You’ve heard all the reasons triceps are important: they’re two-thirds of your arm size, you need strong tris to support chest and shoulder work and subsequent growth, but, come on, tell me the real reason you want big tris. It’s so when the babe looks over at you at the stoplight and you reflexively tighten every muscle in your body, she won’t mistake you for a runner!
Most people fail to actualize their size potential because they don’t use exercises that allow enough weight. Physiology of muscle growth 101 is overload. If I can squat 405 lbs to parallel and back up 10 times or lunge with 115 lbs 10 times, which is going to help me grow? No brainer, right?! You don’t need an actin, myosin, and sarcomere lecture to understand that one. Transfer this to triceps. If you spend more than 20% of your sets on a cable exercise, you’ll probably always have the triceps of the guy on the cover of Men’s Health.
There are a precious few tricep exercises that will give you your best size potential:
- Lying EZ Bar Extensions
- Overhead EZ Bar Extensions
- Close Grip EZ Bar Benching
- Weighted Bench Dips
- Straight Bar Cable Presses
Lying EZ Bar Extensions
Lying EZ Bar Extensions take some coordination. I’m not talking about skull crushers; they’re an isolation exercise. I love teaching this exercise because hardly anyone knows how to do it. After doing it right, most people have to hire someone else to pick their nose for a week. The biggest part of your tricep originates on your scapula, the other two heads on the humerus (upper arm). So, to stimulate the largest possibility of growth, flexing and then extending the upper arm, or in this case, at least putting the long head of the tricep in it’s maximally stretched position before contraction is key. From the top of the motion, slowly lower the bar toward your forehead and then slowly hinge around your head all the way to the bench with your hands. Your knuckles will hit the bench behind your head. Then, in one smooth motion, extend back overhead. Don’t throw the bar forward; keep your shoulders down and extend the triceps smoothly. This is critical if you don’t want to tear your rotator cuff. Coming down is almost a two-step process: slow release of the elbows as the bar comes toward your head, then around your head to the bench. The return is more fluidly one motion.
Overhead EZ Bar Extensions
Overhead EZ Bar Extensions, or French Presses as they were once called, is the same exercise but with your shoulders in a really extended position so you can stretch your tris maximally. Standing upright with the bar overhead, lower down slowly all the way until your knuckles almost hit your delts – I mean way down there! This stretch is all part of the value of this exercise. As with the lying version, keep your elbows as close together as you can and use a spotter to assist your last rep or two. This long, lost exercise is a huge mass builder if you work up to heavier weight with good form.
Close Grip Benchpress
Close Grip Benching for most people usually follows a set of EZ Bar Extension for a couple reps. I’m talking about a primary movement, period. Use a spotter, load up the weight, keep the elbows right against the body, squeeze the tris throughout the motion, don’t let your chest get involved, and go for 6-7 sets. Big difference than just forcing a couple out after a set of lying extensions.
Weighted Bench Dips
Weighted Bench Dips are great when your shoulders are already warmed up and you want to use a lot of weight in a short range of motion. You have to use these in conjunction with another good exercise such as cables, but for variety, they are very good because of the unique movement pattern. Not a top three, but right up there. Keep your hands no further than shoulder width and keep your body right next to the bench.
Straight Bar Cable Presses
Straight Bar Cable Presses in this case aren’t for a finishing movement. Notice I call it “Presses” not “Extensions?” To make this a mass gainer and not an isolation exercise, keep your elbows back, hands wide, and press the weight down while actively squeezing your tris. This movement by nature allows your delts to come into play – that’s why you can use so much more weight. So, consciously squeeze your tris. You may also have to weight yourself down by attaching a dumbbell to your belt with a chain so you have the leverage to push weight greater than your bodyweight. If you’re doing this one correctly, you’ll be doing just that!! Don’t misinterpret me as allowing sloppy form with this exercise, it’s actually very strict, but the elbow position allows the shoulders to internally rotate creating the leverage to use more weight.
I would pick one exercise and absolutely trash your tris for 6-7 sets and then pic one finishing movement for 1-2 sets. Try these exercises and watch your arms start growing
Author: Joe Klemczewski