We are back with another article talking about the only two exercises you need, this time to build big triceps. If you missed the last two instalments in this series, be sure to check out the CHEST and BACK articles.
One point I want to make really quickly, is that the triceps are a bit different to train than the biceps. With the biceps, any curling motion (for the most part) will train both biceps heads equally. You’ll just make changes with your grip to target each head a little more individually. But triceps work a bit different.
That’s because the long head of the triceps crosses the shoulder joint, which means the degree of its activation depends on the position of your elbow and shoulder. Basically, the more you elevate your elbow, the more LONG HEAD engagement an exercise will provide. Now that you’re armed with this information, you’ll need one exercise that will help you overload the triceps safely with maximum weight, and another one that will engage and specifically target the long head for growth. Those two exercises are the Close-Grip Bench Press and the Seated Overhead Extension (or as I like to call them, POWERBOMBS!).
Exercise #1: Close-Grip Bench Press
Proper form for this movement sees you go into the regular bench press position, however, the major difference here from this compared to a bench press is that you’re going to be grabbing the barbell with your hands quite close together. You basically want to make sure that when you’re grabbing the barbell, your elbows are in a position so that when you’re holding the weight over your chest, they can come down as close to your torso as possible, without you having to flare your elbows.
You never want to close-grip bench press with your hands literally right next to each other though – just because the exercise is called a ‘close-grip’ bench press, it doesn’t mean your hands have to be as close as humanly possible. If you were benching with your hands right next to each other, you will be putting a lot of stress and tension in your wrists, which then compounds and hits your elbow, which then can obviously affect your shoulder. You want to keep everything nice and straight.
From the starting position, with the bar in the air above you, you want to keep your wrists straight, flex your glutes and arch your back, again using the same exact form as you would for a bench press. You’ll then bring the weight down over your torso, close to your belly button. A lot of people when they perform a close-grip bench press will still bench it over their chest. However, that’s NOT what the exercise is for, and if you want to target your triceps as much as possible, you want to bench over your TORSO, and make sure you’re pressing back up over your TORSO.
Think about it as if you were doing a dip. If you were doing a dip, you’d be coming down in a position where your hands still line up with your torso. The reason I’m not suggesting a dip INSTEAD of the close-grip bench press is that I know not everyone can do a dip. Also, for a lot of people, heavy weighted dips can cause shoulder pain if you have some flexibility issues. When it comes to the close-grip bench press, pretty much everyone can overload safely and progress with this movement. If you want to see a video I made comparing the close-grip bench press to the dip, you can check that out HERE.
Exercise #2: Powerbomb
This is one of my absolute favorite exercises for triceps. Remember, the close-grip bench press was for maximum overload, and with the powerbomb you’re still going to overload as much as possible, but it also has some important benefits for the triceps. Number one, because you’re elevating your elbows as high as possible, you’re placing a lot more emphasis on that long head of the triceps. Number two, this movement, compared to other triceps exercises like the rope extension or skullcrusher, will allow you to get the deepest stretch possible before returning back to the starting position.
Proper form is very easy. I like to throw the dumbbell up and on top of my shoulder before I sit, that way once I’m in the seated position, I can just press the dumbbell up off my shoulder, and then I’m ready to go. Once in the starting position, keep your wrists straight, lower the dumbbell as far as you possibly can (you should be going all the way down) before returning to the starting position, and repeating for reps.
Another thing is that you should be trying to keep your elbows in towards your head as much as possible. The last thing you want to have happen is that as you do the movement, your elbows flare out. Granted, depending on how big you are, there could be some elbow flare, but as long as you’re twisting those elbows in as close to your head as you can, you’ll be able to maximize the efficiency of the movement. One last quick tip for this movement – if you get elbow pain, try doing some warm-up sets with light weight first, so you can go as heavy as possible on this exercise every single time you do it.
Sets & Reps
Now that you know perfect form, for your next triceps workout I suggest performing 8 sets of 8 – 10 reps of the close-grip bench press, followed by 4 – 5 sets of the same rep range with powerbombs. Always remember that you should always be trying to progress with these two movements. Add weight when you can, and maybe even implement my Cheat & Recover technique if you can find a spotter.
Lastly, you need to stop wasting your time with fluff exercises like the triceps kickback. I don’t care if you’re using a dumbbell or a cable machine. An exercise like this is NOT meant for overloading for growth. Does it still have its place? Of course it does, but more as a finisher or an accessory exercise to be used in a superset when training with high volume. If anyone is telling you an exercise like a triceps kickback is best for muscle growth, they’re either full of shit, full of steroids, or both. Remember that the purpose of these best exercises articles is to help anyone get the most out of their workouts, natty or not.
Close-Grip Bench Press VS (Weighted) Dips | WHICH BUILDS BIGGER TRICEPS FASTER?
Tricep Tips: Eliminating Elbow Pain!