If bodybuilders spent half as much time working their triceps muscles as they do curling to obtain the "high biceps formation," we'd have more arms measuring 19 cold, and more 400 pound bench presses than you could count in a month of Sundays.
The largest, most muscular, and strongest arms are not the result of concentrated biceps specialization, but triceps training!
The remarkable thing is that, despite the common bodybuilding belief that the biceps are the faster gaining muscles of the two, the triceps take on added bulk, form and power in less than half the time required by the biceps.
The triceps group forms at least two-thirds of the upper arm bulk and any large muscle group, by its very nature, must register the biggest gains. It is a simple, very obvious explanation that becomes even more clear when you consider leg training is productive of not only thigh muscularity, but overall gains in bodyweight. Similar results are obtained locally by working less large groups, such as the triceps.
In my early training days, I kept mainly to curls and presses, the latter of course, good for the triceps. But my arms never reached their largest size and greatest power until I had become fully acquainted with arm muscle function, and as the result of what I learned, commenced a more intense localized triceps routine. It took only four weeks, once I began, to increase not only their bulk and muscularity, but to gain greater pressing power.
Throughout my training career, once I had advanced from the beginner's stage, my arms were always their biggest and most powerful when I was working the triceps group.
Successful training is composed of three factors:
1) A good exercise program.
2) Correct diet.
Without a sound schedule based on appropriate principles, it will be impossible for you to gain in muscularity and strength. Without the diet to supply the necessary nourishment, all the exercise in the world isn't going to help you get bigger and stronger. Without inspiration to keep your enthusiasm high, you won't enjoy your workouts, and you won't work as hard as you should.
Let's deal with the exercise routine first. In ever upper arm exercise with the exception of actual curling motions, the arms must be straightened, and in all types of barbell and dumbbell presses and triceps extensions, etc., the arm or rams are worked vigorously with the triceps getting the main portion of the work. It is a comparatively simple matter therefore to choose a program of exercises, but remember that you will be specializing and need the correct training principles. For those of of you who are seeking greater arm size, I unhesitatingly recommend the flushing principle, the system in which all exercises for the one muscle group are done first.
But this choice of principle is directly bound up with diet. By using the flushing system, you will increase the circulation of the blood to the triceps, flushing the muscles and bringing new cell building material to them. But the better nourishment the blood can bring to the muscles, the faster will they grow bigger and stronger, so you must eat foods rich in protein and vitamins such as can be obtained from meat, cheese, milk, fruits, vegetables and salads.
Now for the part inspiration plays You'd have to be a very tough determined character to plot your own course, go through life without benefiting from another's experiences and example. And that is exactly why inspiration provided by another bodybuilder is so necessary. Look at the mighty arms of a bodybuilding great. Tell yourself that you'll one day be bigger and more powerful, you will work toward that goal and work hard to keep this promise to yourself.
With me, John Grimek's arms provided the necessary inspiration. They were the most phenomenal I had ever seen, the highlights of his development, and they made me determined to work relentlessly until my biceps and triceps were as large and as muscular as his. At present my arms vary a quarter of an inch in their size. If I perform a great deal of triceps work they measure from 18-1/4 to 18-3/4 inches cold. With moderate arm training they are always at 18 inches. Pumped they tape as much as 19 inches.
The very best place for a triceps specialization routine in your routine is right at the beginning. There's a pretty sound reason for this. Naturally you want to give the muscle group the maximum amount of work. To be capable of this you must be fresh and full of energy . . . which you are at the start of your training. Therefore, perform all your triceps movements first, then go on to your curls and the rest of your upper body exercises. Thus the maximum amount of blood will be kept right in the section of the physique where it is needed. After you have finished your arm and upper body exercises you can end the workout. Next day work on the thighs and other upper body sections, splitting your routine for maximum effect.
Presses of all descriptions have a very definite place in a triceps routine. I have found that they serve to generally pump up the area, warm it up for the more isolated effect of the movements that affect the actual triceps group. You can break into an intense triceps specialization program by keeping to presses for a couple of weeks, such as standing dumbbell presses . . . bench presses with a narrow grip . . . press behind neck [note: try close grip PBNs for triceps, check it out and see if it does anything for you] . . . incline bench presses with barbell or dumbbells. Even parallel and floor dips will stimulate the triceps in a preparatory program.
After your breaking-in period is over, you can start off your actual triceps program with a simple press movement, go on to the actual triceps movements, then wind up with another type of press. In this way you will thoroughly stimulate the triceps group at the beginning of the routine, and maintain its pumped up state at the end of the program.
The question of sets and reps is one you must decide for yourself. I will, of course, give you the system I use, which you can try. But I earnestly advise you to switch to another set and repetition combination if mine does not bring results. Use my exercises by all means, but figure out for yourself the sets and reps which bring you the best results. Some bodybuilders can use high reps and two or three sets. Others have to use extremely heavy poundages, low repetitions and many sets.
Start off your triceps routine with Overhead Standing Dumbbell Presses. Clean them into the shoulders and without any heave or backbend, press them overhead together. When you lower them for another repetition, use my method. Let the upper arms come straight down until they are level with the shoulders, and then down against the sides of the body. Let this lowering be steady and deliberate. I use two sets of 10 repetitions for a triceps warmup.
Now for the real triceps routine The first direct movement is the Bench Triceps Curl with Dumbbells. Some bodybuilders perform this with a barbell, but I prefer dumbbells because of the greater range of movement. Hold the weights at arms' length above the chest as you lie on the bench, palms of the hands facing in. Keeping the upper arms still throughout the movement, lower the dumbbells by bending the arms at the elbows. When the weights are as low as possible, raise them to commencing position and repeat. I use 4 sets of 15 reps.
Another great favorite of mine is the Lat Machine Triceps Pressdown. You all know how this movement is performed. Don't stand too far away from the bar of the machine and do keep those upper arms still and pressed tight against the sides of the body, moving the forearms to take the weight down from shoulder level to the upper thighs. When the arms are straight, tense the triceps with all the power at your command. I use 4 sets of 15 reps.
One very rarely used exercise is the Supine Triceps Press Out. It isn't hard to learn and once you have practiced it a few times, it will surely become a favorite of with you. Lie down on an exercise bench, head and shoulders over one end. With the bar of the lat machine grasped in your hands, forearms pointing up, upper arms from elbow to shoulders pointing straight forward, press the lat machine bar down to the front as in the photo below . . .
Return to commencing position and repeat. I use 4 sets of 15 reps.
Another direct triceps exercise is the Wall Pulley Triceps Extension. Simply lie on an Incline Bench, with the hands grasping the handles of a wall pulley. Keeping the upper arms level with the floor, extend the forearms forward until the entire arm is straight. Return to commending position and repeat the movement. I find 4 sets of 15 reps fine.
Winding up the direct triceps routine is a wonderful movement for pumping up the muscle with a peak contraction effect. Triceps Extensions to the Rear. Hold a dumbbell in one hand and bend forward at the waist. As in other triceps movements, the upper arm must be kept still during the actual exercise, and in this case, pressed against the side of the body. Raise the dumbbell up and back by straightening the arm . . . keep that upper arm still. Make the movement steady and when the arm is straight, try and hold the position for a slow count of two, then lower the dumbbell and repeat. Three sets of 10 reps is plenty for me and really leaves the triceps with that completely worked feeling.
After this final movement is finished, I usually rest up for five minutes or so, then perform a couple of sets of standing barbell presses. Although I use a fairly wide grip, I keep the body strictly upright without any bending back, pressing the weight steadily from the shoulders and lowering it steadily. 10 reps for 2 sets is a good combination for retaining a thoroughly stimulated triceps area.
Enjoy Your Lifting!