Great arms aren’t just built from the front. Here’s a great workout for colossal triceps.
Add this routine as a bonus triceps day. Or swap out your typical triceps-focused lifts for this workout and do a four-week block to shock your triceps into new growth.
Use a double progression model. This means you increase the reps, then the resistance. For example, your work sets should be heavy enough to reach muscular failure at 6 reps. You’ll get stronger as the weeks pass and eventually be able to hit 8 reps with that same weight for every set. Once you can, increase the weight so you’re hitting failure at 6 reps again. Repeat until you’re absurdly strong. (On some of the exercises below, you’ll start with 8 reps with the goal of hitting 10 before adding weight in subsequent workouts.)
This is your warm-up. It’ll get your triceps firing and lubricate your elbows.
Pay attention to tempo. For the first two sets, use a 3-2-1-0 tempo. Lower the weight for 3 seconds, hold at the bottom for 2, lift for 1 second, then start over again without a pause. For the last set, drop the hold at the bottom and use a 3-0-1-0 tempo. Rest 90 seconds between sets.
To emphasize the triceps instead of the chest, keep your torso vertical, your legs back, and your elbows tighter to the body. Use a 3-2-1-0 tempo for the first two sets, then 3-0-1-0 tempo on the last set. Rest 90 seconds between sets.
The decline positions your head lower than your feet, creating a deeper triceps stretch during the exercise’s eccentric (lowering) phase. A greater stretch leads to increased muscle activation and helps stimulate growth. Use a 3-1-1-0 tempo. Rest 60 seconds between sets.
Don’t have access to a decline bench? Elevate the front end of a flat bench with a bumper plate to create the decline angle.
Use a cross-pulley setup. The cable angle aligns with the triceps’ fibers when you extend the elbows, putting more stress directly on the tissue and less on the joint. Squeeze and flex at the end range of each rep. Move to the next exercise to complete this superset.
Squeeze and flex at the end range of each rep. Rest 60 seconds between sets.
Let’s geek out a bit on why these exercises work. Your body understands the tension it must create to overcome resistance, and it understands time under tension. Equipped with this knowledge, you can trigger the key drivers of hypertrophy.
Mechanical tension is developed through lifting a heavy weight through a relatively large range of motion. You can directly build lean tissue by emphasizing mechanical tension while improving muscle fiber recruitment and work capacity. The stronger you are, the more muscle fibers you recruit, allowing you to lift heavier weights for progressive overload. Focus on building strength in the 4-8 rep range.
Metabolic stress is triggered by working your muscles under adequate tension with insufficient rest. Metabolic stress increases muscle growth by increasing the following:
Cell Swelling: When you perform high-rep, pump-inducing exercises, your muscles experience a temporary “swelling” effect. This is due to increased blood flow and the accumulation of metabolites like hydrogen ions and creatinine in the muscle cells. This swelling contributes to muscle growth, creating tension in the muscle fascia (the connective tissue surrounding the muscle), which may stimulate more growth.
Hormone Release: Metabolic stress leads to the release of certain hormones like growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), both associated with muscle growth. These hormones help stimulate protein synthesis and muscle repair, leading to hypertrophy.
Cellular Signaling: Metabolic stress activates specific cellular signaling pathways within muscle cells, like mTOR. Activating mTOR leads to increased protein synthesis.
Blood Flow and Nutrient Delivery: The increased blood flow to muscles during high-rep, metabolically stressful exercises improves the delivery of nutrients, oxygen, and growth-promoting factors to muscle cells. This enhanced nutrient and oxygen supply jumpstarts growth.
Improved Mind-Muscle Connection: You’ll struggle to build muscle if you can’t “feel it” contract. Getting a pump is a great way to key into muscles you struggle to connect with and help them grow over time.
Muscular damage is the by-product of practical training, but it shouldn’t be the goal. This damage triggers an inflammatory response, potentially leading to further growth. Focus on performing exercises through a full range of motion to create significant stress.