You had some of the craziest triceps I’ve ever seen. I know you’re all about low volume, but can I do extra sets just for triceps to get them like yours? 


Thank you for the compliment, I think. Crazy triceps are a good thing, right?

First of all, I want to clear up something: no matter how hard you train them, you’ll probably never have triceps like mine. You may get them just as big, or even as striated, but I don’t want you to set yourself up for disappointment. Possibly more than any other bodypart, triceps come in a large variety of shapes and configurations.

Boyer Coe, for instance, had a great horseshoe shape to his outer heads, but his triceps were rather thin crescent-shaped muscles. Contrast that with triceps like my own or Samir Bannout’s, which are thick and marked with visible cross striations. After a few months of building them, you may find that your triceps are shaped more like Boyer’s than mine, which is fine.

The point is that you should always strive to develop your own muscles to their fullest, rather than attempting the impossible task of emulating another bodybuilder. That being said, I think I can help guide you on the path to building bigger triceps. First, if there’s one lesson I can impart to you, it’s that more does not necessarily equal better, even in an endeavor such as bodybuilding. In fact, to my way of thinking, less is more, especially when we’re talking training.

During my Mr. Olympia days, I would perform a grand total of three  working sets for triceps. You read that right — three sets were all it took to build two-thirds of my upper arms. Those three sets were full of all-out intensity, the kind that results in muscle growth.

Keep in mind that I would usually perform triceps exercises after hitting chest, so my triceps would be fairly fatigued by the time I got to them. The triceps are fairly small bodyparts anyway and, as such, should never be trained with the same number of sets you might use for back or chest. Although the total sets should be kept low, the intensity of your triceps training should be high. 

Dorian yates triceps2
Chris Lund

My triceps routine couldn’t be simpler. I began with V-bar pushdowns. I like the V bar because it forced my hands into the perfect position for maximum grip strength and effectiveness. I started with two warm-up sets and then performed a single gut-busting working set.

From there, I did lying triceps extensions with a cambered bar. This time, I required only one warm-up set before moving on to the heavy stuff. Finally, I’d do either one-arm reverse-grip pushdowns or one-arm Nautilus machine extensions. These exercises were like the pi`ece de résistance to my triceps workout — just a single set of these and I was done.

Train with maximum intensity and minimum wasted effort, and you should be able to start building good triceps muscles soon. Certainly, that’s not a high volume of work, but if you are diligent in your efforts, you’ll develop your triceps to their maximum potential. 


V-Bar Pushdowns

  • SETS: 1* | REPS: 15
  • SETS: 1* | REPS: 12
  • SETS: 1 | REPS: 8-10

Lying Cambered-Bar Extensions

  • SETS: 1* | REPS: 12
  • SETS: 1 | REPS: 8-10

One-Arm Reverse-Grip Pushdowns or One-Arm Nautilus Machine Extensions

  • SETS: 1 | REPS: 8-10

NOTE: Beginners and intermediates should do three sets of each of these exercises.

* Warm-up sets