Triceps don’t usually get the attention they deserve. Officially called the Triceps Brachii, which is Latin for “three headed muscle of the arm”, your tricep makes it possible for you to extend your arm and reach for things. Located at the back of the upper arm and running from the shoulder to the elbow, there’s an out-of-sight-out-of-mind mentality when it comes to working out this critical muscle.
Perhaps it’s because working your chest and biceps can involve big heavy weights and you can really see what you’re doing and where you are making gains. However, well-developed triceps not only makes you stronger, they add definition to the arm and balance out the strength and mobility of the bicep muscle.
Different Approaches for Tricep Exercises
You can approach exercises for triceps from two different objectives: building mass or gaining definition. That’s not to say you can’t do or have both, but the way you approach training will be different for each desired outcome.
You probably already know that the most effective workouts work complementary body parts, so rather than doing biceps and triceps on the same day, which can exhaust one muscle before you have worked the other, a good combination is chest and tricep workouts on the same day, and then back and biceps on another day. That can help you fully engage each muscle group and work to fatigue in a productive way.
Building Mass In Your Triceps
If you are looking to build mass, the best triceps exercises will be workouts that use the heaviest weights you can manage and perform the most difficult exercises first. The list exercise that will build the greatest amount of mass in the triceps is relatively short: close-grip presses and dips. You can add variety to dips by using machines, benches or parallel bars, but remember that the heavier the weight the greater the mass achieved.
To build mass start with the exercise that is more challenging for you, and choose a weight that will take you to fatigue in about six to eight reps. Also, try mixing up dips in each set, going from machine to free weights, etc. in rotation. This will help keep you mentally sharp and focused, even when you’re working to muscle failure.
You can still achieve mass in your triceps by doing other type of triceps exercises, like skullcrushers or rope pulls, but the greatest size gains will be made with these two primary exercises.
Achieving Definition In Your Triceps
Definition in the triceps can be achieved using a greater variety of exercises. In addition to dips and close-grip presses, reverse presses (also called skullcrushers,) push downs, triceps extension with a rope, and kickbacks with free weights are all good options.
Definition exercises for triceps are generally performed using a lighter weight with higher reps. If working toward a goal of definition, pay close attention to form. Using a weight that is too heavy can engage other muscles to assist. The best definition comes from isolating the muscle and then working it to fatigue with high reps.
Keep in mind that excess water weight, bloating and fat can impede the definition you want. If you aren’t progressing the way you think you should, take a look at your diet and any supplements you are using to see if they may be causing you to retain water or are making it hard for you to shed excess fat.
The Best Arm Workouts For Men (And Women)
Now that you are paying attention to your triceps, don’t forget the rest of your arms and upper body. Strong, flexible triceps create a beautiful balanced arm when worked compatibly with your shoulders, chest, biceps and back. The best arm workouts are the ones that keep you motivated because they feel good and you’re getting results.
So don’t be afraid to shake up your routine a bit, and do some lower weight, higher rep sets in-between heavy weight, low rep sessions. The end result will be strong, beautiful arms.