Want bigger arms? Most guys do and spend most of their time focused on biceps while overlooking the greatest source of arm circumference; triceps. Some recognize the fact and erroneously spend loads of time exclusively performing triceps pushdowns when most of the growth comes from heavy compound pressing for chest. This five-week program provides a balanced approach to adding triceps size. Get ready to stretch those sleeves.
Week 1 – Programming
For Week 1, I don’t want you doing some revolutionary exercise for triceps. Rather, I simply want you to train them after every chest workout. For this week, I’m simply addressing the programming of exercises.
Why post-chest training when your triceps are fatigued? For a couple of reasons. First, as mentioned in the introduction, triceps receive their greatest stimulation via heavy pressing movements. When I programmed triceps work to their own training day, it did nothing for their development and hurt my pressing performance on other days. Second, for safety and efficiency. Training triceps saves the time needed to warm-up and the pre-fatigue from pressing prevents injury.
Finally, regarding programming I want you to finish every chest workout with parallel dips — or better yet, a V-style dip. Often used for pec development, it, in my opinion, is the king of triceps movements. Stretch out your pecs to finish your chest workout and reap the benefits of dips for triceps over the next five weeks. Three sets of 10 to 15 reps should suffice to kick off the transition from chest to triceps-centric training.
Week 2 – Isotension
I want to briefly touch one more time on programming triceps-specific exercises following chest training before delving into this week’s focus. Bodybuilders may never take note of a powerlifter’s abdominal program, and for good reason; but don’t overlook their triceps. Powerlifters possess some of the most well-developed triceps due to heavy pressing. Ensure your chest workout includes at minimum one such heavy pressing exercise.
Isotension or isoholds are the central theme to this week’s triceps-specific training. Various permutations are available from two- to four-second isoholds in the contracted position to 20 to 30 static isoholds. I’m a big proponent of blood flow restriction (occlusion) training because the technique allows greater muscle stimulation and hormone response with lighter weight. Science and real-world experience have vetted that statement. Isotension achieves similar results because a contracted muscle under load restricts blood flow without physically occluding the body part with wraps.
Therefore, following your three sets of dips, perform the following:
Use the elitefts Pro Average Resistance Band.
- 3 sets x 20-30 seconds followed by 6-8 pushdowns with the same band. Use a neutral hand position.
As a point of reference, here is a giant set beginning with a banded isohold:
Pronated Dumbbell Kickbacks
- 3 sets x 6-8 reps with a three-second isohold in the contracted position on each rep
These will require minimal weight. The contraction is the most important factor. Flex for those three seconds like your life depends on it!
Week 3 – Extended Sets
Extending a set by altering the angle, exercise (super or giant set), or weight (drop set) is a great way to stimulate and recruit more muscle fibers. I realize these set-extending techniques are not new, but here are a few of my favorites:
- Dumbbell Lying Extensions (forehead level) to Hex Press
- EZ Bar Skull Crusher to Presses
- Supinate to Pronate Pushdown
- Pad Pushdown and Machine Extensions
- Single Arm Cable Extension and Overhead Extension
- Dips Between Benches to Narrow/Shoulder Width Hand Position Push-ups to Overhead Extensions
- Close Grip Bench Drop Set
- Seated Half Press Deadstop Drop Set*
*Set pins at forehead level while seated in a cage. Allow your elbows to flare and press a barbell with a shoulder-width hand position allowing the weight to rest on the pins for a two-second count on each rep (dead stop).
The idea this week is to select any three bullet points above and execute the exercise(s) for two rounds of six to ten reps. Don’t select more than one from the same category, meaning one from each — angle, exercise, and weight.
Week 4 – Stretch Considerations
I cringe every time I see someone walk into the gym and perform heavy dumbbell overhead extensions without a proper warm-up. They’re asking for an injury. I’m not saying stretch exercises lack value. On the contrary, I almost always finish a workout, regardless of body part, with a stretch-focused exercise. Stretching a fully pumped muscle helps build blood volume in the muscle and speed up recovery.
Note: Make this week’s prior chest workout press movement heavy by including three pressing variations. For example, HBT Barbell Bench Press, Dumbbell Incline, and Floor Presses before doing your three sets of dips to transition to triceps.
Stretch-Focused Density Set
I like the American Gridiron Bar for this.
- 8 sets x 8 reps with 5- to 10-second rest breaks holding weigh in the stretched position.
Expect a nasty pump and burn.
Here is a video:
Similarly, this may be performed with a rope attachment on a cable pulley. After this program, consider adding a stretch movement or simply a static stretch at the end of all your triceps training sessions.
Week 5 — High Rep Shock
To prove I’m not entirely anti-triceps pushdowns, we end this five-week program with a high rep shock technique that’s sure to leave your triceps sore for days. I throw this variation in every few months because the stimulus is so dissimilar to how I typically train triceps. Here is what I want you to do using a straight bar attached to an upper pulley:
- Set 1 x 40 reps finishing with a 10-second isohold at the midpoint of the last rep
- Set 2 x 30 reps finishing with a 10-second isohold at the midpoint of the last rep
- Set 3 x 20 reps finishing with a 10-second isohold at the midpoint of the last rep
The key is to choose your weight wisely and pump the reps out non-stop on each set until the final 10-second isohold. As mentioned in Week 4, be sure to stretch your triceps for 30 seconds between each of these three sets.
I hope this five-week triceps program opens your mind to a few new ways in which to approach triceps training and elicit sleeve-splitting growth.