Is there a lifter out there that doesn't want larger arms and a stronger bench press? The triceps are one of the least discussed muscle groups. After all, they contribute significantly more to your overall arm size than your biceps, and they are an important muscle group in all pressing exercises.
With this is in mind it should seem obvious that building your triceps should be your goal if you want to get bigger and stronger. The problem is that most body builders do not know how to train their triceps properly. You will often see bodybuilders wasting away valuable energy on things like pushdowns and kickbacks. Now, there isn't anything wrong with these exercises, but the majority of your time would be much better spent on compound exercises which allow for heavy weights to be used.
In fact, you simply can't adequately stimulate all of the muscle fibers in the triceps without using some exercises which allow for heavy loads to be used. In general it is best to hit 1 or 2 heavy compound exercises and then move on to an isolation exercise to squeeze the last little bit out of your muscles.
With this in mind let's take a look at three great exercises for your triceps:
This is probably the weight lifting exercise with the most frigthening moniker. After all, who wants their head crushed? But the exercise is aptly named because it is done lying down on your back on a bench with a barbell at arm's length. You will then bend at the elbows and lower the bar until it touches your forehead. Obviously if you do this in an uncontrolled way it will hurt your skull!
The key to this exercise is to make sure the stress stays on the triceps. To do this you want the elbows close to the body and pointed towards the ceiling. It is essential that you only bend and extend the elbows and that you do not move them forward or backward, or you will shift the stress off the triceps.
While this exercise is usually done by touching the bar to the forehead, you can vary the point at which you touch in order target specific areas of the triceps. In general, shifting lower on the body, such as the chin, will hit the medial head harder, while shifting higher on the body will hit the long head harder.
This is the classic tricep builder. Dips are probably responsible for building more tricep msucle mass than any other exercise. This is from the combination of heavy loading and targeted stress that they provide to the triceps. When you first start lifting you may have problems completing more than a couple of these, but as you progress it is important to continue adding weight by using a dumbbell between your feet or a specialized dip belt. The addition of weight will allow you to continue to progress in this exercise once you are capable of easily handling your body weight.
As with most triceps exercises, the key to proper performance is to keep your elbows tight to the body. This means using a narrow grip on the dip bars. It also means that you should use an upright posture without too much forward lean. Leaning forward shifts more of the stress to the shoulders and pectorals, which is not what we want for our goal. Optimally, you should descend into the bottom of the exercise until your upper arms were parallel with the ground. However, this will cause shoulder pain in a good number of lifters, and in this case you should either shorten the range of motion or skip the exercise altogether.
Close grip Barbell Bench Press
If this isn't the undisputed king of the triceps movements, then it is pretty close. The ability to use heavy weights due to contributions from your chest and front deltoids allows you to completely blast the triceps and force them to grow. While you want to work on continually getting stronger, you should never sacrifice correct technique for weight. With this exercise it important to keep the elbows near your body throughout the movement in order to keep as much stress as possible on the triceps. Even with a narrow grip the stress can be taken off of the triceps and put onto the elbow joint if you do not keep the elbows tucked in tight. This obviously not only hurts your muscle growth, but can lead to elbow and wrist injuries as well.
As you can see proper technique is critical to your success with triceps exercises, just as it is with all exercises. You can perform exercises poorly and still get some of the benefit, but you will never see optimal results and you may just injure yourself in the process. Because of this it is suggested that you learn how to do these exercises properly from qualified professional in the field.
See video and get tips on Band Triceps Pushdowns and more of the best exercises for triceps growth.