When you think of big arms, what do you think of? I bet most of you would answer "biceps'. The truth, of course, is that triceps make up most -actually, 2/3- of your upper arm size. While triceps training may not be quite as much fun, it's critical for balanced, huge arms.
While it makes the most sense to train triceps with chest and shoulders, because triceps are directly involved in the lifts used to work those muscles, I'm not as big a fan as I used to be of this combination all in one session. I mean, if you train hard enough, you should be pretty burnt by the time you get to triceps.
This is why I recommend that you use the following split:
- Day 1 - Legs, abs
- Day 2 - Rest
- Day 3 - Rest
- Day 4 - Chest, triceps
- Day 5 - Rest
- Day 6 - Back, biceps
- Day 7 - Rest
- Day 8 - Shoulders
- Day 9 - Rest
- Day 10 - Repeat
If you notice, there's enough time between chest and triceps day to shoulders day that there is no chance of over training those body parts due to indirect stimulation. There's no worry of coming to do shoulders with sore chest and triceps muscles. Additionally, you have more than enough energy to hit these body parts hard. This approach works especially well for older bodybuilders.
For those of you that have read my articles, you know I believe in maximizing the body's natural output of anabolic hormones - testosterone, GH and insulin - through exercise and diet. Briefly, the big compound movements - those where the whole body is moving, like squats and dead-lifts - promote testosterone release, any type of exercise technique that promotes the "burn " promotes GH, drop-sets, for example, work great for this and simple carbs mixed with some protein will cause an insulin spike.
You should always start your day with a drink containing protein and simple carbs and do the same after your workout. These are the two most critical times of the day to ingest a drink like this. Why? In the morning, you are coming off a short fast because you haven't eaten since the night before - you need protein. Toss in some simple carbs and you have an insulin spike - which promotes protein synthesis. After your workout you need the same thing again. Both of these are referred to as "anabolic windows".
Since insulin is also involved in fat gain, at all other meal times, avoid simple carbs and mix your protein with complex carbs. Going back to testosterone and GH, squats and dead-lifts are no problem on leg and back day, what about chest and tricep day?
As I suggested in my last article, "Anabolic training for the over 40 bodybuilder", start your chest workout with squats - yes, squats to promote testosterone release. You only need to do a few sets at a moderate weight, then move right into chest. By the way, refer to the "anabolic training" article for more information on the 3 anabolic hormones, there's a bit more detail on how to stimulate them through training and diet.
As for triceps, here's two great routines that will definitely add some size:
Sample Triceps Routine 1
EXERCISE 1 Close-Grip Barbell Bench PRess
3 sets of 6-8 reps
Use a heavy weight, do the movement in a continuous motion, no pausing. There's a variation of this exercise I came up with to take some of the tension of the elbows - it works great and puts a lot of stress on the triceps.
Instead of holding your elbows close to your sides, allow them to flair out, as if you were trying to form a triangle shape. Keep them lined up nice and straight with each other and lower your whole arm to perform your reps.
EXERCISE 2 Triceps Pushdown
2 dropsets 6-8 reps
You will be doing 2 drop sets, 5 weight drops per set, 6-8 reps per weight level. Here's how to do drop sets: perform the set until you fail, have a training partner remove just enough weight to allow you to continue doing the set - this should not take more than a couple of seconds.
It's important you don't rest until the set is over. I use 10 lb plates for this exercise, they can be removed in no time.
This can be a brutal technique, your triceps should feel like you've just burned them off when you get done!
Sample Triceps Routine 2
EXERCISE 1 Standing Overhead Barbell Triceps Extension
2 sets of 6-8 reps
Get a full stretch at the bottom of this, do the reps in a continuous motion style.
EXERCISE 2 Incline Barbell Triceps Extension
2 sets of 8-10 reps
Use a high incline and again, get a full stretch at the bottom. Pause at the bottom, then complete your reps.
EXERCISE 3 Triceps Pushdown
2 sets of 6-8 reps
Drop set style as in the first routine, for 2 drop sets.
Alternate these routines, doing a different one each week.
As always, adjust the set totals if you feel the need but do not increase the training frequency. One of the biggest misconceptions - one that just won't die - is that you need to train everyday. You don't. You must allow time for your muscles to recover.
That's not going to happen if you're hitting triceps, for example, on Monday then decide to hit them again on Wednesday. Once every 5-6 days is enough to stimulate growth. In fact, the rest days as suggested in my split routine can be adjusted as you see the need.
As for diet, make sure you're eating enough - high protein (1 to 1 1/2 grams per lb. of bodyweight at least), moderate carbs and low fat. Make sure you're eating every 3 hours.
One of the biggest mistakes new bodybuilders make is either not eating enough or eating all the wrong foods. Part of getting big is eating enough but that shouldn't be an excuse to pork up on high fat foods.
Eat "clean" but don't overeat and you shouldn't gain much in the way of fat. As for supplements, everyone that reads my stuff knows I like prohormones. I also recommend protein powder, protein bars, a good multi-vitamin -high in B-complex, creatine, No2 and glutamine. These are just some basic suggestions to help you get the most out of this - or any - mass gaining routine. Follow these and I'm sure you'll gain some size in your tris!