If you’re looking to increase arm size, look no further than the king of arm muscles – Triceps. Now, don’t actually skip biceps (I recommend doing them on your back day or upper body routine). However, I often see guys endlessly curling dumbbells in hopes of developing more inches on their arms with negligible results.
The reality is just simple math. The biceps are composed of two muscles (the brachii long and short heads), while the triceps are composed of three muscles (the brachii long, lateral, and medial heads). Interestingly enough, the triceps compose more than 60 percent of your total arm mass, making it necessary to train more than biceps if you’re looking to increase total strength and size.
It is recommended that you train them twice a week in conjunction with your chest and shoulder training. This allows you to increase the speed of your arm growth along with your upper body with compound movements. A quick note here – unless you are specializing in a certain move set, you should always try to perform compound movements. Compound exercises are simply multi-joint movements that work several muscle groups at one time (for example, the deadlift engages the core, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, glutes, and lower back in just one exercise).
Your triceps are heavily utilized during chest and shoulder exercises, so it makes it an easy transition to include compound exercises. Training them together also provides a simple way to give each muscle group a small rest in between each set (for example, while performing a tricep rope pull down, your chest is at rest, etc.). If you also have an arm day in your program, you can then train them up to three times a week if you are receiving adequate rest and muscle recovery.
So which triceps movements should you use? Here are five essential tricep exercises you should be including in your weekly routines & programs.
The dip should be a staple of your program, due to its ability as a compound exercise to utilize the triceps, shoulders, and chest. If you keep your body straight, the movement will almost exclusively put the entire load on your triceps. If you extend your feet behind you and put yourself at an angle, the load will be shared with your pecs, giving you a slight decline chest workout.
- Tricep Dumbbell Overhead Extension
This movement will isolate the long head of the tricep, which will help increase overall arm size (for men) while tightening the arm flab and tricep muscles of women. As much as possible, keep the elbows from flaring out.
- Tricep Rope Pulldown
The lateral and medial heads of the tricep will be worked in this exercise. Keep your elbow at a 90 degree angle and extend your arm down and then flare out to the sides at the last moment. Slowly raise the arms back into the 90 degree angle. This movement is perfect for pyramid sets (going up or down) if you’re looking to build mass quickly.
- Tricep Bar Pulldown
Consistent with the rope pulldown, this movement will assist in helping put on mass quickly (if that is the goal) by combining it with triple sets, drop sets, or pyramid sets. If you wish to simply tighten the area and strengthen the muscle, keep to 15-20 repetitions. If you wish to build size, keep to 6-10 repetitions.
- Diamond Pushups
An all around excellent exercise, especially if you are on a home gym program and can’t use a gym. These will quickly exhaust your arms, so they are perfect for the end of your workouts when you’re looking to add a few finisher exercises. If you desire to fatigue the triceps for muscle gain, it is recommended you add these toward the beginning of your workout.
Remember, fitness is only part of the equation. When tracking your macronutrients, ensure you’re receiving adequate protein to build, replenish, and restore your muscles so that you can pack on size or definition to the triceps. Adequate nutrition, paired with some whey protein or branch chain amino acid drinks, will help in this area.