When most people think of lifting arms, they immediately think bicep curls.
Did you know, though, that your Triceps make up about 2/3rds of the total muscle mass of your upper arm?
Why, then, do we find ourselves dominating our arms with Biceps exercises when we should focused on working out are Triceps, if anything?
Why Are Your Triceps So Important?
Well, for one, most people have no idea how to actually workout their Triceps effectively but your Bis are pretty basic.
Luckily for you, in this article, I'm going to explain precisely how to train your Triceps for maximum gains in the shortest possible amount of time.
By the time you're done, you'll be sufficiently armed with every piece of information you could possibly build to build those jacked, angular Triceps that scare people!
Let's go on, shall we?
It all starts with understanding a tiny bit of Triceps anatomy.
Basic Triceps Anatomy
- Lateral Head
- Medial Head
- Long Head
If you take a look at the above diagram, you'll also notice that the Triceps are deeply connected with the tendons and bones that make up your shoulder, arm, and forearm.
For that reason, it's especially important to train them correctly. Failing to do so an easily lead to injury.
Now that we've got a basic understanding of the different components that make up your Triceps, let's talk how exactly to train them for maximum results.
- Progressive Overload (Consistently Adding Weight Over Time)
- Emphasis Heavy Compound Tricep Exercises, As Opposed to Isolation Tricep Exercises
- Add Some Variability But Not Too Much That It Becomes Confusing
So, while to some, these may seem like fairly straight-forward guidelines, let's make sure we understand what we're talking about before we move on...
For Your Triceps To Grow, You Need To Apply The Principle Of "Progressive Overload"
Progressive Overload is often misinterpreted as placing more weight on the bar than you can actually handle, when in fact it's quite the opposite.
The term "progressive overload" simply means lifting whatever weight you can lift until you can lift more, then adding slightly more weight and continuing the process.
For example, say I can Tricep Press 225 for 6 reps.
We'll get into rep-ranges later, but basically, studies show that maximum gains are achieved between 4-6 reps at roughly 80-90% intensity.
So, rather than just keep doing 6 reps with 225, I should add 5 or 10 pounds to each side and try to get 4.
Once I get 4 reps, I increase the weight until I can get 6, then do it all over again.
It's really that simple, trust me!
Emphasize Heavy Compound Triceps Exercises
The difference between compound exercises and isolation exercises is simple:
- Compound exercises utilized more than one muscle group and/or joint
- Isolation exercise utilize one muscle group and, generally speaking, one joint.
Examples of compound exercises are things like:
- Military Press
- Bench Press
- Bent-Over Rows
- and of course...
- Close-Grip (Tricep) Press
If you're familiar with any of these exercises, you may notice that they all incorporate multiple muscle groups and joint movements.
These are the types of exercises that build whole body strength and really leave you feeling like you got a great workout.
That's not to say there's no place for isolation exercises in a solid triceps routine, but if you don't emphasis heavy compound lifting, those arms of yours are going to remain thin.
Examples of Isolation Exercises Are:
- Bicep Curls
- Tricep Pushdowns
- Lateral (Shoulder) Raises
- Most Ab Exercises
- Calf Raises
- Barbell Curls
- V-Push Downs
Really, you should be utilizing a blend of heavy compound exercises along with isolation exercises, but the rep range should stay roughly the same.
The Perfect Rep-Range
There's a lot of debate about what the "perfect rep-range" is, but luckily we have some studies to give us some solid clues.
Research shows that lifting weights at roughly 85% of your 1 Rep Max is optimal for muscle growth.
The doesn't mean you can't hit 90% or drop down to 80%. It's just a guideline.
Most people will find that, at that level of intensity, they can do roughly 4-6 reps. Like I said earlier, if you find yourself doing 6 reps, up the weight until you can only do 4. Then do the weight until you can do 6 again.
Again, that's called "progressive overload" and it's the key to getting stronger.
Adding Variability: Where Most People Make Mistakes
You may have heard of "muscle confusion" and that "if you don't confuse your muscles by constantly bombarding them with new workouts and weird angles, you'll never get anywhere"...
That is ABSOLUTE NONSENSE.
In fact, if you were to pick 3-5 exercises, and just abide by the rest of the principles we discussed above, you'd see progress in no time.
The truth is, progressive overload, the style with which you lift (heavy or light), and making sure you hit all the necessary muscles are all WAY MORE IMPORTANT than trying to "confuse" your muscles.
Research--and common sense--would agree that muscle confusion can help, but if you're just looking to get stronger, more angular triceps, don't worry about switching up your workout every time.
Pick a handful of workouts that you like and can execute with proper form and stick with those for a while (like 3-4 months), then re-evaluate.
With that said, let's get into what the very best Tricep workouts are.
The 8 Best Triceps Exercises
Although you could make the argument that it makes sense to warm up with a bit of isolation work, I disagree. Just warm up with light weight, compound exercises until you feel the blood flowing and your joints don't feel stiff.
Because we're going heavy!
Triceps Press (Close Grip Bench Press)
Close Grip Dumbbell Press
You may also see that many people perform this same basic movement with dumbbells, but if you're looking to build mass, I suggest sticking with a barbell.
- - elbows as close together as possible
- - enough weight to do 4-6 reps
- - keep your core tight
Tricep Pushdowns (With Cable or Rope)
Tricep Kick Backs (With A Twist)
Lying Dumbbell Tricep Extensions
Putting It All Together To Create The Best Triceps Workout
Triceps Workout #1 (Expert)
Triceps Workout #2 (Intermediate)
Triceps Workout #3 (Beginner)
The Bottom Line On Effective Triceps Workouts
When it comes to workout out your Triceps, you need to treat them like you treat the other larger muscle groups (back, chest, legs, etc.) if you want to see serious gains in a short amount of time.
They're more than capable of taking a beating, not to mention they're already used to assisting your push exercises on shoulder or chest day.
I highly recommend you stick with the 4-6 rep range which places you at roughly at 85% of your Maximum ability.
Research has shown--on a few ocassions--that this level of intensity is ideal for triggering hypertrophy.
I'm not saying you can't make gains in the gym lifting at a higher rep range, but the science is pretty clear on this one.
High intensity, heavy weight.