19 Nov This is the Best Damn Tricep Workout
As a trainer, I listen to several explanations on why a prospective client wants to train. Whether it’s an athlete attempting to improve performance or an office worker who wants to drop 10 pounds, most of us want our bodies to reflect the fact that we’ve made time and economic investments into our health. You may want to get stronger, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting to say, “Damn! I look fucking awesome in this bathing suit!” Everyone has a bit of vanity in them. You may prefer a nice set of abs, broader shoulders, or even a bigger butt.
No matter how you put it, every bro (and most women I know) who train, want nice arms. No one wants a pair of limp, pencil-thin, or unattractive limbs hanging by their sides. It takes working more than one muscle group to create a nice set of “guns.” Your deltoids, biceps, forearms, and triceps each play a significant factor in your appearance. However, I have more questions regarding the triceps than any other upper body muscle, so let’s address proper triceps training.
The Tricep is More Than ONE Muscle
A common mistake I see among gym-goers is not using exercise variation in their sessions or training. It’s a mistake because your body should be performing exercises and movements at different angles, tempos, and intensities. Doing so will help stave off potential injuries by never creating a significant wearing pattern on a joint and eliminate CNS (central nervous system) fatigue. Varying your exercises for a muscle group will also allow you to work different parts of it.
The tricep muscle is made up of three heads: lateral, medial, and long.
If you genuinely wanted nice triceps, the logic should be clear:
If this muscle is made of three parts, then I can’t continually do the same exercise or work it the same way and expect great results, right?
What Your Triceps Need You to Do
Growing muscle requires three things: mechanical tension, muscular damage, and metabolic stress.
Mechanical tension is the process of lifting heavy shit. Here, you need to generate as much force as possible through a full range of motion. Rarely, and I mean very rarely, does this require someone to perform their one rep max of a given lift. For an experienced lifter who understands how to create tension and has good form, I would use a rep range of 3-5. If you’re inexperienced, lower the weight and utilize a rep range of 4-6. You’ll want to practice contracting the right muscles, reducing the weight under the correct tempo, and lifting the weight with maximal force for every repetition.
Lowering the weight under the correct tempo refers to the eccentric (negative) phase of the lift. During this portion, you’ll need to go slow. By doing so, we’re creating muscular damage. If you’re still unsure of what this all means, let me put it to you in simpler terms: it’s the part of lifting weights that should make you sore. Establishing an eccentric tempo of at least four seconds is what you’ll need to promote the stimulation of muscle growth.
Lastly, we need to create metabolic stress. At this stage of the workout, we’ll be chasing “the pump” and going to failure on isolation exercises. Blood will get pumped into the muscles as constant tension is kept, so there’s no rest between reps. By doing so, cellular swelling is created. You’ll need to focus on a strategic pause at the bottom of each rep. At the end of each set, you should experience a moment of failure.
Steps for Success
- FIRE UP YOUR CNS
Before your main lift of the day, I believe it’s always a good idea to excite your central nervous system (CNS). You want to use explosive movements such as jumps, throws, or slams to prepare your body to utilize acceleration and mass in creating maximal force. Including this as the initial phase of your training session will allow you to recruit more muscle fibers in the subsequent lifts.
- CREATE PRE-FATIGUE
Pre-fatigue is the process of performing an isolation exercise (single-joint) to exhaust a targeted muscle, then following it up by performing a compound exercise (multi-joint) using the same muscle group. Use this as a tool to improve your capacity to use a lagging muscle group in the compound lift. Typically, the pre-fatigue method is used in a superset along with the compound lift. However, we’ll use this along with our initial CNS activation exercise to promote time under tension and an increase in lactic acid production.
- THE MAIN LIFT MUST BE A COMPOUND MOVEMENT
Now that we’ve excited the CNS, got our muscle fibers going, and exhausted our triceps, you’ll move on to your main lift of the day. Remember, you’re lowering the weight with a slower tempo, then lifting the weight with maximal force. We want to create the best muscular contraction with the most quality reps as possible.
- ACTIVATE THE mTOR PATHWAY
After the compound lift is completed, we’ll look to activate mTor with our next lift. mTor is the mammalian target of rapamycin. It’s the most vital cell signaling complex for muscle growth. From a training perspective, the way to stimulate mTor is by a using a slow negative of 4-5 seconds followed by a 1-2 pause at the bottom of a lift. You should be flexing the targeted muscle, the tricep in this case, as hard as possible.
- FEEL THE BURN WITH A MECHANICAL DROP SET
Mechanical drop sets use three variations of a single movement pattern. These are done consecutively with five to ten seconds of brief rest between exercises. It’s imperative that you order the exercises from weakest to strongest.
A1. Med Ball Press 3 x 5 (CNS activation)
A2. Banded Tricep Pushdowns 3 x 10 (pre-fatigue)
B. Neutral Grip DB Floor Press (compound movement for mechanical tension) 5 x 3-5, rest 2 minutes or 4 x 4-6, rest 90-120 seconds
C. Floor DB Tricep Extensions 4 x 6-8, eccentric lowering of 3 seconds (muscular damage and mTor activation), rest 60-75 seconds between sets
Mechanical Drop Set (metabolic stress) of the following:
D1. Reverse Grip (underhand) Tricep Pushdown (medial head) 3 x 8-10, rest 5-10 seconds
D2. Rope Tricep (neutral grip) Pushdown (lateral head) 3x AMRAP, rest 5-10 seconds
D3. Pronated (overhand) Grip Tricep Pushdown (long head) 3x AMRAP, rest for 60-90 seconds.
There you have it! I believe that there are several ways to blast your triceps and create definition, but start here. Stick with this tricep specialization workout for at least four weeks. If you’re getting good results, add an extra two or three weeks. Make sure this workout is completed at least 48-72 hours after your previous upper body training day.