Welcome to the best tricep workout for size.
When it comes to arm training, the first muscle one tends to refer to is the various muscles in the arm that are responsible for elbow flexion; the biceps.
They are an aesthetic muscle for sure, and along with the chest and abdominal region; part of the “show” muscles on the front of your body.
You may however also already know that you triceps form 2/3 of your arms, which equals to a lot of size potential when your training is done right.
In this article I will go over different methods of training to develop strength and size in your triceps, and how you can achieve maximal results with bodyweight based movements.
The knowledge that brings you this article is based off of years of personal trial and error through bodyweight training, hours of research, and simply what is and is know to work ever since it was heavily developed and represented on various pieces of art and history in Ancient Greece, under the name Calisthenics.
The word calisthenics comes from the ancient Greek words kalos (κάλλος), which means “perfect” or “good” (to emphasize the aesthetic pleasure that derives from the perfection of the human body), and sthenos (σθένος), meaning “strength” (great mental strength, courage, strength and determination).
Anatomy of the Triceps Brachii
The Triceps Brachii muscle is composed of 3 different bundles:
- Long head
- Medial head
- Lateral head
They start in the proximal region of the humerus to attach in the elbow.
These work in conjunction to provide you with elbow extension.
Methods of training
The triceps can be worked through some of the different methods listed below:
- Compound exercises
- Isolation work
- Isometric or static work
Working with compound exercises, you are doing multi-joint movements that recruit several muscles at once, trigger a greater CNS response and burn more calories. These exercises can include movements such as pull ups, rows, push ups, dips, deadlift and squats.
When you are doing Isolation work, you are doing the exact opposite of a compound movement and only targeting a single muscle at a time. This allows you to isolate weaknesses and work on them separately, and further aid with growth and strength gains. They are also sometimes used as a means of injury prevention by strengthening a particular area. Some isolation movements include rear delt pulls, bicep curls, and tricep extensions.
Isometric, or static work, is a form of movement in which the muscle is contracted in a static way; the muscle is contracted in a lengthened or shortened state but does not move either concentrically or eccentrically.
As for any other muscle group you are training, your should prioritize compound movements to isolation ones. They should be performed first and then followed up with a few sets of isolation work.
Therefore this list first includes the main tricep developing exercises under the form of compound movements. Keep in mind that due to their multi-joint nature they will also recruit other muscle groups such as the chest and shoulders, to a certain extent. How much each muscle is recruited however, can be modified through angle and positioning whilst performing a movement.
Weighted push ups – narrow hand stance
Push ups are a powerful closed kinetic chain compound exercise and will be responsible for a major part of your tricep growth, whatever hand placement you choose. In this instance however, we will place the hands in a narrower stance than a regular push up, with your arms bending parallel to your body. This will further emphasize your triceps and render the exercise more difficult.
note: the GIF below shows an elevated diamond style push up.
This movement is preferably performed on parallettes, or two spaced apart dumbbells so that you may engage in a deeper range of motion. A deeper range of motion builds muscle and strength faster. This is also why you always want to study your form on every exercise, and never sacrifice quality for quantity. Reps don’t matter; the movement however, does.
As one can adapt to push ups fairly quickly and with ease, he/she should opt to add weight as soon as three sets of ten quality reps can be performed. Adding weight to your push ups goes just like adding weight to a bench press. You want to progress incrementally, and strive to build strength, week after week. You can add weight with the use of a backpack filled with weight plates, or other heavy objects ( bottles of water, bags of rice, rocks, sand ), or use a weight vest.
Ring/parallel bar dips
The second most important compound exercise on this list; dips can be used as a very effective tricep strength and mass builder. Once again, tweaking the position changes a lot in terms of which muscle is recruited. As listed in the informational video below, focus on these cues for maximal tricep involvement:
- Torso vertical
- Legs under/behind hips
- Elbows tucked
- Hard lockout
- Narrower hand width
If you are a beginner, I would suggest starting out with parallel bar dips. As you get stronger and before thinking of adding weight unless it really is a training preference of yours, move on to gymnastic ring dips. The extra stability required to perform a movement on the rings will recruit the triceps to a bigger extent, all the while building up further strength in other muscles your body will be using to maintain a balanced movement. When becoming proficient at ring dips, you can keep overloading with the use of a weight vest or dip belt.
Handstand push ups
Handstand push ups are primarily a shoulder exercise, but they require great tricep power and strength to be able to achieve as much as 8 clean reps. The exercise can also be modified to a form of close grip handstand push up to blast your triceps in ridiculous ways. Due to the high demand in stability, strength, and coordination all at once when doing a freestanding handstand push up, progress at this exercise and you are guaranteed to progress in your tricep training. Be sure to have a basic grasp of the handstand before attempting this movement away from a wall.
If you are no yet strong enough for a wall handstand push up, an effective way of building up to it is by performing pike push ups as demonstrated in the GIF below. As you get stronger; elevate your feet. Here are a few important things to look out for when performing a pike push up:
- Elbows flex at a 90° angle to the floor
- Place load on the shoulders by taking your head as far past hands as required
- Legs form a 90° angle with the upper body
When you can do several sets of elevated pike push ups for a clean 10 to 15 reps, move on to wall handstand push up negatives. Pike push ups will also build some tricep mass in themselves, and when you get strong enough to perform freestanding handstand push ups, you will experience the reward in terms of both tricep and shoulder gains in strength and size, but also the pure satisfaction of being able to do this movement.
Ring/bar tricep extensions
The ring, or bar tricep extensions are a powerful tricep mass builder. this movement isolates the triceps and allows for a great muscle to mind connection. Extensions put a large amount of load in the triceps’s most lengthened state and therefore should not be abused from. Doing this exercise at the end of you push or tricep workout routine will give you the benefit of being able to isolate this muscle and pack on extra mass, but it has tendencies of irritating the elbow joint when either not done properly, or pushed too far in terms of volume.
Performed as a dropset, or for 2 to 4 sets at the end of your routine is sufficient for growth.
Best tricep workout for size – The routine
Now that we have gone over the different exercises you can perform to develop your triceps, how would these look when integrated into one complete workout routine ?
Exercise 1: Weighted narrow grip push up – 5 sets of 6 to 12 reps
Exercise 2: Handstand push ups – 3 sets of 6 to 10 reps
Exercise 3: Dips – 3 sets of 6 to 10 reps
Exercise 4: Tricep extensions – 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps or perform a dropset by gradually decreasing the difficulty of the movement
Now of course, you do not have to follow this exact exercise routine; feel free to take exercises out, or add some in, and use it to complete your own current routine. Prepare yourself for some soreness though, because these exercises, especially used together in this routine, will blast your triceps and provide you in time, with some impressive size and strength improvements.
Best Tricep Workout For Size – Conclusion
We have gone over the anatomy of the triceps, their function in your body and how they work to extend your arm. We’ve seen the different methods of training that you can use not only to grow your triceps and arms, but your body as a whole.
Finally, we went over some of the 4 best exercises you can do for your triceps, and included them in an applicable workout routine for you.
Which exercises here are you already doing? Which exercises do you intend to try out yourself? Comment below and we can get a conversation going!