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4 Steps To Killer Triceps

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Shannon Clark

If you’re looking to build impressive arms, turn your focus to your triceps. Many people overlook the fact that the vast majority of their total arm mass comes from the triceps muscles. Often, people think that biceps are the muscle to focus on to accomplish the goal of growing bigger guns. 

If your current triceps routine consists of a few sets of triceps pushdowns thrown in at the end of chest day, it’s time to make some changes. Here are four steps you should be taking to develop stronger and more defined triceps, as well as a workout routine you can follow to get you started.

Don’t Neglect Compound Movements

Because the triceps are a smaller muscle group, many people think that training with isolation exercises is the best approach. While isolation movements should have a place in any triceps workout routine, they’re not the only exercises you should be doing.

While you probably include traditional bench press on your chest day, performing a close-grip barbell bench press on your arm day will put more emphasis on the triceps. Using this compound movement allows you to load up the plates and really put the muscle under tension. Remember, the heavier weight you can subject your muscles to, the better strength progress you’ll generally see. This is why a close grip bench press is so beneficial. Use this exercise at the start of your triceps workout and you’ll be seeing gains almost immediately. 

Focus On Hitting All Three Heads

One big mistake that’s commonly made when training the triceps is only hitting one head of the muscle. The triceps are made up of three heads, and it’s vital that you work all three in order to be most successful. 

You have the long head, the medial head, and the lateral head. Of the three, the long head is the largest section of the triceps muscle. If bigger arms are your goal, you’ll want to ensure that you include exercises which target this portion of the muscle.

The best exercise for the long head include cable rope overhead triceps extensions, so prioritize those above all else. Whether this is a cable rope overhead triceps extension, a barbell extension, or a dumbbell extension, this movement pattern should be highlighted in each of your arm sessions. 

To achieve the “horse shoe” seen on the back of the arm, you’ll want to target the lateral head of the deltoid. This can be accomplished with triceps pushdowns. This exercise is great for refining your triceps and really bringing out maximum levels of definition.

A triceps pushdown with a rope attachment is an excellent option, however, you can also use other cable attachments such as a straight bar or V bar. If you prefer, triceps kickbacks can also be used for hitting your lateral head. 

Finally, to hit the medial head, you’ll want to perform a triceps pushdown with a reverse grip, or another exercise with your hands in this position. This is going to help to change the overall stress loading pattern being placed on the triceps, activating more of the medial triceps head. Two other good choices which target the medial head include skull crushers and dips.

Squeeze At The Top

When doing your triceps workouts, the mind-muscle connection is everything. Resist the urge to rush through the workouts or cheating the range of motion. Think through every single rep. This means focusing on the muscle contraction as its taking place, and squeezing the muscle at the top of each rep can help you fully connect with the triceps.

This squeeze at the top is what will really fatigue the muscle and elicit maximum hypertrophy. Don’t rush through any of your reps or sets - take your time for superior results.

Overload With Supersets And Drop Sets

The triceps can be quick to adapt to a training regime, so don’t be afraid to overload the muscles with supersets and drop sets at any given point. While you may not want to do both of these techniques in a single workout as that could lead you down a path to overtraining, introduce them from time to time. 

Both are good ways to bring the muscle to full exhaustion, improving your muscular endurance and building strength in a new way. After a few weeks of including these techniques and returning to straight sets at a heavier weight, you’ll find that you’re stronger than you were before.

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Now that you know these four tactics to maximize your triceps training, it’s time to put them into action. The following training routine, along with details on how to perform each exercise correctly, will enable you to hit all three heads of the muscle and start building the arms you want.

Start by warming-up with close-grip barbell bench press – 2 or 3 sets of 10-15 reps 

Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press – 3 sets of 6-8 reps

Overhead Dumbbell Extension – 3 sets of 8 reps

Rope Triceps Pushdown – 4 sets of 10 reps

Reverse-Grip Triceps Pushdown – 3 sets of 12 reps 

Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press

Start: Position yourself on a flat bench press machine. Use a neutral grip on the bar, with hands closer than shoulder width apart. 

Move: Lift the weight up off the barbell rack by straightening the elbows. Slowly lower the bar down towards the sternum, keeping the elbows close to your sides, breathing in as you do. Pause in the lowered position with weight loaded in the back of your arms, and then press the bar directly up over your head again to complete the rep while exhaling. Repeat until all reps are completed. 

Overhead Dumbbell Extension

Start: Get into a seated or standing position holding one dumbbell overhead, grasping it with both hands. 

Move: Keeping the back upright and core tight, bend the elbows while keeping them pointing towards the ceiling. Lower until the arms are fully bent and then reverse directions and press the weight up to the ceiling to complete the rep. Continue until all reps are completed.

Reverse-Grip Triceps Pushdown 

Start: Using a straight-bar attachment, stand in front of a cable pulley machine, placing the hands on the straight bar using a reverse (underhand) grip. Knees should be slightly bent and the core tight. 

Move: Keeping the elbows tucked in, extend the arms and bring the bar down to your waist. Pause and hold in this position and then let the bar return to the starting position.

Triceps Pushdown

Start: Stand in front of a cable pulley machine with a rope attachment on the high pulley. Grasp the rope with each hand, arms raised, and elbows tucked into the side of the body. 

Move: Take a deep breath in and on the exhale, extend the elbows while keeping them locked in at your sides. Squeeze the triceps to extend the arms, pushing the rope down. As they near the sides of the body, separate the hands to get the full range of motion. Pause and then return to the starting position to complete the rep.

Give this workout a try on your next arm day. To add a little variety, you can add a couple of drop sets to the rope press downs. Include triceps work at least twice per week and you’ll be seeing results shortly.

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