Ask The $250/HR Trainer: Help Me Build Triceps That Hook Like A Horseshoe!

I train professional athletes, I train A-list celebrities, and now I train you! Get the big horseshoes you want with these routines.
Q

Hey Joe! Man, my sleeves are too big. No matter what I try or how I train, I can't seem to fill them. My biceps have a little peak, but I want my triceps to hook like a big ol' horseshoe. Can you help?

You want torched triceps? Elbow extensors that fork like lightning?

You bet I can help.

Like I stated in my previous article on training the elbow flexors, if you really want big arms, you need to make sure that the majority of your training is based around compound lifts (i.e. dominant movement patterns) like squats (quad-dominant), deadlifts (hip-dominant), chin-ups (vertical pull), inverted rows (horizontal pull), military press (vertical push) and bench press (horizontal push). These movements (and all of their derivatives) will help put overall size on your frame.

Once you structure the bulk of your training program around the above movements, you should then add in some exercises that emphasize elbow extensors in a more-targeted manner. Many people seem to think that, by training the elbow flexors, their arms will get much bigger. They will, to a certain extent, but the reality is that the elbow extensors make up a much larger percentage of the muscle mass on your upper arm.

So, essentially, if bigger arms are one of your main training objectives, you should definitely spend some time developing the triceps brachii muscles: the long head, lateral head and medial head.

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Step 1: attach cable to heavens. Step 2: pull them down

Target Your Triceps

All three heads of the triceps are involved in the extension of the elbow joint, but only the long head crosses both the shoulder and elbow. As a result, the long head plays a role in extending the shoulder joint, as well.

Unlike the elbow flexors, the position of the forearm (i.e. pronated, neutral or supinated) has absolutely no bearing on the relative activation of the elbow extensors. Only the long head of the triceps will be affected by the position of the shoulder joint, so in order to emphasize it to a greater degree, we will utilize a couple of exercises where the shoulder joint is in a flexed position (somewhere between 120-180 degrees) relative to the torso.

Below, I have mapped out two different 4-week training strategies for incorporating this "Elbow Extensor Specialization Phase" into your current training program. As far as how to incorporate the actual exercises into your daily training routine, I would pair up the A1 movement with an elbow flexor movement (I've suggested the sets, reps, tempo and rest period that would work well), then finish off with the B1 & B2 movements as outlined below.

4 Week Periodization Sheet for 3 Days/Week of Total Body Training

Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
#1 TB/ARM#1 Off TB/ARM#2 Off TB/ARM#1 Off Off
#2 TB/ARM#2 Off TB/ARM#1 Off TB/ARM#2 Off Off
#3 TB/ARM#1 Off TB/ARM#2 Off TB/ARM#1 Off Off
#4 TB/ARM#2 Off TB/ARM#1 Off TB/ARM#2 Off Off

Note: TB = Total Body. On the Off days, feel free to incorporate some energy system training (cardio) if you'd like. I always like to give my clients Sundays completely off.

4 Week Periodization Sheet for a Lower Body/Upper Body Training

Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
#1 LB & Core UB/ARM#1 Off LB & Core UB/ARM#2 Off Off
#2 LB & Core UB/ARM#1 Off LB & Core UB/ARM#2 Off Off
#3 LB & Core UB/ARM#1 Off LB & Core UB/ARM#2 Off Off
#4 LB & Core UB/ARM#1 Off LB & Core UB/ARM#2 Off Off

Note: LB = Lower Body. UB = Upper Body. On the Off days, feel free to incorporate some energy system training (cardio) if you'd like. I always like to give my clients Sundays completely off.

The Workouts

Tempo Guide: 4 parts, measured in seconds

First number: eccentric (negative) portion of rep
Second number: duration of pause at bottom of motion
Third number: concentric (positive) portion of rep
Fourth number: duration of pause at top of motion
X: an explosive movement (less than a second)

Example: 3110 tempo should take 5 seconds to perform: 3 seconds negative, 1-second pause, 1-second positive and no pause at top.

Arm Day 1 Emphasis

EXERCISE 1 Dips-Chest Version
4 sets of 6-8 reps, 3110 tempo 75 seconds rest

EXERCISE 2 Incline Dumbbell Curl
4 sets of 6-8 reps, 3010 tempo 75 seconds rest

EXERCISE 3 Machine Triceps Extension
3 sets of 10-12 reps, 2110 tempo 60 seconds rest

Note: We are putting the long head of the triceps brachii on a stretch and maintaining this position throughout the exercise in order to emphasize it more during the movement.

EXERCISE 4 Dumbbell Kickback
3 sets of 10-12 reps, 3010 tempo 60 seconds rest

Arm Day 1 Emphasis


Arm Day 2 Emphasis

EXERCISE 1 Floor Press with Chains
4 sets of 4-6 reps, 30X0 tempo 75 seconds rest

EXERCISE 2 Cable Preacher Curl
4 sets of 6-8 reps, 3010 tempo 75 seconds rest

EXERCISE 3 EZ-Bar Skullcrusher
3 sets of 10-12 reps, 2020 tempo 60 seconds rest

EXERCISE 4 Triceps Pushdown - Rope Attachment
3 sets of 10-12 reps, 3010 tempo 60 seconds rest

Arm Day 2 Emphasis