The man who wants bigger triceps cannot live on pressdowns alone. Too often, we see guys in the gym—and maybe youre one of them—working his triceps to death at the cable pressdown station. Ten sets, 15 sets... whatever it takes to get them sore. But what the pressdown-happy masses dont seem to realize is that this exercise emphasizes the lateral (outer) head of the triceps. So if thats all you do, the other two heads of your tris are going to be underdeveloped and youll never get the kind of growth youre hoping for.
There are other versions of this favorite you can use, plus a few exercises and techniques that you are probably neglecting, that will help your cause. Here, youll find a comprehensive plan—boiled down into five tips—that can help you build balanced, thick triceps in no-time flat.
If you must do pressdowns, at least do them properly. Too many guys hold the bar like motorcycle handlebars. This causes you to push with the fingers, which not only places stress on the hands and wrist (as the wrists often extend back), but it reduced the amount of force you can apply to the bar. The key is to push with the heel of the palms. Youll know when you have this technique down as you wont even have to wrap your fingers around the bar. Youll also realize how much more weight you can do on pressdowns. And greater overload equals—youve got it—more triceps growth.
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2. Pull it
The flipside to the above advice is to literally do just that—flip your grip and take an underhand grip to pull the weight down when doing triceps pressdowns. While the overhand version places the greatest stress on the lateral triceps head, the underhand version better stresses the oft-neglected medial head. Since the only way to maximize overall triceps mass is to maximize the mass of all three triceps heads, you need to devote time to the medial head as well. Try the reverse-grip pressdown using an EZ-bar attachment with a rotating collar, which will remove the stress form your wrists.
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3. Angle It
Every guy thats put in any effort to build up his tris is familiar with the lying triceps extension, or what is known to hardcore bodybuilders as skullcrushers. Well bet our crazy magazine salary that you grab the bar and head over to the flat bench. But whens the last time you did them on an incline, or (even crazier) on a decline? Changing the angle of this effective exercise effectively changes the triceps head thats stressed.
The more the arms are placed in front of the body and overhead, the more the long head is emphasized. When you do skullcrushers on a flat bench, the arms are perpendicular to the body and so both the long head and lateral head are fairly equally involved, with even a good bit of involvement from the medial head. When you do them on an incline bench, the arms move more overhead, which places greater emphasis on the long head. And when you do them on a decline bench, the arms move down more towards the sides of the body, similar to a triceps pressdown. This places more stress on the lateral head than the long head, with some help from the medial head at the top of the rep.
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4. Band It
You may know that using bands or chains is a great way to increase muscle strength and power due to what is known as linear variable resistance, which means the resistance increases as does the range of motion of the exercise. So why not put them to work in your quest for bigger triceps? Using bands or chains on the close-grip bench press is a fantastic way to maximize triceps involvement.
Since the close-grip bench press is a multi-joint exercise, you are able to maximize the amount of stress you place on the triceps (more weight = more growth). When you press the bar off your chest during the close-grip bench press the triceps involvement increases the higher the bar moves. Since bands and chains increase the resistance as the range of motion increases, using them on the close-grip bench press places maximal stress on the triceps, while minimizing the stress son the chest and delts, which are used in the lower half of the range of motion.
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5. Drop It
The Weider Principle known as drop sets is an intensity technique that can be applied to any of the exercises above to push your triceps growth beyond that possible with straight sets. To do a drop set, you simply take a set to failure and then immediately reduce the weight and continue the set to failure again. This can be done one, two, three, or as many times as you want to punish your triceps.
Research performed by our own Weider Research Group discovered that the optimal weight to drop on each drop set is 20—30% of the original weight. We suggest you only do drop sets on the last set or two of each exercise to prevent overtraining. Drop sets work to boost muscle growth by taking the muscle to the point beyond muscle failure. This can help to increase growth hormone release, which stimulates muscle growth.