Improve Your Triceps Workouts and Build Massive Arms

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Summer is upon us. It’s time to grab your scissors and start cutting those sleeves off.

Tank tops are no longer confined to just your gym sessions. But in order to rock that Suns Out, Guns Out tank top you need arms worthy of being categorized as guns.

Building strong and aesthetically shredded arms does not start and end with training only your biceps. You need to work your triceps just as hard if you want the huge arms you desire.

Triceps are often forgotten about when a lifter thinks about building massive arms, but actually make up two thirds of your upper arm. Your biceps are a smaller muscle group than you triceps. In order to transform your upper body you need to train your triceps with the same focus and intensity as you would your biceps.

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Triceps Anatomy

As with any muscle group, educating yourself about the anatomy of the muscle is the first step in understanding its development.

The triceps bracchii is made up of three muscles:

  • The lateral head
  • Medial head
  • Long head

Related: Run the Rack & Back: Chest and Triceps Destroyer

The lateral head is used for high-intensity force movements and is responsible for giving you the horseshoe shape of your triceps. The medial head is engaged with more precise, low-force movements. The long head, which is the largest of all three of the muscle heads, is responsible for bringing your arm down towards your body.

It’s important to hit all three of these muscle groups when training your triceps in order to properly develop the entire muscle group and create that aesthetic horseshoe shape.

Big Triceps

Triceps Training Tips

Stretch and complete adequate warm up sets before blasting your triceps. This is crucial in getting the blood flowing into the muscles, and also for avoiding injury. Know that some triceps exercises can put a little more stress on your elbows compared to others.

Completing at least 1-2 warm up sets of 12-15 repetitions with a weight 50-55% of your max will get your triceps engaged, while allowing you to confirm if you feel any fatigue or inflammation in your elbow joints. If so, you may want to perform a couple more warm up sets with this lighter weight, or consider stopping that particular exercise and focus on a triceps exercise that puts less stress on your elbow joints. The most important thing is to always listen to your body and adapt accordingly.

You may be asking,

What’s the best day or time to train triceps?

It really depends on you and your training schedule. If you have a day in your weekly routine dedicated to only triceps then more power to you. But, most of us on a 4 or 5 day split routine need to pair our triceps gains with another muscle group.

Related: How to Gain Muscle: 7 Proven Beginner Tips

I recommend, if you aren’t doing so already, combining your triceps work with your biceps exercises for an arm day, aka ARMageddon, aka Pumping the Pythons, aka SleeveBust City…okay you get the point. Lifts focused on strengthening your biceps aren’t going to engage or fatigue your triceps muscles.

By pairing them with your bicep exercises you can hit your triceps when they are fresh with heavier weights, allowing them to grow and improving your results.

Close Grip Bench Press

The 4 Best Triceps Exercises

Now that we’ve got the basics covered it’s time put in our headphones, crank up the Metallica, and hit the weights. These 4 triceps exercises are a great addition to your arm workouts and proven to transforms your triceps from boys into men.

Close Grip Bench Press

Your triceps are engaged when performing a medium or wide grip bench press. However, with the wider grips, your triceps become more of a secondary muscle group; the chest being the primary muscle group engaged.

Moving your hands closer together takes the focus from your chest and places more of it upon your triceps. Your hands should be about a foot apart from each other, bringing the weight down to the lower part of your sternum and pushing up, as you would with a normal bench press.

This exercise can really add some strength and thickness to your triceps so I recommend hitting these heavy and at the beginning of your triceps exercises when they are the least fatigued. Use a weight 85-90% of your max weight, 6-8 reps for 4-5 sets with a 45-60 second rest in between each set.

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Rope Triceps Pushdowns

Extensions are one of the first exercises that come to mind when thinking about triceps training. Pushdowns are a staple exercise and should be a part of your triceps repertoire. There’s a 99.9% chance all of you reading this right now are already performing this exercise when exercising your triceps.

But, are you performing this exercise correctly? Some of the most common mistakes made when performing rope triceps pushdowns include letting your elbows drift too far forward or letting the weights come up too high on the negative movement.

You shouldn’t be using the muscles in your back to push the weight down. You want the pushdown movement to be focused on your triceps. Keep your elbows tucked and tight against your body, control the weight as it comes up, and push the ropes out towards the outwards of your thighs on the way down.

Add some variety to your routine with this exercise by ending your triceps workout with this exercise as a quadruple drop set for a total of 50 reps. Start with a weight 75-85% of your max weight for 20 reps. Drop the weight by 10 pounds and by 5 repetitions for each subsequence set with no rest in between sets.

Example, based upon a 165 pound max.

  • Set 1 – 130 x 20 reps
  • Set 2 – 120 x 15 reps
  • Set 3 – 110 x 10 reps
  • Set 4 – 100 x 5 reps

Triceps Dips

Triceps DipsDips are a great exercise to blast your chest, but also just as a good for blasting your triceps. But, in order to place the emphasis on your triceps you need to change your positioning.

Instead of leaning forward, keep your body straight in a more upright position. Dips are one of the best exercises to add to your repertoire because it works all three heads of the muscle group at once. In order to get a full stretch on the triceps you want to lower yourself as far as possible on the downward part of the repetition.

Triceps dips are another great exercise to hit at the start of your routine for warming up your entire triceps muscle group and also for hitting hard and heavy. If you can perform more than 12 repetitions try using a dip belt to add some more weight for building some serious strength.

Reverse Grip Straight Bar Pushdowns (Straight Bar and Single Arm)

Reverse grip pushdowns are a crucial triceps exercise in creating that aesthetic horseshoe on the back of your arms. A great isolation exercise to pair alongside any of the exercises just discussed, reverse grip pushdowns focus on the lateral head.

Similar to a regular straight bar pushdown, attach the bar to a cable machine. Instead of gripping the bar with your palms facing down, grab the bar from underneath with your palms facing up. Pull the bar down until your arm is almost completely straight while feeling the squeeze on the back part of your triceps with every repetition.

As with rope pushdowns, focus on your form and don’t lose control of the weight as it’s coming up on the negative movement. Keep the weight lighter, 70-75% of your max weight, with the repetitions in the 8-12 range. With this exercise you really want to focus on getting the blood flowing to your lateral head.

You can also perform this exercise as a single arm exercise by attaching a smaller handle attachment to the cable machine. Grab the handle the same way, with your palm facing up, and pushdown while turning your hand out towards the outside of your thigh. If your triceps are stronger or more defined on one arm compared to the other this exercise allows you to focus on isolating a single arm at a time so you can perform more reps or add more weight for your weaker arm.

Again, keep the weight light as form and feeling that squeeze in the lateral head is important.

Big Triceps, Big Arms

Some of these exercises may be new to some of you. Many of you are familiar with all of them. Either way, you want to keep your body guessing. And, the best way to make your triceps grow is to shock them.

These exercises are guaranteed to give you the strength and horseshoe triceps you desire, but you need to hit them hard. If you’re just going through the motions on your pushdowns or consistently performing 3 sets of 10 dips week after week, you are going to be stuck at the train station without a ticket for the Gains Train.

Switch it up. Hit your triceps heavy or superset them with another triceps exercise, or finish your workout with an intense quadruple drop set because you’ve got your bags packed full of tank tops and sleeveless tees now and there’s no going back. It’s time to destroy your triceps because the Gains Train is leaving soon and I expect to see you sitting in the seat next to me.

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Name: Brently Rousset

Bio: Born, raised, and currently residing in beautiful San Diego, CA, I've been around some form of fitness almost my entire life. My mom was an aerobics teacher at the local gym when I was in elementary school through middle school. My dad had a full home gym in the garage and raced mountain bikes professionally through my high school years. My parents engrained the importance of health and fitness into me from a young age. I started playing soccer in my elementary days only to leave it behind for my true loves of basketball and surfing.