FACT: To get big arms you need to work the triceps HARD.
FACT: I'm going to tell you how to work the triceps HARD and SMART.
If you've ever read articles on arm training, you've probably learned that the tricep muscle makes up about 2/3 of total arm mass. The bicep, while being a great "show" muscle, is actually relatively small!
That's all well and good, and just blindly doing tricep exercises without a plan may net you some results, but to really maximize your triceps (as I mentioned above) you need to work them SMART.
So if you really want to stretch your T-shirt sleeves to the max, take a crack at this workout. It contains three of THE most powerful tricep exercises I've ever used. Not only that, these exercises are arranged strategically to literally force the activation of many more muscle fibers in the triceps, leading to greater muscle growth and strength fast!
The best part is, this workout requires very little in the way of specialized equipment!
In the next section, I will tell you about the three exercises (with a link at the bottom to use for pictures of the exercises in action as well as more detailed instructions). Then, I'll tell you how the exercises work together to help you blast your triceps into next week!
EXERCISE #1 - Bodyweight Tricep Extensions - 2 sets of 8 to 12 reps
EXERCISE #2 - In-Set Superset of Lying Tricep Extensions and Close Grip Bench Press - 3 sets of 6 to 8 reps
EXERCISE #3 - Bench Dips - 2 sets of 10 to 12+ reps
Take 90 seconds rest in between each set.
How To Perform Exercise #1 - Bodyweight Tricep Extensions
2 sets of 8 to 12 reps
For this exercise, you will need a horizontal bar/edge about 2 feet off the ground. You can use a Smith machine bar, Universal bench handles, a railing, the edge of a chair or table, or even an Olympic bar set in the power rack with the safety rails a few feet off the ground will work.
Essentially, any horizontal bar that is 1 to 2 feet off the ground will do. It should have some clearance underneath it so you have somewhere to put your head.
This exercise has a demonstration video at the link below as well as more detailed instructions and pictures, including how to make this exercise easier or harder. It is HIGHLY recommended to see the pics and video before trying the exercise.
-Stand in front of the bar, about a foot back from it. Place your hands about 6 inches apart with a thumbless (false) grip.
-Step back a few feet, letting your body straighten out as you do so.
-Keep your abs tight so that your body stays supported
-Now lower your entire body forward, bending only at your elbows, so that your head ducks under the bar as though you are trying to do an overhead tricep stretch.
-Keep your elbows tucked in close the whole way.
-Keep your entire body tight and stiff. The only movement should occur at the elbows.
-Extend back up using your triceps.
This exercise will build up the long head of the triceps (which runs along the undersides of the arm) as well as give your triceps a great stretch.
How to Perform Exercise #2 - In-Set Superset of Lying Tricep Extensions and Close Grip Bench Press
3 sets of 6 to 8 reps
Note: One rep of each exercise (1 extension and 1 press) counts as one total rep for our purposes here.
This is a unique type of Superset where you basically mesh two different exercises into a single set - preferably one isolation exercise and one compound exercise.
For this Superset, we'll be using EZ Bar Lying Tricep Extensions and Close Grip Bench Press (with the same EZ Bar). Use a weight you would normally be able to do about 12 reps with for Lying Extensions on their own.
In a nutshell, you will do one rep of extensions then one rep of close grip presses, alternating reps until you can no longer do any reps of the extensions. At that point, you finish with as many reps as you can do of the close grip presses. It's a very intense technique!
This type of Superset maximizes training intensity and allows you to work several different aspects of the muscle at the same time, dramatically increasing workout efficiency.
This exercise is best done lying on the floor (especially if you are training alone) rather than on a bench. If you have a spotter to hand you the weight at the start and grab the weight for you when you're done, you can do these on a flat bench.
Start with a rep of the Lying Tricep Extension. Lower the bar to your forehead then extend back up. Now do a single rep of the Close Grip Press, lowering the bar to your lower rib cage area then pressing back up. Now do another extension, then another press. Repeat until you can no longer do any extensions with good form. Now finish with as many presses as you can do with good form. That's one set!
How to Perform Exercise #3 - Bench Dips
2 sets of 10 to 12+ reps
(the number of reps you're able to get will depend on the body position you use for the exercise)
You can use a bench (or even an ordinary chair) for this one. Start by sitting on the bench. Place your hands on the bench right beside your glutes with your fingers curled over the front edge. It will almost look as though you are sitting on your hands.
Where you set your feet will affect how hard this exercise is. The easiest position is with your feet flat on the floor a foot or two away from the bench. Your knees will be bent.
To make this exercise harder, move your feet further away from the bench (you can straighten your legs). This forces your triceps to take up more of your bodyweight. Your next position after that is with your feet up on a bench with your legs straight. You may even with to try it with your feet on a bench that is higher than the one you have your hands on.
But if you're REALLY looking for a challenge, move your bench so that it's facing a wall (about 2 or 3 feet away). Instead of resting your feet on the floor or on a bench, place your feet flat ON the wall.
That way, the only thing holding you up is your legs pushing back HARD directly against your triceps as you do the exercise. The contraction you will feel in your triceps will be so strong and painful that it's almost cruel!
To start the exercise, move your butt forward off the bench a few inches. Now dip your upper body down as though scraping your back along the front edge of the bench. Push yourself back up, squeezing the triceps hard.
Why This Workout Is So Effective:
As I said above, the key to building the triceps is to work them hard AND smart.
We start the workout with an exercise that puts the triceps in a stretched position. The stretch position has two main benefits - the first is what is called the myotatic reflex (a.k.a. stretch reflex).
When the muscle is placed under tension in the stretched position, a quick change in direction causes more muscle fibers to activate than normally would. This change in direction should NOT be a bounce but almost a twitch.
So when you get to the bottom of the Bodyweight Tricep Extension, get the stretch in your triceps then change direction quickly (but don't bounce!!)
The second benefit of the stretch position is in helping to stretch the fascia surrounding the muscle. Fascia is basically a connective tissue "pillowcase" that holds a muscle in place. Fascia is tough and restricts muscle growth. Stretching helps loosen the fascia and make room for the muscles to grow.
Now we move to the second exercise(s). The In-Set Superset combines two movements into one exercise. The Extensions provide another stretch-position exercise for the triceps (this stretch position is not as complete as the overhead position from the first exercise, though) and the press gives you a compound exercise that allows the shoulders and chest to help push the triceps harder.
Completing each set with a burn-out on the presses will really light up your triceps.
Now we move to the coup-de-grace: the Bench Dip. With this exercise, we are looking for a maximum contraction. The position that your arms are in (behind your body) is the position where ALL the muscle fibers of the triceps are in optimal position for peak contraction.
Just keeping your arms straight and trying to touch your hands behind your back will demonstrate that.
After the stretch-position movement and the double-trouble of the In-Set Superset, you hit the triceps with the hardest contraction they are anatomically able to achieve.
Let me tell you right now...if you've not felt your triceps swell up like balloons before, this combination of exercises will do it! And, you'll achieve huge gains in tricep muscle development very quickly!
Nick Nilsson is Vice-President of BetterU, Inc. and has been inventing new training techniques and exercises for 17+ years. Nick has written many training books including "Muscle Explosion! 28 Days To Maximum Mass" & "Metabolic Surge - Rapid Fat Loss" - http://www.fitness-ebooks.com