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Triceps’ relationship to biceps is like Scottie Pippen’s relationship to Michael Jordan. No matter how efficient or flashy 33 was, he was forever overshadowed by 23. Likewise, even when the triceps do more work than the biceps, assisting in chest and shoulder presses, and even when they’re flashier, separating into strands of beads in a side tri shot, invariably the bi’s still garner the most praise. This month, HUGE is giving triceps mad props. Our five fresh ways to train your tri’s can guarantee that they’ll Always attract rapt attention.
One excellent but little-used way of changing the angle and/or range of motion of triceps exercises is to do them at either an incline or a decline. For example, if you do triceps pushdowns while lying on an incline bench, facing away from the weight stack and keeping your elbows slightly in front of your body, it places more emphasis on the contraction. Performing triceps extensions while lying on a decline bench allows you to lower the bar further than in the flat-bench version before your head gets in the way. Our third exercise, incline two-hand one-dumbbell overhead extensions – performed with your elbows pointed backward throughout (at the same angle as your torso) – provides a different angle of attack, while also decreasing the odds of banging your cranium.
To maximally stimulate your triceps during an exercise, focus on the movement, especially the contraction. Generally, this is easier to do if you train your arms individually. In our unilateral routine, perform one-arm rope extensions by holding, with one hand, both ends of a rope attached to an overhead cable, and keeping your upper arm parallel to the floor as you extend your forearm. In contrast, do one-arm dumbbell extensions while seated, keeping your upper arm perpendicular to the floor. In addition, try doing one-arm pushdowns with an underhand grip.
Triceps are excellent muscles to preexhaust: they are easily isolated, and they’re secondary workers in presses and dips. Therefore, you can tax them with pushdowns, extensions or kickbacks, so that when you do close-grip bench presses, your tri’s give out before your chest and front delts do. Our final exercise is dips. If you can’t perform at least 10 reps of upright parallel bar dips on your own, do bench dips instead (keeping your legs straight and resting your heels on a bench in front of you and your hands behind you on a second bench).
POWER PLUS PUMP
This workout alternates three low- to moderate-rep sets of a free-weight or compound exercise with one high-rep set of a machine isolation exercise. In our example, the former, heavier exercises are lying triceps extensions, dips and one-arm dumbbell extensions, and the latter, lighter exercise is the triceps pushdown. Dips can be done using parallel bars, two benches or a machine, as long as the resistance is such that you reach failure in the six- to 10-rep range.
Too many bodybuilders get into the habit of relying on standard pushdowns and EZ-curl bar or dumbbell extensions workout after workout. Incorporate one or more of our underused lifts, or do our routine of four lifts to spring a surprise attack on your tri’s.
This lift was included in the incline/decline routine. Lie face-up on an incline bench and grab a rope attached to an overhead cable behind you. Keep your elbows slightly in front of you but locked in place as you press the rope down. (You can also try it with a bar, but your thighs may get in the way before you reach full extension on the descent.)
LYING BARBELL KICKBACKS
This is essentially a lying triceps extension with a barbell or EZ-curl bar, the crucial difference being that your upper arms remain parallel to the floor instead of perpendicular to it. Lie on a bench face-up and grasp (with an overhand grip) a bar behind you while keeping your upper arms parallel to the floor and your forearms perpendicular to the floor with your hands down. Bring the bar up so that at contraction, you’re in what would be the armsoverhead position if you were standing. You won’t be able to use as much weight as you can for lying triceps extensions, but as there is with other kickbacks, there will be great tension on each contraction.
PULLOVER AND PRESSES
This combination of a barbell pullover and a close-grip bench press is an old-school favorite that’s rarely performed today. Lie face-up on a bench and hold a barbell or EZ-curl bar with a close-to-medium grip. Pull the bar to your chest and press up. This exercise both stretches (pullover) and flexes (press) the triceps. The pullover and press works tri’s in conjunction with other upper body muscles, such as back, chest and serratus. Slating it third gives the added benefits of the pre-exhaust technique.
The advantage of doing a bent-over one-arm kickback with a low cable instead of a dumbbell is that the cable provides resistance through a much longer range of motion. Start each rep with your hand near your shoulder, not from a position where your forearm is perpendicular to the floor. With a dumbbell, you’d start in the perpendicular position because of the resistance factor, but a cable gives you the benefit of resistance throughout the lengthened range of motion. Flex your triceps hard at the apex of each rep, when your arm is straight.
The one clear advantage triceps have over biceps is in the wider variety of exercises to choose from. Biceps are directly trained only via various types of curls, while triceps are worked by a plethora of extensions, pushdowns, kickbacks, presses and dips. Use everything you have in your playbook, put the full court press on ’em, and your triceps will have no choice but to grow.