Guys, if you want big arms – and I’m sure you do – you can’t overlook the importance of training your triceps. After all, as the name indicates, the triceps consist of 3 parts while the biceps – the muscle group we spend most of our time focusing on – only consists of 2.
And ladies, it’s not like I have to remind you about your “problem areas” – but I will anyway. Your hips, your thighs and yes, your triceps – you’re prone to store fat on them all.
So, now that you’re psyched to start training those triceps, let’s first have a quick look at the boring anatomy stuff so you can understand how the muscles work, which will of course lead to better exercise selection and thus – better results!
Anatomy of the Triceps
The main function of the triceps is to extend the elbow. The triceps consist of three “heads”. Here they are..
The Medial Head
When you extend your arm without any resistance, that’s the “medial head” at work baby! Out of all three “heads”, the medial (the one in the middle) is the only one that’s involved every time the arm is extended.
The Lateral Head
The “lateral head” barely contracts when the arm is extended without any external resistance. When resistance is added – even if the load is light – the lateral head is the next to be recruited. Cable extensions and dumbbell kickbacks are both great exercises to target the lateral head.
The Long Head
The best way to recruit the long head – which is the last to be recruited when the arm is extended against external resistance – is to lift heavy loads. With regards to exercise selection, movements such as close grip presses and the lying triceps extension are both good choices.
With the triceps, you really have to be careful that you don’t over train them. Any time your arm is extended against resistance, you’re working your triceps. Think about it ..bench pressing, shoulder pressing – there’s all sorts of other exercises that work the triceps.
You really have to keep this in mind when designing your workout program. You certainly don’t want to do a workout for your triceps the day before you train chest because your triceps are involved with all sorts of chest exercises.
As I’m sure you already know, intensely training the same muscle in back-to-back workouts without adequate recovery time is a sure way to sabotage your efforts. Chest/shoulder/triceps groupings make for a good training split. Of course, there’s all sorts of other training splits you could implement as well. Just don’t over-train!
Like the biceps, the contractile strength of the triceps depends on the position of the elbow in relation to your shoulder. Here’s a brief breakdown..
Strongest Position = Elbow Below Shoulder: A good example would be the bench dip exercise. Plenty of people can rep their bodyweight with ease and even stack 3 or 4 large barbells on their lap without any problems.
Middle Position = Elbow Above Shoulder: A good example of this position would be the overhead dumbbell extension exercise. Look in the free-weight section and you’ll see all sorts of guys tossing up 100,110,120lb and even heavier dumbbells. This exercise is great by the way. Whenever I do it, I feel it for days after. Give it a try if you haven’t already!
Weakest Position = Elbow Aligned with Shoulders: This is the weakest position (obviously) and if you have any doubts, just perform a few sets on a horizontal triceps extension machine.
As with any other muscle group, flexibility is very important so don’t forget to stretch after your workouts. If you constantly train your triceps and forget to stretch, it will have a negative effect on the contractile strength of your biceps.
This is a neurological response due to the agonist and antagonist relationship between the biceps and the triceps. Agonist and antagonist, don’t get confused – it just means that they’re opposing muscle groups. If the triceps do end up becoming tight/shortened, it’s possible that you may feel a numb tingling sensation throughout your arm or hand because the long head of the triceps might compress the radial nerve in the shoulder. Cool, huh?
Anyway, check out the navigation panel to your right and look over some of the exercises you can do for the triceps. There’s plenty of choose from..