If I had a nickel for every time a person asked me to “make a muscle,” I would be one wealthy dude. The funny thing is, when I get that request I am always tempted to flex my back or calf since all they asked for was a muscle. Of course, however, I know what it is they want to see, and that is the biceps. But what most people don’t realize is that it is actually the triceps that create most of the arms’ mass, so when a lifter throws up an arm and puts on a gun show, they are actually gawking at more tri than bi.
With that in mind, it makes sense to be certain that the development of your triceps is equal to that of your biceps, so be sure you are not making one or more of the following 5 tri errors.
While isolation exercises certainly have their place in an effective triceps-building program, you will never reach your “mass potential” without regularly including Close-Grip (CG) Bench Presses and Dips in your workouts. These basic exercises allow you to team up with your chest and delts to lift prodigious poundage, which is necessary when you are after titanic tris.
The long head of the triceps makes up most of its mass and this is best activated by exercises where the elbows are up by the ears with arms overhead. Every triceps workout should include seated/incline overhead BB, DB or cable extensions if the goal is to create arms that are freaky even when just hanging by your sides.
I totally understand that everyone loves training biceps, but since the triceps are a more complex muscle (3 heads vs. 2 heads) they will require a bit more work to reach full development (unless genetically gifted in that area). While I normally recommend between 6 and 8 all-out sets for bis, when I assign workouts for tris, I push the volume 2-4 sets higher.
You want to make sure a muscle is growing at the fastest rate possible? Then make sure it receives the most tension on every single rep! One of the most common things I witness trainees doing in the gym is allowing the elbows to flare out during pushdowns and extensions, which cheats the triceps out of stimulation by making the shoulders/chest “press” the weight – which is not the most effective way to perform these particular movements. Keep the elbows tight and allow only the triceps to move the bar or DB.
Much triceps muscle fiber firing occurs in the last 1/3 of pushdown, press and extension exercises. Thus, if you do not lock out, you are not fully engaging the tris and also missing out on potential hypertrophy. The key is to lock out under full control by contracting the triceps fully and not utilizing momentum or allowing the elbow joint to support the weight. In other words, “squeeze to lockout” and flex the muscle tight.