I don't know what caused this sickness, but for some reason I caught the triceps disease. I became obsessed with developing great triceps. I do remember a photo of John Grimek that displayed some tremendous triceps, but my obsession with developing freaky triceps was caused by two covers on Muscular Development magazine: April 1964 cover of Larry Scott and the November 1969 cover of Bill Pearl.
I dreamed night and day about having triceps like those guys. I just loved the way Larry's triceps provided a balance in his arms for those massive biceps. I stared with wonder at the way Bill's triceps exploded out of his deltoid and with a massive sweep slammed back into his elbow with a gap between the elbow and beginning of the triceps that shouted out that this guy was not a normal human being. Ah, how I dreamed of becoming a god like these guys! But I didn't just dream. I dedicated years to heavy, consistent, and persistent training.
It paid off. Not only was I listed in an article in the October 1995 issue of Muscle & Fitness as having one of the Top Ten Guns of all time, but the reigning god of bodybuilding himself made a joke about my triceps. It was at the Zane Invitational female bodybuilding contest held in Los Angeles in 1981. Arnold Schwarzenegger (now Govenor Schwarzenegger) and I were helping Frank Zane run the contest with Arnold as the MC and myself the head expediter. Maria Shriver (later to become Mrs. Schwarzenegger) was backstage with Arnold when I was running around lining up contestants and Arnold shouted, "Watch out Maria! Here comes Baldwin's triceps!" I laughed but felt I had "arrived." The reigning Mr. Olympia had recognized my triceps development.
| You may not want to develop freaky triceps like Pearl or Scott like I did, but you may want better-toned or bigger triceps than you have. If so, here are some of my "secrets" to great triceps.
First realize that the triceps contain three different muscles sharing a common tendon of insertion and are referred to by bodybuilders as the outer, middle, and inner heads. If your goal is just to tone and firm the triceps just do three sets of triceps pushdowns 1-3 times per week and stop reading this article now. If your goal is to development impressive chunks of meat on the back of your arm, continue reading.
Despite what some "experts" may say, from years of experience on myself and other men I have trained for competition and from talking to Mr. Olympia title holders (I always went to the guys who developed freaky muscles rather than a Ph.D. in human physiology whose arms were smaller than my grandmother's), I believe certain exercises produce specific results in triceps shape and size.
For incredible "hang" or "sweep" and just sheer mass, my favorite exercise is close-grip barbell benches, but I always did them with my hands much closer (3"-4") than other men I have observed. When I was having trouble with elbow pain I talked with Larry Scott and he revealed that his special way of kneeling triceps cable extensions contributed greatly to his sweep (though at his peak he did many hours of close-grip benches).
The second real mass builder is "nose-breakers " (or "skull-crushers").
Outer head impressiveness, detailed separation on the outside of the arm often referred to as the "horseshoe," is best achieved through dumbbell kickbacks and reverse grip cable pushdowns. I think barbell French presses and single-arm dumbbell French presses are fabulous triceps developers too, but they are also dangerous because the muscle is stretched to the maximum in this position and any bouncing with heavy weight is sure to result in injury. I have torn both triceps doing these exercises. I still do dumbbell French presses, but I only use 35-45 pounds instead of 55-60.
The number of sets and reps depends on your level of training experience. Beginners should do two sets of 8-10 repetitions of two exercises two to three times a week. The most productive triceps routine I ever used was a total of six sets, 3 sets of close-grip benches and three sets of skull-crushers in 10 minutes three times per week. But I had started out that season doing 20 sets that took a half hour doing 4 sets each of 5 different exercises. I just kept increasing the intensity over several months by constantly raising the weight while reducing the sets, exercises and time in between sets to 10 seconds!
My point is that it takes time to reach the level of concentration and strength that allows maximum growth in so few sets and reps. In addition, I am a firm believer in periodization for maximum gains. The sets, reps and exercises used should be changed at the first hint that the muscles and/or your ability to enjoy and concentrate on a particular exercise has waned. The goal in the gaining phase is to always increase intensity, but that phase can only last 3-6 months before you risk injury.
You must switch to a more modest phase and gradually increase the sets and reps until you are doing up to twenty sets with a minute rest between sets. Then increase the intensity by gradually decreasing the rest between sets and increasing the weight used while decreasing the number of exercises and sets.
Now you have the basics exercises program for building impressive triceps. Remember, though, the triceps can't grow if you don't increase your food intake and sleep at least 8 hours per night.
As you adjust your training and you develop massive new triceps, send us photos!
Diane Fields, Member. Legendary Fitness, LLC.
Richard Baldwin, Member. Legendary Physique, LLC.
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Copyright 2004. Diane Fields, Member. Legendary Fitness, LLC. All rights reserved.
The advice given in this column should not be viewed as a substitute for professional medical services. Before undertaking any exercise or nutrition program, Legendary Fitness, LLC advises all to undergo a thorough medical examination and get permission from their personal physician.