When most guys think big arms, the first thing that comes to mind is often big biceps. Biceps (or what so many call “guns”) are associated with strength and a head-turning physique, but did you know that your biceps only compromise one-third of your entire arm? As the name implies, “biceps” are only two muscles, but it’s brother muscle behind it, the triceps, that is larger in muscle anatomy and structure. The triceps, as the name implies, actually is compromised of three heads— the lateral, the long and medial. When fully developed, these three can create what many call the horseshoe muscle, as the lateral and long head form the shape of an inverted V. However, many don’t put as much emphasis on triceps as they should or don’t fully understand how to completely train them. So let’s do this! Let’s go through a triceps training that will create arms that will burst out of your sleeves and T-shirts.
As with any other muscle, you want to start your triceps training with an exercise that’s more specifically designed for size/mass. As your training progresses, start to isolate a bit more of your muscle structure with different exercises. Personally, I know that putting a heavy load on the elbows can cause injuries over time, so I always start my training with a single-joint exercise like the triceps high pulley rope press-down. I start with a lighter load and higher reps to draw blood into my arms and elbows. As I warm up, I increase the workload on this specific exercise and try and hit a rep range of 10-12. Immediately following this exercise, I choose two out of the four next exercises, which ensure I work all three heads of the triceps with a heavier load of weight.
Choose 2 of These Exercises:
- Close-Grip Presses on Smith Machine – Focus on the squeeze of the triceps.
- Machine or Weighted Dips – Avoid tilting forward, as this puts more focus on the chest and delts, taking the load away from the triceps themselves.
- EZ Bar Skull-Crushers – Change the incline of the bench to a decline to get a better stretch on the bottom.
- EZ Bar Overhand Triceps Extensions – Get a full extension on the elbows.
After choosing two out of the four above, pick two more exercises that will help you add some three-dimensionality and shape to your triceps. My favorite has always been triceps cable kickbacks. What’s crucial with any triceps training is that on all exercises you fully allow a stretch of the muscle and full contraction. I have seen many people perform cable exercises where they use heavier loads than they should and do not finish the exercises with a full extension and squeeze of the muscle. This is a must to-do for all exercises if you want to develop strong, big triceps.
Here is the full routine I used on the accompanying video as I prepped for the Mr. Physique Olympia.
Rope Press-Downs – 2 sets as warm up; 4 sets x 12 reps
Incline Bench EZ Bar Skull-Crushers – 4 sets x 10 reps
Machine Dips – 3 sets x 12 reps
21’s on High Pulley Cable – 2 sets
Triceps Bench Dips – 2 sets to failure
Stretching in between all sets.
If you start feeling your shoulders or chest doing the work on any of the exercises, make sure you are using a workload that allows you to focus on the triceps and are not using your bodyweight to press or push down on any of the exercises.