It’s easy to forget to work a muscle group you don’t see a lot. The triceps are just such muscles, because they’re located at the back of the arm, conveniently out of sight. They’re a small muscle group, too, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need working. You need strong triceps to be able to bend your elbow and straighten it out to extend and contract your forearm. That’s useful in everyday life, but Stack points out that strong triceps are the key to busting through a bench press plateau. Additionally, HealthLine says that the triceps are important shoulder joint stabilizers, adding strength and control to what would otherwise be an unstable joint. Yes, even those who aren’t bodybuilders or athletes still need to work on their tri’s. If you’ve ever been dismayed at the flab on the backside of your arm wobbling when you wave, you already know why.
Anatomy of the Triceps
Triceps are plural because there are actually three parts, or “heads,” that make up the muscle. ExRx.net does a thorough job of diagramming the long head, lateral head, and medial head of the triceps, illustrating why it’s vital to include exercises in your workout that strengthen all three triceps muscles. The lateral and medial heads are the ones that usually get the most attention when anyone has the presence of mind to include triceps exercises in their workout, but working the long head is just as important. Overhead movements, such as the French press, will tone and strengthen that long head which will also reduce embarrassing arm-jiggle.
Working Triceps Into a Workout
You could dedicate an entire workout to your triceps, but doing so isn’t necessary when working this small but significant muscle group. Because they’re stabilizing muscles in many chest exercises, it’s efficient to include them on chest day, as training and nutrition expert Dr. Jim Stoppani does. Teaming up various press movements with dips, triceps kickbacks, and extension moves will give you a thorough workout that hits all three heads of your triceps. An effective way to approach working triceps with chest is to go through all your chest exercises and hit them heavy, followed up by more reps and lighter weight for the tris, all in one workout. Then, for the next chest/tris day (at least 72 hours later) hit the triceps heavy, working those exercises first and then do your chest exercises using lighter weight and more reps. Alternating workouts that way will allow you to give each muscle group the intense focus it needs to get stronger.
You probably already have a list of go-to chest exercises for chest/tri’s day, but if you need some help with ideas for the triceps part of the workout, we have a few for you. Everyone should be familiar with triceps kickbacks and a variety of overhead triceps extensions, including cable extensions. Prevention recommends working in the dumbell French press, which is also an overhead extension, and skull crushers, too.
Dips are another great exercise for hitting the backs of your arms, but you need to be sure you’re focusing on working your triceps when you do them because it’s easy to extend the range of motion so that they’re working your chest and shoulders more than your tri’s. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but for the purposes of strengthening triceps you need to focus on them. All dip exercises will engage your tri’s, but doing dips off a bench is the best way for anyone–especially beginners–to focus on working the backs of their arms. As you dip down, pay close attention to the point where you stop feeling the movement in your triceps and start feeling it more in your shoulders. That means you’ve dipped too low, and don’t want to go quite that low on the next rep.