Tricep Triple Threat: Three Exercises for Tricep Size & Bench Strength

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A1Supplements Tricep WorkoutThe triceps never seem to get the same amount of attention or respect as the biceps, but in the world of strength training, the triceps are vital to every type of pressing movement, from the bro-favorite bench press to the overhead press to dips. They all depend on the triceps to lock the weight out at the top, and if your tricep training only consists of a few sets of kickbacks at the end of your chest workouts, we’ve got just the fix for your lackluster horseshoes.

Today, we’re giving you three of our favorite muscle and strength-building tricep exercises. Incorporate these exercises into your weekly training program and watch your strength and power on the bench press skyrocket.

Let’s start by discussing why the triceps are so important.

Why Train Triceps?

While most lifters tend to focus on building a better bicep peak, what they should be more focused on is building up a pair of thick, meaty triceps. The triceps make up roughly 2/3 of the arm, and are critical to locking out on the bench press, as well as breaking through sticking points in the overhead press. Nevermind the fact that having a pair of monster horseshoes makes you look that much more impressive in a t-shirt.

The triceps also help stabilize the elbows under heavy load, which pays dividends for joint health and a long, pain-free life of lifting.

In other words, if you’re serious about lifting weight, performing optimally, and avoiding injury, you want strong triceps.Triceps Anatomy 101

The triceps, as the name implies, are made up of three separate heads:

•Long head
•Medial head
•Lateral head

The long head is the big meaty portion on the back side of your arm. The lateral head is the “front” of the horseshoe, and the medial head can be found on the inside of the upper arm and beneath the long head. All three heads of the triceps insert into the elbow, but their origins differ slightly. The long head originates on the scapula, while the medial and lateral heads originate on the posterior surface of the humerus.

The primary function of the triceps is to extend the elbow[1], but that’s not all. Due to the fact that the long head of the tricep crosses the shoulder joint and attaches to the scapula, it also plays a role in drawing the arm behind the body.

Therefore, in order to get a maximal stretch on the long head of the triceps, you need to get the arm up overhead, and to get a peak contraction on it, you must extend the elbow as well as get the arm behind the body.

Now, while it’s not possible to isolate just one head of the triceps during an exercise, it is possible to emphasize the actions of one head over the other two depending on what you do with your arms.

Using the pushdown as an example to show how you can emphasize either the long head or the medial head:

•If you turn your arms in during the pushdown, you will focus more on the lateral (outer) head of the triceps.
•On the flip side, if turn your arms out (using an underhand grip), you will focus more on the medial head.

A1Supplements Tricep Workout While this might not seem that important, if you’re looking to optimally develop your triceps, you’re going to need to include some exercises that have you not only extending the elbow but also extending the arm behind the body. Additionally, to maximally stimulate and work the triceps to the fullest extent possible, you want to hit them from all angles by choosing exercises that hit every head.

With that said, let’s get onto the best exercises to increase tricep size and bench strength.

3 Tricep Exercises to Increase Bench Strength

A good rule of thumb when choosing exercises to increase muscle and strength (regardless of muscle group) is:

•If an exercise allows you to use more weight, it’s probably more effective

As such, the basis of any training program (including your tricep specialization training) should be built around heavy, compound movements that allow for maximum overload and recruitment of the muscle fibers. Isolation work still has its place, and will be incorporated here to emphasize the long head of the triceps.

With that said, let’s get to the exercises you can use to build up your triceps and increase your bench press:

Weighted Dips

Dips are awesome.

In addition to being a great tricep mass builder, the dip also hits the deltoids, pec major, and pec minor — all of which are involved in the bench press.. On top of that, dips also help should stability since you perform them from a hanging position.

The dip is also great in that it allows you to increase your pressing work beyond the typical bench press range of motion. Training in different planes of motion creates new stimuli for the muscles, helping uncover “hidden gains” that pay into building up your bench strength.Dips can also be done using a limited range of motion to address any weak points you may have.

If you’re a seasoned lifter, bodyweight dips are probably a bit too easy for you. To increase the challenge, wear a squat belt and hang plates or kettlebells from your waist. The added weight will help keep you in the 8-12 rep range.

One last tip — when performing the dip, lower until your upper arms are parallel to the ground, then press back up to the top. Doing so will keep the tension on the triceps and prevent undue stress from being placed on the shoulder.

Close Grip Floor Press

This exercise combines two of the great tricep-focused pressing variations (close grip bench press & floor press) into one awesome exercise, and it can be performed with dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, or Swiss bars.

Why use a floor press instead of a close grip flat bench?

When performing a floor press, the elbows flex to roughly 90 degrees, making the triceps the primary mover as the top half of the bench press is where the triceps are needed to lock out the weight. FYI, the chest muscles are more active during the lower half of the bench press.

Additionally, by using a narrower grip than you would typically use during a standard bench or floor press, the elbows are forced into deeper flexion at the bottom of the press, making the triceps have to work that much hard to lift the weight and lock out the arms.

It’s also worth noting that many lifters experience shoulder pain when performing the traditional flat bench press (most likely due to an excess of benching and a lack of back/rear delt work over the years). The floor press, however, is typically better tolerated compared to the traditional bench press for two big reasons:

•Pressing from the floor limits the range of motion, reducing extension at the shoulder while still providing a good training stimulus for the triceps and pecs, and
•You can use a neutral grip, which tends to be more shoulder friendly.

A1Supplements Tricep Workout Lastly, pressing from the floor also helps reduce lower back pain, which many people experience during conventional bench pressing. Floor presses reduce lumbar extension, which is brought on by excessive arching.

Overhead Cable Tricep Extension

While the overhead extension isn’t a compound exercise and can’t be loaded up nearly as heavy as dips or floor presses, the overhead cable tricep extension has the benefit of blasting the long head of the triceps. It’s best saved for later in your workouts after completing the heavier work on the compound movements we just discussed..

As we explained up top, when your arm is up over head, the long head of the triceps is maximally stretched. This makes the overhead cable tricep extension ideally suited to help emphasize and strengthen the long head of the triceps. Additionally, by using cables, you’re able to keep tension on the triceps throughout the entire range of motion. Dumbbell and EZ-bar overhead extensions are difficult at the bottom and get significantly easier at the top.

Now, let’s see how to incorporate these exercises into a complete tricep training program.

Complete Triceps Workout

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Close Grip Floor Press

4

10 / 10 / 8 / 6

Weighted Dips

4

8-10

Overhead Cable Tricep Extension

3

10-12

Diamond Push Ups

2

AMRAP

References

1. Landin D, Thompson M, Jackson M. Functions of the Triceps Brachii in Humans: A Review. J Clin Med Res. 2018;10(4):290-293. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5827912/



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