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News flash: Though biceps are cool, triceps actually make up the bulk of the upper arms. Growing big arms and—even more impressive, carving out a detailed triceps horseshoe—means working every part of the muscle. “You need to make sure you hit all three heads of the muscle—long, medial, and lateral,” says Noah Bryant, C.S.C.S. “While you can’t completely isolate them, you can do exercises that emphasize each one.” Add these three moves to your routine as often as twice per week—on chest day and shoulder day.
The first exercise, which hits your triceps’ “long head,” is the EZ-curl bar French press.
To do it, sit on a bench and grasp the EZ-curl bar with a pronated grip. Start with straight arms and the bar directly overhead. Lower the bar by bending your elbows. Go as far as you can while keeping your back, neck, and upper arms straight and perpendicular to the ground. It’s important to perform the full range of motion if you want better results. Return the weight under control to the overhead starting position.
Then the triceps dip is Bryant’s top choice for hitting this deep-down part of the triceps. Set up on a dip bar like you would for normal dips, only this time you’ll keep your body straight up and down (perpendicular to the ground) and your feet underneath you rather than crossed behind you. Lower yourself until your forearm and upper arm make a 90° angle, then push yourself back up.
To hit the lateral head, Bryant suggests straight-bar cable pushdowns. “The lateral head is the one most responsible for the ‘horseshoe’ shape of the triceps,” Bryant says, “and working it is extremely important to get that look.” Any movement that pushes weight down will hit the lateral head, which runs on the outside of the arm, but this is his favorite. Start with the bar about chest level, your elbows in tight to your body, and your upper arms pointing straight down to the ground. Keep your elbows tucked tightly in to your body, and push the bar down while keeping your upper arms static. Feel your triceps moving the weight—and your horseshoe getting more and more cut.