Terrific Triceps - Build Arm Mass to Stretch Your Shirt Sleeves

Terrific Triceps

Keep in mind that the triceps are two-thirds of your total arm size.

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The "gun" shirt-typically short sleeved, tight and unequaled for exhibiting 20-plus-inch arms. Standing out front of any competition hall, the bodybuilders in the audience make a statement to each passerby about the impact of large arms. Most of the women wear strapless or sleeveless outfits, while the men with big egos and arms-or both- wear the customary "gun" shirt.

Of all the bodyparts, arms are probably the most popular to train and exhibit. Few bodybuilders, recreational or competitive, are ever satisfied with the size or shape of their arms. The size of any arm, however, is dependent on its triceps development, since most of the mass of the upper arm is found on the triceps.

While the triceps consists of three heads-long, medial and lateral-most people talk about an "inner" and "outer" head. The mass of the triceps includes both the long and medial heads, or what's known as the "inner triceps." This part produces most of the force during triceps exercises. The lateral head is referred to as the "outer triceps," and while it is harder to isolate, it is this area that gives the muscle its horseshoe appearance.


Although all three heads of the triceps cross at the elbow, it is possible to isolate certain heads to get different results. The position of your elbows and forearms during each exercise has much to do with which heads will be worked. If your elbows are positioned out and away from your body with your forearms pronated, you'll work primarily the inner area of the muscle, that is, the long and the medial heads. If your elbows are in close and your grip is wide and supinated, you'll work primarily the lateral head.

It is the lateral head of the triceps that determines the way this muscle looks. If that's your concern, you should concentrate on it rather than on the long and medial heads, which are more hidden in the inside part of your arm. If you are interested in overall arm size and strength, however, you'll want to work mostly the inner triceps.

Let's look at two workouts that include exercises for all three heads of the triceps. Generally, you will begin each workout with an exercise for the overall muscle, since that will be the movement that utilizes the heaviest weight. Isolated exercises working the inner and outer triceps follow.

Workout Schedule 1

Lying extensions 4-6x15,12,8

Rope pulldowns 3x6-8

Dumbbell kickbacks 3x8

Workout Schedule 2

Triceps pressdowns 15-15-12-12

Bench dips 3x12-15

One-arm cable pulldowns 3x15

Workout 1 utilizes fewer repetitions per set and will therefore allow you to lift heavier weight. The repetition scheme stresses primarily the fast-twitch fibers and is excellent for developing power. The higher repetition scheme of workout 2 stresses both fast- and slow-twitch fibers. By alternating the workouts, you can achieve maximal hypertrophy of both the fast and slow muscle fibers and put on the most size.

Exercise Descriptions:

Triceps pressdowns (works the overall muscle). Standing in front of a pulley machine, grab the handle with your forearms parallel and your elbows close to your sides. Press the bar down in a semicircle without letting your elbows drift back. As you push down, keep your shoulders down and your wrists locked. Control the movement of the bar back up until it reaches the level of your chest.

Lying French presses (works the overall muscle). Lie on a bench with the base of your head against the end of the bench.

Grab the barbell with a narrow grip, palms facing up. Position the bar slightly behind your head with your arms extended. Keeping your upper arms stationary and your elbows close together, bend at the elbows and lower the bar to your forehead. Press the bar back up and repeat.

Rope pulldowns (works the outer triceps). Place a rope on a triceps pushdown machine. Grab the rope with your palms facing one another. Keeping your elbows close to your body, lower the rope, bringing your hands apart until your arms are fully extended. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.

Bench dips (works the inner triceps). With your hands behind your back support yourself on your palms at the end of a bench. Elevate your feet on another bench, with your knees bent. Your training partner can place extra weight on your lap. Lower your torso, keeping your body slightly forward, until you feel a stretch in your arms and chest; then push up until your arms are straight.

Dumbbell kickbacks. This exercise can work either head depending on whether you pronate (inner head) or supinate (outer head) your forearm during the motion. While holding a dumbbell in one hand, lean forward and support yourself by placing the opposite hand on a low bench. Your torso should be parallel to the floor. Bend your elbow and position yourself so your upper arm is along your side and your forearm is hanging straight down toward the floor. Contract only your triceps, which will cause your elbow to fully extend. Slowly lower and repeat.

One-arm cable pulldowns (same as kickback, inner or outer depending on forearm position). Stand about one foot in front of a cable pulldown machine. Grab a handle with your knuckles facing down and pull the handle down to chest level. Keeping your elbow stationary, move the handle down in an arc until your triceps is fully extended. Slowly return to starting position and repeat.

By knowing which exercises work a specific area of the triceps, you can customize a workout to meet your specific needs. Give these workouts a try, and you'll build triceps that you'll be proud to display in a "gun" shirt.





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