Training

8 Workouts For Bigger Triceps

When flexing, many people will curl their arms to bunch their biceps. The biceps are in fact a small muscle, which even when defined will not count for much of the overall volume of your upper arm. Many weightlifters and bodybuilders tend to focus only on the muscles they can see in front of them or in the gym mirror.

In truth, since the biceps are a smaller muscle group, they do not require the same intense focus as larger muscles. When it comes to bigger arms, your triceps are arguably what you should focus on to gain an overall, more developed look.

 

What and where are my triceps?

Your triceps brachii is the large part of your upper arm between your elbow and shoulder. The triceps brachii has three heads (lateral, medial, and long). The lateral head of the triceps is found on the outer side of the humerus. This is the horseshoe shape that shows on the upper part of the back of your arm. The medial head of the triceps is found in the middle of the back portion of the upper arm. The long head of the triceps is the largest part of your triceps and is found running down the back of your arm.

Triceps function when straightening the arm from a bent position. With that in mind, to work your triceps you’ll need to focus on this kind of motion. This is not, however,limited to simple bending and straightening exercises as pushing motions will work your triceps, including press-ups, bench pressing and shoulder presses.

When working the different heads of your triceps, you’ll need to alter your range of movement – something easily done using cables. You’ve likely seen people in the gym working a range of 90 – 100 or so degrees and wondered the worth of it. This kind of specified workout is done to isolate specific muscles.

The number of sets and reps to achieve bigger triceps is up for debate. As a rule, a combination of the two is a good place to start. We’ve outlined eight workouts that you may use consecutively (not counting rest days) or as part of a bigger picture, counting as your ‘triceps day’.

If you’re just getting started, moderation is the key to ensure strengthening, development and perfecting your technique. That said, choose a weight you find moderately heavy and go for medium to higher reps, as suggested below, and increase the weights by the fourth set.

When you come to the end of a cycle and are more confident in your recovery time and technique, try lowering the reps and raising the weight to burst through any plateau you might reach. If you opt for more sets of fewer reps, encourage hypertrophy by throwing in a few isolated sets of low weights at high reps.

Workout One

1. Close-Grip Bench Press

Sets: 4 Reps: 8-12

Technique:

  • Using a flat bench, set up for a normal bench press with your feet planted on the floor and your glutes, upper back and head all firmly on the bench.
  • Grab the bar with your usual comfortable width, then move your hands around 1-2 hand-widths inwards to form the narrow grip.
  • Un-rack the weights and perform the exercise as a normal bench press.

 

2. Cable Straight Bar Pushdowns

Sets: 4 Reps: 8-12

Technique:

  • Using a straight bar attachment for the cable machine, adjust the cables so that they are at the top of the machine.
  • Start by pulling the bar down to your shoulder height, with a pronated grip (as if you were performing a lat-pulldown), with your elbows tucked against your torso.
  • Without moving your arms from their current position, extend only at the elbow until your arms are fully extended.
  • Squeeze at the end of range and hold for 1-2 seconds before slowly returning to the start position in a controlled manner.

 

3. Dumbbell Triceps Kickbacks

Sets: 4 Reps: 8-12

Technique:

  • Using a moderate/light dumbbell, bend at your hips and support your torso using the opposite hand on a bench.
  • Keeping the working arms elbow close to your side, the dumbbell should start dangling towards the ground, so there is a 90-degree bend at your elbow.
  • Extend only at your elbow, without moving your upper arm out of position.
  • Squeeze at the end of range before slowly returning to the start position.

 

Workout Two

1. Barbell Reverse-Grip Bench Press

Sets: 4 Reps: 8-12

Technique:

  • Using a moderate/light load, set up for a normal bench press, but supinate your wrists so that the palms of your hands are visible to you.
  • Grab the bar with a comfortable grip width and un-rack the bar.
  • Perform a normal bench press, keeping 5 points of contact throughout (feet-to-floor, glutes, upper back and head to the bench).

 

2. Cable V-Bar Pushdowns

Sets: 4 Reps: 8-12

Technique:

  • Using a v-bar attachment for the cable machine, adjust the cables so that they are at the top of the machine.
  • Start by pulling the bar down, with a pronated grip, to your shoulder height (as if you were performing a lat-pulldown), with your elbows tucked against your torso.
  • Without moving your arms from their current position, extend only at the elbow until your arms are fully extended.
  • Squeeze at the end of range and hold for 1-2 seconds before slowly returning to the start position in a controlled manner.

 

3. Dumbbell Tate Press

Sets: 4 Reps: 8-12

Technique:

  • Using moderate load dumbbells, start the lift with a flat/low incline bench with the dumbbells held with outstretched arms, as if you are preparing for a normal dumbbell bench press.
  • Holding the dumbbells with a pronated grip, bend at the elbows with minimal movement from the shoulders until the dumbbells touch your chest.
  • Allow your elbows to flair out laterally.
  • Press back to the start position and repeat.

 

Workout Three

1. Weighted Dips

Sets: 4 Reps: 8-12

Technique:

  • Set up for dips using bars that are shoulder-width apart and start with your arms fully extended.
  • Load the movement by holding a dumbbell with your feet, with a weighted chain belt or with chains.
  • Slowly lower yourself until your upper arms are parallel to the ground, then push back up to the start position.

 

2. Skull Crushers

Sets: 4 Reps: 8-12

Technique:

  • Using dumbbells or a barbell, start lying supine on a flat bench with your arms extended as if you are going to perform a press movement.
  • Bend only at the elbows, slowly lowering the load down towards your face – stopping before it reaches your face!
  • Extend your elbows to return to the start position, then complete the next reps.

 

3. Overhead Cable Triceps Extensions

Sets: 4 Reps: 8-12

Technique:

  • Set the cable to around head height, using the rope attachment.
  • Grip the attachment and face away from the apparatus.
  • You should be holding the attachment behind your head – extend at your elbows, pushing your arms away either above your head towards the ceiling, or away from you in front of your head.
  • Slowly return to the start position in a controlled manner.

 

Workout Four

1. JM Presses

Sets: 4 Reps: 8-12

Technique:

  • Like a mix between the close grip bench press and a skull crusher, set up on a flat bench as if you are setting up for a close grip bench press.
  • The vertical bar path should remain over one spot – so the bar should travel vertically straight down from the start position, meaning it will likely remain in line with your chin.
  • Allow your elbows to tuck to the side, in a similar movement to a push up.
  • Press to the start position and repeat.

 

2. Cable Rope Pushdowns

Sets: 4 Reps: 8-12

Technique:

  • Using a rope attachment for the cable machine, adjust the cables so that they are at the top of the machine.
  • Start by pulling the bar down to your shoulder height (as if you were performing a lat- pulldown), with your elbows tucked against your torso.
  • Without moving your arms from their current position, extend only at the elbow until your arms are fully extended.
  • Squeeze at the end of range and hold for 1-2 seconds before slowly returning to the start position in a controlled manner.

 

3. Dumbbell Kickbacks

Sets: 4 Reps: 8-12

Technique:

  • Using a moderate/light dumbbell, bend at your hips and support your torso using the opposite hand on a bench.
  • Keeping the working arms elbow close to your side, the dumbbell should start dangling towards the ground, so there is a 90-degree bend at your elbow.
  • Extend only at your elbow, without moving your upper arm out of position.
  • Squeeze at the end of the range before slowly returning to the start position.

 

Workout Five

1. Decline Skull Crushers

Sets: 4 Reps: 8-12

Technique:

  • Using dumbbells or a barbell, start lying supine on a decline bench with your arms extended as if you are going to perform a pressing movement.
  • Bend only at the elbows, slowly lowering the load down towards your face – stopping before it reaches your face!
  • Extend your elbows to return to the start position, then complete the next reps.

 

2. Cable Straight-Bar Reverse Pushdowns

  • Using a straight bar attachment for the cable machine, adjust the cables so that they are at the top of the machine.
  • Start by pulling the bar down to your shoulder height (as if you were performing a lat- pulldown), with your elbows tucked against your torso.
  • Grab the bar with a supinated grip so that the palms of your hands are facing up.
  • Without moving your arms from their current position, extend only at the elbow until your arms are fully extended.
  • Squeeze at the end of the range and hold for 1-2 seconds before slowly returning to the start position in a controlled manner.

 

3. Overhead One-Arm Cable Triceps Extensions

Sets: 4 Reps: 8-12

Technique:

  • Set the cable to around head height, using the rope attachment.
  • Grip the attachment with only one hand and face away from the apparatus.
  • You should be holding the attachment behind your head – extend at your elbows, pushing your arms away either above your head towards the ceiling, or away from you in front of your head.
  • Slowly return to the start position in a controlled manner.

 

Workout Six

1. Standing Barbell Triceps Extensions

Sets: 4 Reps: 8-12

Technique:

  • Start standing, with a moderate load barbell. The barbell should be held behind your head with your elbows pointing towards the ceiling.
  • Extend only at the elbows, aiming not to move your upper arm around. Extend until your elbows lock-out and then squeeze for 1-2 seconds.
  • Slowly return to the start position in a controlled manner.

2. One-Arm Rope Pushdowns

Sets: 4 Reps: 8-12

Technique:

  • Using a rope attachment for the cable machine, adjust the cables so that they are at the top of the machine.
  • Grip the attachment with one hand and start by pulling the bar down to your shoulder height (as if you were performing a lat-pulldown), with your elbows tucked against your torso.
  • Without moving your arms from their current position, extend only at the elbow until your arms are fully extended.
  • Squeeze at the end of the range and hold for 1-2 seconds before slowly returning to the start position in a controlled manner.

 

3. Assisted Dip Machine

Sets: 4 Reps: 8-12

Technique:

  • Set up for a normal set of dips but set your knees onto the platform provided on the machine.
  • Set the load on the machine (this will be the equivalent load that is negated from the amount you must lift).
  • Perform a normal dip, feeling the stretch at the bottom, before returning to the start position and squeezing your extended triceps at the top.

 

Workout Seven

1. Standing Barbell Triceps Extensions

Sets: 4 Reps: 8-12

Technique:

  • Start standing, with a moderate load barbell. The barbell should be held behind your head with your elbows pointing towards the ceiling.
  • Extend only at the elbows, aiming not to move your upper arm around. Extend until your elbows lock-out and then squeeze for 1-2 seconds.
  • Slowly return to the start position in a controlled manner.

 

2. One-Dumbbell Triceps Extensions

Sets: 4 Reps: 8-12

Technique:

  • Start standing, with a single moderate load dumbbell. The dumbbell should be held behind your head/over one shoulder with your elbow pointing towards the ceiling.
  • Extend only at the elbow, aiming not to move your upper arm around. Extend until your elbow locks-out and then squeeze for 1-2 seconds.
  • Slowly return to the start position in a controlled manner.

 

3. Push-Ups (hands closer than shoulder-width)

Sets: 4 Reps: 8-12

Technique:

  • Start in a comfortable push up position, maintaining a straight line from your shoulders to your feet. Move your hands in by around 1 hands width.
  • Descend until your chest reaches the ground, allowing your elbows to tuck into your side.
  • Push back up to the start position and start the next rep.

Workout Eight

1. Incline Barbell Triceps Extensions

Sets: 4 Reps: 8-12

Technique:

  • Start seated on an inclined bench, with a moderate load barbell. The barbell should be held behind your head with your elbows pointing towards the ceiling.
  • Extend only at the elbows, aiming not to move your upper arm around. Extend until your elbows lock-out and then squeeze for 1-2 seconds.
  • Slowly return to the start position in a controlled manner.

 

2. Lying Cable Triceps Extensions

Sets: 4 Reps: 8-12

Technique:

  • Lying supine on a bench or the floor, set the cables to the same height at the bench.
  • Set up the same as a normal cable extension exercise, with the cable set at your shoulders.
  • Push straight down and lockout your elbows, then squeeze for 1-2 seconds before slowly returning to the start position in a controlled manner.

 

3. Machine Dips

Sets: 4 Reps: 8-12

Technique:

  • Grab the handles of the machine once you have selected the load.
  • Push straight down against the resistance of the machine and squeeze at the end of the range of motion.
  • Slowly return to the start position before starting the next rep.

 

Take Home Message

There are plenty of exercises that you can rely on to stimulate hypertrophy for your triceps. Key things to remember are; include lots of volume, but don’t neglect intensity! It’s also vital to ensure you follow the principles of progressive overload if you wish to progress – as you must provide enough stimulus to do so for your muscles.

 



Scott Whitney

Scott Whitney

Writer and expert


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