Team Optimum Nutrition athlete Julian Smith has a killer triceps workout to round out your T-shirt game and bring the back of your arms up to speed. A guy known for his insane quad sweeps and ability to build well-defined muscle all over, Smith is one guy to listen to for muscle-building tips.

"This workout covers all the exercises I like doing for triceps," explains Smith. "During the workout, make sure your muscles are doing all of the work, not just moving as much weight as possible."

Smith is a big fan of slow and controlled negatives and getting as much out of every exercise as possible. Take this triceps workout for a spin and you'll see—this is one sleeve-splitting workout you'll want to keep!

Julian Smith's Triceps-Blasting Workout
EZ-bar skullcrusher-
4 sets, 6-12 reps
+ 4 more exercises


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Wide-Grip Skullcrushers

"Going wide with your elbows tucked in puts the emphasis on the long head of the triceps," Smith explains. "The long head is a part of the muscle most people neglect."

Wide-Grip Skullcrushers

Wide-Grip Skullcrushers

With a compound movement like skullcrushers, the tendency is to go fast and explosive, but, according to Smith, that may not be the best way to build muscle. Keep your reps slow and controlled, making sure you have good form the entire time. Make sure you're in control of the weight and not letting the weight control you.

Wide-Grip Triceps Push-down

Go wide on the grip for the push-down to keep the emphasis in the long head of the triceps. Keep your elbows tucked in, and pause slightly at the bottom during the full contraction to really make those triceps burn.

"When you do extensions like this on a cable, you're going to be able to put the full tension of the weight in the muscle at the bottom of each rep," says Smith.

Wide-Grip Triceps Push-Down

Wide-Grip Triceps Push-Down

Extending the time under tension in this way helps build muscle and, as fans of Smith know, it doesn't require super-heavy weight to be effective.

"I like to slow down and get the most out of each exercise," says Smith. "It's about slowing things down, not really focusing on how much weight you're doing, but instead paying attention to the full contraction and the full negative."

Dumbbell Overhead Extension

For the overhead extension, you're still going slow and controlled, but with explosive positives. Focus on form, no matter what.

Dumbbell Overhead Extension

Dumbbell Overhead Extension

"One thing to focus on with this exercise is actually getting your triceps to do the work," says Smith. "I know a lot of people who just go through the motion and feel the burn somewhere else—in their traps or their rear delts."

Whichever muscle you're working on should be the only muscle that burns because it should be doing all of the work. As you're performing each of these exercises, focus on the triceps. Focus on the stretch as you bend your elbows back each time and the contraction in the triceps as you extend.

Bodyweight Triceps Extensions

Just like push-ups and pull-ups, Smith prefers to work to failure on this exercise since it's bodyweight work. This movement is going to be different for everyone since we're all built a little differently—some of us have longer length in our arms compared to others.

"You want to tinker with the form to make sure you're in a position that's going to work best for you," suggests Smith.

Get into a 90-degree angle with your arms when you're in the starting position on the floor, and as you press up, make sure you're contracting with the triceps.

Bodyweight Triceps Extensions

Bodyweight Triceps Extension

"You might be a little too far back if you're feeling too much pressure in the shoulders or the wrists," says Smith, "When you have perfect form, you'll only feel it in the triceps."

If you can't do a full bodyweight triceps extension, drop your knees down to the floor. This will take a big load off your arms and allow you to work your way up to the more advanced version of the exercise. Work on form first, and make sure you're getting the best contraction possible.

Smith recommends using this workout any time you work your triceps.

"You can pair it up however you like," says Smith. "I like to keep my splits simple, like chest and triceps, or biceps and triceps."

Whatever your split may be, this workout will be perfect for building muscle in your arms. You're stimulating as many triceps muscle fibers as possible by hitting different rep ranges, different pauses on the contraction, different negatives, and even taking advantage of body weight.

About the Author

Heather Eastman, NSCA-CPT

Heather Eastman, NSCA-CPT

Heather’s mission is to use her passion for fitness and her knowledge of training and nutrition to educate and motivate others to enjoy a healthy and active lifestyle.

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