The Best Method for Building Bigger Triceps

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Having bigger arms is one of the most common goals for gym-goers. Naturally when thinking of the arms we tend to focus on the biceps; however the main bulk of mass in the upper arm is actually made up of the triceps. The hint is in the names of the upper arm muscles; TRI represents 3 heads on the posterior of the arm while BI represents two on the anterior.

When it comes to training the triceps, it’s important to understand their anatomy in order for you to be able to target each of the three heads effectively and stimulate as much growth as possible.

The Three Heads of the Triceps

  • Lateral – The outer arm (farthest from body)
  • Long – Rear of the arm (behind lateral head)
  • Medial – Lower part of the arm (inner side)

Different movements will result in dissimilar amounts of emphasis being put on each head. While each head of the triceps will contract to some extent during most pressing movements, the following exercises will enable you to isolate each head effectively;

Specific Triceps Exercises & Targeted Heads

  • Overhead Extensions – Target the long head of the triceps
  • Cable Pushdowns (Rope or Bar) – Target the lateral head of the triceps
  • Dips (Bodyweight or Resistance Machine) – Target the Medial head of the triceps

Tip: Most commonly the long head of the triceps is neglected as people tend to stick to push-down movements and dips for their triceps exercises. In order to optimise your triceps growth, ensure you incorporate some overhead movements too.

Rep Ranges & Sets

As for how many repetitions and sets you should be aiming for, studies have shown that a mixture of both high and low repetitions are effective. Performing 3-4 sets on each exercise and aiming for 8-12 or 12-15 repetitions are both great methods; it may be worth alternating between one “heavy day” and one “light day” to reap the benefits from each end of the spectrum.

Frequency

As with all muscle groups, you should aim to train your triceps twice per week. This can either be done as part of a “push, pull, legs” split, “upper, lower” split, or “mixed body-part” split. The total volume of sets should range between 9 and 24 sets per week (which would split to 9-12 per session). Examples of your triceps training days could go as follow:

Triceps Training Routine Example

Training Day 1 (Push)

  • Overhead Dumbbell Extension – 4 x 8-12
  • Bodyweight Dips – 4 x 8-12
  • Cable Rope Pushdown – 4 x 8-12
  • 2-3 exercises for shoulders/chest

Training day 2 (Pull)

Training day 3 (Legs)

Training Day 4 (Push)

  • Overhead Dumbbell Extension – 3 x 12-15
  • Bodyweight Dips – 3 x 12-15
  • Cable Rope Pushdown – 3 x 12-15
  • 2-3 exercises for shoulders/chest

Training day 5 (Pull)

Training day 6 (Legs)

Day 7 – Rest.

Alongside these exercises you would ideally be training 1-2 other muscle groups within a session, in order to make sure you’re able to target each muscle group twice per week.

Take Home Message

Try having one heavier day with more sets and less reps, and one lighter day with higher repetitions and less sets. Get more out of your triceps workouts by ensuring you target each of the three heads!

About the Author

George Platt (BA, Hons.) is a Personal Trainer, Online Coach and Fitness/Nutrition Writer. George’s passion for physical activity and health developed from a young age after having open heart surgery. You can find out more about George via his website or Instagram: @GeorgePFitness93.

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