One of the immediate areas people look at when it comes to a physique are the arms. Your arms are visible from the front, back and sides; and also when you’re wearing clothes and fitting sleeves. Nowadays, it seems somewhat desirable for young men particularly to have a good set of arms – and therefore – triceps.
Initially when people picture a pair of arms, biceps spring to mind. However, biceps only make up one third of your upper arm; your triceps form the other two thirds!
Within the triceps there are three heads, these are the lateral head, medial head and long head. It’s vital that each three of the heads are engaged in activity in order to stunt correctly proportioned growth and in turn create a symmetrical physique.
Although by concentrically contracting your arm and activating the triceps as a whole each head will be engaged, there are specific exercises you can use to put more emphasis onto certain heads of the triceps; a selection of exercises have been carefully chosen and placed into a training plan below which target each three heads of the triceps.
The Lateral Head
Outer side of the tricep; targeted by push/pull-down movements with emphasis on the concentric contraction.
The Medial Head
Lower-inside of the upper arm, which is least visible, the smallest, and mostly incorporated within exercises that primarily target the long and lateral heads
The Long Head
Located at the rear of the upper arm; targeted by movements which allow a full stretch of the triceps such as overhead extensions and compound lifts
Triceps Training Routine
Starting a workout with the movement which requires the most strength allows you to put as much effort into your exercises as you can from the beginning.
With this in mind, there are two main exercises for the triceps which allow you to lift heavy weight and in turn require a lot of blood to be pumped into the muscles to deal with the load.
Exercise 1: Close-Grip Bench-Press
Targets: Long and Medial Heads
Bench-presses are associated with the pectoral muscles usually, however by using a narrower grip compared to the conventional bench-press, you’re able to involve the triceps more.
✓ Lie on flat bench press; shoulders retracted, lower back arched, chest pushed out.
✓ Keep feet planted firmly on the ground.
✓ Hold the bar slightly closer than the conventional method.
✓ Keep your elbows tucked in throughout the movement.
✓ Breath in on the eccentric and breath out on the concentric.
✓ Squeeze the triceps at the top of the concentric, but do not lock-out.
Be sure to carry out a couple of warm-up sets using just the bar, so that you can perfect your form and make sure you can feel your triceps contracting through the movement mores than with the conventional deadlift.
a) Perform 4 sets of 8-12 repetitions; use progressive overload by adding further weight to the exercise if you are able to reach 12 repetitions
b) Lower the eccentric contraction slowly (3-4 seconds)
c) Rest for between 45 and 90 seconds between sets
d) Explode up and squeeze your triceps at the top of the contraction
Exercise 2: Triceps Dips
Targets: Long and Medial Heads
This exercise can be done either by using your body weight on a dip station/bench, or a seated triceps dip resistance machie.Tricep dips
(Bodyweight variation – dip station)
It’s important that when doing this exercise you stick to strict form and refrain from tilting too far forwards or backwards. This will place more emphasis on your deltoids and chest rather than your triceps.
✓ Approach the dips station and take hold of the handles at arms length.
✓ Inhale and slowly lower yourself downwards.
✓ Keep your chest facing upright and head looking forwards.
✓ Keep your elbows tucked in.
✓ Begin the concentric part of the contraction once your arms reach an angle of 90º.
You can increase the difficulty of this exercise by adding weight to a dip-belt. However, be sure to warm-up by using just your bodyweight for 2 sets beforehand in order to make sure your form is correct and your muscles are ready.
a) Perform 4 sets of 12-15 repetitions. Increase difficulty by adding weight to a dip-belt if you can reach 15 repetitions with ease
b) Explode up and squeeze your triceps at the top of the contraction, but do not lock out
c) Rest periods between sets should last between 45 and 90 seconds
d) On the eccentric contraction, lower yourself slowly (3-4 seconds)
Exercise 3: Overhead Cable Extensions
Targets: Long head
One final exercise to burn out the triceps and keep constant tension of the overhead cable extension. This exercise also be done with a barbell or a dumbbell while seated.
Technique (Standing cable)
✓ This exercise can be carried out seated or standing with a rope attachment on a cable.
✓ Attach rope and take hold; face palms towards each other and extend arms to directly above head.
✓ Inhale and lower the rope behind your head slowly (3-4 seconds eccentric contraction.)
✓ Keep the upper half of your arm straight.
✓ Continue to lower the rope until your tricep is fully stretched and then exhale to begin the concentric contraction and end in the starting position
Perform two warm-up sets to ensure your form is correct and that you are able to balance safely. Make sure you stretch the long head of the triceps fully by eccentrically contracting as far as is comfortable.
a) Perform 4 sets of 15 repetitions; on the final set, drop the weight in half and perform a drop-set (immediately perform the exercise again with the lower weight and without any rest)
b) Lower the cable slowly and be sure to get a full stretch in the long head of the triceps
c) Explode up and squeeze your triceps at the top of the contraction.
Exercise 4: Cable Pull-Down
Targets: Lateral head
Following on from the previous compound movements, the focus has been mainly on the long head of the triceps.
In order to now hit the lateral head, a lighter and more specific exercise needs to be used to gain a full contraction.Rope tricep pushdownTechnique
✓ Hold the rope with your thumbs wrapped the same way as your fingers.
✓ Create a slight angle in your legs by pushing your bottom out and unlocking your knees.
✓ Keep your elbows tucked in and do not let them rock forwards or backwards.
✓ Pull the rope down until each hand is either side of your waist and then lock your arms out pulling through past the centre line of your body to really squeeze the lateral head.
Perform two warm up sets with light weight and focus on feeling the contraction in the lateral head of the triceps by squeezing at the concentric contraction past the centreline of your body.
a) Perform 4 sets of 12-15 repetitions. Increase weight slightly each set
b) Squeeze at the concentric contraction and focus on mind-muscle connection to the lateral head of your triceps
c) Rest for 45-90 seconds between sets
Take Home Message
This routine should help you to bulk out your upper arm and start filling those sleeves. Remember that form is more important than the weight you are lifting. This workout plan was made with hypertrophy being the main goal, and so the rep ranges are specifically chosen for each exercises in order to force the most blood into the triceps as possible.
Remember, the triceps make up 66% of your upper arm. Be sure to leave feedback on the routine if you make use of it!