Just about every guy and some girls I work with want toned, muscular and defined arms. Most clients have fun pumping biceps with a variety of curls. Whether you perform curls standing, seated, with dumbbells, barbells or cables, the movement is always the same- grasp the weight, rotate the forearm slightly and flex the elbow bringing the weight all the way to your chin. More about biceps later, but if you want your best arms ever, the key is to work triceps more (Photo by Sinitta Leunen).
Triceps make up two-thirds of your upper arm, therefore it makes sense that the bigger and more defined they are, the more massive your arms will look. The triceps are used in every pushing, pulling and lifting movement as well as the extension of the elbow and rotation of the forearm. Because of their larger size and their importance in just about every movement of the arm, you need to work tri’s longer and harder than biceps. Hit triceps twice a week using 3-4 exercises of 3-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions.
Use free weights for triceps to give you a better range of motion and produce a fuller muscle. Machines are ok, but once again, free weights get better results. Always make sure to stretch your triceps especially as you conclude the workout. Stretching brings out the separations and detail in the muscle.
Close-grip bench presses: This exercise takes your triceps through their full range of motion. Lie face up on a flat bench, feet firmly planted on the floor. Take a barbell or E Z curl bar from the rack. Use a narrow grip so that your hands are only 2-3 inches apart. Keeping your elbows close to your body, lower the weight to your lower sternum, and immediately push upwards.
Triceps extensions: Start this exercise by holding a lat machine bar with your hands 2-8 inches apart. Now press downwards from your chin until your arms are straight (just barely locking out the elbow). Return and repeat. Most bodybuilders keep their elbows tucked in at their sides during this movement. This exercise can also be performed with a rope instead of a straight bar or lat machine bar.
Bent-over triceps kick backs: Don’t be surprised if, upon examination, you find that one of your triceps is bigger or stronger than the other, this is common, and this exercise will help build strength and symmetry in both arms. Hold a dumbbell in one hand and hold on to a rack or bench with the other hand. Raise and lower (kick back) the dumbbell at an even rate, keeping the upper arm in line with your torso and parallel to the floor. Keep your upper arm tight against your waist throughout.
Lying triceps extensions or “skull crushers”: Lie on your back on a flat bench and hold a barbell or E Z curl bar at arms length above you. Lower it slowly to the forehead and raise the bar again to arm’s length. This is a more advanced exercise, and you may have to wait until your tri’s are ready for this one.