One of the most overlooked and misunderstood of all the muscle groups is the triceps. For getting those big arms, triceps are the most important muscle group to workout. Triceps are a larger muscle group than bicep and are usually more responsive to training for most people. Why is it that a muscle that takes up two thirds of the upper arm is considered a poor relation to the bicep?
The tricep is that horseshoe shaped muscle that lies behind the bicep. Getting big triceps is also a slow and a very straightforward process. Unlike the bicep that is built by pulling weight, the triceps are built by pushing weight. Most of the triceps gains that you are going to get, are a result of your heavy pressing movements that you are doing for your chest muscles and shoulders.
The triceps muscle is located on the back of the upper arm. As you might have figured out triceps is a muscle group that has three heads. The three heads are:
- Long head
- Lateral head
- Medial head
It’s good to know the basics of the structure of the muscle group, because to achieve the maximal muscle growth all three of these heads are needed to be trained. All of these three heads cross into the elbow, which means they will extend into the elbow and that’s their main task. So, all exercises that are extending your elbow will work your triceps but different exercises will do this with different emphasis. Some triceps exercises work more the long head and some more of lateral head. For this reason, triceps should be trained in diverse ways.
Mostly I recommend doing compound exercises (excises that involve more than just one muscle group and more than one joint) instead of doing isolated exercises but isolated exercises are also great for minor tweaking. Compound exercises are great because they train different muscles at the same time and it’s easier to maintain muscle balance in your body.
Here are some compound exercises for triceps that will help those big arms:
Dips are great exercise for many reasons. It’s a great compound movement that is going to target all three heads of your triceps and you need very little equipment. They are simple and you can do them just using your own bodyweight.
The strength of this exercise is the variations that you can utilize if you want to target your triceps more or your chest muscles. Whatever variation of dip you are using, you are still stimulating triceps and chest muscles in the exercise and feel fatigued in your shoulders. When you want to target your triceps, I would recommend you using a more traditional dip. This exercise works well with added weight and is excellent for building lean muscle for the upper body generally.
Close grip bench press
Like the dip exercise, this is a compound movement that is going to work all three heads of your triceps and a proven exercise that builds mass. It also does target your chest muscles to a certain degree as well.
Although it’s called close grip bench press you will often see that people are grabbing on to the bar too closely. Having a too narrow grip will generate lot of stress on your wrist when you lower the bar down and your wrist end up taking a large portion of the load. The overly narrow grip also reduces that amount of weight you can use doing the exercise and reduces your range of motion. Your grip should be so your elbows are directly underneath your wrists. Use a shoulder width grip. How to get big triceps with this exercise is to focus on using the triceps to push the weight – not the chest.
And here are some exercises that can help you isolate your triceps the right way in your workouts:
Skull crushers, French presses, lying triceps extensions, whatever you want to call it, it’s an excellent exercise for hitting the long head of your triceps. These are best performed by laying on a flat bench and lowering the bar to your forehead, then slowly raising to starting position. It can be a tricky exercise and its one of those exercises that can put extra pressure on the elbows. Remember to keep your elbows tucked in when doing skull crushers and not allowing your elbows to flare out.
If you are having wrist pain, try doing this exercise with a EZ bar or with dumbbells. The difference with dumbbells is that your stabilizing muscles work much harder to control the weight, so it’s a good exercise to alternate between the barbell version.
Rope pushdown is an exercise for targeting the lateral head. Lateral head is usually the hardest triceps muscle to isolate from the three heads. When doing the rope pushdown for isolating the lateral head you need to do a little twist when you are at the bottom of the movement. When the rope is pulled at the bottom you need to push it apart from your body to sideways.
How to build triceps, and in fact how to build bigger arms, is to focus on proven basic exercises that are performed generally with free weights. Just remember that with triceps, the elbows can get sore and injured. I recommend stopping any tricep exercise that irritates your elbows – the end result can be a long and painful episode of tennis elbow and further chronic injury.
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