One of the most important muscles of the upper body is the triceps brachii. The function of this muscle is particularly evident in the elderly population, who must use their arms more for mobility, such as using a cane, walker or getting up from a chair. Paraplegics could not transfer or even push their wheelchair without the aid of the triceps.
There are three heads that comprise the triceps (long, medial, lateral) and they make up the entire mass of the back of the arm. The lateral head, when viewed at the side of the arm below the deltoid, is the strongest of the three, the long head is a biarticular muscle (crosses two joints). It originates on the scapulae (shoulder blade) and therefore, elbow flexion combined with shoulder flexion enhances the action of the triceps. The long head is very cosmetic, as it gives the arm that rounded look at the back when viewed from the side.
To work the triceps entirely, there should be some emphasis placed on its two functions, bringing the shoulder down from a flexed position and elbow extension. Working the muscle throughout a complete range, involving a pre-stretch, and keeping the program brief are the other factors to consider.
There are four exercises which will produce a very good triceps workout, and involve the factors I have mentioned.
Exercise 1 - Supine French Press.
Handle a heavy weight for this exercise as it is being used for maximum overload. DO NOT PERFORM IT STRICT, that principle will be covered later in the program. It is best to use wraps on your hands during this exercise. This will allow you to handle more weight, and prevent the bar from slipping from your grip. This can be a dangerous lift, considering the bar is moving directly over your head and neck, and a spotter would be an excellent idea.
Do a bent arm pullover to the chest first. If you cannot get the bar to the chest, then you have no business trying to do a French press with the weight. Press the bar like a bench press, and allow the bar to drop down over the top of the head, medium speed, and return in a pullover-press movement to the original position. Try 8-10 reps, then finish up with a rep or two of close grip benches. You should perform your reps in a smooth arc motion, do not pull it to your chest and bench it up, except on the last reps. Do 2 sets of 8-10 reps. This exercise works the triceps with the shoulder in partial flexion.
Exercise 2: Triceps Pushdowns.
Do these as usual on the lat machine. Lean into the first set, and allow some upward movement of your elbows, to work the long head of the triceps. Handle as much weight as possible for 8-10 reps. The second set should be strict, so reduce the weight by 15 pounds and do 8-10 reps. This exercise works the triceps with the shoulder in a neutral position.
Exercise 3: Prone French Press.
How do you do a prone French press? With your bodyweight, not a barbell. Place a bar on the squat or power rack at shoulder height, then a bench three feet out from the bar. Stand on the bench and lean forward, gripping the bar with the hands 8 inches apart. The body should be on an incline and straight at the hips. Lower yourself forward so that the head drops beneath the bar, and then press back to the start position, repeat 10-12 reps for just one set. Add weight around your waist to increase resistance. This exercise will work the triceps with the shoulder in a flexed position.
Exercise 4: Pulley Overhead Press.
Grab a lat pulley bar behind your head, with your back facing the machine. Incline your body forwards so that the elbows are brought back as far as possible, creating extreme flexion of the shoulder. This exercise will keep great tension on the triceps throughout the entire movement, and will finish up the workout, as you gring out the final 10 repetitions of elbow extension.
This program gives you six sets of good triceps work, which works the muscle from different angles, and takes into consideration the function of the long head and its two joint arrangement. If you would like to work the triceps with the shoulder extended, then add an extra set of reverse dips or triceps kickbacks at the end of the workout.
One point in closing is that THE TRICEPS SHOULD NEVER BE WORKED MORE THAN ONE TIME A WEEK. This mistake of overtraining is emphasized in Iron Man every issue, and this is the bodypart that is overworked the most. It is heavily involved in all chest and shoulder programs, and the long head is affected in many of the back movements.
You must remember that every muscle has another one that counteracts its movement. So even when doing a set of curls, the triceps is involved as an antagonist to stabilize the joint, and help control the speed of the movement. Body movements are very flowing and beautiful. They are performed in arcs and circles, unlike the jerky movements of a mechanical device. You must, therefore, work them throughout these arcs for a symmetrical, flowing development.
Enjoy Your Lifting!