Is there a lifter out there that doesn’t want bigger arms and a stronger bench press? The triceps are one of the most underrated muscle groups. After all, they contribute a lot more to your overall arm size than your biceps, and they are an important muscle group in all pressing exercises.
With this is in mind it should seem obvious that building your triceps should be a priority if you want to get bigger and stronger. The problem is that most lifters do not know how to train their triceps properly. You will often see bodybuilders wasting away valuable energy on things like pushdowns and kickbacks. Now, there isn’t anything wrong with these exercises, but the majority of your time would be much better spent on compound exercises which allow for heavy weights to be used.
In fact, you simply can’t adequately stimulate all of the muscle fibers in the triceps without incorporating some exercises which allow for heavy loads to be used. In general it is best to hit 1 or 2 heavy compound exercises and then move on to an isolation exercise to squeeze the last little bit out of your muscles.
With this in mind let’s take a look at three fantastic exercises for your tris:
This is probably the body building movement with the most frightening name. After all, who wants their skull smashed? But the exercise is aptly named because it is done lying down on your back on a bench with a barbell at arm’s length. You will then flex at the elbows and lower the bar until it touches your forehead. Obviously if you do this in an uncontrolled manner it will hurt your skull!
The key to this exercise is to make sure the tension stays on the triceps. To do this you want the elbows close to the body and pointed towards the ceiling. It is essential that you only flex and extend the elbows and that you do not move them forward or backward, or you will shift the tension off the triceps.
While this exercise is usually done by touching the bar to the forehead, you can vary the point at which you touch in order target specific sections of the triceps. In general, shifting lower on the body, such as the chin, will hit the medial head harder, while shifting higher on the body will hit the long head harder.
Parallel Bar Dips
This is the classic triceps mass builder. Dips are probably responsible for building more triceps msucle mass than any other movement. This is due to the combination of heavy weights and targeted stimulation that they provide to the triceps. When you first start lifting you may have trouble completing more than a couple of these, but as you progress it is important to continue adding weight by using a dumbbell between your feet or a specialized dip belt. The addition of weight will allow you to continue to progress in this movement once you are capable of easily handling your body weight.
As with most triceps exercises, the key to proper performance is to keep your elbows close to the body. This means using a close grip on the dip bars. It also means that you should use an upright posture without too much forward lean. Leaning forward shifts more of the tension to the deltoids and pecs, which is not what we want for our goal of bigger triceps. Ideally you should descend into the bottom of the exercise until your upper arms were parallel with the ground. However, this will cause shoulder pain in a good percentage of lifters, and in this case you should either shorten the range of motion or skip the exercise altogether.
Close grip BB Bench Press
If this isn’t the undisputed king of the triceps movements, then it is pretty close. The ability to use heavy weights due to contributions from your chest and shoulders allows you to completely blast the triceps and force them to get bigger. While you want to work on continually getting stronger, you should never sacrifice correct form for weight. With this exercise it important to keep the elbows close to your body throughout the movement in order to keep as much tension as possible on the triceps. Even with a close grip the tension can be shifted off of the triceps muscle and put onto the elbow joint if you do not keep the elbows tucked in tight. This obviously not only diminishes your muscle growth, but can lead to elbow and wrist injuries as well.