The Top Three Tips for Tantalizing Triceps

by Allen Gil January 29, 2015

The Top Three Tips for Tantalizing Triceps

First of all, let me just say that the title of this article has WAY too many letter T’s in it. When I wrote that title, I honestly had no idea it would come out looking as ridiculous as it did, but I decided to keep it because, despite it being a killer alliteration, it also describes exactly what I am about to share with you, to a T.  (OK, that one was gratuitous, sorry)

Just in case you weren't aware of how attractive a nice set of arms are to the ladies, you might want to check out my article "Up Your Dating Game With Sexier Forearms." Not many things scream out "Manly-Man" from across a room like a sculpted set of muscular arms poking out from underneath your perfectly fitted t-shirt.  If you are looking to turn a few heads, then you need to make sure you are packing full-sized guns, not just a couple of pea shooters.

Did you know that two thirds of your upper arm muscle is comprised of the triceps?  While most people that are trying to make their arms look better focus all of their time on the oft overworked biceps, in truth, you will get much more of a bang for your workout buck when you put a little more emphasis into the horseshoes on the back of your arms.  

Triceps anatomy

As the name denotes (ceps means “head” in latin), the TRIceps has three distinct portions that should be taken into account when developing the optimal workout for maximum development.  Let’s take a look at the 3 best exercises for each of these moving pieces, so you can claim your tickets to the “Gun Show.”




Doing either a machine dip or parallel bar dip should be a mainstay of anyone’s triceps program. This exercise challenges all three heads of the triceps and also involves the pectoralis major and anterior deltoid muscles (chest and shoulders).

I recommend starting with a shallower range of motion until your shoulder strength/stability builds up and then you can progress to a deeper midway (bottom) position.  Do these with your elbows pointing more backwards than outwards to ensure the focus is on your triceps and not the chest.  If a time comes where you are able to rip off more than 15 bodyweight repetitions on this exercise, feel free to do a weighted variation where you hang a plate or dumbbell off a belt.  Please don’t do crappy half-reps on these trying to show off either.  If you can’t do them properly with a full, controlled range of motion, then don’t add more weight until you can.

Triceps Cable Press Downs

Triceps Cable Press Downs


This is one of the most common exercises seen being done in the gym but often times you will find people missing out on a few key points that allow for maximum results. To get this one right, make sure you keep your elbows fixed into your sides and  DON’T use a rope attachment, as the unstable nature of the rope only decreases the amount of force you can apply to the movement, and thereby decreases the benefit.

I’ve heard people tell me they use the rope so they can “turn their wrists out” at the bottom of the range of motion on this one and I just wanted to let you all know there is ZERO value in turning your wrists during tricep exercises.  I believe the misstep on this one is due to the fact that you SHOULD turn your wrists (supinate) during bicep exercises due to the way the muscle attaches in the forearm.  The problem with this thought process is that the same isn’t true of the tricep muscles.

Use a “V” shaped bar attachment to minimize wrist strain and maximize stability while you challenge yourself on this great exercise.

Kneeling Rope Triceps Extensions



This exercise is one that I made up one day while explaining to a group of personal trainers how the triceps, more specifically the long head, creates movement. The long head of the triceps works across both the shoulder joint AND the elbow joint, and therefore this exercise optimally challenges this portion since one must extend both the shoulder AND the elbow.

Find a high cable machine that allows you to clip on two ropes as you will need to be able to go from a close hand position to a wider position on this one through the range of motion.  Start in the kneeling position; bent forward at the hip with your arms extended overhead holding the ropes, one in each hand. There are two distinct phases of this exercise that you’ll need to be aware of:

    1. First pull your elbows into your ribs by extending at the shoulder. This works the long head of the triceps so you’ll feel it burning up near your armpits after you have done a couple sets.
    2. Next, fully extend the elbow, bringing each hand downward and back past your hips and knees. All three heads of the triceps will now be fully contracted and working to their maximum.
The triceps brachii is one of the larger muscle groups in the upper body and if you train them properly, they are sure to make a great compliment to their next door neighbors, the biceps brachii.

Allen Gil
Allen Gil


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