Your tri’s make up at least two-thirds of the mass in your upper arms, and they should be afforded proportionate amounts of time—and respect—in your training. Below, we’re going to give you a different way to look at triceps training—one that doesn’t concern itself, like most bodybuilding programs do, with the inner, outer, and lateral heads of the muscle.
It’s important to know your anatomy to build the muscle you want, but when it comes to working hard, choosing the most effective exercises you can find, and getting real results, it’s your approach that counts—and the one we’re offering here won’t let you down. Now, get to work.
Laying the foundation
Whether you include it in your program or not, there’s no upper-body exercise quite like the bench press for recruiting massive amounts of muscle. It’s a compound, multi-joint lift that hits virtually every muscle in your upper body, so improving your bench strength will help you everywhere.
And one of the best ways to get a bigger bench is to work your triceps, shoulders, and lats harder. All three muscle groups play major roles during the performance of the lift—especially your triceps, which help to lock the weight out in the upper half of your bench press. The more narrow your grip, the earlier in the lift your triceps kick in, so including extra triceps work in your training will have a direct effect on your bench press.
Your primary goal with these workouts is to perform the prescribed number of reps and sets with more weight each time you train. With the moves we’re suggesting here, this won’t be a problem over a four-week period because you’ll improve quickly as you learn how the exercises work. To really gauge how well you’re doing, try this template for four weeks, take a few weeks off to see if your bench-press strength improves, then go back, plug this regimen in again, and see what you can do once your learning curve flattens out a bit.
If you keep adding weight to these moves—even small, gradual increments will do—your triceps will get bigger all around. For bench-press strength, each head of your triceps needs to get bigger and stronger, but if you simply train for strength the way we’re advocating here—as opposed to worrying about isolating everything with cables—you’ll gain startling amounts of mass in an aesthetically pleasing way.
The strength-endurance work you’ll be doing—in the form of backward and forward bear crawls—will pay dividends as well. After four solid weeks of our brutal bear crawl circuit, you should notice an ability to bang out more reps with heavier weight.
For the next four weeks, try this program on your chest day and arms day. Since the two workouts listed here both lead off with a form of weighted dips, you’ll have to take a long, hard look at your chest and shoulder training volume, as dips place a great deal of strain on both of these muscle groups, especially the shoulders. You may have to compromise here. For example, if your chest day includes two or more variations of bench presses, take one of these moves out of your workouts for these four weeks to concentrate on your triceps without risking overuse injuries.
This routine is structured to give you the best of two worlds—strength and endurance. For the two kinds of dips and your dumbbell exercises, the idea is to move a load in a controlled fashion, with proper technique, as quickly as possible. This entails lowering the weight—or your body—smoothly, then exploding back to the top of the movement with everything you have. Learn to train this way and you’ll make much quicker progress overall.
As a finisher on your second day of this workout, we’re throwing in a bear crawl circuit you can perform on your gym floor, in an aerobics room, or outside. Backward bear crawls are triceps killers, and by the time you’re finished combining these with pushups, your arms will be absolutely smoked, and you’ll be thankful for a few days off before it’s time to do it again.