- WHY SHOULD YOU PERFORM TRICEPS AS A BODYBUILDER?
- STRENGTH TRAINING VS VOLUME TRAINING
- BEST TRICEPS EXERCISES
- TRAINING FREQUENCY FOR LARGER AND STRONG TRICEPS
- PROFESSIONAL TRAINING SCHEDULE FOR 4,5 AND 6 DAYS TRAINING
Bodybuilders, especially those just starting out, often make the mistake of training only their biceps, ignoring the additional triceps muscle on the back of their arm. In the long run, this usually results in not having your ideal body, as the biceps muscles tend to outgrow the triceps, the part that most fitness experts believe should be twice the size of your biceps.
If you recognize the above in yourself, then it's clear that you've neglected an essential muscle in your bodybuilding journey. With some changes to your workout routine, growing those desired arms with bulging triceps shouldn't be a problem at all. In this blog, we'll look at 6 of the best exercises that will make your triceps bigger and more powerful so that you eventually have the arms you want.
But before we go any further, you probably wouldn't mind learning a little bit about the triceps muscle, why you should train it as a bodybuilder, as well as learning the difference between size and strength training.
The triceps or triceps brachii is a large muscle located at the back of our arms. From the name (Tri, meaning three), the triceps muscle consists of three different heads: the long head, the lateral head, and the medial head. Together, these three heads, in conjunction with the biceps, work to help us straighten our elbows and bend our arms.
WHY SHOULD YOU PERFORM TRICEPS AS A BODYBUILDER?
You may be surprised to know that the triceps make up the bulk of your arm muscles (two-thirds of the total muscle mass). This literally means that if you
If you don't train your triceps, you're already losing well over a potential two-thirds increase in arm size.
Since the triceps are attached to the shoulder blade, a strong and large triceps can provide balance and stability to your body.
- GET WELL SOON
The triceps is actively involved in most complex and strength-intensive workouts such as military press and bench press. A weak triceps would only hinder performance in such workouts, and could ultimately increase the risk of injury and potentially cause unbalanced muscle growth.
STRENGTH TRAINING VS VOLUME TRAINING
It's actually amazing that many avid bodybuilders still don't really know how to train for size or strength during their bodybuilding journey. For beginners, it's forgivable because almost every beginning bodybuilder has probably signed up to the gym to get big and strong. And without any coincidence, these two objectives are normally already achieved at the beginning of the process. However, advanced bodybuilders know that there comes a point when everything seems to grind to a halt - with progress in size and strength finally reaching a climax. This is the point where you may need to revise your workout routine and specialize in workouts that challenge you even more.
Sure, there are exercises that promote both size and strength for bodybuilders, but nothing beats being specific in bodybuilding. If you want size, go for size first, then power!
The equipment and exercises used for both size and strength training are very similar. What sets the two apart is it training volume, intensity and the rest periods.
For size training or hypertrophy training, the training volume is increased, with a lower intensity and a shorter rest period than for strength training. To build strength, the training volume is reduced, but with a higher intensity (more weights) and longer rest periods.
If it's still not clear, training volume literally means the number of sets or reps you do in a workout. Training intensity, on the other hand, refers to the amount of weight you lift, while rest period, usually between sets, is the amount of rest you give your body to recover from the physical stress of training.
BEST TRICEPS EXERCISES
As we've said before, most gym workouts increase both muscle size and strength, but only up to a point. If you want to see more results, you should probably consider going for workouts that offer more specificity. In this blog, we'll look at the best triceps workouts for strength and size.
Triceps strength training includes bodyweight and weight training exercises, which are perfect for bodybuilders, whether you are just starting out or already have some experience. Most triceps workouts don't just target the arm — they also work the shoulders, pecs, abs, and glutes.
- TRICEPS PRESS
The triceps press or dumbbell triceps press workout is an effective upper body strength builder with particular emphasis on building strength in the back of your arms.
- Triceps presses can be performed by lying on your back, usually on a flat bench or even on the floor, and then pressing dumbbells from a 90-degree angle on your sides to a full extension.
- Exhale as you push, and inhale as you sink at a 90-degree angle. And remember not to lock your elbows. Also relax your shoulders.
- Do 10-15 reps or continue for desired number of reps. Rest, then continue for several more sets.
Triceps presses are great isolation exercises because they allow you to specifically target just the triceps muscles, which are without a doubt one of the most overlooked muscles in bodybuilding. However, these presses are also good for building chest strength, as the upward movement of the arm also activates the chest muscles.
The seated triceps press is another variation of this workout, but with a twist. It is performed seated, by holding a single dumbbell in both hands, then extending it behind your head. The exercise goes like this:
- Sit with your back supported by the bench, then grab a dumbbell with both hands.
- Hold the dumbbell overhead at arm's length, with the palms of your hand facing in. You can also have someone hand it over to you, especially if you're using a heavier weight.
- With your arms overhead, lower the weight behind your head until your forearms touch your biceps.
- Return to the starting position. Breathe as you perform this action, as this is where the triceps muscles are engaged.
- Repeat 8 to 15 times per set.
Seated triceps press helps build stronger and bigger triceps. It's a perfect way to tackle the long heads of the triceps, and a great isolation exercise, because performing this workout in a seated position eliminates the challenge of balance and allows only the focus on the triceps muscle group.
- DIAMOND PUSHUP
Diamond pushup, sometimes referred to as triangle pushup, is a fairly advanced form of the regular pushup, and can be performed by positioning your hands on the floor in a triangular shape under your chest. Straighten your back and legs, then lower to the floor and push yourself back up. Bringing your hands close together during this exercise makes the workout even more difficult, and therefore more beneficial.
Diamond pushup also works the pecs just like classic pushups, but with the added benefit of working the triceps muscles. A recent study published in 2021 by Ali et al. further emphasized the superiority of diamond pushups over classic pushups in building triceps muscles. 30 men with at least one year of fitness training experience were the subjects of the study. They were subjected to three different pushup variations, and the results showed that those who performed diamond pushups had the greatest activation of the triceps muscle.
From another researchConducted by the ACE (American Council on Exercise), diamond or triangle pushups were also found to be the most effective workout for strengthening and activating the triceps muscle, among other exercises such as kickbacks, dips, overhead extensions, and bar pushdowns.
If you'd like to get started with diamond pushups, here's a step-by-step instruction on how to do it:
- To perform a diamond pushup, place your hands on the floor just like you do when positioning yourself for regular pushups, but this time your hands should be placed directly under your chest, with your thumbs and index fingers together. This creates a triangle shape between your thumbs and index fingers.
- Tense your upper body by contracting and holding your glutes and abs. Straighten your back and legs, aligning your head with your spine. This should be your starting position.
- Now slowly lower your body toward the floor until your chest or chin touches the floor, making sure to keep a rigid torso. Your head should also stay in line with your spine.
- For the upward phase, gently push through your arms back to the starting position while keeping your torso straight.
- Do 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps, depending on your capacity. In fact, there is no right answer when it comes to how many reps you should do. It all comes down to one's strength and fitness goals. Some coaches will always be there to shout'Another oneuntil you can't anymore.
- TRICEPS KICKBACK
Triceps kickback is a great exercise for building strength and mass in the triceps muscle because it targets the medial and lateral heads of this muscle. According to ACE (American Council on Exercise), this exercise is in the top 3 exercises to effectively tone and strengthen the triceps muscles. The exercise goes like this:
- Stand on your feet with a slightly bent knee. Your torso should form a 45-degree angle as you hold a pair of dumbbells in your hands. Your elbow should be bent and stay close to your torso.
- Now, keeping your upper arms still, press the dumbbells back to straighten your arms, squeezing your triceps. Then return to the starting position.
- This is one rep. Repeat for 8-10 reps for 3-5 sets.
Alternatively, this exercise can be performed with a single dumbbell.
- You can start with a dumbbell in your left hand, then bend your upper body forward by holding something with your right hand for support.
- Now raise your elbow so that it remains parallel to the floor, and without bending your shoulders or hips, straighten your arm to move the dumbbell backwards (squeeze your triceps muscle). Then return to the starting position. Repeat for desired reps and sets.
- CLOSE GRIP BENCH PRESS
Having an study published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal (2017), emphasized the benefits of close-grip bench press. It rated this exercise as a great strength and mass builder in the upper body of athletes. The study also revealed that this exercise is considered a compound exercise, as it primarily promotes hypertrophy of the triceps muscles, with the chest and shoulders being the secondary targets.
Close-grip bench press is a variation of the traditional bench press that can be used for both hypertrophy and strength. The only difference is that the former is performed with a narrower grip. This narrow grip is responsible for building strength and mass in both the triceps muscles and the chest. In fact, the narrower your grip, the more muscle damage in the triceps.
To perform a close-grip bench press:
- Lie flat on your back on a fitness bench with a spotter for safety reasons.
- Place your barbell at a height where you can comfortably unpack the bar.
- Use and comfortable number of kilos. You can always start low.
- Now, using a narrow grip, usually shoulder-width, lift the bar off the rack, keeping your shoulders locked and the bar directly overhead.
- Next, inhale as you lower the bar to chest height. Also keep your elbows close to your body.
- And the hardest part is exhaling as you push the bar up with your triceps muscles squeezing during the movement.
- You do this for 8-20 reps for 2-5 sets, depending on your fitness goals.
Common mistakes bodybuilders make when performing the close-grip bench press include not using the correct grip, bouncing the bar off your chest in an attempt to generate momentum to push the bar up, improper breathing technique, and failure to do so. using a spotter, which can be dangerous, especially if you're just starting out.
- TRICEPS DIPS
Dips, along with diamond pushups and tricep kickbacks, are among the top 3 exercises for strengthening and toning the triceps muscles. Dips can be practiced using almost any well-balanced bench or chair. It can be done practically anywhere, as it does not require any equipment.
- To perform dips, sit on a bench or chair and begin placing your hands on either side of your hips so that your palms rest on the bench and your fingers hang over the edge of the bench or chair.
- Now lift your buttocks off the bench with your hands and lower your body toward the floor until your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
- Push yourself back up and repeat.
- It's important to keep your legs as far away from your body as possible so that your heels are on the floor and your toes are pointing up.
- SKULL CRUSHERS
In the previously discussed ACE research The skull crusher, or supine triceps extensions as they are often called, came a distant 7th in the list of exercises that better activate the triceps muscle. However, this does not mean that it is a bad exercise for the triceps. Rather, it may be due to the difficulty of the exercise, which makes it a bit tricky to perform efficiently, reducing the expected gain from the exercise.
The skull crusher is an isolation exercise, in which only one joint (in this case the elbow) is used, and thus works specifically on the triceps muscles. The advantage of the skull crusher ankle joint component is that the triceps have to bear all the resistance, which means that they are given a significant load and therefore become stronger and larger.
- To perform the skull crushers, lie flat on a bench with a dumbbell in your hands shoulder-width apart.
- Extend the dumbbells overhead with your elbow bent at about a 90-degree angle. Here you need to make sure that your skull is not crushed by having the weight too close to your head. That's why you shouldn't use weight that you can't handle.
- Finally, squeeze the triceps muscles and stretch the arms up. Don't forget to block your elbows, that relieves your triceps.
- Return to the starting position, and start again.
- Do the required weight, reps and sets according to your own fitness level.
Other triceps exercises that can be done to improve the strength and size of the triceps muscles include the cable machine triceps extension, reverse-grip triceps pushdown, narrow chest press, and double rope triceps pushdown.
TRAINING FREQUENCY FOR LARGER AND STRONG TRICEPS
“No pain, no gain” is one of the most popular slogans among bodybuilders, which literally translates to increased training volume for better muscle growth. Over the years, gym instructors usually have their guidelines for each exercise as they tend to set training volumes for efficient bodybuilding. Much evidence-based research on exercise volume has shown how 'too much' training can lead to fatigue and poor muscle growth. In fact, it is known that too much exercise without adequate rest can lead to low testosterone levels and high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which has already been linked to loss of muscle tissue.
Surprisingly, there are also studies that have conclusively shown that muscle gain or gain can be promoted with a higher exercise frequency. One of these studies is that of Radaelli et al. from 2015, in which they compared the response of performing either 1, 3, or 5 sets of exercises on measures of performance and muscle hypertrophy. The participants performed 2 biceps and 3 triceps exercises in a 3x-a-week workout, making the weekly number of sets for the biceps and triceps training volume 6, 18, 30, 9, 27, and 45, respectively. Interestingly, the results showed that a higher volume of sets promotes muscle growth more than a lower volume of sets. There was a huge increase in triceps muscles in the group that performed 45 sets of triceps workouts per week. Essentially, the entire study showed that dose-response had a positive correlation for number of sets per exercise, with multiple sets winning one set per exercise for strength gains, muscle endurance, and larger upper arms.
I should mention that optimal training volume and intensity varies from person to person. The more training experience, the more volume intensity you can handle. 45 work sets per week for triceps for a beginner is unrealistic. Optimal training volume and intensity is described in the 2005 meta-analysis: “J Strength Cond Res. 2005”
WORK SETS & FREQUENCY
In workouts, sets are simply a group of reps or reps of a particular exercise. Usually, an exercise is performed in multiple sets to gain muscle strength and endurance. Sure, single sets can be performed, but they are not as effective at building muscle and strength as multiple sets. Many fitness professionals have recommended doing workouts in multiple sets, usually between 2 and 6 sets per exercise, believing that anything under 2 sets is unlikely to challenge you. However, they also believe that doing too many sets can overload your muscles. While this is true to some extent, we've seen studies that prove that muscles can get bigger and stronger with more work sets.
The frequency or amount of activity you should do each week also depends on your fitness goals. Someone interested only in increasing muscle mass should definitely consider training volume over frequency, as the number of sets and reps you do per training session makes the biggest difference. I must add that an optimal frequency for training is also quite high, namely, training the same muscle group every 48 hours. This of course with workouts that have different volumes and intensity.
MUSCLE VORLUME: The number of sets and reps of a particular workout you should do depends on your training goals. If you're looking for muscle hypertrophy or mass building, you'll want to go for larger training volumes with "medium" to "high" intensity and as little rest as possible between sets. Typically, workouts for such goals consist of 3-6 sets of 6-12 reps per resistance exercise, as recommended by the National Academy of Sport Medicine (NASM)
MUSCLE STRENGTH: If your goal is to train your muscles for more strength, you should ideally decrease the number of repetitions you do per workout and increase the intensity by lifting heavier weights. Here NASM recommends lifting at a higher intensity, decreasing your rep count, increasing the number of sets to at least 4-6 per exercise and increasing the rest periods due to the high intensity of the workout, this also applies to triceps exercises.
Below is a table showing the number of sets, reps and rest periods for different training goals, as taken from the NASM guidelines.
Read here: How to Master Triceps Presses
Read here: Seated Triceps Press
Read here: Comparison of muscle activation between traditional, diamond and knuckle push-ups in trained men
Read here: Best Triceps Exercises by Ace Study
Read here: How to Close Grip Bench Press
Read here: How many reps should you do during exercise?