Dexter's Response to those Seeking Titanic Triceps
Dear Dexter, I need help with my triceps. My biceps are fine, but triceps are just not there. Here’s the routine I’ve been using:
One-arm cable pushdowns
I do five sets of each exercise, 10 to 12 reps. I hit them right after biceps, twice a week. How can I get my triceps to pop when I’m standing relaxed, just like yours?
I can identify your problem with just a quick glance at your routine. Why are you doing nothing but isolation movements? With the exception of the cable pushdowns, you’re doing finishing movements. These are exercises I would only use at the end of my routine and only when preparing for a contest. It sounds like you haven’t built the necessary mass yet.
If animal size is your objective, stick to the basics. Nothing packs on size like multiple joint, or compound movements. Think of it— when you’re trying to slap slabs of beef onto your chest, you don’t waste time with cable crossovers and pec deck flyes. You load up the bar or grab the heftiest dumbbells you can handle and get to pressing away on the flat or incline bench. Or if you want tree-trunk thighs, you wouldn’t be standing in line waiting behind a housewife for a leg abductor machine, would you? Of course not (unless you wanted to wear long pants at the beach), the same holds true for triceps. If you want massive, hanging triceps that pop out when they’re hanging relaxed, you have to use the basics.
Here’s my suggestion: dips, skull-crushers and close-grip bench presses. These are really all you need for massive triceps. Dips, in my opinion, are probably the best movement around for gigantic, hanging triceps. They really work the belly of the muscle (that thick juicy part right under the deltoid). The best thing about these is that you can go very heavy, overloading the muscle for maximum growth. I prefer to keep my elbows in tight to the sides, as this stresses the triceps more, while minimizing chest involvement. Avoid dipping your chin and resting it on your chest. This will tilt your upper body forward, bringing your chest into play. Keep your head up, eyes straight forward. Don’t lower too far down, as this is harmful to the joints and again, brings the chest into the movement. Raise back up to the top, making sure to lock out. Hold that position for a few seconds, taking advantage of the peak contraction.
For skull-crushers, or lying triceps extensions (or French presses— maybe they do a lot of these in France, so I guess the French all have titanic triceps), lie on a flat bench and use a cambered bar (E-Z curl bar). It’s better to use the cambered bar as it’s easier on the wrists. Holding the bar straight overhead, keep the upper arms stationary and lower the bar to your forehead (hence the name). Lightly touch it to your head and raise it back up while keeping your upper arms motionless. To get a deeper stretch, try hanging your head off the end of the bench, allowing the bar to dip lower to reach your forehead. Keeping your elbows in tight will work more of the inner head. Flaring your elbows out will place more stress on the outer heads. This will definitely make the triceps look like they’re popping out when your arms are hanging relaxed at your sides. Be careful with these, as they can be very stressful to the elbows. In fact, Victor Martinez has banned them from his routine.
Close-grip benches are another great mass builder for the back of the arm. You can use the Olympic bar or stick with the cambered bar to make it easier on your wrists. Lie on a bench and hold the barbell at arms length, over your chest. Lower the bar to your lower chest and press back up. Elbow position here is identical to the skull-crushers. Elbows in for inner head stress, elbows flared out for outer head development. The big advantage here is overload. You can really press a ton of weight on this exercise.
I would do three sets of each for three to four sets, once a week. The triceps get plenty of stimulation from chest and shoulder workouts, so over-training them is easy. You’re totaling 15 sets. You’re way over the limit. In all likelihood, your triceps aren’t growing because of the exercises you’re using and the high number of sets. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to cut your biceps sessions to once a week, too. And you definitely want to train triceps first thing in your workout, when you’re energy levels are at their highest. Good luck.