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When most beginner lifters think about building their arms, the biceps seem to get all the love. And while being able to pop an impressive upper-arm peak is nice, the real mass magic comes from doing tricep exercises.
“The triceps are the bigger muscle group of the arm, taking up approximately two-thirds of the girth and forming the classic horseshoe shape in the back of the arm,” says Mike Clancy, C.S.C.S., a New York City-based personal trainer. “As there are three heads (long, lateral, and medial) to the triceps, they need to be stressed with a combination of angles, volume, and intensity, which is why wrist position, elbow position, and arm position can dramatically change where the emphasis is placed on the triceps muscle group.”
Adds Rachel Straub, M.S., C.S.C.S., co-author of Weight Training Without Injury: “Generally speaking, you should spend at least half your triceps workout training the long head, which crosses the shoulder joint. Exercises that target the long head generally have your elbows near your head, like overhead exercises.”
When starting your triceps plan, you want to incorporate both heavy-lifting tricep exercises and high-volume ones. “Triceps need a lot of stress—four sets of eight reps simply ain’t gonna cut it,” Clancy says. “An exerciser should aim to accumulate at least 100 total reps within 30 minutes.”
Here are 10 classic, tried-and-true triceps moves every beginning lifter should know.
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