Tony's Training Tips: The Triceps

"The triceps brachii muscle (Latin for "three-headed muscle of the arm") is the large muscle on the back of the upper limb of many vertebrates. It is the muscle principally responsible for extension of the elbow joint (straightening of the arm).” -Wikipedia

Adequate lock out strength can be a significant limiter in many exercises. If you consider the vast variety of effected movements, we have pushups, dips, ring dips, muscle ups, bar muscle ups, strict press, push press, snatch, jerks, and even Burpees; just to name a few. We have all experienced those workouts when the “oh so innocent” pushups have us performing sets of one to two reps for most of the workout, and it’s not much fun. Having a strong lockout won’t likely allow you to crush everything unbroken, but it is a good place to start. Below are three of my favorite accessory exercises to develop the triceps.

Banded Triceps Push-Downs are number one on my list, and probably the least utilized. Set two red bands up on a high attachment point and grab them at about elbow level. Rather then standing right underneath the attachment point, take a few steps backward. Push down on the bands while keeping your elbows out in front of you. The bands are uniquely beneficial because they provide constant resistance throughout the entire exercise. Start with just one or two sets of 15-20 reps, as it is easy to over-train such a small muscle group.

The Dumbbell Kick Back is also a go-to exercise when I’m doing accessory work. For one, it is considered to be a unilateral exercise, meaning that you only perform one side at a time, ensuring equal stress is placed on both sides. Set yourself up kneeling on a bench with your upper arm (Humerus) parallel to the floor. Without allowing your elbow to shift, kick the dumbbell back and squeeze your Triceps. As an added bonus, turning the back of your hand up to the ceiling is a bit different than keeping your palm towards your body. Neither technique is right or wrong, just different. Perform 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps for a few weeks before changing it up. Stay pretty light with this, as it doesn’t take much to gain the benefit.

Lastly, we have Barbell Triceps Extensions, or more commonly known as Skull Crushers. I like this one because you can go a bit heavier than most other accessory movements. Playing with grip width changes the stimulus slightly, so pay attention to what you’re recording in your training logs. Lie on a flat bench and lock the barbell out like the top of a bench press. Before lowering the barbell, allow it to slightly shift over your face. There’s not a whole lot to this exercise technique wise, but make sure you do not do this too frequently throughout a training cycle. Unlike the previous two exercises, this one is bilateral, meaning that both sides contribute to executing the movement. One Triceps is likely to be slightly stronger than the other, so as the weaker side fatigues, the stronger side will dominate the rest of the reps, leading to a muscular imbalance that increases likelihood of injury. You can go heavier with this one so start with 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps.

-Coach Tony