Triceps Training Tips

August 1, 2014 10:17 pm Published by Leave your thoughts


by Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS


If your bench hasn’t budged since Ford was in office or if your quest to add arm mass has stalled, read on.


Triceps Training Mistakes


The role of triceps is commonly overlooked by performance minded lifters, who underestimate its importance in pressing exercises. Aesthetically driven individuals mistakenly devote a disproportionate amount of time and energy on biceps training in the hopes of building big arms, not knowing that the triceps comprise 2/3rds of the upper arm. Then there’s the sect of overzealous lifters who insist to blast the bejesus out of a muscle group that’s called upon during chest, shoulder, and to a lesser degree, back training.


To better understand the function of the triceps, here’s an obligatory anatomy refresher.

The Triceps Brachii consists of three distinct aspects: the long head, the lateral head, and the medial head. The long head, the largest triceps brachii group, originates from the infraglenoid tubercle of the scapula; the lateral head originates from the posterior humerus above the spiral grove, and the medial head, also originates from the posterior humerus, but below the spiral groove. Collectively, the three aspects of the triceps insert into the posterior region of the olecrannon process of the ulna and posterior capsule.

The primary role of the long head is to stabilize the shoulder and extends the humerus. The long head really comes into play during presses, where scapular stability is crucial, given its attachment point to the scapula. The lateral head is involved with elbow extension during any overhead or over-the-torso extension movements, such as overhead dumbbell and rope extensions and skull crushers. The medial head retracts the capsule of the elbow joint, thus permitting a greater degree of elbow extension.

Identifying Weak Points


Attempts to enhance bench pressing prowess are often sabotaged by faulty experimentation practices. Many struggling with their bench erroneously tack on needless volume and exercises in an attempt to improve their performance prior to identifying weak points. Extra sets of bench, pressdowns, and kickbacks won’t boost your bench, especially if you don’t know where you are missing the lift.


Athletes, including powerlifters, both geared and raw, struggle with the lockout.


Throughout the course of the lift, recruitment patterns change as do the length-tension relationships of the involved muscles. In order to understand the biomechanics of the bench press, we need to examine the phases which are involved in the lift.


Acceleration Phase


This phase begins with the initiation of the lift from the chest (concentric) and continues until a noticeable decrease of velocity is encountered. During this phase, the summation of muscular force highest than in the remaining phases.

Sticking Point


The sticking point of a given lift (in this case, the bench press), begins as bar speed decreases. The sticking point is encountered as involvement of muscle groups shifts to other muscle groups. It is during this phase in which most lifts fail. Muscular force production is lowest in this phase than all subsequent phases.  For instance, in the bench press, once the bar is successfully moved from the chest, the triceps begin taking over in locking out the bar.


Maximum Strength Phase


If the lift survives the sticking point, it enters the maximum strength phase. High muscular forces are reached during this phase as leverages improve closer to lockout.


Deceleration Phase


A brief deceleration phase is encountered following the maximum strength phase, which concludes with the conclusion of the lift.


Training Tips


Sticking points which are encountered close to 90 degrees of elbow flexion are indicative of weak triceps. The triceps are responsible for producing elbow extension torque, which occurs near 90 degrees of elbow flexion. At 90 degrees of elbow flexion the long head of the triceps doesn’t possess good leverage, meaning that the lateral head must be strong enough to produce elbow extension torque almost by itself.


The lateral head is the aspect of the triceps which is most involved with the bench press lockout, which is why from a strength training perspective, must be targeted with exercises such as close grip bench presses, board presses, and direct elbow extension work.


If more triceps work is warranted, you could bring your bench press grip in a little closer earlier in your training session and move it out further as fatigue sets in. Alternatively, you may substitute your regular bench presses with close grip benches for a training cycle.


Victor Tringali, Drexel University’s Executive Director of University Wellness and founder of Team Vic Exercise Science, who enjoyed a decorated bodybuilding career, chimed in with a few valuable perspectives on triceps training.


“Triceps training should be included as a component of a more comprehensive program that focuses on larger muscle groups,” says Tringali.


Tringali also sees value in training triceps along with biceps in antagonistic pairings, but prefers if triceps training follows biceps training to “enhance the triceps contraction.”. He also pointed out that since the triceps are utilized in a number of compound pressing movements, volume and frequency can be kept relatively low.


According to Tringali, exercise selection is governed by a constellation of factors.


“In my opinion, tt’s important to choose exercises that feel comfortable to the individual’s joints and unique biomechanics, allow for the use of heavier loads and also provide great pumps to eliciti desirable metabolic responses.


Watch Ryan Messer hit 335 for a triple on the Close Grip Bench Press


Watch Big Al Davis crank out Chain Triceps Extensions


Watch Buck Austin own a set of Weighted Dips



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