By Eric Velazquez, NSCA-CPT Prosource
Are you using the right exercises in your quest for bigger arms?
The pulley on your gym's triceps pressdown machine is worn. It's ragged. It's tired. It is fatigued from years of overuse by lifters that have become over-reliant on this single-joint movement for building better triceps. But your triceps, like the rest of your physique, need more to reach their full potential. Not only do they need you to step away from the pressdown station -- variety is critical -- but they need you to incorporate some compound moves to maximize the amount of weight used, as well as the your body's overall hormonal response.
The pressdown isn't all bad. This constant tension, isolation move has helped to reshape many a set of tri's. It hits all three heads while emphasizing highly-visible outer head (perhaps another reason this move is abused?). But it's important to remember that basic, compound moves are the best way to stimulate growth.
These movements allow you to use a greater amount of weight, they trigger the release of more growth hormone (GH) and they stimulate more total muscle fibers throughout your body. So building a routine around various versions of the extension is an inherently limiting practice. A better approach is to frontload your triceps workout with 1-2 heavy compound moves, then finish with some isolation work for total development.
MASTER THE MOVES
Close-Grip Bench Press
Lie back on a flat bench with your feet flat on the floor. Grasp the barbell with a narrow (inside shoulder-width), overhand grip. Press the bar up slightly to unrack it and hold the bar above your chest with your arms extended. Lower the bar to your lower chest, keeping your elbows close to your body. Do not bounce the bar off your chest, but rather when the bar approaches an inch or so away from your chest, pause and press the bar back up to the starting position. Squeeze your triceps and chest at the top and repeat.
Mass Maker: Have a partner help you through 1-2 forced reps on your last set.
Grasp the dip bars with your arms extended. Keep your upper body upright as much as possible. Keep your elbows tight to your sides as you bend them to lower your body down toward the floor. Press your hands into the bars to extend your arms and raise your body back up to the start.
Mass Maker: Use a dip belt to add weight, or hold a dumbbell between your feet.
Place two benches a few feet apart and parallel to each other. Sit on the middle edge of one bench facing the other. Place your hands just outside your hips on the bench, cupping the bench with your fingers. Place your heels on the opposite bench, pressing yourself upward so that your body forms an "L" in the top position. Slowly lower your glutes toward the floor until your arms form 90-degree angles. Pause briefly, then forcefully press yourself back up to the start position.
Mass Maker: In the top position, have a partner place a weight plate across your upper thighs.
Start each triceps routine with 1-2 of these moves and follow with 2-3 more targeted moves such as pressdowns and lying extensions. With each of these mass-builders, aim for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps with the last set of each taken to muscle failure.