Every lifter loves have a pair of muscular, well-defined arms. They help fill out a shirt, and are one of the clearest indicators to the public that “yes, I lift!”
However, when gym-goers are looking to build their arms, they tend to solely focus on the biceps. While nobody will fault you for wanting to build a beefy pair of biceps, overpriortizing the biceps quite frequently leads to underpriortizing the muscles that really give size and shape to your arms -- the triceps.
The triceps account for approximately 2/3 of your arm’s muscle mass, so if you’re typical triceps workout only consists of a few sets of kickbacks after, you’re essentially not training ⅔ of your arm.
Failure to properly strengthen the triceps doesn’t just lead to a less impressive set of arms. It also limits your performance in other heavy lifts, too.
The triceps are involved in military presses, dumbbell shoulder presses, bench presses, and dips. If your triceps are underdeveloped, they will inevitably be the limiting factor in how much weight you can lift on your heavier compound exercises.
That’s why we’re here today.
We’ve got 3 killer tricep supersets to help you get that horseshoe look, but before we get there, let’s formulate a plan of attack on how to build a better pair of triceps.
How to Attack the Triceps
As you can probably guess, the reason the tricep is called as such is due to the fact that it has three separate heads -- the long head, medial head, and lateral head.
To grow the beefiest triceps possible, and achieve that horseshoe look, you want to choose a variety of exercises so that you effectively annihilate each of the three heads. While no exercise can isolate one head from the other, regardless of what the muscle mags tell you, certain exercises can emphasize one head more than the other.
We’ll do precisely that with the supersets up ahead, but first, let’s take a moment to discuss each of the heads that make up your tricep.
The Long Head
Of the three heads of the tricep, the long head is the only head that originates above the shoulder joint.
This may not seem all that important, but it makes a huge difference when trying to select exercises that emphasize the long head.
Since the long head originates above the shoulder, to maximally stretch it, your arm must be overhead.
Why is a max stretch important for muscle growth?
Well, a muscle only maximally contracts only after it’s fully stretched.
Movements like kickbacks or pushdowns don’t effectively target the long head because your arms are pinned at your sides. Overhead movements such as the seated overhead dumbbell tricep extensions, or to a lesser degree lying skullcrushers, work best for developing the long head. Heck, even an exercise like the overhead dumbbell shoulder press stresses the long head of the triceps pretty well since your arms of overhead.
However, you need to be cautious with the overhead dumbbell extension, as it’s less than ideal for long-term shoulder health as it can place excessive internal rotation on the shoulder when performing the exercise.
The Medial Head
The medial head of the triceps is the “jack of all trades” of the tricep. It’s the most active of the three heads across all angles of pressing and extensions. As such, there’s still a good bit of debate about which hand position or angle effectively emphasises the medial head.
Further complicating the matter is that this head is relatively small, and often goes unnoticed by many lifters due to its positioning on the inside of the arm. Most lifters would think that simply doing any tricep workout will hit this muscle sufficiently, and as such, doesn’t really need to be specifically addressed in your workouts.
While that might be “ok” for the average lifter, if you’re here, you’re not average. You’re second to none and savage as f***.
And, that means you want to target every head of the tricep and make each one as strong as humanly possible.
So, how do emphasize this smaller head of the tricep?
By using a supinated grip on your tricep exercises.
When you turn your arm out and use an underhand (supinated) grip, you will focus more attention on the medial head. Now, most lifters can’t go all that heavy when using a reverse (or supinated) grip, so you might want to place these exercises towards the latter half of your workout, once the heavy compound lifts are done.
So, to focus more on the medial head, consider using a reverse grip on exercises such as the tricep pushdown or even on the skullcrushers. Another great option, if you want to do some heavier work for the medial is to perform reverse grip bench press, which offer another great option for working on the medial head of the triceps.
The Lateral Head
The lateral head of the tricep is the head that is situated on the outside of the arm and is responsible for the “horseshoe” look of a well-developed triceps. It’s most active towards the end range of motion on tricep exercises (i.e. straightening out the arm).
This is important, especially if you’re one of those lifters who never uses a full range of motion when lifting, as you’re short-changing your gains by not going to full extension on the triceps.
When trying to focus your attention on the lateral head, consider using an overhand (pronated) grip on pushdown exercises as well as turn your hands in, and allow your elbows to flare out a little bit. This places extra emphasis on the lateral head of the triceps.
Another great example are diamond push ups performed with your elbows flared out a bit, rather than pinned to your sides. This stresses the lateral head of the triceps more than the inner medial head or long head.
Now, it’s important to remember that regardless of what you grip, angle, or exercise you use, all three of the tricep heads are involved in some extent as their function is to extend the elbow; however, manipulating the position of the hands and angle of the arms can help you emphasize certain regions of the tricep more than others.
Tricep Muscle Building Pointers
The triceps are involved in all the heavy pressing movements. As such, they can often be the thing that’s stalling your progress on the big lifts. To get them stronger, and create some additional overload, we’re going to begin our tricep workout with a heavy compound movement. We’ll then follow up with accessory isolation lifts to address each of the three heads.
Form Over Weight
Using heavy weights is great for building muscle and strength, but only if you can handle that weight under control through a full range of motion. Using body english or letting gravity do the work, reduces tension on the muscle and decreases the amount of work your triceps actually do. Additionally, using too heavy of a weight also places your shoulders and elbows at risk of injury.
Check your ego at the door and choose a weight that you can move under control for the given rep range. You’ll have a better quality workout and not place undue stress on your joints, which is the perfect recipe for long-term health and fitness.
Use Different Grips
We explained all of this pretty well above, but it’s worth emphasizing a second time. Any tricep exercise will stimulate all three heads of the muscle to some degree or another, there’s no two ways about it.
However, to maximally work each head, you will need to use a mix of exercises, hand placements, and angles so as to target each head best.
We’ve figured that out for you already, and taken the guesswork out of it for you!
3 Killer Tricep Supersets
Close Grip Press / Skullcrushers
Immediately following the close grip press, grab a set of dumbbells and lay back on a flat bench. Using a neutral grip (palms facing each other) and arms extended above your head, lower the dumbbells slowly under control so that they end up alongside your head.
Keeping your elbows locked in place, powerfully contract the triceps to straighten the arms fully and hold the contraction for a full second before performing the next rep.
Sets & Reps:
Close Grip Bench Press: 3 sets 6-8 reps
Skullcrushers: 3 sets 10-12 reps
Tricep Rope Pushdown / Overhead Rope Tricep Extension
This superset is great for blasting the lateral and medial head of the triceps and then burning out the long head of the triceps after the heavier pushdowns exhaust the lateral and medial heads.
Begin by performing a set of heavy tricep pushdowns using the rope attachment. Focus on getting a good squeeze on the tricep with each rep and slowly releasing the weight. After completing your set of pushdowns, adjust the cable attachment to the bottom position and get ready for your set of overhead tricep extensions.
Remember, to place a maximum stretch on the long head of the tricep, we need to get the arm up and overhead. There’s no better exercise for that than the overhead rope tricep extension.
Plus, the use of the ropes also allows us to avoid excess internal rotation that occurs when using the single dumbbell variation we discussed up top.
Sets & Reps:
Rope Pushdown: 3 sets 8-10 reps
Overhead Rope Extension: 3 sets 10-12 reps
Tricep Dip / Diamond Push Ups
Our final superset for triceps doesn’t involve any weights at all. You’ll be able to torture your triceps using just your bodyweight.
Using a narrow dip station, hold yourself as upright as possible, then slowly lower down and pause at the bottom before using your triceps to press back up to the top. The more upright you can keep your torso, and the more you can keep your elbows pinned to your sides, the more work your triceps will do.
If you begin to lean forward, you start to shift more of the load to your chest muscles, which is fine if you’re wanting to work on your chest, but, seeing as we’re focused on maximizing tricep work, that means keeping your elbows close to your sides.
Immediately following your set of dips to failure, drop to the ground and perform a set of diamond push ups, allowing your elbows to flare out a bit, so as to emphasize the lateral head of the triceps.
Sets & Reps:
Dips: 2 sets AMRAP
Diamond Push Ups: 2 sets AMRAP
Build Massive Triceps with Mega Pre!
Building an impressive set of triceps is no small feat, but should you dedicate the time and effort and persevere through the torture, you will be rewarded with those iconic horseshoes bursting from your sleeves.
To help you power you through your workout and get a sick tricep pump, use Mega Pre for all of your tricep workouts.
Mega Pre is the true lifter’s pre workout. It contains the ingredients you need to perform better in your training sessions, and grind out those extra reps, so you can build muscle, increase strength, and get the results you’ve always wanted.
Even better, Mega Pre can be used day or not. It contains NO CAFFEINE or other stimulants, and as such, will not affect sleep or lead to any jitters or nasty crash like other pre workouts.
Click here to grab your very own bottle of Mega Pre and experience a tricep workout like no other!