Before you jump into a workout routine and start throwing weights around like a gorilla, you need to understand the nature of the human body and how the muscles work in conjunction with one another. A basic understanding of anatomy and physiology will help you make sense of the workout and keep you on track for form, posture and performance.
The triceps are made up three heads that run between the scapula (shoulder blade) and one of the forearm bones (the ulna). These heads are known as the Lateral, the Medial and the Long.
Lateral Head – Located on the outward side of the humerus (long bone of the upper arm) and is responsible for movements requiring high-intensity force.
Medial Head – Located on the inline of the body, mostly covered by the long and lateral heads. It is primarily responsible for slow, more low-intensity movements.
Long Head – Largest of the 3 heads, running predominantly along the bottom side of the humerus. The long is employed when sustained force is necessary or where there is a need for synergistic control of the shoulder and/or elbow joints.
The Top 5 Exercises for Increasing Triceps
There are a number of exercises that will work the triceps, with many focusing on a broad range of muscles in the arm. There are however a number of specific exercises that will target primarily the triceps and deliver the best results.
While this article focuses primarily on using free-weights in the top 5 exercises for increasing triceps, there is some use of a machine within. Keep in mind that you can alter your own exercises to use the appropriate machines and weights, provided you understand the form and function of the muscle groups within the triceps.
Top Triceps Exercise #1 – Weighted Dips
Muscle is improved by providing resistance. The primary source of resistance is by adding weight. Weighted dips rely primarily on your own body weight, though additional weight can be added in your lap to increase the resistance on the muscles.
Use two benches, placed approximately 3-5 feet apart. Sit on one bench with your heels resting on the other; you may need to adjust the distance between the benches depending on your height. Place your palms on the bench you’re sitting on and slide forward, using your arms to support your weight. Now, slowly lower yourself until the bend of your elbows reaches a 90 degree angle. Maintain tension and push yourself back up until your arms are completed extended.
Top Triceps Exercise #2 – Close Grip Bench Press
This press keeps the elbows close to the body, with the hands no more than a foot apart – they should not extend out beyond your shoulders. The focus of the close grip bench press is on the muscle groups of the triceps however the mechanics of the bench press will supply some additional workout to the pectoral muscles as well the muscle groups of the biceps.
As you un-rack the weight bar, begin with arms fully extended and lower the weight toward the lower part of the chest slowly while keeping the elbows tucked in. Bring the weight back just before you touch the bar to your chest and return your arms to a fully-extended position.
Top Triceps Exercise #3 – Seated Triceps Extension
This position places a great deal of emphasis on the triceps equally. For this exercise, it’s important to use a seat or weight bench of some kind with an adjustable seat to aid in back support. Choose an appropriate dumbbell weight and hold it with both hands. Raise the weight up and behind the head.
While holding the dumbbell, carefully lower it behind your head. Lower the weight behind your head so that it is even with the lower part of the back of your head – try not to let the weight fall too far to avoid over-exertion of the triceps during this exercise. Raise the dumbbell back overhead so that arms are fully extended and repeat.
Top Triceps Exercise #4 – Clapping Diamond Pushups
We talk a lot about how resistance will bring on muscle gain. If you want your muscles to increase in mass then you have to use them. You need to use them a lot, from different angles and in different ways. This may seem a little unorthodox but this method will definitely push triceps to the limit.
Position your hands under chest like a push up but bring your hands together so that your index fingers and your thumbs are touching, forming a diamond shape. Perform 10 pushups like this. In order to get the clap in between each push up, you’ll need to push yourself with enough force to leave the floor, gaining enough height to insert the clap and still bring your hands back to a diamond form.
Top Triceps Exercise #5 – Rope Pushdowns
This can be easily done with a number of machines. When using a machine, try to balance the weight so you can fit it a set of approximately 10 reps easily while still feeling the proper burn in the triceps. This top triceps exercise requires a bit more form than others. When pulling the weight with the rope, it’s important to keep your upper arms locked at your sides while keeping your back straight.
If you release your arms, twist or bend your back you’ll start using your shoulders and back to take the brunt of the weight, giving little gain to your triceps.
You’ll see the best results by adding the top exercises to build your triceps to your usual workout routine. When working on increasing muscle mass in triceps, remember that it’s important to take in the proper amount of nutrients and protein to sustain your exercises.