You could bicep curl your life away, but you still wouldn’t have a solid pair of arms unless you have a good pair of triceps. The triceps muscle is comprised of 3 heads converging as one to attach to the posterior elbow. There has been long debate on whether you can truly isolate each head, which is now known to be partly true. Collectively, all 3 heads extend or straighten the elbow. However, unlike the medial and lateral heads, the long head has an attachment to the shoulder, giving it the ability to extend the shoulder and the elbow. That being said, it would be more beneficial to include both elbow and shoulder extension movements into a triceps workout, rather than trying to isolate each head from one another. The following workout follows this principle.
Cardiovascular machine- 5min-10min: A treadmill, bike, elliptical, stair master, rower, etc. A slow to moderate pace is sufficient. Focus on breathing technique.
Resistance band / thera-band extension warm-up: 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps
Light warm-up sets: 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps with very moderate weight. This will familiarize the movement, and bring blood to the arms
I. DB Triceps Press: 4 sets x 8-10 reps: 2-3min. rest
Set-up: You will need a flat or decline bench and a pair of dumbbells. I would suggest grabbing 15-25lbs and working your way up from there. The starting position is on your back with your feet planted firmly on the ground. Your arms should be straight up and rotated inward so that your elbows are almost facing each other.
Execution: Brace your core and slowly lower the weights to your torso while maintaining the elbow rotation from the starting position. Your arms should be tight to your rib cage during the lowering movement as well. The dumbbells should be lined up at or just below your nipple line when you arrive at your torso. Emphasizing a push at the elbows, press the dumbbells back up to the starting position; repeat.
- Do no lockout between reps to maintain tension.
- Try to mentally control the movement through your elbows more than your shoulders. I really try to focus the drive through my elbows.
- If you feel your shoulders are overpowering the movement, try lowering the weight.
II. Crossbody DB extension: 3 sets x 10-12 reps: 120s rest
Set-up: You will need a flat bench and a dumbbell. I recommend starting with 5-10lbs and working from there. the starting position for this exercise is much like the previous, but with one arm. The non-weightbearing arm should cusp the triceps of the working arm for stability.
Execution: Keep the grasped portion of your arm still as you slowly bend the arm towards your torso. The movement should be directed towards the opposite shoulder. Stop the descent 2-3 inches above your shoulder, then return to the starting position by extending your elbow; repeat.
- Do not lockout between reps.
- A common error in form is to allow the grasped portion of your arm to move (typically moves down your body). To prevent this, you should make sure the supporting arm firmly holds the working arm in place.
- Always move slowly with this exercise. High speeds have less control, which can lead to hitting yourself with the dumbbell (I’ve personally done this..more than once)
IIIa. Cable overhead triceps extension: 3 sets x 10 reps: superset with next exercise
Set-up: You will need a high cable pulley and a rope attachment. Face away from the machine while holding the rope above your head much like a soccer player during an inbound. Take a shallow lunge forward with one leg, this should naturally tighten the cable. Lean forward slightly so the cable can easily clear your head.
Execution: Begin extending your elbows to move the rope forward. Spread the rope apart as you extend. Stop just before lockout, then return in the reverse direction at half the speed; repeat.
- Try allowing your upper arms to stretch back towards the machine to accompany your elbow bend between reps.
- If your torso is rocking during the movement, the weight is too heavy.
IIIb. Cable rope triceps extension: 3 sets x 10 reps: 120s rest
Set-up: You have already completed the set-up for this exercise in the previous workout. Face the machine and grasp the rope. Your upper arms should be tight against your rib cage, and elbows should be at a 45 degree bend. Make sure your chest is up with posture and your head is neutral.
Execution: While keeping your chest upright, extend your elbows and split the rope until you reach a solid contraction. The rope should be separated as if you were putting your fists in your pockets. Return to the starting position and stop just before the weights clank on the cable machine; repeat.
- A common error with this exercise is allowing the chest/shoulders to drop. I find it helps to keep your head facing forward.
- Make sure you are actually spreading the entire rope and not just the lower 3rd of it.
- Your upper arms should remain still, lower the weight if you can’t keep them still.
This concludes the workout. Pair this with chest, biceps, or shoulders.
- 3-5 repetitions per stretch
- 10-20s second hold each
Kyle Blair, BS Exercise Physiology, CPT, SPT
You had another healthy workout.