day 5: Overhead press 

The first week, you bench press twice and press overhead once. The next week, you switch it up.

This method is effective because the two exercises work the front deltoid from a different angle.

Note: Some coaches recommend running on uneven terrain to avoid overtraining. The idea is that a perfectly flat surface hits the joints from the same angle, which results in overtraining of specific parts. There’s definitely some truth to this idea, although one could argue that you cannot isolate as much. The idea behind alternating your pushing exercises is based on a similar principle.

2.The back is indestructible, but the elbows, shoulders, and wrists aren’t.

It’s almost impossible to overwork your lats and upper back. The blood supply of the area is great, and the musculature is very tough. However, the wrists, elbows, and shoulders are susceptible to injury.

For instance, your back muscles can handle five trucks of pull-ups in a relatively short time frame, but the elbows, the wrists, and the armpits will complain.

3.Limit the number of exercises.

Focus only on essential exercises. There is no need to satisfy the self-righteous ideas of every training guru.

4.Restrict your volume

Even if your exercise selection is perfect, a high-volume routine can result in severe overtraining. Be conservative, at least in the beginning.

5.Exercise order is also important

The order of your exercises should be based on two things – priority and mechanics. For example, if you want to excel at the bench press, it makes sense to do it before other pushing movements.

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8 comments

  1. jan

    Great article as usual.

    Do you think OHP and Dips are OK in one training if done once a week? No other pushing exercises.

      1. jan

        Because I’m looking for the best routine in terms of not overtraining, and those two exercises focus on front delts. Assuming I’m not training to failure and implement your advice, which plan is better? In general I’m looking for a nice bro split that will make my body beach ready ™

        A
        -Weighted Dips 5 x 6
        -Squats 5 x 5
        B
        -DL 5 x 5
        -Biceps Curls 3 x 8
        C
        -Weighted Chin Ups 5 x 6
        -OHP 5 x 8

        OR

        A
        -Weighted Dips 5 x 6
        -OHP 5 x 8
        B
        -DL 5 x 5
        -Biceps Curls 3 x 8
        C
        -Weighted Chin Ups 5 x 6
        -Squats 5 x 5

    1. Ron

      He’s probably moved on to other articles and hasn’t seen it. Have you tried emailing him? Proooooobably more likely to get a result.

    2. TeamNoMuscle

      If I do your routine I will choose the former because I can not maxing out on OHP after dips due to my fatigued triceps, traps and upper back.

      And, are you sure you gonna deadlift 5×5 every week? RDL seems more suitable if you are looking for a volume work.

    3. Truth Seeker Post author

      I would personally do the following:
      A
      Squats 5 x 5
      Weighted Dips 5 x 6
      Biceps Curls 3 x 8

      B
      Deadlift 1×5
      OHP 5 x 8
      Weighted Chin Ups 5 x 6

      Why?
      1. Deadlifting 5×5 two times a week is impossible when the weights are heavy.
      2. Deadlifting heavy before squats does not work even if it’s a different day. A heavy pull requires at least 5 days to recover from.
      3. The middle day becomes pointless.

      Sorry for the late reply. I hope you are doing well.

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