The Secret to Becoming “Well Armed”

Go to the mirror and straighten your arm down by your side. That’s right. Right now. Take a look at your triceps and you’ll notice three distinct “heads.” Can’t see them? We better get to work.

Nothing looks more impressive in its relaxed state than a meaty pair of triceps. When the arms are hanging loosely at the sides in a short sleeved shirt, it’s the triceps which dictate the overall appearance. All too often, novice trainers work the biceps to death in an effort to increase arm size. It would make more sense to put the emphasis on tricep training since they comprise the majority of the arm’s potential size. If the tris look good, your arms will look good.

As indicated in their title, the triceps are made up of three separate muscles. Although these muscles work in tandem, certain movements will stress one more than the other. It’s nature’s way of assuring efficiency. Even though the muscle moves in one direction, at various points, if one part fails, another picks up the slack.
(The body’s an amazing mechanism, isn’t it?) If bigger muscles are your goal, you have to hit them from all angles.

It’s important to note that proper form is essential to effective triceps training. A common mistake when working the tris is the practice of using too much momentum. Controlled steady movement is a must. If there’s one lesson that should be required to comprehend before proceeding with this exercise program, it should be: “yanking” a weight from point A to point B is not the goal! Working the muscle through the full range of motion is.

A good time to work triceps is after working the chest or shoulders. Any pressing movement utilizes the triceps, therefore, they’ll already be warmed up which allows you to approach your first tricep set with full intensity.

The following routine is designed to hit all three heads of the triceps. Let’s start with the first exercise.

1) Standing Tricep Pressdowns: Emphasis – The Lateral Head
This exercise is a favorite for bringing out detail and separation. Begin by grabbing the pushdown bar with an overhand “false” grip. That means the thumbs remain on top of the bar. In this way, the hands become extended “handles”, eliminating the tendency to squeeze the bar too tightly. Keep the hands 12 inches apart.

Start with the bar level with the lower pec line and in a smooth controlled movement, press downward until the arms are fully contracted.

Return to the original position in a slow, steady fashion.

Stay conscious of keeping the torso upright. It’s natural to want to use body weight to assist in pushing the pulley down. Make the triceps do the work! After the first set of
10-15 reps, rest one minute and repeat for as many reps as you can manage. You should already be feeling a pump in the tricep muscles by this time.

2) Single Dumbbell Triceps Extensions: Emphasis – The Medial Head
MRI studies have shown that tricep extensions are an extremely effective movement when it comes to recruiting the muscle fibers of the medial head which creates that coveted “horseshoe” appearance. It also allows for a greater stretch of the triceps than almost any other exercise.

Grasp a single dumbell firmly with both hands and place your palms flat against the underside of the upper plates.

Bring the elbows close to the sides of your head and lower the weight slowly. Allow the dumbell to extend behind your head until the hands go as far down your back as possible.

Lift the bell back upward to full extension.

There’s no need to “jam” the elbows at the completion of the movement. Once the arms are straight, the triceps have worked to full extension. Forcing the elbows into a locked position will only cause unnecessary stress to the joints and tendons.

Executing this movement in a seated position will prevent cheating, since you won’t be able to spring the weight up by bending and straightening your legs.

Single dumbell extensions are outstanding for accentuating the sweep throughout the lower portion of the triceps. Do 2 sets of 10-12 reps.

3) Kneeling Rope Pulls: Emphasis – The Long Head
The kneeling tricep extension with a rope pulley requires intense concentration. It’s all triceps!

This exercise requires a bench approximately 16″ high, positioned sideways, and a rope pulley attached to the upper section of a cable station.

Facing away from the pulley, grasp the rope behind your head.

Kneel down on the floor. (You may want to brace your feet back up against the frame.)

Place your elbows on the bench in front of you, shoulder width apart.

Keeping your head down, extend the rope forward.

When returning the rope to the original position, be sure the hands go back as far as possible (your hands should almost touch the back of your neck) while keeping the elbows on the bench.

Push forward in a smooth controlled motion.

Contract hard at the full extension point.

Go heavy! This is a terrific mass building exercise and in order to derive the most benefit, it’s imperative to use substantial resistance.

Shoot for 2 sets of 8-10 reps. Once you’ve reached failure, continue with a few partial reps at the extended portion of the movement. Don’t quit until it burns. By the time you finish the second set, your tris should be cooked. But the fun isn’t over yet. For total obliteration, you’ll need to do one more exercise.

4) Skull Crushers
This movement is affectionately named because the range of motion looks as if it comes precariously close to clonking you on the forehead. Try not to let that happen okay?

While lying supine on a flat bench, take an overhand grip on a loaded barbell. Either a straight bar or an EZ curl bar will work well for this exercise.

Hold the barbell overhead at arm’s length. Bend the elbows so the bar comes down to the top of your head. Return to the starting position. The elbows, of course, should be the only joints moving throughout the exercise.

Do 3 sets of 8-10 reps or until you reach failure. Skull Crushers are tough but they may well be the best movement for packing overall mass onto all three heads of the triceps.

Stick with this routine and before long you’ll be sprouting hefty slabs of beef on the backs of your arms. Then the only thing left to do is make sure you’re stocked up in short sleeve shirts.

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