As they are such large muscles, those looking to build large looking, aesthetic arms are generally mistaken in focussing on the biceps. Though large biceps contribute to the whole, the main focus needs to be on the triceps – they have far more potential to grow, and this is where most of the strength and size gains will come from. It is crucial to work them regularly as part of the ‘t-shirt’ group of muscles if you’re focussed on physique.
However, as with biceps (or any other muscle group, for that matter), there is a lot more to be gained from triceps training than aesthetics alone.
Triceps are involved with many upper body movements, both simple and complex. Every push that your upper body performs will rely on the triceps, as every push will involve bending and straightening the elbows. You cannot have a strong military or bench press without having strong triceps. You won’t be able to perform dips or push ups confidently or competently without them.
Strong triceps are also vital for shoulder stability. They insert beneath the shoulder blades and have a key interplay with the deltoids and the muscles of the upper back. They will be involved in rotation and adduction of the arm. Weak triceps will destabilise the shoulder joint at the top of the humerus – the bone of the upper arm. Conversely, strong triceps will stabilise the shoulder joint. GymNation's personal trainers can help you put your fitness first by showing you the best tricep workouts!
Hand and forearm fine motor movements are also dependent on healthy functioning, well-supported triceps, specifically the medial head. Triceps fixate the elbow joint in such movements. The long head is used for force generation, the lateral for movements needing higher-intensity force, and the medial head for these more precise, low-force, subtle movements.
Movements that involve pressing or straightening the arm, or arm adduction, will work the triceps – overhead and bench presses, push ups, dips, as well as straight arm pulldowns, layouts and ab wheels. They work well as part of compound movements like these larger presses but can also be trained in isolation using exercises like pushdowns.
They also benefit from both high and low rep work, meaning plenty of heavy pressing followed by assistance work in higher sets. For example, you could bench press a few sets in the 3-4 rep range, then perform sets of 20 push ups, then go for layouts and pushdowns in the 12 rep range for a well-rounded triceps workout.
All chest presses will work the triceps nicely. However, dips are particularly brutal to them, and will elicit particularly profound adaptation. For best results through the triceps, and to remove the chest a little from the effort, begin with arms nearly locked out and only come down around 2/3 of the way intoMain muscles used:
- Anterior deltoids
TRICEPS PUSH DOWNS
Push downs are the main go-to isolation movement for the triceps, much as curls are to the biceps. They remove pretty much all assistance from surrounding muscles, meaning that the triceps take most of the workload.
Main muscles used:
The push up is one of the best upper body movements, with great practical carryover, great muscle building potential, and great accessibility due to the lack of equipment needed to perform it. As a push, it also engages the chest and triceps as they are meant to be engaged.
As a bodyweight movement that pushes the torso through space, rather than a weight to and from the torso, push ups are also very good for core stability, control and balance.
Main muscles used:
- Anterior deltoids
- Upper back
Triceps are key in both performance and aesthetics.
Though most people head for the biceps curls when looking to grow their arms, 2/3 of the upper arms are comprised of the triceps – hypertrophy through the triceps is therefore very important when looking to build out the ‘t-shirt’ muscles.
They are also amongst the prime movers in any pushing exercise, or any movement that uses elbow extension. This includes exercises like push ups and overhead presses, as well as movements like punching and pushing. It is hard to maintain a strong upper body with weak triceps.
Personal Trainer, GymNation Mirdif