The triceps are one of the most important muscle groups in the upper body. Any powerlifter worth his salt will tell you that the triceps are the key to a huge bench press.
The triceps are also critical for building a huge pair of arms. After all, the triceps make up about two-thirds of the size of your arms. It’s hard to imagine what someone like Kevin Levrone would look like without his monstrous triceps on the bodybuilding stage!
- Strategy #1: Train All 3 Heads Of The Triceps!
- Strategy #2: Get Really Weird With It!
- Strategy #3: Sequence Your Exercises Correctly!
- Strategy #4: Increase Your Training Frequency!
- Strategy #5: Use High-Intensity Training Techniques!
In this comprehensive guide I will teach you 5 of the best training strategies for how to bring up lagging triceps.
Some of the best tricep training strategies include training all 3 heads of the triceps, sequencing your exercises correctly and using high-intensity training techniques like tri-sets and eccentric training. Other training methods such as using novel exercises and increasing your training volume / frequency can also be effective for stimulating triceps growth.
If you start using these training strategies in your own workouts then you will be well on your way to bigger, stronger triceps. Note: if you have trouble reading the training routines in this article then check out this guide on how to read a training program. Now let’s get down to business…
Strategy #1: Train All 3 Heads Of The Triceps!
The triceps are a muscle group with three separate muscle heads:
These three heads work together to extend the elbow during compound and isolation triceps exercises. There is one exercise that targets all three heads of the triceps better than anything else: parallel bar dips. Here is a perfect video of this exercise:
If you want to build big, strong triceps then you must start using this exercise in your routines. EMG studies show that dips target all three heads of the triceps better than other compound triceps exercises like the close grip bench press.
Besides dips there are specific exercises that you can perform to really isolate each of these muscle heads. If you want to bring up your lagging triceps then using exercises to target each head of the triceps is absolutely essential.
Let’s start out discussion by looking at the best exercises for the lateral head of the triceps. Check it out:
The Best Lateral Head Triceps Exercises
- Flat and decline triceps extensions
- Flat and decline bench presses
- Cable tricep pushdowns
- Parallel bar dips
The lateral head of the triceps is the narrow muscle on the outside of your arm. The lateral head is often called the “lazy head” of the triceps because it is more difficult to train than the other two heads. The lateral head responds best to flat and decline compound and isolation exercises.
In other words your upper arm has to be perpendicular to your upper body or lower in order to target the lateral head.
One of the absolute best exercises for the lateral head of the triceps is the slight decline triceps extension with chains. For example:
This exercise is simply unbelievable for targeting the lateral head! The slight decline angle really helps you to overload the lateral head through the entire range of motion. The strength coach Charles Poliquin actually believed this exercise was one of the best exercises you can perform for overall triceps development.
The chains make the exercise slightly heavier at the top of the movement and slightly lighter at the bottom. They also force you to fire your triceps as hard as possible on the concentric phase of each rep which is helpful for recruiting more of the fast-twitch muscle fibers.
If you want to target your lateral head with skull crushers or some other lying triceps extension then it is VERY important that you do not let your elbows drift behind your body.
Here are two videos you may want to watch:
The first video shows a bodybuilder letting his elbows drift behind his head on skull crushers. This is a great strategy for targeting the long head but it takes all the tension away from the lateral head.
If you want to target the lateral head with skull crushers then you MUST keep your elbows right underneath your shoulders or more in front of your body.
In terms of compound pressing exercises both the close grip bench press and the decline close grip bench press do a fantastic job of targeting the lateral head of the triceps. Here are some great videos for both exercises:
The lateral head is almost entirely made up of fast-twitch muscle fibers and responds best to lower reps. You may want to perform these exercises for lower rep ranges for optimal results. For example you could perform sets of 4-8 reps in a hypertrophy phase or sets of 1-5 reps during a strength phase.
The Best Long Head Triceps Exercises
- Flat, incline and overhead triceps extensions
- Flat, incline and overhead barbell presses
- Hybrid pullover / extension exercises
- Parallel bar dips
The long head of the triceps is the big, meaty part of the triceps located on the backside of your arm. The long head is very fun to train because it responds well to exercises that put your triceps in a deep loaded stretch. If you want to train your long head then you must use exercises that put your elbow perpendicular to your upper body or higher.
Two of the best compound exercises for targeting the long head of the triceps are the close grip bench press and the behind the neck press. For example:
The behind the neck press may seem like a strange choice. In reality the long head is VERY strongly recruited during all types of overhead pressing exercises. The strength coach Charles Poliquin believed you could predict someone’s triceps size from their 6-rep max on the close grip bench press and the behind the neck press.
The stronger the athlete was on these two lifts the bigger their triceps would be. Is there any truth to this statement? The legendary bodybuilder Kevin Levrone had some of the best triceps development in history and he could behind-the-neck press 405 pounds for reps.
The best isolation exercises for the long head include flat and overhead triceps extensions. However, the king of isolation exercises for the long head has to be hybrid pullover / extension exercises. Here are a few examples:
The long head of the triceps is unique because it crosses the elbow joint AND the shoulder joint. This means it helps you to extend your elbows and to extend the shoulders.
If you want to maximally train the long head then you must use an exercise that incorporates both elbow extension and shoulder extension. These hybrid pullover / extension exercises fit the bill perfectly.
I think you will be shocked at how sore your long head gets after you first try these exercises. The next day it will feel like a team of angry ninjas beat your long head with bamboo sticks for hours on end!
The Best Medial Head Triceps Exercises
- Decline triceps extensions
- Decline bench presses
- Cable tricep pushdowns
- Parallel bar dips
The medial head of the triceps is sometimes called “the workhorse of elbow extension” because it is recruited during almost all triceps exercises. You don’t need to do anything fancy to target this part of the triceps. However, there are some exercises that hit this muscle especially hard.
Research shows that decline compound and isolation exercises work the medial head the hardest, especially in the fully contracted position. Exercises like decline close grip bench presses, decline triceps extensions and tricep cable pushdowns are all great for targeting the medial head.
Here are some videos for each of these exercises:
Just make sure you fully lock out your elbows on these exercises. The medial head is most active in the fully contracted position of the strength curve.
If you perform “bodybuilder-style partial reps” where you don’t lock out your weights then you won’t maximally recruit the medial head. Of course if you are trying to emphasize the lateral head then that would be a great strategy to use.
Strategy #2: Get Really Weird With It!
If you have a lagging body part then the most important thing is to use the right exercises for your body. If the exercises you are using right now aren’t working then it doesn’t matter how much volume, intensity or frequency you use: they still aren’t going to work!
Let’s say that you’ve been using the typical “mass-building” triceps exercises like close grip bench presses, dips and skull crushers but your triceps still suck. If those exercises aren’t getting the job done then you need to experiment with new exercises you haven’t used before. The bodybuilding coach Dante Trudel calls this “getting really weird with it!”
One of the best exercises for overall triceps development is the skull crusher. Here is a perfect demonstration of this exercise:
For some people this exercise is the best triceps exercise ever. Other people feel this exercise more in their elbows than they do their triceps. If you don’t get anything out of skull crushers then you need to “get really weird with it” and start experimenting with some novel variations of this exercise.
Here are 4 awesome “skull crusher” variations you need to try:
- Dead skulls
- Lying kettlebell extensions
- Lying chain triceps extensions
- Bamboo bar skull crushers
All 4 of these exercise variations are unbelievable for developing the triceps. It is much easier to establish a strong “mind-muscle connection” with these exercises and to really feel your triceps contract against the weight. Let’s take a closer look at each of them:
Skull Crusher Variation #1: Dead Skulls
“Dead skulls” were invented by Dante Trudel, the creator of the DC Training program. This exercise is basically a skull crusher where you pause the weight on the ground for a split second after each rep.
This pause forces you to use your triceps instead of momentum to get the weight moving. This exercise is also one of those “hybrid pullover / extension” exercises that really thrashes the long head of the triceps.
Trust me, this exercise absolutely murders the long head of the triceps. Many longtime DC Trainees like Dusty Hanshaw call this the best mass-building triceps exercise in the world.
Skull Crusher Variation #2: Lying Kettlebell Extensions
The lying kettlebell extension was popularized by John Meadows. This is his absolute favorite variation of the skull crusher or the lying triceps extension. The kettlebells allow you to perform your triceps extensions with a larger range of motion than is possible with dumbbells.
The kettlebells also completely change the feel of the exercise. The center of mass of the kettlebells is actually significantly below the handles where you are gripping them. This allows you to get a MUCH stronger contraction in the triceps.
John likes to perform these where his elbows are drifting behind his body the entire time. This is a great way to maintain tension on the triceps through the entire range of motion, including the top or shortened position.
Just like dead skulls the lying kettlebell extensions absolutely thrash the long head of your triceps.
Skull Crusher Variation #3: Lying Chain Triceps Extensions
Josh Bryant is very picky with the triceps exercises that he uses with his clients. During his powerlifting career Josh tore his triceps tendon while trying to perform skull crushers with 330 pounds. After this experience Josh began experimenting with different variations of the skull crusher that would let him train his triceps harder without risking injury.
The lying chain triceps extension was Josh’s new brainchild. The chains make the exercise lighter at the bottom of the exercise where you are weaker and heavier at the top of the exercise where you are stronger. In other words the chain triceps extension perfectly overloads the entire range of motion while keeping the stress off your elbows. Now THAT is what we’re after!
If you have a hard time feeling your triceps work during skull crusher variations then this exercise is for you. I think you will be shocked at how effective it is.
Skull Crusher Variation #4: Bamboo Bar Skull Crushers
This is one of the weirdest but most effective triceps exercises you will ever see. The basic idea is to perform a lying triceps extension using the hanging band method and a specialty barbell called the bamboo bar.
The bamboo bar is made out of bamboo and shakes violently as you perform the exercise. This exercise dramatically increases the tension on your triceps compared to a regular skull crusher with a barbell or an ez-curl bar. It’s not even close! You can expect some deep triceps soreness the day after you first perform this exercise.
If you do not have access to a bamboo bar then you can also hang weights from a regular 45 pound barbell using bands. If you want to learn more about this exercise then check out the following articles:
Strategy #3: Sequence Your Exercises Correctly!
What do you do when you are using the absolute best triceps exercises for your structure and you are targeting all 3 heads of the triceps but your triceps still won’t grow? Do you just throw your hands in the air and give up? Are you destined to have “eleven-teen” inch arms for the rest of your life? NO!!
The next step is to start playing around with how you sequence your exercises in your triceps workouts. Many trainees have a hard time feeling their triceps working during compound pressing exercises like dips and close grip bench presses.
If that describes you then you may need to start your triceps workouts with isolation exercises before progressing to the larger compound exercises. In other words you may need to “pre-exhaust” your triceps early in your triceps routines.
Here is one of the best ways to structure a triceps workout if you have lagging triceps:
- Exercise #1: Triceps Isolation Exercise
- Exercise #2: Triceps Compound Exercise
- Exercise #3: Triceps Isolation Exercise
This exercise sequence works UNBELIEVABLY well for bringing up lagging triceps. I’ve seen it work over and over with my coaching clients. This isn’t just my opinion though. Many of the world’s best bodybuilders and bodybuilding coaches have also come to the same conclusion.
Let’s take a look at some sample triceps routines from the following experts:
As they say, “great minds think alike.” All of these coaches / athletes have used the isolation / compound / isolation exercise sequence to build big, strong triceps.
John Meadows is a world-renowned bodybuilding coach and the creator of the Mountain Dog Training program. His program focuses on sequencing your exercises so you can train the target muscle as hard as possible while staying injury-free.
John often likes to train his triceps with some type of cable pushdown exercise first, then use some type of compound triceps exercise and finally finish with a lying or overhead triceps extension.
Here is a sample Mountain Dog triceps training routine. Check it out:
John Meadows’ Pre-Exhaust Triceps Routine
- A1: Standing triceps pushdown (spongey grips), 4 x 10-15, 1/0/X/1, 90 seconds rest
- B1: JM press (ez-curl bar), 4 x 6-8, 1/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
- C1: Overhead cable rope triceps extensions, 4 x 10-15, 1/0/1/0, no rest
Here is the full training video:
This is a very typical Mountain Dog style triceps workout. John starts his routine with a variation of cable pushdowns to establish a mind-muscle connection with his triceps and to pre-fatigue his triceps a little bit. Then he progresses to a fantastic compound triceps exercise: the JM press.
The JM press is really more of a hybrid between a close grip bench press and a lying triceps extension. It is a great choice after you have already pre-fatigued your lagging triceps. Finally John finishes his workout with another triceps isolation exercise.
John is correct in saying that overhead triceps extensions like the cable rope overhead extension should be performed last in your routine for safety purposes. Now let’s look at one of Dusty Hanshaw’s triceps routines.
When Dusty first started using the DC Training program his triceps were one of his weakest body parts. Now they are easily one of his strongest body parts. Dusty really likes compound pressing exercises like dips and close grip bench presses but he only performs them after he has pre-fatigued his triceps with some type of isolation exercise.
Here is a typical Dusty Hanshaw triceps routine. Check it out:
Dusty Hanshaw Triceps Routine
- A1: Skull crushers, 1 x 20-30 RP**, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
- B1: Smith machine bench press (shoulder-width grip), 1 x 20-30 RP**, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
- C1: Triceps pushdown (reverse grip), 1 x 10-20****, 1/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- C2: Triceps pushdown (pronated grip), 1 x AMRAP******, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set. Train to failure 3 times in a row with the same weight with 20-30 seconds rest in between each attempt. Your goal is to get 20-30 total reps from the three attempts.
****Perform 1 set to absolute failure.
******Perform 1 set to absolute failure using the same weight you used on exercise C1.
Here is the video for this whole workout:
As you can see Dusty follows a very similar sequence of exercises to John Meadows. He starts his triceps workout with a “meat and potatoes” isolation exercise like the skull crusher. Then he moves onto a big compound triceps exercise: the smith machine close grip bench press.
Finally Dusty finishes his triceps workout with a mechanical advantage drop set on the tricep cable pushdown.
The strength coach Charles Poliquin had many tricks up his sleeve for bringing up lagging triceps. He was a huge fan of post-exhaustion supersets where you perform a compound triceps exercise, rest 10 seconds and then perform a triceps isolation exercise. However, for advanced trainees he sometimes had them perform an isolation exercise early in the workout before the post-exhaustion superset.
Here is an advanced triceps hypertrophy routine that Charles wrote towards the end of his career. Check it out:
Charles Poliquin Triceps Routine
- A1: Lying triceps extensions (Watson triceps bar), 5 x 6, 4/0/1/0, 180 seconds rest
- B1: Bench press with chains (shoulder-width grip), 4 x 6-9, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
- B2: Overhead cable rope extension, 4 x 6-9, 2/0/2/0, 120 seconds rest
Once again we have the same familiar setup: you perform a triceps isolation exercise first in the routine, then a big compound exercise and finally you finish with a triceps isolation exercise that puts the triceps in a huge stretch.
If you have lagging triceps then I STRONGLY recommend you play around with this order of exercises. This is one of those rare situations where one simple triceps training tip works like magic for almost everyone.
Strategy #4: Increase Your Training Frequency!
What do you do when you are using the best triceps exercises for your structure, you are targeting all 3 heads of the triceps and you are sequencing your triceps exercises correctly but they STILL won’t grow?
In that case you need to bust out the big guns. And that means playing around with more volume, frequency or intensity in your routine. Let’s start by talking about the higher volume / frequency approach. Many bodybuilders are stuck in the habit of training each muscle group once every 7 days.
For example here is a typical bodybuilding “bro-split”:
The Typical Bodybuilding Bro-Split
- Monday: Chest
- Tuesday: Biceps
- Wednesday: Legs
- Thursday: Off
- Friday: Shoulders / Triceps
- Saturday: Back
- Sunday: Off
There is nothing wrong with training this way. It works extremely well for advanced bodybuilders, especially ones who are on performance enhancing drugs.
The obvious drawback to this type of training split is you are only training each muscle group once every 7 days. This may work great for your stronger muscle groups but if you have lagging triceps then you may need to increase your training frequency.
Let’s look at a few different training splits that let you do exactly that. The first and easiest way is to use the bodybuilding bro-split but perform extra work for your weaker body parts throughout the week. Here is how you might organize the bro-split if you wanted to bring up your lagging arms:
The High-Frequency Bro-Split
- Monday: Chest / Extra Triceps
- Tuesday: Biceps
- Wednesday: Legs
- Thursday: Off
- Friday: Shoulders / Triceps
- Saturday: Back / Extra Biceps
- Sunday: Off
This is something that the bodybuilding coach Dante Trudel likes to do with his elite level bodybuilding clients. He has them perform 1 extra exercise for their weaker muscle groups on another day during the week. This is an easy way to squeeze in some extra training volume without risking overtraining.
Another option is to take the bodybuilding bro-split and modify it so you can train every muscle group more frequently. This is something that Dorian Yates did during his career. Check it out:
The Dorian Yates Training Split
- Day 1: Chest / Biceps
- Day 2: Legs
- Day 3: Off
- Day 4: Shoulders / Triceps
- Day 5: Back
- Day 6: Off
- Day 7: Repeat!
Dorian Yates used this modified version of the bodybuilding bro-split so he could train each muscle group once every 6 days rather than once every 7 days. This may sound like a small change but it really makes a huge difference.
Dorian was able to train muscle groups 14% more often than his competitors while still using the same amount of training volume. Over the course of his career this added up to many pounds of extra muscle tissue.
If you are willing to train more muscle groups on each training day then the 4 days per week push / pull / legs split is an awesome higher-frequency training split. Here is what it looks like:
4 Day Push Pull Legs Split
- Monday: Chest / Shoulders / Triceps
- Wednesday: Back / Biceps
- Friday: Quads / Hams / Calves
- Saturday: Chest / Shoulders / Triceps
You have three training days: the push day, the pull day and the legs day. They keep rotating so whatever muscle groups you train on Monday will also be trained on Saturday. On week 2 you would train your back and biceps on Monday, your legs on Wednesday and so on.
This split lets you train muscle groups once every 5-6 days which is an AWESOME training frequency for many trainees. It also makes it easy to perform extra training volume for your weaker muscle groups like your triceps.
If you have lagging arms and you really want to bring them up to par then you may want to try a Poliquin-style training split. For example:
The Poliquin Split
- Day 1: Arms / Shoulders
- Day 2: Legs
- Day 3: Off
- Day 4: Chest / Back
- Day 5: Off
- Day 6: Repeat!
The Poliquin split is pretty much ideal for bringing up lagging arm muscles like the triceps. You are training your arms on their own dedicated training day AND you are training them directly once every 5 days. It’s hard to think of another training split that lets you do this!
Another benefit of the Poliquin split is you can perform antagonistic supersets for your biceps and triceps. Charles Poliquin used antagonistic supersets with almost all of his training clients to produce faster size and strength gains.
Strategy #5: Use High-Intensity Training Techniques!
Now we’re getting to the good stuff! If you are doing everything right but your triceps still won’t grow then it’s time to bust out the high-intensity training techniques. These are strategies that let you create more tension in your triceps and increase the total time under tension of your sets.
Here are 5 of the most effective high-intensity training techniques for building bigger, stronger triceps:
Don’t worry, I will cover each of these training methods in detail. I will even provide you with sample training routines for each training method. Check it out:
High-Intensity Technique #1: Tri-Sets
Tri-sets are a high-intensity training method where you perform 3 exercises in a row for a body part with only 10 seconds rest in between each exercise. For example:
- Perform exercise #1, rest 10 seconds
- Perform exercise #2, rest 10 seconds
- Perform exercise #3, rest 2-4 minutes, repeat!
Tri-sets are an incredible training method for bringing up your lagging triceps. They let you overload your triceps with three completely different exercises and they dramatically prolong the time under tension of your set. If a regular set takes about 20 seconds to complete then a tri-set will take about 60 seconds to complete. Now THAT is a lot of time under tension on your triceps!
Here is a triceps tri-set routine that Charles Poliquin wrote for IFBB pro Milos Sarcev. Check it out:
Milos Sarcev Triceps Tri-Set Routine
- A1: Lying ez-bar extensions (to forehead), 3 x 6-8, 2/2/1/0, 10 seconds rest
- A2: Lying ez-bar extensions (to chin), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
- A3: Bench press (shoulder width grip), 3 x 10-12, 2/2/1/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: Rope cable tricep pushdowns, 3 x 8-10, 4/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
- B2: Pronated cable tricep pushdowns, 3 x 12-15, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
- B3: Supinated cable tricep pushdowns, 3 x 12-15, 2/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
This hypertrophy workout uses two different types of tri-sets. Your first tri-set focuses on different types of skull crushers and close grip bench presses while your second tri-set focuses on different types of cable pushdowns. It is very important to use the tempos for each exercise. They are there for a reason!
You can read my article “Tempo Training: The Ultimate Guide!” for more information on how to read and use exercise tempo.
High-Intensity Technique #2: Cluster Training
Cluster sets are another advanced training method popularized by the Canadian strength coach Charles Poliquin. Cluster sets are mostly used to build strength but some creative coaches like Josh Bryant have found ways to use them for hypertrophy training.
Josh calls his new training method “hypertrophy specific cluster sets.” You are going to perform sets of 4 reps for 5 minutes straight with 15 seconds rest in between each set. For example:
- Perform 4 reps, rest 15 seconds
- Perform 4 reps, rest 15 seconds
- Perform 4 reps, rest 15 seconds
And so on. You keep performing sets of 4 until the 5 minute time period is up. Here is a perfect training video:
Josh recommends you use a weight that is somewhere in between your 10-15 rep max for that exercise. Josh loves hypertrophy specific cluster sets because they let you perform a ton of quality work in a very short period of time.
One of Josh’s favorite strategies is to perform hypertrophy specific cluster sets on 4 different exercises per body part. Here is a sample triceps routine you may want to try. Check it out:
Triceps Hypertrophy Specific Cluster Sets Routine
- A1: Rope cable pushdowns, sets of 4**, 1/0/1/1, 15 seconds rest
- B1: Hammer strength dips, sets of 4**, 2/0/1/0, 15 seconds rest
- C1: Flat DB extensions, sets of 4**, 2/0/1/0, 15 seconds rest
- D1: Rope overhead extensions (high pulley), sets of 4**, 1/0/1/1, 15 seconds rest
Hypertrophy specific cluster sets are a very weird training method. They feel very easy at first but by the end of the cluster set your triceps will be screaming louder than Ace Ventura with 2 spears in his legs. Ok, maybe not *that* loud but you get my point!
High-Intensity Technique #3: Isometric Training
Isometric training is one of the most underrated training methods for bringing up lagging triceps. Isometric sets are more of a neurological or strength-based training method but they can also work AWESOME for bodybuilders if you know what you are doing.
One of the best isometric training methods for bringing up lagging triceps is called “functional isometrics.” Here is Josh Bryant demonstrating this training method:
As you can see the bodybuilder performs 6 full range of motion reps on the close grip bench press. On the last rep he performs an all-out isometric contraction against the top pin for 6-8 seconds. His goal is to literally break the top pins in half as he presses!
This isometric contraction does some amazing things for muscle growth: it maximizes muscle fiber recruitment in the triceps and forces the release of anabolic hormones like IGF-1 and mechanical growth factor.
Here is a sample functional isometrics routine you can use to bring up your lagging triceps. Check it out:
Josh Bryant Functional Isometrics Hypertrophy Routine
- A1: Josh Bryant style bench press functional isometrics (shoulder-width grip), 3 x 8**, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: Decline ez-bar extension with chains, 3 x 10-12, 3/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
- C1: Unilateral DB french press, 3 x 10-12, 2/1/2/0, 120 seconds rest
**On your last rep press up against the top pins as hard as you can for 8 seconds. Your goal is to break the pins in half!
This workout uses three completely different exercises to maximally overload all three heads of the triceps: the lateral head, the long head and the medial head. If this routine doesn’t make your triceps grow then you will be stuck with your “eleven-teen” inch arms for all eternity!
Either that or you just can’t recover from a neurological training method like isometronics. In that case tri-sets and hypertrophy specific cluster sets are much better options for you.
High-Intensity Technique #4: Eccentric Training
Eccentric training is one of the most extreme training methods ever invented. The basic idea is to overload the eccentric or lowering phase of your exercises. There are many different ways to perform eccentric training. I talk about them in my eccentric training guides:
- Eccentric Training: The Ultimate Guide!
- The Science Of Eccentric Training!
- The 11 Greatest Eccentric Training Methods!
One of the best strategies is to perform eccentric-only reps with a really heavy weight. The basic idea is to skip the concentric range of the exercise and perform eccentric-only reps with an 8-10 second lowering phase.
These eccentric-only reps create an insane amount of muscle tension in your triceps and are great for increasing myofibrillar hypertrophy.
In my experience this training method works awesome on parallel bar dips. You just step up on the dipping platform to skip the concentric range and then lower yourself down over 8-10 seconds.
Here is an advanced eccentric triceps routine that Charles Poliquin wrote many years ago. Check it out:
Advanced Eccentric Training Triceps Routine
- A1: Bench press (shoulder-width grip), 5 x 4-6, 4/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A2: Lying triceps extension (to forehead), 5 x 6-8, 4/0/1/0, 3 minutes rest
- B1: Eccentric-only dips (upright torso)**, 3 x 3, 8/0/1/0, 5 minutes rest
**Perform only the eccentric portion of the exercise. In the bottom position let your feet hit the ground and then step back up on the platform to perform your next rep.
This workout uses a post-exhaustion superset to really fatigue your triceps before moving onto the eccentric work. I recommend you use a weight that is around 80-90% of your 1-rep max on the dips. You will already be fatigued from the first 2 exercises so this should be plenty of weight.
The important thing is to make sure you can use a true 8-second lowering phase on every rep. If you cannot maintain this tempo then the weight is too heavy.
High-Intensity Technique #5: Extreme Stretching
Extreme stretching is a high-intensity training technique popularized by the bodybuilding coach Dante Trudel through his DC Training program. Your goal is to find an exercise that puts your triceps in a deep loaded stretch and then hold that stretched position for 60-90 seconds.
In Dante’s experience the best extreme stretch exercises for triceps are overhead extension movements. Here is IFBB pro Dusty Hanshaw demonstrating his favorite way to do an extreme stretch for the triceps:
As you can see Dusty just sinks into the stretched position and holds it there as long as he can. You can either let the weight passively pull your hands down, or you can “flex” against the weight in the bottom position by lifting the weight half an inch and holding it there. The choice is up to you.
So why would anyone perform extreme stretches in the first place? In reality they have 6 major benefits for building muscle:
- They stimulate mTOR, the “on” switch for protein synthesis
- They overload your fast-twitch muscle fibers
- They increase blood flow and induce hyperemia in your muscles
- They release anabolic hormones into your muscles
- They **potentially** stretch out the fascia surrounding your muscles
- They **potentially** stimulate hyperplasia in your muscles
If that doesn’t peak your curiosity then I don’t know what will! Dante Trudel read some fascinating animal studies where scientists were able to increase muscles by 100-300% in 1-3 months using extreme stretching protocols.
Dante theorized that you could get some of these benefits by performing extreme stretches at the end of your normal bodybuilding workout. Here Dusty Hanshaw performs a typical extreme stretch triceps routine. Check it out:
Dusty Hanshaw Triceps Routine
- A1: Dead skulls, 1 x 20-30 RP, 2/1/X/0, rest as needed
- B1: Hammer strength dips, 1 x 10-30**, 1/0/1/0, rest as needed
- C1: French press extreme stretch, 1 x 60-90 seconds, rest as needed
**Perform 1 set to absolute failure. Shoot for 30 reps on your first workout and progressively increase the weight each workout until you do a hard set of 10 reps on your last workout with this exercise.
Of course you don’t have to use the DC Training program to take full advantage of extreme stretching for muscle growth. John Meadows often uses a modified version of extreme stretching to train his triceps. Here are two training videos of John performing modified versions of extreme stretching:
The bottom line is loaded stretches work synergistically with the rest of your routine to enhance muscle growth. They are an unbelievably effective way to train.
I know how hard it can be to bring up a pair of lagging triceps. If your current training routine isn’t working then you have to make a change.
The most important thing for bringing up any lagging body part is to use the right exercises. That means using different exercises that target all 3 heads of the triceps AND using exercises that work for your unique structure.
If you can’t feel your triceps working then you may need to “get really weird with it” until you find exercises that really nail your triceps. I gave you plenty of ideas on how to do this with skull crushers but the same thought process can be applied to any other triceps exercise.
You also need to use the correct sequence of exercises. If you have a hard time feeling your triceps working then I highly recommend you try the following exercise sequence:
- Exercise #1: Isolation Exercise
- Exercise #2: Compound Exercise
- Exercise #3: Isolation Exercise
This sequence of exercises works awesome for most trainees. If you are doing all of these things correctly and you STILL can’t bring up your lagging triceps then it’s time to play around with more volume / frequency / intensity.
If you respond well to high-volume training then consider increasing your training frequency or using things like tri-sets and hypertrophy specific cluster sets. If you respond better to lower-volume / higher-intensity training then give isometric sets, eccentric sets and extreme stretching a try.
So what are you waiting for? Get back in the gym and build some horseshoe triceps that would make even a 1995 Kevin Levrone jealous!
“The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what happens.”
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!
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