T Nation

Building Triceps

Hi everyone,

Just pondering the best way (in terms of reps and weight) to build my triceps.

For hypertrophy, the general concensus is sets of 8-12 reps so when I do exercises like skull crushers, California press and close-grip bench press I pick a weight at which I’ll reach failure within 8-12 reps. Reading up on triceps, though, a lot of people say that they respond best to low reps at high weight - more like 5 reps.

Is it more of an issue of picking the right reps for the exercise? For instance an isolation elbow-extension exercise such as cable pull-downs or skull crushers should be done for 8-12 reps whereas compound exercises involving more fibres of the tricep like rack lockouts and maybe dips should be done for lower reps?

It’s pretty hard to do too much tricep work as far as I understand. Close grip floor press and close grip board press are two amazing exercises to do heavy for the triceps. For isolation, another tool to consider are band pressdowns, obviously for high reps and several sets.

Many people are absolutely in love with those, and they seem to produce great results. And like you mentioned, go heavier on the big compound lifts and lighter on isolation and adjust your rep range accordingly.

My triceps used to be a weak point (size and strength) now all I do is floor presses, dips, skullcrushers, and maybe some high rep banded pushdowns.

[quote]MileyV wrote:
Just pondering the best way (in terms of reps and weight) to build my triceps.

Reading up on triceps, though, a lot of people say that they respond best to low reps at high weight - more like 5 reps.[/quote]
Wanna know the secret to figuring out what really works? Try one program/style of training for 8-16 weeks, take notes/photos of progress, try something different for another 8-16 weeks, take notes/photos, repeat for 10-50 years while slowly, eventually, hopefully figuring a few things out along the way.

Yes, some exercises definitely lend themselves to going heavier safely and effectively while other exercises “work” better with a light to moderate weight and moderate to higher reps.

But if we’re talking about total development from a bodybuilding point of view, a concept that often gets overlooked is addressing different functions of the elbow and not using pressdown variations (arms pointing towards feet), press/extension variations (arms pointing forward) and overhead variations (arms, errr, overhead).

Including all three “directions” of training (not necessarily in the same workout) will help to give attention to each tri head for well-rounded development.

I know I know the best way to find things out is by doing but I feel like I should ask in case anyone has any interesting perspectives on things! And I might as well find out if there’s a right way and a wrong way to be doing things now rather than later.

Thanks - coincidentally, by training in a way that hits as many muscles as possible, my training routine includes pushing and pulling up, down and horizontally so I’ve got that rounded aspect to my training already.

My two favorite triceps moves are overhead extensions with 2 hands on one dumbbell and skull crushers with a medium/wider grip. I notice a loss of size especially when I stop doing any overhead extensions.

scott tricep extensions,

rope pressdowns with fat gripz.

Thumbless grip on most pressing moves

Focus on getting stronger on the big lifts (bench and overhead press in this case) and worry about individual muscles later. Press big weights and your triceps will grow.

[quote]Jasonthorpe wrote:
Focus on getting stronger on the big lifts (bench and overhead press in this case) and worry about individual muscles later. Press big weights and your triceps will grow.[/quote]

Keep training and progressing on the big lifts, but still do some iso movements for your triceps. Just hoping compounds will get the job done isn’t the best strategy if your goal is maximum growth. I only did compound movements fro triceps for awhile and now my triceps are lagging.

I like Incline EZ bar extensions and pushdowns a lot, high reps, 8-20.

[quote]Spidey22 wrote:

[quote]Jasonthorpe wrote:
Focus on getting stronger on the big lifts (bench and overhead press in this case) and worry about individual muscles later. Press big weights and your triceps will grow.[/quote]

Keep training and progressing on the big lifts, but still do some iso movements for your triceps. Just hoping compounds will get the job done isn’t the best strategy if your goal is maximum growth. I only did compound movements fro triceps for awhile and now my triceps are lagging.

I like Incline EZ bar extensions and pushdowns a lot, high reps, 8-20. [/quote]

I agree you should do something for your triceps in addition to the big lifts, but don’t overthink it. It’s assistance work; just pick an exercise you’re comfortable with, do three high-rep sets and be done with it. I admit I’m writing from a powerlifting perspective here, but for a beginner I think the most important thing is to build a good, strong foundation.

[quote]Jasonthorpe wrote:

[quote]Spidey22 wrote:

[quote]Jasonthorpe wrote:
Focus on getting stronger on the big lifts (bench and overhead press in this case) and worry about individual muscles later. Press big weights and your triceps will grow.[/quote]

Keep training and progressing on the big lifts, but still do some iso movements for your triceps. Just hoping compounds will get the job done isn’t the best strategy if your goal is maximum growth. I only did compound movements fro triceps for awhile and now my triceps are lagging.

I like Incline EZ bar extensions and pushdowns a lot, high reps, 8-20. [/quote]

I agree you should do something for your triceps in addition to the big lifts, but don’t overthink it. It’s assistance work; just pick an exercise you’re comfortable with, do three high-rep sets and be done with it. I admit I’m writing from a powerlifting perspective here, but for a beginner I think the most important thing is to build a good, strong foundation.[/quote]

Yeah I think we agree on the advice we are giving. But I know when I was new to lifting, ifsomeone said ‘progress on compound movements’, I would think that meant ‘iso movements were for worthless’. Just trying make it clear for the guy haha.

DIP!

Ok what I’m gathering from the range of advice is, as with most things, variety is the way to go!

For me the best moves have been the dumbbell overhead extension using both hands on one dumbbell. I sit on a low back bench and have somebody handing me the dumbbell when I’m in position. I always work my way up from say 50lbs and add 10lbs each set until i get to my work weight currently at about 100lbs. Reps are usually in the 8-12 range.

I also like doing overhead rope extensions on an incline bench. Here i will go up to 15-25 reps squeezing hard on every rep.

Bench dips is another movement that I feel really good in my triceps. I have somebody place 3 45’s on my lap and removing one by one when I can’t get a full rep at that weight anymore. With 3 drops like that I get one helluva pump!

Bench dips aka fat man dips are the way to go for pumps (I do them too)

Try doing free weight tricep exercises. Getting a strong tricep is a good foundation for mass. Do close grip bench, tricep extensions (db, ez bar), and skull crushers. Rope pull downs and kickbacks are awesome exercises but I like to do them as my last exercises and do high repetitions.

[quote]Chris Colucci wrote:

[quote]MileyV wrote:
Just pondering the best way (in terms of reps and weight) to build my triceps.

Reading up on triceps, though, a lot of people say that they respond best to low reps at high weight - more like 5 reps.[/quote]
Wanna know the secret to figuring out what really works? Try one program/style of training for 8-16 weeks, take notes/photos of progress, try something different for another 8-16 weeks, take notes/photos, repeat for 10-50 years while slowly, eventually, hopefully figuring a few things out along the way.

Yes, some exercises definitely lend themselves to going heavier safely and effectively while other exercises “work” better with a light to moderate weight and moderate to higher reps.

But if we’re talking about total development from a bodybuilding point of view, a concept that often gets overlooked is addressing different functions of the elbow and not using pressdown variations (arms pointing towards feet), press/extension variations (arms pointing forward) and overhead variations (arms, errr, overhead).

Including all three “directions” of training (not necessarily in the same workout) will help to give attention to each tri head for well-rounded development.[/quote]
This sums it all up very well. OP, you would do well to take in this post, to have somebody like Chris Colucci answering your question is a great resource.

All I could add is that I believe, shoulders permitting, dips are a fantastic way to build up your triceps.

I’m not a huge fan of bench dips as you get stronger. Loading them becomes problematic and it’s a dangerous place to be placing 20kg plates.

reverse grip benches

Lightened (with bands) Bench & floor press using the EZ bar with 1) straight weight. 2) added chain and 3) with a mini band (long) around my back an over my thumbs works for me. I do lightened after bench and the floor press after MP.

Rep range sounds about right, best exercises are things like dips and tricep extensions, but you need to be maximizing the time under tension your muscle is subject to as well as really concentrating on form, this is massively important. Apart fromt hat keep training to failure and eating around 0.8g - 1g per lob of bodyweight per day and you’ll be fine!