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    8 Triceps Exercises For Mass And Angularity

    8 Triceps Exercises For Mass And Angularity

    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

    1. Lateral Head
    2. Medial Head
    3. 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.

    1. Progressive Overload (Consistently Adding Weight Over Time)
    2. Emphasis Heavy Compound Tricep Exercises, As Opposed to Isolation Tricep Exercises
    3. 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
    • Deadlifts
    • Squats
    • 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
    • Skull-Crushers
    • 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"...



    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)

    man doing close grip tricep press

    Close Grip Dumbbell Press

    dumbbell tricep press


    tricep dips


    Tricep Skull Crushers


    Over-Head Extensions

    Overhead Tricep Extension

    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.

    1. - elbows as close together as possible
    2. - enough weight to do 4-6 reps
    3. - keep your core tight


    Tricep Pushdowns (With Cable or Rope)

    tricep extension

    Tricep Kick Backs (With A Twist)

    tricep kick backs

    Lying Dumbbell Tricep Extensions


    Lying Tricep Extension

    Putting It All Together To Create The Best Triceps Workout

    Triceps Workout #1 (Expert)

    Triceps Press (4-6 Reps) 85% Max
    Dips (Weighted If Possible) (4-6 Reps) 85% Max
    Skullcrushers (4-8 Reps) 80-85% Max
    Overhead Extensions (4-8 Reps) 80-85% Max
    Rope Pushdowns (6-8 Reps) 75-80% Max

    Triceps Workout #2 (Intermediate)

    Triceps Press (4-6 Reps) 85% Max
    Close Grip Dumbbell Pres (4-6 Reps) 85% Max
    Cable Pushdowns (4-8 Reps) 75-85% Max
    Triceps Kick-Backs With A Twist (6-8 Reps) 75%-80% Max

    Triceps Workout #3 (Beginner)

    Triceps Press (4-6 Reps) 85% Max
    Over-Head Extensions (6-8 Reps) 75-80% Max
    Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extensions (6-8 Reps) 75-80% Max

    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. 


    Military Press: The Most Important Shoulder Exercise

    Military Press: The Most Important Shoulder Exercise

    When it comes to working out, we all know about the big 3 lifts:

    1. deadlifts
    2. squats
    3. bench press

    The reason these exercises are so important is because they’re all compound movements, meaning they incorporate multiple muscle groups and ultimately increase total body strength more than isolation movements.

    One exercise that is too often forgotten, however, is the military press.

    Also known as the shoulder press or overhead press, the military press is without the a doubt the single most important shoulder exercise.


    Because, like deadlifts, squats, and bench press, it’s a compound exercise that involves multiple muscle groups and can have a profound impact on your upper body development.

    Not to worry though…

    By the time you finish this article, you’ll know exactly

    So, if you’re tired of doing lateral raises and upright rows on shoulder day, only to be disappointed with your lack of progress, the answer to your problems lies just ahead…

    Let’s get started!

    What Muscles Does The Military Press Work?

    What Muscles Does The Military Press Work?

    The military press, when performed correctly, does far more than just work the shoulders.

    Not only does it work all three heads of the deltoid (check out this article to learn more), but it also incorporates your:

    • Core muscles
    • Triceps
    • Upper Back (Mostly Traps)

    It’s basically the shoulder version of squats, deadlifts, or bench press.

    By that, I mean it’s a compound exercise that incorporates multiple muscle groups and ultimately places the most physical stress on the shoulders, stimulating muscle growth over-time.

    How To Perform The Military Press Correctly

    Military Press Proper Form

    If you pay attention to what others are doing in the gym (I try not to), you’ve probably seen a ton of different variations of the military press.

    Still, the basics are the same.

    Whether seated or standing (we’ll get into the difference later), a proper military press looks like this:

    Military Press

    Now, that diagram is pretty straight-forward, but let’s break it down even further into a few simple steps…

    1. Start with the bar just above the upper chest.
    2. Pushing the bar vertically above your head.
    3. End with your arms just short of locking out.

    Rinse, repeat until shoulders are on fire, then wait 3 minutes and do it again.

    Now, about those variations…

    Variations Of The Military Press (PROS AND CONS)

    Military Press Variations

    Compared to other compounds exercises such as:

    • deadlifts
    • bench press
    • squats

    The military press probably has the most alternative variations, and if you keep an eye out at the gym, you’ll see them all being done.

    Some of them are actually worth it, while some probably aren’t.

    First things first…

    Seated vs Standing Military Press

    The most obvious distinction when it comes to military press variations is seated vs standing.

    The truth is, they’re both worth doing, but for different reasons.

    Assuming you’re not cheating (by bouncing your knees), you won’t be able to push as much weight with a standing military press compared to the seated military press.

    That said, performing your military press while standing places much more emphasis on your core, so you’re getting more of a full-body workout.

    Seated military presses allow you place much more emphasis on the deltoids (shoulder muscles).  Because you have some support from the bench you’re sitting on, you’re core doesn’t need to be as involved.

    There’s no doubt about it:

    Seated military press will allow you to push more weight than standing, so you’re shoulders will get more of a workout.

    While you can certainly choose one over the other, depending on your personal goals (full body strength vs just having huge shoulders), it’s always a good idea to switch it up.

    Try alternating back and forth between standing and seated military press every 4-8 weeks or so.  That’s what I do and it seems to work pretty well.

    Barbell Vs Dumbbell Military Press

    We all know that alternating between barbell bench presses and dumbbell bench presses is an optimal strategy for building a muscular, defined chest…

    But does the same principle apply to military press?


    Research shows that dumbbell military press activates more muscle fibers than its barbell counterpart, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily superior.

    Just like dumbbell bench pressing, you won’t push nearly as much total weight with dumbbell military press compared to using a barbell.

    So, even though it technically activates more muscle fibers, it doesn’t necessarily result in more hypertrophy (muscle growth).

    Just as it’s a good idea to do both standing and seated military presses, it makes sense to alternate between barbell and dumbbell presses every few weeks or so.

    I’ve seen a lot of people doing both in the same day  but, to be completely honest, that’s a great way to get injured.

    Trust me, I know a thing or two about shoulder injuries and at this point I’m kind of a master of avoiding them.

    One way that I remain injury free, despite suffering numerous lifting-related shoulder injuries for the last ten years or so, is by not doing similar workouts in the same day.

    Think about it like this:

    3-4 sets of heavy (80-85% 1RM) is all you need to stimulate muscle growth, so tacking on an extra 3-4 sets of basically the same exercise is just placing unnecessary stress on your shoulder joints, tendons, and ligaments.

    Common Military Press Mistakes

    Common Military Press Mistakes

    The truth is most people just don’t do military presses correctly.

    They might have the basics down, but too many people succumb to one or more critical errors that either limits the amount of muscle growth they can achieve, or worse, increases the chances of a shoulder injury…

    Using Momentum (Bouncing)

    When it comes to standing shoulder presses, it’s hard to maintain good form.  This is especially true if you’re trying to do more weight than you can realistically lift.

    If this is the case, you’ll probably be tempted to bounce with your knees, using the momentum to complete the movement.

    The issue with this is that, if you’re training your shoulders, you should do your best to isolate them, rather than relying on your legs.

    If you want to lift legs, do squats and deadlifts.

    If you want to lift shoudlers, don’t bounce.  Control the weight.  If it’s too much, lower it until you can do it correctly.

    High Reps, Low Weight

    As a compound exercise, the military press is supposed to be done with heavy weight…

    If you want to actually get stronger and make greater gains, that is.

    A lot of people simply don’t load enough weight on the bar, do like 20 reps until their arms and shoulders burn, and then assume they got a good workout.

    Research has shown that heavy weight, low repetition training is more advantageous for stimulating muscle growth than doing lots of repetitions with low weight.

    This principle applies to any workout, military press especially.

    You want to select a weight that you can handle for 4-6 reps, not 10-12.

    It’s okay to warm up with lighter weight, but you’ll see greater gains over time if you stick with low reps, high weight.

    There’s no doubt about it (unless you’re on steroids).

    Locking Out Your Shoulders A Placing Weight On The Joints

    There’s a lot of debate about whether or not out you should “lock out” on compound exercises such as bench press and tricep press.

    The military press is no exception.

    Some people say you should lock out to trigger greater activation of the triceps, but is that really the goal if you’re doing military presses?

    Probably not…

    The military press definitely trains your triceps, but if you want big, well-developed (defined) triceps, you’ll need to train them separately.

    Not to mention, your triceps already take a beating when you bench press, and most people designate at least one day a week for arms (tris and bis).  So, there’s no need to worry about your triceps while military pressing.

    Locking out can be kind of dangerous for 2 reasons:

    1. It takes the tension off temporarily
    2. It places that tension almost squarely on your joints

    If you want to make the most out of each set, you don’t want to completely take the tension off, so locking out isn’t a good idea.

    Furthermore, placing all that stress on your joints is almost guaranteed to lead to some sort of shoulder injury down the road.

    So, what you really want to do is bring the bar above your head to the point that your arms are ALMOST fully extended, but your elbows are still slightly bent.

    This keeps the tension on the muscle and off the joints so your shoulders can get stronger and your joints can take it easy.

    The Bottom Line On Military Press

    The Bottom Line On Military Press

    If you want to build bigger, stronger shoulders, the military press is the most important workout you should be doing, hands down.

    As a compound exercise, it’s right up there with:

    • deadlifts
    • squats
    • bench press

    In terms of importance for getting bigger and stronger, that is.

    Still, for some reason it often gets neglected by those who don’t understand the simple fact that:

    The military press is the undisputed king of shoulder workouts.

    If you’re not incorporating it into your workouts, you’re missing out on some serious gains.

    Once you master it to the point that you can safely push yourself to the max without getting hurt, it won’t be long until you have the massive shoulders you’ve always wanted.

    Just be prepared to buy a bunch of new shirts since you probably won’t fit into your old ones…

    Anything to add about the military press?  Personal experience? Comment below…