THE TRICEPS BRACHII muscle, as the name implies, consists of three heads (medial, lateral and long). So why do so many people employ so few angles and variations when training their triceps? It seems as though the typical routine involves pressdowns with a bar or rope, some lying extensions and little else. But to fully develop mass, shape and detail in the muscle, you need to run the gamut of exercises. Here are some guidelines on hammering out your horseshoes.
TARGET: Lateral head
MOVES: Close-grip bench press, weighted dip
Lying extensions are a great massbuilder, but nothing beats the closegrip bench for adding size to the backs and sides of the upper arms. The key is not using too narrow of a grip — keep your hands about 12 inches apart so you can use a fairly heavy weight, which is crucial for developing size.
Weighted dips are another great mass-building move. Keep your body upright to maximally impact the triceps; don’t angle your torso forward as you would to focus on your pecs. I always preferred using enough weight to fail at 10 reps or less; save the sets of 12–15 reps for exercises such as pressdowns and kickbacks.
TARGET: Long head
MOVES: All overhead extensions
Overhead movements are clearly the best way to hit the triceps’ long head, but I suggest using as many different variations of overhead extensions as possible. One of my favorites is the one-arm overhead dumbbell extension. Most bodybuilders rely on the two-arm version, but if you have any size imbalance from arm to arm, you’ll only perpetuate it by doing twoarm moves. That’s where one-arm extensions prove effective.
Another personal favorite is the overhead cable extension, in which you attach a straight bar or rope to a low-pulley cable and follow the same technique as with a dumbbell. These can be performed seated or standing. What I like so much about the cable version is the constant tension it provides. If you’re used to doing only dumbbell extensions, you’ll definitely be sore the day after using a cable.
TARGET: Medial head
MOVES: Reverse-grip pressdown, lying extension
If you want great triceps, you should never neglect the medial head. Using a reverse grip on pressdowns is a great way to do this (an EZ-bar attachment can alleviate stress on the wrists). For a more novel exercise, try reverse-grip lying barbell extensions (again, an EZbar may be more comfortable). Just keep in mind, you’ll want to use a significantly lighter weight than you would for standard lying extensions. - FLEX