Although it doesn’t look like it, triceps is one of my favorite muscle groups to train. But before I get into it, here’s a story on how my fascination with this muscle group started.
Early one morning I was sitting behind the personal training desk at the Dallas YMCA. I was minding my business and carefully sipping on my hot coffee. Then I caught a brief glimpse of an older women approaching the desk while pulling up her sleeve.
Before I knew it, she was standing in front of me jiggling her under arm fat back a forth with her opposite hand and saying.
“What do I do about these chicken wings.”
To which I replied.
“Good morning, my name is Shane. How can I help you?”
This incident still haunts me to this day. Seriously, there is never enough coffee for that. 😊
A pair of well-defined triceps looks great in a sleeveless dress or a form-fitting shirt. These make up around 2/3 of the upper arm but some waste their time doing excessive biceps curls when they should be doing some triceps extensions. But that’s an argument for a different day.
Benefits Of Training The Triceps
Besides the obvious vanity benefits, here are a few health and performance benefits of strong, well-defined pair of triceps.
Shoulder Health- All the muscles that attach to your shoulder blades assist with the strength, movement, stability, and health of your shoulders. And the triceps are no different. The long head of the triceps attaches to the shoulder-blade and assists with most movements of the shoulder.
Lockout Strength- Any pressing exercise like shoulder, bench pressing, or push-up variations rely on the triceps to extend and lockout the elbow. There comes a point in these exercises where it is less shoulders and chest and more triceps. And if they are your weakest link, it’s going to hinder your gains.
Elbow Health- The triceps tendons (what attaches muscles to bones) attach in and around the elbow. Strengthening the triceps muscle also strengthens the tendons and bones around the elbow joint too, to help keep your elbows healthy.
Note-I once partially tore my triceps tendon lowering from a chin up which may or may not be related to weak triceps. Today I still cannot fully flex or extend my left elbow. Elbow and triceps strength is a big deal.
Better Sports Performance- Any sport that requires you to hit a ball, fed off an opponent or throw a ball hard and fast needs triceps strength and endurance. Why? Because each one of these actions requires elbow extension.
Triceps Exercises For Strength, Health And Vanity
The following triceps exercises are selected because they’re easy and safe to perform for the beginner to the advanced exerciser. Plus, they either focus on or isolate the triceps muscle while trying to minimize the strain on the shoulders and elbows.
Yes, there are triceps exercises that allow you to load heavier but I’m assuming you’re not a bodybuilder or gym rat. You just want your arms to look and perform better. If that’s the case these five exercises are for you.
A lot of people boo- boo on this exercise but you can really isolate your triceps with the pushdown. You can use either a resistance band or cable pulley, step back, so the band or cable is taut, and then push it down by flexing your triceps Since the only movement is coming from the elbow you can really focus on your triceps.
Benefits of the Triceps Pushdown
You’re able to isolate the triceps.
Able to perform for higher reps for more muscle-building potential.
How to Do the Triceps Pushdown
Set the cables or band at a high anchor point. With your body facing the band, place your feet together and elbows by your sides. Keep your chest up and shoulders down with the hips angled slightly forward. Grab the handles or band and fully extend the elbows to push the handles or band down, making sure to keep the elbows slightly in front of your shoulders.
Single Arm Floor Press
With the single floor press you can handle heavier loads in the top half of the exercise so you can strengthen your triceps. Plus, with the reduced range of motion it’s easier on your shoulders. Because you’re doing it with one arm, you’ll help strength imbalances between sides and get some core action also.
Benefits of the Single Arm Floor Press
Easier on the shoulders due to the reduced ROM.
Safely increases upper body strength.
Strengthen imbalances between arms.
How to Do the Single Arm Floor Press
Lie on your back and have a dumbbell by your side. Roll over and grab the dumbbell with both hands and roll on your back. Take one hand off the dumbbell and with your elbow slightly away from your side, press up and then reach towards the sky. Slowly lower down the dumbbell until your elbow touches the ground, Reset and repeat.
Landmine Floor Press
The landmine floor press has all the benefits of the dumbbell floor press but it takes it to a new level. The landmine allows for greater loading and because the barbell is elevated off the ground, it makes it easier and safer to get in and out of position. Plus, you’re not hoisting dumbbells into position making it easier to switch sides too.
Benefits of the Landmine Floor Press
The neutral grip makes it easier on the shoulders.
Overloads triceps to build strong and muscular triceps. No more chicken wings.
How to Do the Landmine Floor Press
Lie down with your feet on the ground, landmine behind you with your head parallel to the weight plates. Roll to one side and grip the end of the barbell with both hands, press to the top position and take one hand off. Slowly lower to the ground until your upper arms touches the floor, pause for a second and press back up. Repeat on the other side.
Overhead Triceps Extension
There are many overhead triceps variations, but the cable/band ones gives you constant tension as opposed to the dumbbell/barbell variations. The trade-off is weight. The dumbbell/barbell variations provide more loading but a bigger strain on the joints. Therefore, the cable/band variations are more user-friendly. This focuses on the long head, the biggest muscle of the triceps for adding muscle, strength, and flex appeal.
Benefits of the Overhead Triceps Extension
This variation trains all three of the triceps muscles while focusing on the long head, the biggest muscle of the three.
The constant tension of the cable/band variations helps to strengthen them throughout the entire range of motion.
How to Do the Overhead Triceps Extension
Set the cables or band at a high anchor point and grab the cable attachment or band with both hands. Then face away from the anchor point and bring hands behind your head making sure there is tension. Lower your head slightly, stagger your stance and fully extend your elbows overhead. Slow reverse the movement until you feel a stretch in your triceps and reset and repeat.
Triceps Extensions With A Step
This is a souped-up variation of the overhead variation above. Adding a forward step trains your coördination, core, balance, and your triceps. Plus, doing this with one arm, you’ll also strengthen imbalances between sides if they exist.
Benefits of the Triceps Extensions With A Step
Extra time under tension will help strengthen the triceps.
Turns an isolation exercise into a full body one.
You’ll look cool doing it. 😊
How to Do the Triceps Extensions With A Step
Set the cables or band at a high anchor point and grab the cable attachment or band with your right hand. The face away from the anchor point and move forward until the band/cable is taut. Take a small step forward with your left foot while extending your right elbow. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for reps. The swap and do the other side.
When you want better looking triceps you need to train them at least two to three days per week. Plus, you need to train them with a combination of compound (two muscle groups) and isolation (one muscle) exercises in a variety of rep ranges. Here is an example using an A/B workout you do three times per week.
Instructions- Do exercise 1A and 1B back-to-back for a total of two to four sets. Rest little between exercises and one minute after the superset. Follow the same sequence for 2A./2B. and 3A./3B. Rest one day between workouts.
1A. Squat variation 6-12 reps
1B. Single arm floor press 8-12 reps per side
2A. Hip Extension variation 8-12 reps
2B. Single arm row variation 12-15 reps per side
3A. Triceps Extensions With A Step 12-15 reps per side
3B. Push up Plank 30-60 seconds
1A. Trap bar deadlift 6-8 reps
1B. Push up/ Bench Press variation 8-15 reps
2A. Squat variation 12-15 reps
2B. Lat pulldowns 8-12 reps
3A. Triceps pushdown 12-20 reps
3B. Pallof press variation 10 reps each side
Getting great looking triceps is a mixture of genetics and good old-fashioned hard work. I can’t help with the genetics, but I will set you on the path of hard work with the five exercises and sample program above.
Make sure to flex to admire your handy work