Triceps are a very important muscle for your physique guys. It makes up ⅔ of your arm, and although the arms aren’t an important muscle for life, they have a cosmetic advantage with women. Since they are visible to all, they are the most important thing for most guys when they train. Simply put they are the highest yield for effort and time invested next to middle delts and traps, but unlike traps, triceps can’t be too big.
Triceps are a ton of fun to train as there are thousands of different ways to hit them and they can be trained as much as 3 times a week according to Hany Rambod and Rich Piana. Honestly this is like the reward for a week of legs and back and biceps, to have the privilege to train triceps.
There are 3 heads of the TRI- (three) -CEP (head); middle, lateral and long. the long is special since it crosses your shoulder joint and facilitates the rear delt on arm extension. This is important when we discuss the positions to train each head optimally. The Lateral head makes you look wider like the middle delt and subsequently makes your waist look smaller. It is part of your overall frame surprisingly.
Easy there turbo, not those kind of positions:) I’m talking about how to orient the arm so that the contraction of the triceps allows you to work the different parts of the force continuum. No really. I’m not making this up. The strength of the muscle is not equal throughout its contraction. At the most stretched position and at the most contracted position the muscle is weakest. When the muscle is half contracted, when you’re in the middle of your range of motion, your muscle is its strongest. There are 3 basic positions: Contracted, Stretch, and Strength.
When your arm is behind your back the long head of your tricep is contracted as much as possible from the origin. This is because the long head attaches at the scapula (shoulder blade), not the humerus (upper arm) as are the medial and the lateral tricep heads. This means you need to have your arm behind you to fully contract your triceps. I like the contracted position to get a great pump.
The best example of this position is the Dumbbell Kick Back, because your arm is behind you and when your arm is fully extended gravity is acting at a 90 degree angle from the direction the muscle is lying. In other words the muscle is in its most contracted position possible and the force is in the most direct direction possible. In between sets squeeze the muscle in this contracted position. This starves the muscle and creates an up-regulation of nitric oxide (NO).
NO will increase your pump throughout the rest of the workout. Some try to get their pump at the end of the workout, others the beginning. I get the best pump when I do it at the beginning, but then I lose it before the end, on the other hand If i start with stretch and end with contraction I get a pump the whole workout, but not at the skin tearing level as doing the contraction position first. For this reason I developed Wyked 2.1. With this I can have a pump through the entire workout.
To fully stretch the triceps you have to stick your arm behind your head. Once again this is because your long head attaches to the scapula. Then when you bend at the elbow you stretch the other 3 heads. Put a DB or a rope in your hands and you can maximally load the muscle in its completely stretched position. Since the arms are above the heart blood drains out of them and you guessed it, more NO is released in response to the starvation the muscle experiences.
This is a great position to finish with because gravity starves the muscle while you’re lifting, then you let the arms fill with blood in between the sets. I find this is better for warming up than the contracted position, since you stretch the muscle under force it helps wake it up and gives you better mind muscle connection and range of motion for your workout. I like to use Hany Rambod’s trick of holding my arms above my head in between sets to starve the muscle of blood. Then when I set my arms down they fill with blood fast!
This is a standard position where your arm is neither behind your head or back. Pretty much every tricep exercise has your arms in front of you. Ideally the load should be greatest when the arm is bent at 115 degrees or so. Triceps press downs and other pressing movements have the advantage of including the chest and shoulders to assist in the lift to allow you to handle more weight. Now your central nervous system can adjust to more weight.
The triceps will do more work when your hands are closer together on pressing movements. when using a barbell for triceps the closer your hands the less chest and shoulders and the more triceps. This is only to a point however, if the hands are to close your wrists hurt. Don’t stubbornly try to force it, go with a grip that works your triceps but doesn’t hurt your wrists. Suicide grip is more triceps, true grip with the thumbs wrapped around the bar activates the lateral head better.
Intention is a trick I learned from watching Ben Pakulski videos on Youtube. Kai Greene uses a similar technique in his “Train With Kai” video series. In order to activate the triceps better press out on the barbell with about 5% of your force, this activates the triceps over the chest, pressing in activates the chest. When you’re failing, instead of pressing out, convert to pressing in. This allows the chest to help your failing triceps for a few more reps.
Sample Triceps Mass Building Routine
The Triceps are about 67% white fibers, so they respond to heavier weights. This program was written with the concept in mind you already trained heavy pressing on chest and shoulder day and now you’re doing isolation work and higher rep stuff. In other words you’re not training all your tricep fibers this workout, you trained the Type 2B muscle fibers earlier in the week. If this is your first day of the week do Decline Close grip Bench 4 x 6 reps after you do the rope to warm up:)
Rope Press Down 6 x 15 – Warm up for elbows, decent pump – Rest 30 seconds
Press the rope away from you, don’t pull it into you. Your elbows should be fixed in one place slightly in front of you. You should be squeezing the ropes about ⅓ from the bottom, don’t rest hands on the balls. Look in the mirror at the lagging arm, actually stare at it. Most importantly, turn your hand so its palm is facing you, this targets the lateral head.
Slight Incline French Press 4 x 10 – All positions – Rest 90 seconds
superset Skull Crushers
superset Close Grip Press to collar bone
Laying on a bench at a 30 degree incline have your elbows “above” your head to stretch out your triceps. Let the weight hang so its almost lifting you off the bench, I snake my feet into the bench to hold my butt down. Press the EZ bar straight out from you, don’t press it vertically, it should follow the same 30 degree plane as the bench. This keeps constant tension on the triceps when they are contracted.
When you fail point your elbows to the ceiling. The bar should be 1 inch from your nose. Now the greatest force is in the stretch position. as you press the EZ bar straight up it gets ‘lighter’. This is because at the fully contracted position the gravity is pressing straight down on the bar and the bones and joints are absorbing the force and not the triceps like the french press. That’s why we don’t do much of these, you’re probably fail after a few reps.
Last in this triset is the close grip press. After you fail at the Skullz you simply pull your elbows down to your chest so the EZ bar is over your collarbone. I use a true not false grip for this as it increases my lateral head activity. I Pump that EZ bar with as many short partial reps as possible to squeeze the last drops of life out these triceps. Not too low, not too high, pressing out on the bar not just up, this keeps tension on the triceps the whole time. Do it over your collar bone, not upper abs.
Seated Dumbbell Extension 4 x 10 – Stretch position – Rest 90 seconds
With your arms above your heart and elbows behind your head lower the dumbbell as low as possible. This is past 90 degrees. This allows your to maximally load the triceps when its maximally stretched. Super flexible people my have to use cables as their forearm can collapse against their upper arm. Fire the dumbbell up and back, not just up. So that there is tension on the triceps when your contracting them at the top.
Alternating Dumbbell Kickbacks 4 x 12 – Contraction position – Rest 0 seconds
Nothing gives me a pump like these. I set my forehead on the back of an incline bench, arch my back and make sure my elbow is as far behind my back as it will go. This puts the long head and the rear delt into an isometrically contracted state. ie. No movement of the elbow. I let the dumbbell hang and fire the bicep to take any momentum off the reps. When its just dangling there it is virtually weightless, then as you contract the tricep it raises the dumbbell until your forearm is parallel with the ground. At this point its a maximally loaded tricep muscle in the fully contracted position. I like to twist my wrist on these. With the palm facing the floor the lateral head is more contracted, in the palm up you get more long head.
That’s a solid 18 set 280 rep routine. I used to think because they were small muscles you use less volume, but my shoulders kept growing with 24-30 sets and my arms werent with 9-12 sets.
Nothing in this article or on this site should be considered medical advice or as an endorsement to violate any law of the country in which you reside. The information given is for fun and entertainment purposes only. All claims are 100% dependent upon proper diet and exercise. Please consult a medical practitioner prior to any diet and exercise program.