sábado, 30 de enero de 2016


POWER TRICEPS. If you want 'em BIG, make 'em STRONG!

Looking strong is never enough. I always want to be strong as well. Working out with powerlifters years ago, it was crucial that I be able to press bar-bending weights, so I made sure my triceps were never a weak link in chest or shoulder presses. Even today, when my focus is more on triceps detail than size, I continue to specifically train tris for pressing power.


I'm injury-prone. You'd think I would've figured this out with as many strains and sprains as I've accumulated through the years. Just a few months ago, though, coming off a serious shoulder injury, I rushed a workout and strained my right elbow. As always, I've continued to train heavy and to failure, but ever since the sprain, I've had to alter the focus of my workouts toward more pushdowns and away from barbell and dumbbell extensions.

My triceps workouts were in the process of changing anyway. Dead cold, my arms are almost 23", so, not to sound cocky, but my arms don't really need to be much bigger. However, I'm always looking to get better, and better means more detail at this point. A diversity of triceps pushdowns lets me squeeze hard at contraction and focus on specific areas of my upper arms to really etch in the separation. Barbell and dumbbell extensions are good for mass, but they don't provide the same pressure at contraction as the lifts in my current routine.


I start with one-arm pushdowns with an overhand grip. The first set is for high reps (18-20). I push this set to failure, so it's not strictly a warm-up. However, the high reps get the blood pumping into my upper arms. I follow this with three sets in the 10-12 range. Again, these are somewhat higher reps than what I do for other exercises. I just want to make sure the muscles and tendons are OK before I start going really heavy.

Next come regular pushdowns with a V handle, which focus on the outside heads of my triceps. I bend over a little bit and keep my elbows near my sides, and I don't let the bar go up very high. If I was actually standing straight, I don't think my forearms would come up any more than exactly parallel to the floor. Most of my focus is on the lockout. In fact, I lock out so fully that I turn my wrists slightly outward at the bottom. I accomplish this by holding the handle with a monkey grip (thumbs over). Then, at the end, my wrists can rotate to put more pressure on the triceps at contraction. It's a minor motion, but you can certainly feel it. I follow three sets of these with three sets of reverse-grip pushdowns (palms facing up) with a straight bar, which I feel more in the inside heads of my triceps.

Next, I superset rope pushdowns with dips on a dip machine. A lot of trainers bring the ropes apart at the contraction, but I keep them together throughout, so my palms are always facing each other. In this way, I keep the pressure on the long head of each triceps. When you bring the ropes apart, you switch the pressure from your long heads to your outer heads.

Dip-machine dips also hit the long heads. Rather than using a regular grip, I hold the handles on the very end with just my palms pressing down, so my fingers aren't actually grabbing ahold. It just feels more natural that way. I lock out at the end, but I don't go as far as I would if I were doing dips for my chest. As soon as I feel my pecs stretch, there's no point in going any further. (Those of you without access to a dip machine can approximate this movement by doing dips between two benches, with your hands on a flat bench behind you, your feet resting on a flat bench in front of you and weight plates on your thighs, if necessary.)

Finally, I finish off my workout with the best tri power exercise: close-grip bench presses. I do these either with a barbell or on a Smith machine, and I pyramid three sets, typically doing 12, eight and then five reps. Due to my elbow injury, I stop a tiny bit short of lockout, which also keeps continuous tension on my tris. I also sometimes get a forced rep or two at the end of the
final set.


As you may have noticed, I do a lot of sets for triceps. Counting both exercises in the supersets separately, I do 19 sets, and the workout typically takes an hour and 15 minutes to complete. Like most people, in my early training years, I did nine or 10 sets for tris. However, at some point, I realised the muscles weren't getting taxed enough with that volume, so I started increasing the workload. Soon my sets got into the 12-15 range, and my triceps starting growing a lot more. It's not like they were weak before, but I was able to take a good bodypart and make it what some people call my best.

I may do a lot of sets for my triceps, but that doesn't mean I train less intensely. I always train hardcore and heavy. Virtually every set is pushed to failure. 

Furthermore, in addition to the Weider Supersets Training Principle, I also use the Weider Forced Reps Training Principle and the Weider Descending Sets Training Principle to push my sets beyond failure.

I like doing descending sets with cables, because I only have to move a pin up a stack. When I can't do any more reps with the original weight, I reduce the weight by approximately 20% and pump out a few extra reps until I again reach failure. I usually do these only for the last set of two-arm pushdowns. When I'm doing one-arm pushdowns, I give myself a forced rep with the other hand to help squeeze out an extra rep. My form is always strict. I don't have a choice on that. 

When you've got injuries, you can't take a chance on yanking things around. 

Lately I've been training with Bob Cicherillo, who helps with forced reps, but most of the time I train alone, so descending sets are the easiest and safest way to push my sets beyond failure.


The three most important exercises for triceps mass and power are close-grip bench presses, dips and lying triceps extensions. To really build power, try this routine (see "Triceps Power Routine" sidebar). Due to my elbow injury and my greater focus in recent years on upper-arm details, I no longer do free-weight extensions, but they're crucial for a strength foundation in your triceps. Keep the reps low for all three exercises. You can pyramid sets of close-grip bench presses down to as few as four reps, as long as you always warm up properly. Do two warm-up sets of 12-15 reps before beginning.

I'm one of the few professionals who performs close-grip benches. In fact, it's rare to see anyone but me do them at Gold's Gym in Venice, USA. They're not trendy or fun. They're hard work, and that's why I love them. I've always done close-grip benches because I not only want my triceps to be strong, but I want them to be strong in pressing movements as well as in isolation lifts. When you're trying to be a great bench-presser, remember that using a lot of weight for pushdowns doesn't necessarily translate to the bench press.

There's almost an art to focusing just on your tris when doing close-grip bench presses or dips. You need to concentrate on the hinge movement at your elbows. 

Forget about your chest and front delts. The flip side is also true. Once you learn to isolate your triceps, you can call on them during a compound movement to help you eke out a few extra reps of chest or shoulder presses.

FINALLY I've never done anything too fancy for triceps. You only need to do subtle variations on the tried-and-true lifts to throw the stress to various areas of your tris. 

Build a foundation of power and mass, but make sure you always adhere to strict form. The triceps are a key muscle - for a bodybuilding stage as well as for overall upper-body power. Train them properly and not only will you look strong, but you'll be strong as well.


The most important thing in bodybuilding is to learn how to perform the lifts with strict form. This is especially important for pushdowns. I see people in the gym all the time doing pushdowns with their hands coming way up, and they're virtually throwing the bar down. They make pushdowns an aerobic exercise, training many muscles but never fully taxing their tris. This is actually natural. Your mind and body's first inclination is to get muscles to work together to maximise strength. 

That's why you really have to concentrate to make a lift isolate a specific muscle. With pushdowns, make sure the only things moving are your forearms via the hinge joint at your elbows. Leave the aerobics for the treadmill and the bike. 

By Tom Prince 1997 NPC National Overall Champion

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