The tricep workouts are primary importance for toned muscle. From the aspiring bodybuilder in search of muscle mass and aesthetics to the powerlifter who needs strong triceps for the flat bench, going through sports of all kinds.
Do you want to be able to apply explosive thrust with your arms? You will need to train both the pure strength of the triceps and its muscle mass to support the high weight.
Anatomy of the Triceps
Before starting to talk about tricep workouts, it would be good to know them thoroughly.
The triceps is divided into three parts …
- Side head
- Medial head
- Long boss
It should be pointed out, however, that since it is divided into three parts, the triceps need more exercises and more angles to develop better.
Another factor to keep in mind is that the triceps is made up largely of type II muscle fibers, which is why it responds so well to heavy series and low repetitions compared to other muscles.
Tricep Workouts – Mass and Strength
The selection of the exercises is fundamental for the training of the triceps and every other muscle of the body, but we must always remember the importance that the specificity in the training of each athlete has. What may be the best tricep workouts for a powerlifter, for example, may be a completely unknown exercise for a bodybuilder, or a tennis player.
For this we will see how to train the triceps in different subjects, with different purposes. Not only will the selection of the exercises, but also the patterns, the frequency, and other variables still change.
However, we can fix some key points, which powerlifters, bodybuilders, power builders, and sportsmen of every kind can share.
How do triceps grow?
Like any other muscle in the body, so thanks to …
- Mechanical tension
- Metabolic stress
- Muscle damage
Particular emphasis in mechanical tension (especially for the powerlifter or in the strongman). To grow the triceps we must therefore stimulate them sufficiently, give them time to recover, and then induce adaptation.
This process is called SRA: Stimulus, Recovery, Adaptation
Without this sequence, regardless of the selection of the exercises or the scheme used, the triceps will NOT grow. If the stimulus is not enough, you can do all the French press you want, but the triceps will not grow. If recovery is not enough, you can create all the mechanical tension in the world, but you will get more injuries than muscle mass.
How to stimulate the muscle mass of the triceps
The training volume is the factor most associated with muscle growth, and must therefore be the basis for tricep workouts. Over time, the volume of training for the triceps, regardless of your purpose and the choice of exercises, must absolutely increase.
Just as there must be progressive overload …
- Training should be harder and / or bulky
- For hypertrophy should increase series and / or repetitions
- To increase the strength it must increase intensity
Some key points to consider when training the triceps to induce muscle hypertrophyare …
- Training sets must be predominantly between 60% and 85% of the ceiling
- The most comfortable range of repetitions for hypertrophy is between 8 and 20 repetitions
- We don’t necessarily have to work at failure, but go near it
- We can train the triceps 2-4 times a week
Be careful, though: the triceps are not as small as the biceps, and they risk being too trained if we overdo the direct work and add it to the flat bench and other multi-articular.
How many series and how many repetitions?
It is impossible to answer similar questions. It depends on your starting level, your goals and a thousand other factors.
Not only … It also depends on which exercise we are performing.
It is generally more intuitive to use medium-low ranges of repetitions in heavy multi-joints, and high repetitions in isolation exercises.
Here, however, are some basic guidelines, while bearing in mind that each of us holds a different training volume. Let’s see the number of sets to perform over the course of a week to stimulate the triceps optimally …
- Minimum of 8-10 training sets
- Maximum of 15-20 training sets
And the recommended repetition range is from …
- 3 to 6 to stimulate strength
- 8 to 20 repetitions if the focus is hypertrophy
It is good to remember that we can also create a combination of these stimuli, at the level of macrocycles as well as in micro cycles, and therefore stimulate the triceps both in terms of strength and mass within the same week.
It is precisely the combination of high and low repetition ranges that ensures the best possible hypertrophic result.
Best Tricep Workouts
I prefer to divide them into two different groups, the multi-joint exercises and the isolation ones.
Best tricep workouts with multi-articular barbell …
- Narrow-grip bench
- Parallel Dip
- Floor Press
- Board Press
- Plain bench
- Military Press
Best exercises for triceps with dumbbells and barbell or cables in isolation …
- French Press with barbell and dumbbells
- Triceps with high cables (supination and pronation)
- Vertical extension with dumbbells or barbell (standing or sitting)
Tricep Workouts – Strength for Powerlifters
A powerlifter seeks mainly strength in the triceps, but a good muscle mass will help hold up high loads especially in the flat bench.
For this reason, the best exercises for powerlifters in search of strength and mass of the triceps have always been …
- Narrow Grip Bench
- Board Press
- Parallel Dip
- Floor Press
Even the flat bench itself is an excellent exercise for the triceps, depending on how we perform it. Some American school powerlifters, in fact, prefer a not too wide grip, they keep their elbows relatively closed, and they let the triceps take on most of the load in the lift. Hyper-developed triceps and a pectoral does not measure up to the mass of his arms, for example.
However, these are multi-joint exercises that also include other muscles and on which we can work mainly at the level of mechanical tension using high loads. If we are looking for sheer strength, which is a help in the bench press, exercises such as high load percentage Board Press and bench press are primary choices.
If instead we want to induce hypertrophy, then adding more targeted work such as French press or isolation like triceps to cables can be a valid idea.
It is important to remember that muscle mass and strength are in any case correlated, and that therefore increasing the muscle mass of the triceps can lead, over time, to an increase in strength in the same.
Tricep training for Powerlifting
Let’s try to see how a powerlifting program could be structured that includes work dedicated to the triceps.
Frequency of 2 training sessions with a direct focus on triceps training per week, designed for intermediate level athletes who already tolerate a moderate training volume.
- Parallel Dip 3 × 8 with 1 or 2 repetitions in reserve
- French Press 3 × 10 with 1 or 2 repetitions in reserve
- Pushdown with 3 × 15 rope to muscle failure
- Board Press 3 × 3 with 2 repetitions in reserve
- 5 × 5 Narrow Grip Bench with 2 Repetitions in Reserve
Over the weeks, if we are in a block dedicated to hypertrophy we could especially increase the number of training series, or repetitions, or both.
If instead we are in a block dedicated to the increase of strength, we could increase the intensity and, when necessary, decrease the total repetitions, while maintaining a discreet training volume on isolation exercises.
In the following training cycle, we could introduce other tricep workouts such as floor press, extension of the arms over the head with dumbbells, etc. As you can see, the focus shifts to strength but without neglecting a fair amount of training volume to ensure that the arms also grow in muscle mass.
Triceps Training – Mass for Bodybuilders
A bodybuilder primarily searches for the muscle mass of the triceps, and will therefore direct most of his / her work to medium range of work, while being aware that multi-articular low reps and high repetition isolation induce hypertrophy.
The best exercises for the development of the muscle mass of the triceps for bodybuilders are …
- Narrow-hold bench
- Dip to the parallels
- French Press
- Extensions above the head
- Cable insulation exercises
It is a good idea not to limit yourself, as often happens, to isolation exercises.
The triceps respond particularly well to high loads, to be used more often in multi-joint exercises such as a flat bench with a narrow grip or a parallel to the bench.
In the old school bodybuilding, when the barbell still played a primary role in training the bodybuilder in the gym, the Military Press was also indicated as necessary for the correct and full development of the triceps.
To reserve a job with higher repetitions to the cables is also a great way to jeopardize the total training volume.
Let us not be afraid then of the multiple weekly frequency of the stimulus: even a bodybuilder can train the triceps a minimum of twice a week to develop them at their best. In this case the training stimulus must correctly vary, perhaps reserving one day for the lower repetitions, and one for the higher ones.
Triceps training for Bodybuilding
- Dip at the 5 × 5 parallels with 2 repetitions in reserve
- 4 × 8 narrow grip bench with 2 repetitions in reserve
- French Press 3 × 10 with 1 repetition in reserve
- Pushdown with 3 × 12 rope with last series of muscular failure
- Triceps with 3 × 15 high cables with last series with muscular failure
Over the weeks, logically, there will have to be progressive overload in both powerlifters and bodybuilders programming.
Over the months, instead, we can rotate the selection of exercises to make sure we find new stimuli for our muscles that “adapt” to the same stimulus that lasts over time. This does not mean doing a different exercise at each session, but selecting a certain number of exercises and making them rotate from month to month, keeping 1-2 important multi-joint exercises constant.
An advanced level bodybuilder can also introduce advanced techniques like drop-sets, stripping, and so on, but I think that beginner and intermediate level athletes would do well to focus primarily on increasing the load and the total volume of work on multi-joint exercises.
Free-body Triceps Training
If you want to train at home, or in any case with the triceps free, your best solution is to perform frequently …
- Dip to the parallels
- Push-ups (tight hands)
- Dip between benches
The biggest problem with bodyweight training for small muscles is the difficulty in overloading them over time. If you are starting out, however, surely the push-ups and the parallel dips are an overload in themselves, and will allow you to grow both in strength and muscle mass for a long time.
To overload the free body triceps, in addition to adding ballast, you can increase the training density, or try to make the exercises more and more complex by changing angles and execution times.
There is not one and only way to overload, but different.
Conclusion on the tricep workouts
Fitness lover always been passionate about tricep workouts, both for hypertrophic and aesthetic purposes and for reasons of strength. Ultimately, there is not one single and unequivocal optimal training of the triceps, but various methods, programming and exercises.
The triceps are muscles that we can train several times a week, which recover relatively quickly, and that respond well to a wide range of repetitions.
Make sure you try different methods and exercises while giving each method and each exercise enough time to be really effective.
Your arms will respond properly both in terms of muscle mass and strength.