Training Titanic Triceps

Published: 24th July 2008
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Earlier this year I wrote an article called Building Bulging Biceps. The obvious follow up to this is an article explaining how to enlarge and strengthen the muscle group which comprises two thirds of your upper arm mass - The Triceps. The variation in size and shape of the triceps between individuals is quite astounding. The three heads of the triceps produce endless forms and compositions. I have seen (ideal) horse-shoe shaped where the long head and short head appear to be in perfect balance with each other. I have seen long and flat triceps. Short and thick triceps. Huge lateral heads with small long heads. Small lateral heads with huge long heads. The list goes on. The triceps are an elegant muscle group and complement a good physique very nicely. Without proper triceps development the body and especially the arms appear to be lacking something essential. I am going to explain the science behind building a great pair of horse-shoes…..

Plan of Attack

Know the functionality and main movement patterns of the Triceps:

Angle of Greatest Stretch - this is the most important one and is often missed during a workout. Not good. The commonality of the Tricep Pushdown and Rope Pushdown in all gyms is the cause of this. They are not the most effective muscle mass and strength builders. They are just simple and easy to perform. The angle of greatest stretch in the triceps occurs when you raise your arm straight up and bring your hand down behind your head or towards your face. This is achieved during a movement such as an Overhead Dumbbell Extension when you are seated with your upper back supported, your upper arms are vertical and you lower and raise a dumbbell behind your head or a Skull Crusher aka Lying Tricep Extension. In this position the muscle fibers are pulled the maximum distance apart and the triceps is stimulated all the way along from origin to insertion causing maximum muscle fiber damage and therefore growth.

Angle of Greatest Contraction - this one is also important but is too often the focus of Triceps workouts. The position is when you have your arm in-line with or even behind your body during an exercise such as a Tricep Pushdown or Bench Dip. At this angle the muscle fibers aren't fully stretched at the bottom of the movement but do achieve a very full contraction.

Pronated Grip (i.e. palms facing away from you, thumbs facing each other) - triceps movements using this grip (Tricep Pushdown) focus more on the lateral head of the triceps. This muscle forms the elegant ‘horseshoe' shape of the upper arm.

Supinated and Hammer (Neutral) Grip (i.e. palms facing you, thumbs turned out) - tricep movements using these grips focus more on the long head of the triceps. The long head forms the bulk of the triceps. An exercise that involves a supinated grip is the Reverse Grip Pushdown. An exercise that uses a hammer grip is a Rope Pushdown.

Pressing Exercises for Triceps - the best tricep mass builders are compound movements that move through the elbow and shoulder joint. These include: Close Grip Bench Press or Smith Press, Close Grip Weighted Dips, Weighted Bench Dips and Close Grip Push-ups. Focus on these types of exercises to maximize muscle and strength gains. They allow you to safely use maximum weight and apply maximum stress to the tricep muscles far more than the elbow-stressing isolation tricep exercises that are the more common inclusion in most weight training programs.

Chest and Shoulder Pressing Movements - The most effective way to grow yourself a pair of Titanic Triceps is not focusing on tricep exercises but making sure each week that your chest and shoulder routines contain mass-building pressing exercises such as Dumbbell Presses, Barbell Presses, Dips, Arnold Presses, Machine Presses, Power Presses etc. These big movements will ensure that your triceps indirectly are fed a steady diet of extreme but safe weights.

The Rules

Creating a great Triceps workout plan:

* Train arms only once per week - they are involved in all of your upper body and some of your lower body exercises and need time to rest and grow.

* Perform repetitions of 6 to 15 - Triceps (and biceps) respond well to a broad range of reps with high intensity and good technique.

* Perform 2 super intense work sets per exercise - this will allow you to focus your intensity and achieve greater exercise variety hitting the triceps from all angles.

* Choose 4 to 6 exercises - it sounds like a lot but remember that (after warming up) you are only performing 2 sets per exercise.

* Superset triceps and biceps together set for set - this is the best way to train arms. While one is working and fatiguing the other is recovering. You can lift heavy for the entire workout and get extreme muscle pumps.

* Focus on compound movements like Close Grip Bench Press rather than isolation movements like Tricep Kickbacks to build mass and strength.

* Use a mix of Dumbbells, Barbells and Cables.

* Always employ safe, strict, controlled, intense technique.

The Workout

45º Incline BB Extension 1 x 20, 1 x 15, 2 x 10


45º Incline DB Curl 1 x 20, 1 x 15, 2 x 10

Close Grip Bench Press 2 x 8


Standing EZ BB Curl 2 x 8

Seated Overhead DB Extension 2 x 10


Standing Alternate DB Curl 2 x 8 each side

Rope Pushdowns 2 x 15


Cable Preacher Curl 2 x 15

Weighted Bench Dips 2 x 15


Kneeling DB Hammer Curl 2 x 10

You will not find a more effective or more complete Tricep workout than this. All bases are covered. To learn the proper technique for all these great exercises please visit the Workout Video section. Thank you for your time and attention. Train hard and watch your arms grow.

Joey Sheather is the head trainer at Global Weight Training, which provides step-by-step instructions on how to get into shape in the shortest possible time. For more information, visit Weight Training.

Video Source: Youtube

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