The triceps muscle makes up two-thirds of the upper arm. For those seeking to strengthen and increase the size of their arms, free-weight exercises provide the best muscle growth stimulus. Choose two or three movements and do one to three sets of each for six to 12 repetitions. Try adding these free-weight exercises to your exercise program to get a good triceps workout.
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Close-Grip Barbell Bench Presses
The close-grip bench press serves as a mass-building exercise for the triceps; it provides a lot of resistance, allowing the triceps to work in synergy with other stabilizing muscle groups. Take a close grip, six to 12 inches between your hands, lower the weight to the chest-line or just below and press it upward until the point just short of elbow lockout. You can do this exercise on a flat, inclined or declined bench. According to “3D Muscle Building,” the declined variation takes the shoulders out of the movement and creates the best angle for targeting all three heads of the triceps muscle.
Body-weight dips target the triceps in a way that forces your muscles to stabilize against the force of gravity, according to “Combat the Fat.” If you do these on a dip-bar apparatus, make sure you keep your elbows in and your body in a straight up-and-down line. Do not go deeper than where your upper arms reach a position parallel to the ground or lock your elbows out at the top, or you will give your triceps a chance to rest between reps. This is bad, because it decreases the stress on the target muscle. Add weight by holding a dumbbell between your feet or attaching weighted plates to a dip belt. You can also do dips between two benches, your hands stabilized on one, palms facing back, and your feet on the other.
Lying Triceps Extensions
Also known as “skull-crushers,” lying triceps extensions use dumbbells or a barbell. Lying on a flat or decline bench, you keep your elbows in and as stationary as possible as you lower the weight toward your forehead or slightly behind the head. When you reach the bottom position, extend your arms up to the top position, just short of locking out the elbows.
Overhead extensions performed on an incline or straight-backed bench put stretch overload on the triceps muscle. According to “3D Muscle Building” authors Jonathan Lawson and Steve Holman, stretch overload produces a substantial increase in lean mass. Holding a barbell or dumbbell, keep your upper arms perpendicular to the floor as the weight descends. Then press the weight upward, just short of locking out the elbows.
Kickbacks allow the triceps muscle to fully contract and create the closest thing possible to an isolation movement with free weights. To do them correctly, make sure you avoid using momentum to swing the weight upward. With your non-working hand stabilized on a bench and holding a dumbbell in the working hand, tighten your shoulder and elbow joints as you extend your lower arm backward to the point where the triceps muscle fully contracts. Do a full set with one arm and then switch to the other.