Big arms are one of the most common goals for men in the gym, but you need to do more than just curl your biceps to really pop out your sleeves. Your triceps are actually the largest muscles in your arms, so they also need a lot of attention.
Jeff Cavaliere, Founder of Athlean-X, CSCS, has compiled a list of essential tips for getting your triceps up, including how and when to exercise. Here are his “10 Commandments” for growing a bigger triceps:
Exercise your triceps once a week
During a regular workout split, many people focus on the larger compound movements and leave the triceps work until the end, which is perfectly appropriate for this context. However, if you want to grow your triceps, you need more volume and a more focused effort. “When you strengthen your weakest link, you take that strength with you to the bigger compound lifts for better overall development,”
Take care of your back
“If you find that your back and triceps are in the same anatomical ball park, the possibility of overdoing it and not allowing enough recovery in your triceps is a real thing,” says Cavaliere. A series of back and chest exercises also stretch the long head of the triceps. Hence, it is important not to stack these workouts too closely on your triceps workout day so that you have plenty of time to recover.
Don’t forget pushups
The push-up can be easily adjusted to put more tension on the triceps so you can work that muscle to good volume anywhere. Case in point: close-grip pushups.
Do the full expansion
For pushups or other movements that involve stretching and stretching the arms, it is important to use your full range of motion to get the most benefit from the exercise. “When we do an exercise like the push-up with our arms outstretched in front of our body, we are mainly working on the medial and lateral head of the triceps, the only function of which is to straighten the elbow,” explains Cavaliere. “So if you don’t straighten your elbow, you are shortening the work the muscle is doing and, in the long run, shortening the results that you are going to see.”
The kickback puts the triceps in their most expanded state, with the arm extended behind the body. There is also what is known as active insufficiency: “If you put the arm in this position, the long head cannot create much tension because it starts very much in a shortened state.” This means using lighter weights and focusing on the tension it is delivering.
Exercise every part of the strength curve
In addition to training the triceps in its shortened and contracted states, it is also worth taking advantage of the middle and stretch positions. Movements like the lying triceps extension create a stretch in the long head by raising the arms above the head. Likewise, an exercise like the close-grip bench press will help you tap the mid-range movement.
There’s no getting around heavy weights when you’re aiming for bigger triceps. More than any muscle in the body, the triceps contain the highest percentage of fast-twitch Type II fibers, meaning they respond best to heavy weight use. Hence, it is important to look for ways to add more weight to your exercises.
The triceps are also made up of 30 percent slow-twitch fibers. So, you can complement your heavy movements by exercising with light weights at higher repetitions. “This leads to an overload in another way, which is not only based on tension, but also on the build-up of metabolism in the muscle, which triggers growth in a different way,” says Cavaliere.
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Bend your wrists
Often times when you are exercising your triceps, the forearm takes control and relieves the strain on the muscle you want to build. As you bend your wrists back, it becomes more difficult, and it forces the triceps to do more work.
Correct your posture
The effectiveness of your triceps workout can be affected by your posture. “We want to make sure our elbows don’t flare up when we do triceps exercises. We want them to be snug to our sides,” says Cavaliere. “When our shoulders are rounded forward, our elbows are driven out.”
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