Get Your Triceps Right with This Triset Program
by Roger Lockridge
When women start training or are looking to get back to fitness, there are certain areas that many of them make priorities.One of these areas are the back of the arms. People who say that women don’t focus on their arms as much as guys do simply don’t know what they’re talking about. One difference is that men typically focus on building their biceps, whereas ladies are concerned with the other side. Also, men concern themselves with size, but ladies seek definition and sculpting their “tris” so they look great but may not be impressive in terms of size. If you’re someone who has considered the triceps a troubled area, then you should keep reading because this plan will be the ticket for your own version of the gun show.
What is the Tricep?
The tricep brachii, also known as simply “tricep”, is the muscle that makes up the back of the upper arm. It’s a three headed muscle that is actually bigger than the biceps, which is only a two headed muscle. The triceps are also the antagonist muscle to the biceps. Whereas the bicep is responsible for bending the elbow joint and for pulling, the primary responsibility of the triceps are to extend the elbow joint, or straighten your arm. They’re also involved in pushing or pressing anything away from you. So although many presses are primarily for the chest or shoulders, the triceps are also involved throughout the movement. The triceps are also recruited with much different movements like stabilizing the elbow when you’re writing.
The individual muscles that make up the tricep are known as the long head, lateral head, and medial head. The long head attaches above your shoulder joint. The medial head is near the middle of the upper arm and is mostly covered by the long and lateral heads. The lateral head is on the outward side of the upper arm bone. Together, the three heads of the tricep make up two thirds of the upper arm.
It should make sense that if you want to develop the triceps to the best of your ability and maximize your potential for great arms, you should focus on each head of the tricep individually. That will be the focus of this program. Each of the three exercises will help you target one of the three heads so when you’re finished, you’ve properly fatigued the entire back of your upper arms.
Warming Up and Stretching
As ambitious as you may be to get right into the training, you should make it a point to warm up and stretch the muscles you’re going to train before you get serious. This is to maximize the quality of the workout, prevent injury, and establish a mind-muscle connection; which is very important for any body part, but especially for the triceps since you will focus on individual aspects of the muscle.
You should also stretch during the workout between sets so you can keep the muscles warm and help blood transfer to the area so you can recover better after the workout is over. This also can help prevent the delayed onset muscle soreness (or DOMS) that you may feel 24-48 hours after the training is over.
Furthermore, this can be time that you spend visualizing how you will proceed with the workout and take your mind off all the other things going on in your life. The escape from the stress of life and focus on the workout at hand will play a big role in increasing the effectiveness of your training.
When it comes to the lateral head of the tricep, exercises with your arms to your sides and an overhead grip work best. The bench dip will make a great exercise here for two reasons.
- It fits the criteria for an exercise for the lateral head.
- Compound, or multijoint, exercises are best performed when your energy is high which would be at the beginning of the workout. The bench dip involves the elbow joint as well as the shoulder joint.
Position yourself so your feet are on one bench with your legs straight and you’re holding yourself up on another bench by your arms, with your palms down on the bench and your fingers pointing forward.
Bend at the elbow and lower yourself as much as possible without taking your feet off the other bench.
Make sure that your shoulders are below your elbows before you press yourself back up.
Using force from your triceps, press yourself back up until your arms are straight and supporting your bodyweight again.
Squeeze the triceps at the top before lowering yourself down again.
Repeat for the desired number of reps.
To make the exercise more challenging, have a partner place weight plates on your thighs.
Long Head – Seated Overhead Dumbbell Extension
The long head of your tricep is activated by overhead movements. You can use one heavy dumbbell and hold it with both arms so you can have better control of the weight. Doing this movement from a seated position will help restrict your movement and prevent cheating or using momentum to lift the weight.
Sit on the end of a bench with one dumbbell and hold it with both arms over your head so the weight is vertical and the inside of one end of the dumbbell is resting on your palms.
Your arms should be straight. While keeping your elbows in as much as possible, bend your elbows and lower the weight behind your head until you feel a stretch in the back of the arm.
Don’t try to lower it too far or you might risk injury.
Using force from your triceps, press the weight back up over your head until your arms are straight and the weight is back to the starting position.
Repeat for the desired number of reps.
Medial Head – Underhand Grip Straight Bar Cable Pressdown
The medial head of the tricep are the most difficult to isolate and may be the most neglected area for both female and male lifters. You focus on the medial head with your upper arms to your sides and an underhand grip. At this point, a cable movement with a fixed pattern will be both effective and safe.
Place a straight handle attachment to the upper pulley of a cable station.
Take an underhand shoulder width grip of the attachment and bring your upper arms into your sides.
While keeping your upper arms into your sides, pull the handle down and straighten your elbows until you can contract your triceps.
After squeezing the triceps, slowly allow the handle to return to the starting position.
Don’t let the handle come up so high that it pulls your elbows away from your body.
Repeat for the desired number of reps.
Be prepared, as you’ll likely not be able to do the same weight that you would do with overhead pressdowns, so use less resistance and focus on activating the triceps.
Trisets to Torch the Tris
Now that you know the exercises, it’s time to train. If you’re a beginner, then perform each movement one at a time, for three sets of 12-15 reps with 90 seconds rest between each set, until you’re familiar with the movements and feel comfortable doing them on a regular basis.
For intermediate or advanced athletes, you can add intensity to the program by doing trisets. Trisets are doing three movements in succession without taking a rest between each movement. For example, you would perform bench dips immediately followed by seated overhead dumbbell extension, followed by underhand straight handle cable pressdowns. Then you would take a brief rest before repeating the triset of tricep exercises. Not only does this make the workout more intense, but you’ll still be able to train effectively and save time in your busy day.
Beginner Triceps Workout
- Bench Dips – Three sets of 12-15 reps.
- Seated Overhead Dumbbell Extension – Three sets of 12-15 reps.
- Underhand Straight Handle Cable Pressdown – Three sets of 12-15 reps.
- Rest for 90 seconds between each set.
Bench Dips/Seated Overhead Dumbbell Extension/Underhand Straight Handle Cable Pressdown – Three or four trisets of 12-15 reps each.
- Perform each exercise in succession before resting.
- Rest for 60-90 seconds between each triset.
Once you’re used to doing the trisets, you can do this program twice a week if you feel the extra volume will help you. Train the triceps with another push muscle group, like chest or shoulders, and again on their own, three or four days later. If you choose to do the twice a week routine, don’t do it for longer than a few weeks before changing your plan. You can also make the workout interesting by changing the order of exercises each time you train the triceps, which can also help improve results. After eight weeks of this program, you should see significant improvements in the back of the arm.
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