I always think its funny when someone asks me how to build massive arms. The look on their face is priceless when the first thing that comes out of my mouth is an explanation of a tricep exercise. It’s a sad truth that in the bodybuilding world of amateurs, the biceps are king. The triceps don’t usually fall under the category of “show muscle” so it’s no surprise that the biceps are usually the front-runner.
Many of you probably fell victim to this at some point or another; I know I did. Even if your biceps are genetically “gifted” to become very large and dominant, it’s important to understand that the triceps are just as important if not MORE important to train.
From personal experience, I like a more unconventional approach to building my arms. More specifically, I like going against the grain with my tricep training and thinking outside of the box. The best part is that science is always science, and you can’t go wrong with that.
Here are 5 awesome ways to mix up your tricep training for maximum growth:
#1 Know Your Range of Motion
It’s important to understand first off that the triceps cross two different joints. Their primary purpose is to extend the elbow, however most people will forget the fact that they also assist in hyperextension of the shoulder. Without this handy piece of information, your training most likely won’t be doing what you think its doing.
Because it is a multi-joint muscle, this means that your training should take into account the position that your shoulder joint is in.
If I asked you to contract your tricep as much as possible, you would most likely straighten out the arm, much like performing a tricep extension. Sorry to say, but this isn’t a fully contracted position. Since the shoulder is involved, you must first extend at the elbow, then hyperextend at the shoulder joint placing your arm behind you with your palm facing backwards; now you’re fully contracted.
Since the goal is building maximum muscle, it is your job to work through this range of motion at some point during your workout. If not, you’re leaving out valuable muscle fibers that have great potential to grow!
#2 Training with Chains
If you don’t currently have chains at your gym, I would suggest that you get your own or talk to the gym owner. The benefits of lifting with chains are numerous; however I’ll just focus on the triceps for now. I’m going to share with you the BEST exercise I’ve ever come across for building up huge triceps; are you ready?
Decline EZ bar skull crushers with chains
Let’s break this exercise down. First, the angle of the bench is in a decline position which forces the elbows to lean slightly over your head, down towards gravity. When this happens and the shoulders are retracted into the pad, the deltoid muscles are inhibited and therefore cannot assist in the movement. Second, when the weight is in the bottom position, the chains are laying on the ground not adding any stress; however once the weight is lifted, more and more links are being elevated off the ground, therefore increasing your resistance throughout the strength curve.
Can you see how this could break down even more muscle fibers to increase growth?
I’ve been using this exercise for quite some time and it’s helped my strength and growth tremendously. Don’t leave it out! A good alternative to chains would be to use resistance bands instead.
#3 Neuromuscular Shaping
You probably haven’t heard of this term before even though I use it quite a bit in my articles. Neuromuscular shaping simply just refers to the mind and muscle connection that is shared when performing an exercise.
If you’re a novice lifter, your body most likely will not have a strong neuromuscular response. On the positive side though, anyone can increase this interaction when training consistently. Let me remind you that it is not about how much weight you can lift, it’s about how many muscle fibers you can stimulate.
When a strong signal is sent from the brain to your working muscles, more motor neurons will have to fire to produce force. Simply lifting the weight is the easy part, contracting the muscle TO LIFT THE WEIGHT is a whole new experience! Try it out my friend.
#4 The Cheaters Pushdown
Ok, I have to share this “secret weapon” with you because it is just too good to leave out. The appearance of this exercise is completely unconventional. It actually looks like you’re cheating but in all seriousness, the tricep stimulation is out of this world, without any shoulder recruitment.
Just as a warning: this exercise shouldn’t be done if you’re new to training or don’t have the mind/muscle connection that is needed to relax the shoulders and completely contract the triceps. This isn’t an easy thing to do early on, believe me.
Start this exercise by using a high cable on a pulley of some sort in your gym. I personally prefer to use the V-handle bar attachment, but you can use the straight bar if it’s more comfortable for you. The key to doing this exercise correctly is to lean forward with the cable positioned on one side of your neck and your elbows locked at your side. Be sure to switch off which side the cable is on between sets to create balance.
In this position, the shoulders should be rolled back and locked into position as well to prevent them from assisting. Take the triceps throughout the FULL range of motion slowly. Be sure to get a good stretch at the top and an intense contraction at the bottom every single time. There’s no room for cheating on the cheaters pushdown! Give this one a try and see how the triceps feel the next day.
#5 Muscle Fiber Manipulation
When it comes to building muscle, I’m always first in line to understand the scientific approach. One of the most interesting concepts of the muscular system is ability of your muscles to produce force via different fiber types. These include Type IIx, Type IIa, and Type I muscle fibers.
Just as an overview, type IIx fibers have very little endurance capacity. They are used in fast and explosive movements to generate the most amount of force as fast as possible. You’ll see a lot of these fibers in sprinters, high jumpers and power athletes.
Type IIa fibers fall in the middle. Their endurance capacity is slightly greater than their type II counterpart but still not as good as Type I fibers. These “type I slow twitch” fibers are found in muscles like the rectus abdominus and in people who typically engage in long-distance running or similar activities.
So how can you manipulate ALL of these fibers to grow? Train with slightly different rep ranges each week.
Try using a three week protocol of heavy, moderate and light weight, respectively. This will ensure that each type of muscle fiber is stimulated maximally and therefore has enough time to grow and recover before the next three week cycle begins.
Be sure to implement these top tricep building strategies to build massive arms!
- Your range of motion will make or break you. Don’t leave any part of the strength curve out during your workouts.
- Add lifting chains to your barbells and EZ curl bars for compound tricep exercises. Watch your gains go through the roof!
- Your mind is your most powerful asset. Use it to stimulate as many muscle fibers as possible.
- Cheat without “cheating” using the Cheater’s Pushdown. It’s all good when you know what you’re doing.
- Manipulate your muscle fibers by changing up your training protocol each week from heavy and moderate to light.
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