This is the follow-up article to The Ultimate Biceps Workout! If you were interested in that and training your arms, you’ll be as interested in training your triceps too so I recommend reading this. Used together, the two workouts will provide a complete training program for the arms.
As with the biceps workout, this workout won’t necessarily show you new exercises but again comprises optimal exercises to fully train the triceps for the best possible results. I’ll show you the order to perform them in and how they target the different muscles that comprise the triceps.
The triceps are a large muscle group which make up the majority of the rear upper arm. In order to train for bigger, stronger arms you have to train the triceps, if not more so than the biceps. The triceps are three (Tri) muscles commonly known as ‘heads’ and named the ‘long head’, ‘lateral head’ and ‘medial head’. They work together as the triceps.
The long head is the largest of the three making up most of the mass of the triceps and is located at the rear/inner of the upper arm. The lateral head is the second largest of the triceps muscles and is located on the outer upper arm and is the most visible of the three. Finally, the medial head, which is the smallest is located below the long head and is the least visible.
While each of the exercises in this workout will activate all the triceps, they will each target a different head more than the others which is key to developing well proportioned triceps and building the ‘horseshoe’ appearance!
#1 Close Grip Barbell Bench Press
If you choose to do only one triceps exercise this should be it. The barbell bench press has shown in studies to activate the triceps more than other major heavy pressing exercises such as the overhead press and flat, incline, and decline bench press however the close grip barbell bench press activates the triceps approximately 50% more than the standard barbell bench press.
Like the biceps, the triceps are mostly composed of type 2 muscle fibers that best respond in terms of growth to being trained with heavy weight. The close grip barbell bench press is the best exercise to use to overload the triceps with weight and although it will train the shoulders and chest too, it enables the most load to be concentrated on the triceps which results in maximum activation.
Another great alternative to start with is weighted dips which also concentrate a high load on the triceps with body weight. Extra weight can easily be added too. Begin this workout with the close grip barbell bench press or weighted dips to enable your best possible performance of either exercise.
Perform 3 Sets of 6-8 Reps. Perform 10-15 warm-up reps at no more than half your working rep weight to encourage blood flow and establish a comfortable hand position and grip width. The closer the grip, the higher the activation in the triceps.
Lay down on the bench placing feet flat and firmly on the floor. Grip the barbell with hands close together. A good distance apart is shoulder width which will allow you to lower the barbell as low as possible to your torso to achieve full range of motion, although your grip can be as close as is comfortable.
Holding the barbell with arms extended fully upwards to begin the exercise and lower the bar slowly down to the torso just below the chest and back up again. Concentrate on your triceps extending as you lower and contracting as you press up during the exercise, control the motion squeezing them when the bar is pressed fully upwards. Add weight when 8 reps is being achieved with ease.
#2 Dumbbell Triceps Extentions
Incline bench dumbbell triceps extensions are an excellent exercise for training the long head of the triceps. This exercise keeps the long head engaged and activated throughout the exercise because of the muscle being in a stretched position during the full range of motion.
With the arms being elevated above the body from shoulder flexion creating the stretch position, this emphasises the tension and work rate in the muscle. Any triceps exercise that incorporates shoulder flexion will have this enhanced effect the long head. Overhead cable triceps extensions and incline bench barbell triceps extensions are two good examples of similar exercises.
Perform 3 Sets of 6-8 Reps. Starting by laying on a bench set at a 45 degree angle, hold a dumbbell in each hand above your body by extending your arms vertically upwards. While still straight, allow your arms to tilt backwards a little more so they are no longer extended vertically. This is the start position.
Begin by slowly lowering the dumbbells backwards as far as you can by flexing at the elbows. Control the motion and try to resist gravity. Ensure your upper arms remain in the slightly backwards tilted position throughout the exercise to maintain the stretch and when you have lowered the dumbbells fully, press them back up to the start position. Squeeze at the top of the press. Increase the difficulty by performing the reps on each arm alternately.
#3 Cable Triceps Push-Downs
Cable triceps push-downs performed using a straight or V bar will target the lateral head best. For activation of the lateral head, studies have shown that cable triceps push-downs out perform classic triceps exercises including lying bench barbell extensions, dumbbell triceps kick backs and behind the head dumbbell triceps extensions.
While using a bar will target the lateral head, using a rope attachment will recruit more activation in the medial head and is also a good overall exercise for all three heads of the triceps.
Cable triceps push-downs can also be performed as a single arm exercise to correct muscle imbalances either with a single hand cable attachment for the lateral head or the cable alone to involve the medial head more.
Perform 3 Sets of 6-8 Reps. Perform warm up reps at half your working rep weight. Stand facing the cable and bar attachment and hold the bar with an overhand grip. To concentrate extra tension on the triceps place your thumbs on top of the bar. Step a short distance back from the cable machine and lean your torso forward at the hip slightly so that your arms can extend straight down in front of your body rather than alongside of it to obtain a full range of motion during the exercise.
Ensure your back is straight and not hunched and your feet are planted well to maintain your balance. While keeping your elbows from flaring outwards, flex at the elbow by pressing the bar (or rope) down slowly, keeping your wrists in a neutral position (in-line with your forearm and not flexing) until your arms are fully extended down in the straight position. Hold this briefly and squeeze the triceps and then slowly return the bar upwards to the start position.
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#4 Close Hand Push-Ups
This exercise will target the triceps heavily and similarly to the close grip barbell press. It will also work the chest and shoulders and is a good finishing exercise for this workout. Performed last, and in conjunction with the other exercises it should leave you feeling you have exhausted the triceps!
Perform 3 Sets of maximum reps. Begin by kneeling and establish a comfortable close hand position on the floor in front of you. You can do this first by supporting yourself with your knees. Aim to get your hands as close together as possible, for example touching both index fingers and thumbs together to form a diamond or triangle shape with them.
Perform some warm-up reps at lower resistance on your knees if you wish. When performing your working reps start by lifting your knees off the floor while keeping your legs together, back straight and in-line with your legs. Support your body between your hands in the close position with arms fully extended and your toes. This is the start position.
Lower yourself towards the ground slowly by flexing at the elbows. Aim to go as low as possible, ideally 3-4 inches from the floor or lower and return yourself to the start position. To increase the difficulty a weight plate can be placed on the back or resistance band held beneath each hand and stretched over the back.
#1 Close Grip Barbell Bench Press – 3 Sets of 6-8 Reps
#2 Dumbbell Triceps Extentions – 3 Sets of 6-8 Reps
#3 Cable Triceps Push-Downs – 3 Sets of 6-8 Reps
#4 Close Hand Push-Ups – 3 Sets of 6-8 Reps
So that is the ultimate triceps workout! Carry out this workout if feel your triceps need more development and partner it with The Ultimate Biceps Workout! and you will definitely feel your triceps have been given a test. Use as much weight as you can manage on each exercise whilst ensuring you maintain correct form.
You should find that although this might feel like a tough workout, you’ll notice being able to cope as you work your way through each exercise as each targets a different head of the triceps, helping you build Ultimate triceps!