1. Don’t start with simple exercises
A common mistake, especially for beginners who don’t yet realize that not all exercises are created equal. Beginners often begin their triceps workout with a block extension , which is a single-joint movement . The bad news is that in single-joint exercises, you cannot lift a lot of weight. Unless you are working on a very specific training protocol, it is better to start your triceps workout with a heavy multi-joint exercise.
The triceps should be trained in the same way as the pectoral or leg muscles. When the two joints are working (for the triceps, these are the shoulders and elbows), you are using more muscle tissue, and therefore you can lift more weight than in an isolated movement. Yes, you lose a little in the specificity of the load, but in the first exercise of the session you have a different goal – to take the maximum weight for maximum overload.
Top polyarticular movement for the triceps – push-ups from the bench with weights , push-ups in the simulator , bench press close grip , push-ups on parallel bars . In the latter case, you may need a weighted belt to achieve muscle failure in the rep range for hypertrophy (8-12). Single-joint movements like block extensions can be performed during a warm-up to warm up the elbow joints, but you should not bring them to failure .
2. Do not forget about extensions from behind the head
You can choose from a variety of exercises when planning your triceps workout, but only one type of movement effectively works the fleshy long head. It attaches to the bone above the shoulder joint, so you won’t be able to fully stretch it until you raise your arms above your head. A fully stretched muscle can contract harder than a muscle that has been half-stretched. This is why movement from behind the head must be included in triceps workouts.
There are tons of suitable exercises at your disposal, including overhead extensions with EZ bar, dumbbells, cables and even a machine. It is very important here to fix the shoulders behind the head so that the elbows look straight up and do not leave their position. Your elbows play the role of a hinge; there should be no other movement in them.
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3. Don’t let your elbows dangle
All single-joint triceps exercises are united by one feature – elbow extension. The elbows move from a strong flexion position to a fully extended position. However, you will lose the efficiency of the exercise if you let your elbows dangle from side to side.
“If there is a universal advice that applies to the technique of any exercise, it would sound something like this. To completely isolate the muscle and minimize the influence of the surrounding muscles, such as the pectoral and deltoid muscles, you need to lock your elbows as tightly as possible, ”write Joe Webben and Jim Stoppani in their book Strong Arms and Torso. “By allowing your elbows to dangle from side to side, you, in most cases, reduce the effectiveness of the exercise.”
When doing overhead extensions , bench press with a narrow grip, push-ups in the simulator and on parallel bars, or any other exercise for triceps, watch your elbows and try to press them against your torso as tightly as possible.
4. Do not lower your elbows when bent over.
A common mistake, even for experienced lifters. Basically, by lowering the elbow, you turn the single-joint movement on the lateral head of the triceps into a multi-joint exercise that also involves deltas. As a result, the load on the triceps decreases, since part of the work is taken over by the deltoid muscles.
To do this isolating movement properly, lock your elbows at your sides so that your shoulder is parallel to the floor. Using your elbow as a hinge, fully straighten your arm parallel to the surface. And when you lower the dumbbells, do not let your elbows rush after them.
5. Do not turn the extension on the block into a multi-joint movement.
Here is another case when a single-joint movement is converted into a multi-joint movement due to an error. Extension should only occur in the elbow joints: the upper arms are pressed to the sides for more effective isolation of the lateral head. But if you let your elbows come off your torso during the eccentric phase – a mistake many athletes make – you are bringing the shoulders back into motion.
Once again, we emphasize that the connection of any muscle group reduces the load on the triceps, so press your elbows to your sides and fully focus on the work of the triceps muscles.
6. Don’t Reduce Amplitude For More Weight
If your main goal is to increase your working weight, you may unwittingly make another mistake. In the second point, I mentioned that a muscle is able to contract more strongly after being fully stretched. An important prerequisite for effective stretching is working with full amplitude, which leads to better muscle development.
In pursuit of weight, you may not notice how you sacrifice amplitude and start doing partial reps. Partial reps are a good technique for high-intensity training, but should be used in addition to, not in place of, full-range movements.
Partial reps can often be seen on triceps push-ups in the machine and on the upper block extension if the weight used is too heavy. In this case, the eccentric phase of movement stops shortly before the muscle is fully stretched. To solve the problem, simply reduce the load and begin each exercise in a position in which the elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle.