Guns. Pipes. Pythons. Cannons. No, this is not another game of Dungeons and Dragons - although it very well could be. Instead, the subject matter is arm training, with emphasis being placed on the 66% of the arm that is the tricep. You see, tricep training is not often given the attention that is its due. The reason for this is simple: everyone is focused on getting massive, vein-filled, biceps.
Even though the bicep comprises only 33% of the upper arm, most beginner bodybuilders [and even some intermediates] devote nearly 95% of their arm training to training the biceps. Instead, though, the attention given to each body part should be proportionate to the contribution that each muscle makes toward the size of the whole complex unit.
The fact that many bodybuilders are "bicep obsessed" begs the question: if tricep size comprises a whopping 66% of upper arm size, why is it that most bodybuilders are only paying attention to triceps 5% of the time? Perhaps this explains why many bodybuilders have triceps that just hang on their arms like slabs of soft underdeveloped jelly.
The program outlined here will help you to realize your muscular potential, and it will bring you one-step closer to having the proportionate arms that have thus far eluded you. If you have hammered away at your arms and have noticed no results on the measuring tape, or even if you have used the program outlined in the article Bicep Blitzkrieg and have gained considerable mass, this program presents "the other side" of arm training. If your arms have failed to grow, or even if they have grown but not at the speed or magnitude that you would like, this program may be what you have been waiting for.
So, if you want guns, pipes, pythons, cannons and arms like a cave dweller, instead of flabby lifeless peashooters, give this tricep program a TRI!
EXERCISE 1 Triceps Pushdown
2 dropsets of 25, 12 reps
The first exercise to perform is tricep pressdowns. This exercise may be performed using a rope or using a v-bar attachment. If you have suffered or are suffering from tendonitis or symptoms of upper forearm inflammation, using a v-bar is recommended. Unlike a rope attachment, a v-bar keeps your wrist alignment stable throughout the movement.
Form is of the utmost importance in the execution of exercises, and the v-bar attachment aligns your body in a strict movement, thus reducing the potential for cheating and injury.
This is the first exercise in the order and serves as a warm-up movement. Therefore, it is wise to do a set of 25 repetitions in a strict, slow and controlled manner with very light poundage. The purpose of this set is to gain a feel for the movement, to establish the mind-muscle connection, and to establish correct form. By doing this you will also be pumping the blood into the muscle. Follow the first warm-up set of 25 repetitions with one more warm-up set of 12 repetitions at heavier poundage.
EXERCISE 2 Lying Triceps Press
3 sets of 10, 6, 6 reps
For this exercise use a cambered bar or an olympic barbell. Lay on your back on a flat bench press bench and, holding the barbell at an arms-length directly over your eyes, space your grip approximately pectoral-width apart. In other words, your hands should be above your pectorals.
The end of the flat bench should be where your spinal cord inserts to the base of your skull. This will position your head at a slight decline, and place your field of vision directly up at the ceiling. During the movement, your eyes should be focused straight ahead on the ceiling, and your neck should not at any time deviate from this position. If it does, a neck injury or strain may result.
Many pictures and books illustrate the incorrect execution of this movement. Most times, the elbows will be bent at a ninety-degree angle, with the elbows roughly horizontal with the nipple line and the arms perpendicular to the body. This is an improper way to execute this movement. It is important to ensure that your arms are positioned at a forty-five degree angle for this exercise. At this angle, you can implement the continuous tension principle, thus providing more stimulation for your triceps and more growth.
For this movement perform three sets. The first set should have ten repetitions, the second six repetitions and the third six repetitions. As always, the form should be very strict and the range of motion should be fully effective. Careful attention should be paid to not allow the elbows to move forward during the movement.
EXERCISE 3 Dips - Triceps Version
3 sets of 8 reps
This exercise is used to hit the triceps hard, especially around the elbow area. The good part about this exercise is that if you can not do your own bodyweight you can have someone spot you at your feet.
When doing dips, it is important to not lean forward too much, as this will result in placing the stress on areas other than the triceps. For this movement, use the "12 o'clock - 6 o'clock rule." Simply, this means keeping your torso straight throughout the movement, so that you do not alter the center of gravity and so that the stress stays on the target muscle.
At the top of this movement squeeze the tricep, without locking out at the elbow. Locking out at the elbow will place undue stress upon your joints. Furthermore, employ effective range of motion. Keep the tension on the triceps at all times throughout the set. For the first set do 8 repetitions, and 8 repetitions per set for the remaining 2 sets.
EXERCISE 4 Standing One-Arm Dumbbell Triceps Extension
3 sets of 10, 15, 15 reps
The final exercise to perform is one-armed seated tricep presses. Although the picture indicates using both triceps at once, this exercise is to be done with each tricep individually. This exercise will hit the tricep overall, with special emphasis placed on the inner head, located near the elbow on the inside of the arm. You can do this movement seated or standing, although done seated there is less allowance for movement, and thus the potential for injury is reduced.
For this exercise perform three sets, the first of which will have 10 repetitions, and the remaining 2 sets will have 15 repetitions each.
The whole workout should take you no longer than 25-30 minutes if performed correctly.
- Triceps Pushdown
2 dropsets of 25, 12 reps
- Lying Triceps Press
3 sets of 10, 6, 6 reps
- Dips - Triceps Version
3 sets of 8 reps
- Standing One-Arm Dumbbell Triceps Extension
3 sets of 10, 15, 15 reps
Common Errors To Avoid
Improper Exercise Form
The most common error that occurs with tricep exercises is the practice of putting the weight load on the tricep joint, as opposed to on the muscle. It is important to work the muscle instead of the joint. If it is your goal to strengthen your joints, do negatives. However, if your goal is to work the tricep muscle, thus stimulating growth, then be sure that it is the tricep that you are working. This is always an issue of exercise execution and form.
With tricep pushdowns, the major form errors are: locking out the elbow at the bottom of the movement, moving the elbow forward at the top of the movement or using too much weight and involving other muscle groups as a result of leaning forward during the pushdown part of the movement.
With skull crushers it is quite easy to move the arms down the body, thus changing the center of gravity from 45 degrees to 90 degrees. This will result in being able to do more weight, but also less muscle development. Changing the center of gravity will result in the weight load being placed upon the joints and tendons.
When doing dips specifically for tricep development, it is important to not lean too far forward, or else the chest will become involved in the movement.
With seated tricep presses often a person can take the repetition beyond a ninety-degree angle and this can result in undue stress being placed upon the muscle or joint. Locking out at the top of the movement can also compress the joint, which if continued can result in a pinched nerve, or tendonitis. Left untreated this condition can become chronic.
Failure To Fully Develop The Triceps
Many times a bodybuilder will do tricep exercises that result in stimulating the outer head only. This will result in strength increases - to a point. After a while, however, lack of tricep development will begin to affect strength on pressing movements like incline bench presses and flat bench press. A tricep that is underdeveloped [or not developed correctly] will result in symmetry problems. Make no mistake: failure to develop the tricep fully WILL cost you in terms of both strength and symmetry. Failure to develop the triceps fully NOW will result in lost muscle gains LATER.
When doing heavy pressing movements, and even cable movements like tricep pushdowns, the outer head bears much of the stress of the weight load. It is, therefore, necessary to do weak point training if you find yourself in a position of having an underdeveloped inner tricep head. The best way to do this is to alter your hand position on isolationary tricep movements like reverse grip tricep pulldowns. You can also do dumbbell work that targets the inner heads effectively.
The tricep constitutes 66% of total upper arm mass, and thus the importance of developing the triceps fully should not be dismissed. Tricep training is essential to total arm development. A fully developed, championship caliber arm will have full, thick triceps that radiate a message of strength to all who see them.
By developing the triceps fully you can improve symmetry, increase strength and increase muscle mass. By employing the exercises listed here you will be on your way to bigger, stronger and better triceps.