The triceps are one of the most important muscle groups for any strength athletes. After all, they play a critical role in many exercises such as the bench press and the overhead press.
If you want to build a strong upper body then you must learn how to design tricep workouts for strength gains!
- Part 1: Cluster Sets
- Part 2: Supra-Maximal Eccentric Training
- Part 3: Origin-Insertion Supersets
- Part 4: Isometronics
- Part 5: Modified Hepburn Method
- Part 6: 1/6 Contrast Sets
- Part 7: Maximal Effort Drop Sets
- Part 8: Forced Reps
- Part 9: Iso-Dynamic Tri-Sets
- Part 10: Patient Lifter’s Method
- Part 11: The 5 To 8 Method
- Part 12: The 3 Then 1 Method
- Part 13: Devil’s Tri-Sets
- Part 14: The Chuck Sipes Method
- Part 15: The 4+2 Method
In this comprehensive guide I am going to teach you 15 of the most effective strength-focused tricep workouts of all time.
Of course these methods are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many unbelievably effective ways to organize your triceps workouts and I can’t wait to share them with you.
If you want to build a strong pair of triceps in record time then you must do three things:
- Target all three heads of the triceps
- Use the best rep ranges to stimulate strength gains
- Train with the right mix of compound and isolation exercises
Before we dive into the 15 greatest tricep workouts for strength gains we need to go over some tricep training rules.
Triceps Training Rule #1: You Must Use Exercises To Target All Three Heads Of The Triceps
The triceps are composed of three separate heads: the long head, the lateral head, and the medial head. The long head is located on the back of the arm. It is by far the largest and “meatiest” part of the triceps.
The long head is strongly activated during overhead movements such as overhead triceps extensions or overhead presses. The long head is also strongly activated during “flat” exercises such as the bench press or skull crushers.
The lateral head is located on the outside of the arm. The lateral head tends to be activated the most during flat and decline exercises such as flat DB extensions or decline shoulder-width bench presses.
The medial head of the triceps is often called the “workhorse of elbow extension” because it works hard on almost all triceps exercises. However, as a general rule of thumb the medial head is strongly recruited during decline exercises and on dips.
Actually dips is one of the best triceps exercises for recruiting all three heads of the triceps, including the long and lateral heads.
Triceps Training Rule #2: You Must Use The Correct Rep Ranges To Stimulate Strength Gains
The triceps are a relatively fast-twitch muscle group and respond best to relatively lower rep ranges. This makes sense as the triceps are designed for explosive movements.
This is in contrast to the biceps which tend to be more of a slow-twitch muscle group.
As a general rule of thumb you should keep your sets in the 1-8 rep range when training the triceps for strength gains. Actually the lateral head of the triceps has a TON of fast-twitch muscle fibers and should probably be trained with 1-5 reps per set when the goal is strength.
Remember, this isn’t bodybuilding: if you are training the triceps with high reps for strength gains then you are wasting your time!
Triceps Training Rule #3: You Must Use The Right Mix Of Compound And Isolation Exercises
The triceps are one of the rare muscle groups that responds best to a healthy mix of compound and isolation exercises. This is true even when you are just trying to get stronger.
Many powerlifting coaches such as Louie Simmons have their athletes rely almost exclusively on isolation exercises to build up their triceps strength. Other powerlifting coaches such as Josh Bryant believe that you should focus more on compound exercises for building triceps strength.
The bottom line is both of these approaches work. For optimal results I recommend you train the triceps with both isolation and compound exercises when the goal is strength gains.
Please note: I have written these 15 triceps workouts with all of the strength training loading parameters clearly defined. If you have any trouble reading these workouts then please consult this article.
Now let’s get down to business…
Part 1: Cluster Sets
Cluster sets are by far one of the best training methods for boosting triceps strength. Of course cluster sets are good for more than just strengthening the triceps.
Josh Bryant is another world-class strength coach who frequently uses cluster sets with his athletes. Josh had his powerlifting client Julius Maddox use cluster sets in preparation for his world-record 770 pound bench press! You can click right here to see his world-record bench press.
Talk about triceps strength!
The classic cluster sets training protocol involves performing 5 sets of 5 reps with 90% of your 1-rep max. No, that was not a typo – you are going to perform sets of 5 reps with your 3-rep max!
In order to pull this off you are going to rest for 10-20 seconds in between each of your 5 reps. After completing your 5th rep you will rest for several minutes before attempting another set.
Here is what the cluster set protocol looks like:
- Perform rep #1, rack the weight, rest 10-20 seconds
- Perform rep #2, rack the weight, rest 10-20 seconds
- Perform rep #3, rack the weight, rest 10-20 seconds
- Perform rep #4, rack the weight, rest 10-20 seconds
- Perform rep #5, rack the weight, 2-5 minutes, repeat!
Here is a perfect video demonstration of cluster sets:
This counts as one set. A typical cluster set workout will feature 3-5 total cluster sets. Cluster sets are so effective for building triceps strength because they recruit AND fatigue the fast-twitch muscle fibers!
As you may already know the triceps are composed primarily of fast-twitch muscle fibers. This is especially true for the lateral head of the triceps. If you want to strengthen a fast-twitch muscle then you MUST train with relatively lower rep ranges.
In a typical cluster set you are training at 90% of your 1-rep max. This is high enough to maximally activate the fast-twitch muscle fibers in the triceps.
However, cluster sets also maximally fatigue the fast-twitch muscles because of the extended time under tension of the set. You are basically performing 5 reps with a weight you can normally lift 3 times!
Triceps Strength Routine #1
- A1: 10 degree decline bench press (shoulder-width grip), 5 x 5**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- A2: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / pronated grip), 5 x 5**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: 45 degree incline barbell triceps extension (to forehead), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
- B2: 45 degree incline DB curl (supinating grip), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
**Performed as a cluster set as described above. Perform 5 reps with 15-seconds rest breaks in between each rep.
If you are paying attention then you may have noticed that this cluster sets arm workout features antagonistic supersets. In other words the routine is written so that you are performing your sets in alternating fashion for the triceps and the elbow flexors.
In practice your workout would look like this:
- Perform your 1st set of clusters for the triceps, rest 2 minutes
- Perform your 1st set of clusters for the elbow flexors, rest 2 minutes
- Perform your 2nd set of clusters for the triceps, rest 2 minutes
- Perform your 2nd set of clusters for the elbow flexors, rest 2 minutes
And so on.
This is called an “antagonistic superset” because you are training antagonistic body parts in an alternating fashion. Here are some other examples of antagonistic body parts:
- Chest and back
- Quads and hamstrings
- Chest and biceps
- Back and triceps
Research has shown that there are many advantages to performing your strength workouts with antagonistic supersets:
- You increase the number of motor units you recruit in the target muscle groups
- You lose strength less quickly over the course of a workout
- You perform more overall work in a shorter amount of time
There are many other benefits to antagonistic supersets but these are the big ones. If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of antagonistic supersets I highly recommend you read Josh Bryant’s book “Bench Press: The Science.”
Part 2: Supra-Maximal Eccentric Training
Eccentric training is by far one of the most effective training methods that you can use to build raw strength. This is especially true when it comes to a fast-twitch muscle group like the triceps!
There are three main types of muscular contractions:
- Concentric muscular contractions
- Isometric muscular contractions
- Eccentric muscular contractions
Concentric contractions occur any time you are actually lifting a weight. This is the type of contraction that most strength athletes focus most of their time training.
Isometric contractions are very different: they describe a muscle that is contracting without actually moving. A good example of an isometric contraction is pushing against a brick wall.
Finally eccentric contractions occur when you are lowering a weight. If you lower a bench press very slowly down to your chest then you are performing an eccentric contraction.
Most trainees spend very little time emphasizing the lowering portion of their lifts. This is a huge mistake! The scientific literature has repeatedly shown that the eccentric portion of an exercise builds more strength than the concentric portion!
Over the years many world-class athletes and strength coaches began experimenting with supra-maximal eccentric training.
In other words they were performing eccentric contractions with weights that were greater than their 1-rep max! If someone could bench press 300 pounds then they would actually be lowering weights that were greater than 300 pounds!
These supra-maximal eccentric reps are unbelievably effective at boosting strength in the triceps. One of the best ways to perform eccentric reps to train the triceps is with weight releasers.
Weight releasers are giant metal hooks that attach on either side of a barbell. Here is Josh Bryant giving an excellent overview of how to use weight releasers on the bench press:
At the bottom of the bench press the weight releasers drop off the barbell and hit the ground so you are only lifting the weight of the barbell back up to lockout.
In other words weight releasers let you overload the eccentric phase of a bench press to build triceps strength at a ludicrous speed!
Here is a sample weight releasers routine that you can use to strengthen your triceps. Check it out:
Triceps Supra-Maximal Eccentric Training Routin
- A1: Bench press (shoulder width grip), 4-6 x 3**, 8/0/X/0****, 240 seconds rest
- B1: 60 degree incline DB press, 3 x 5-7, 3/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- C1: Unilateral overhead cable rope triceps extension, 3 x 5-7, 3/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
**Perform 3 total reps in a row per set. The first rep will include the weight releasers while the 2nd and 3rd reps will not. I recommend you use 80% of your 1-rep max on the bar and an additional 10-40% in total weight on the weight releasers.
****Use an 8-second lowering phase for the first rep and a 3-second lowering phase for the 2nd and 3rd reps.
Supra-maximal eccentric training is extremely demanding on your recovery system. I recommend you stay relatively conservative with how much weight you use on your sets of bench presses.
For this routine I recommend you load the barbell with about 80% of your 1-rep max or with a weight you can lift about 6-8 times. It is more difficult for me to tell you exactly how much weight to use on the weight releasers.
I recommend you use as much weight as you can as long as you are able to lower the weight under control for 8 seconds. No, that was not a typo. You want to pick a load that you can lower under control for 8 seconds!
If you cannot lower the bar at this pace then the weight is simply too heavy.
Make no mistake: supra-maximal eccentric training is easily one of the best ways to strengthen your triceps in record time. I strongly recommend you give this routine a shot if you have access to weight releasers.
If you do not have access to them then you may want to consider purchasing some online. I purchased my first pair in 2013 and they were by far one of the best strength training investments of my life.
Part 3: Origin-Insertion Supersets
One of the best ways to train for strength gains is to increase the size of your muscles. The scientific literature has clearly shown that there is a strong correlation between size gains and strength gains.
In other words if you add several inches of muscle mass to your upper arms then there is a very good chance that your arms have increased in strength.
Of course there are many different types of muscular hypertrophy. If you are interested in pure strength gains then it is very important that you focus on increasing the size of your fast-twitch muscle fibers. In other words you want to focus on boosting functional hypertrophy.
There are many different ways to build functional hypertrophy (and thus boost your strength levels) on the triceps. Some of Charles Poliquin’s favourite functional hypertrophy routines including “the 4+2 method” and “the 5 to 8” method will be covered later in this article.
When it comes to strengthening the triceps one of my all-time favourite training methods is origin-insertion supersets.
To whet your appetite here is a video of Josh Bryant taking the world-class bench presser Al Davis through an origin-insertion superset for the triceps:
Every muscle group has both an origin and an insertion. The origin is the part of the muscle closest to your body while the insertion is the part of the muscle furthest away from your body.
If we use the triceps as an example the origin would be the part of the muscle closer to the shoulder while the insertion would be near the elbow.
One of the best ways to boost functional hypertrophy on the triceps is to superset two exercises that overload different ends of the muscle.
Compound exercises such as close grip bench presses, decline close grip bench presses and dips are great for overloading the origin of the triceps. On the other hand all types of triceps isolation exercises work well for overloading the insertion of the triceps.
When you superset a compound triceps exercise together with an isolation exercise you stimulate functional hypertrophy gains at an unbelievable rate. Of course this will result in screaming fast strength gains in your triceps. Here is a triceps origin-insertion superset workout for the arms that you may want to try.
Check it out:
Triceps Origin-Insertion Routine
- A1: V-bar dips (upright torso), 3-5 x 4-6, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds ret
- A2: Decline DB extension, 3-5 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
- B1: Narrow supinated grip chin ups, 3-5 x 4-6, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- B2: 30 degree incline DB curl (supinated grip), 3-5 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
It is extremely important that you push yourself just shy of muscular failure on all of your sets. Origin-insertion supersets are a form of post-failure training. In other words the second exercise in the superset is designed to further fatigue your muscles after you train just shy of muscular failure.
For this routine I recommend you train to 1 rep shy of failure. In other words your last rep of every set should be extremely difficult. If you were to attempt another repetition you would not be able to complete it.
If you have trained to failure in the past then you are probably aware of the fact that your strength will drop from one set to the next. Don’t worry, that is expected on this routine.
For example here is what your performance on dips might look like from one superset to the next if you are an intermediate level lifter:
- Superset #1: Bodyweight + 90 pounds x 7 reps
- Superset #2: Bodyweight + 80 pounds x 8 reps
- Superset #3: Bodyweight + 80 pounds x 6 reps
- Superset #4: Bodyweight + 65 pounds x 7 reps
- Superset #5: Bodyweight + 55 pounds x 6 reps
Don’t worry, this drop off in strength from one superset to the next is perfectly normal on this type of routine. I recommend you perform anywhere from 3 to 5 total supersets for your triceps and your elbow flexors depending on how you are feeling.
If you feel like Goku when he went “Super Saiyan” for the very first time then go ahead and perform 5 total supersets per body part. On the other hand if you are having a bad day then it is probably better to stick to 3 total supersets per body part.
Part 4: Isometronics
Most people have never even heard of isometric training, let alone used isometric contractions in their workouts. This is a shame as isometric training is one of the most effective training methods in the world for rapidly boosting strength levels.
There are two main types of isometric contractions:
- Overcoming isometrics
- Yielding isometrics
Overcoming isometrics involve applying force to overcome an immovable object. A very simple example of an overcoming isometric contraction involves bench pressing a barbell into a set of safety pins in a squat rack. You can click right here for a demonstration.
Yielding isometrics are a little different. They involve holding a weight in place against the downward force of gravity.
As a general rule of thumb overcoming isometrics are better for building pure strength while yielding isometrics are better for building muscular hypertrophy.
Overcoming isometrics have many advantages for building strength. Perhaps the largest advantage is that isometrics allow you to recruit more motor units in your muscles.
In fact the scientific literature has shown that you can recruit up to 15% more motor units with overcoming isometric contractions than you can regular sets! This is an incredible result!
One of my favourite ways to build triceps strength with overcoming isometric contractions is with a training method called isometronics. Isometronics are a combination of partial range of motion lifting and full-bore overcoming isometric contractions.
As you can see from Adam Nelson’s video the procedure for performing an isometronics set is as follows:
- Step 1: Perform 4-6 partial range of motion reps in between 2 sets of safety pins
- Step 2: Perform an isometric contraction against the top pins for 6-8 seconds
- Step 3: Attempt one final partial range of motion repetition
During the isometric contraction you are pushing as hard as you can against the top pins. I want you to push so hard that you are literally breaking the top pins in half!
Immediately after the isometric contraction you lower the weight back down to the bottom pins and attempt one final partial range of motion repetition. If you are to hit the top pins on your last partial rep then go ahead and bump the weight up for the next set.
One of the best ways to build raw triceps strength is to perform a bench press isometronics workout. This type of workout usually involves 10 total sets of bench presses. Here is a sample workout that you may want to try to blast through bench press plateaus and strengthen your triceps.
Check it out:
Triceps Workout #4
- A1: Bottom position bench press isometronics (medium grip), 3 x 6, 1/1/X/1, 120 seconds rest
- B1: Bottom position bench press isometronics (medium grip), 3 x 6, 1/1/X/1, 120 seconds rest
- C1: Bottom position bench press isometronics (medium grip), 3 x 6, 1/1/X/1, 120 seconds rest
- D1: Bench press (medium grip), 1 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- E1: Rope cable pushdown, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/1, 120 seconds rest
You can click right here to see a great video on bench press isometronics:
As you can see you are going to perform 9 total sets of isometronics:
- 3 sets in the third of the bench press
- 3 sets in the middle third of the bench press
- 3 sets in the top third of the bench press
After performing your 9 partial range of motion sets you will perform one regular set of bench presses. This regular set is critical so that your body remembers how to perform the full range of motion bench press. Finally this workout finishes with some easy accessory work for the triceps.
Isometronics is easily one of the most effective training methods that you can use to strengthen the triceps. I have had MANY trainees add 30+ pounds to their bench presses in as little as 6 workouts using a properly designed isometronics routine.
If you want to learn more about this superior training method then you may want to read the following article:
Part 5: Modified Hepburn Method
Training with “singles” or 1 rep per set is one of the more controversial topics in the strength training world. There are some individuals who believe that training with singles near your 1-repetition max is absolutely necessary for optimal strength gains.
The powerlifting guru Louie Simmons designed his entire Westside Barbell training system around the idea of working up to a 1-rep max on special exercises every week. On the other hand there are many powerlifting coaches including Josh Bryant who believe training with singles for too long is a recipe for disaster.
In my experience training with singles is a great strategy if it suits your psychological profile. If you have a neurotransmitter profile higher in dopamine and/or acetyl-choline then you may see your strength shoot through the roof with singles.
And by far one of the best training methods featuring 1 rep per set is The Modified Hepburn Method.
The Modified Hepburn Method is named after Doug Hepburn, the first man to bench press 500 pounds. The workout is split into two parts:
- Part 1: Relative Strength
- Part 2: Functional Hypertrophy
In the first half of the workout you are going to perform 8 sets of 1 rep on two different exercises. Ideally these exercises would be performed with antagonistic supersets. In the second half of the workout you are going to perform 5 sets of 5 reps.
You are actually going to use a slight variation of the exercise you used in the first part of the article. The change could be as simple as moving your grip in or out on the barbell. This slight change in the exercise will help you to tap into a slightly different motor unit pool in the triceps.
Here is a sample triceps and back workout that you may want to try. Check it out:
Triceps Modified Hepburn Method Routine #5
- A1: Standing behind the neck press (shoulder-width grip), 8 x 1, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- A2: Sternum pull ups (narrow / neutral grip), 8 x 1, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: Standing behind the neck press (medium grip), 5 x 5, 3/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
- B2: Narrow neutral grip pull ups, 5 x 5, 3/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
It’s really important with this type of routine to be conservative when choosing your training loads. I recommend you perform your first single at around 90% of your 1-rep max and slowly work up from there depending on how you are feeling that night.
For example here is a sample progression for the first half of the workout:
- Set #1: 90% x 1
- Set #2: 90% x 1
- Set #3: 92% x 1
- Set #4: 92% x 1
- Set #5: 94% x 1
- Set #6: 94% x 1
- Set #7: 95% x 1
- Set #8: 95% x 1
For the second half of your workout I recommend you use a load that is about 75% of your best single for that day. This may seem like a relatively low training percentage for a 5 x 5 set / rep scheme.
Trust me, you want to play it safe here. Your triceps will already be VERY fatigued from the 8 near-maximal singles. If you pick a load that is too heavy for your 5 sets of 5 reps then you will surely crash and burn!
Part 6: 1/6 Contrast Sets
The 1/6 contrast set is a very unique and very effective training method. The idea is simple: you are going to alternate back and forth between sets of singles and sets of 6 reps for the same exercise.
For example here is what your sets might look like:
- Set #1: 1 rep
- Set #2: 6 reps
- Set #3: 1 rep
- Set #4: 6 reps
- Set #5: 1 rep
- Set #6: 6 reps
The 1/6 method is usually performed for 6 total sets per major exercise. This training method takes full advantage of the principle of post-tetanic facilitation.
The basic idea is that the single repetitions force your nervous system to start firing on all cylinders by firing all available motor units. When you move onto the 6-rep set the weight is going to feel incredibly light as you are already activating all available motor units.
The end result is that you will be able to perform 6 reps with a heavier-than-normal weight. In fact most trainees will find that they are stronger on each of these “waves.”
For example here is what a typical weights progression might look like from one set to the next:
- Set #1: 300 x 1
- Set #2: 240 x 6
- Set #3: 305 x 1
- Set #4: 245 x 6
- Set #5: 310 x 1
- Set #6: 250 x 6
This may sound impossible if you have never tried this type of contrast set or wave loading workout before. Trust me, contrast sets really are that effective.
Here is a sample 1/6 method triceps workout that you may want to try. Check it out:
Triceps 1/6 Contrast Method Workout
- A1: 30 degree incline bench press (shoulder-width grip), 6 x 1/6**, 4/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
- B1: V-bar dips (upright torso), 4 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- C1: Ez-bar skull crusher (to forehead), 4 x 6-8, 2/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
The 1/6 method really is one of the best training methods you can use to build stronger triceps. It is also fantastic for building slabs of functional hypertrophy. You know, hypertrophy specific to the fast-twitch muscle fibers.
If you are someone who easily gets “bored” during a workout then I think you are going to love this routine. The variation in reps from one set to the next keeps things very exciting. And as you may already know the more excited you are during a workout the harder you are going to push yourself and this can only result in faster progress!
Part 7: Maximal Effort Drop Sets
Most people believe that drop sets are exclusively for bodybuilders looking to pack on muscle. It’s true that a lot of professional bodybuilders over the years have used drop sets to help build their physiques over the years. However, drop sets can also be used to boost strength gains at an unbelievable rate!
One of the best ways to use drop sets to build strength is with what I like to call “maximal effort drop sets.” The basic idea is to perform a drop set where you are performing only 1-2 reps on the first part of the set.
After your first 1-2 reps you slightly reduce the weight and perform another single repetition. This process is performed a few more times so that you are performing 4-6 total repetitions. In my experience the 2/1/1/1 rep scheme is extremely effective here.
- Perform 2 reps, drop the weight by 2-4%, rest 10 seconds
- Perform 1 rep, drop the weight by 2-4%, rest 10 seconds
- Perform 1 rep, drop the weight by 2-4%, rest 10 seconds
- Perform 1 rep, done!
This all counts as one maximal effort drop set. If you have good work capacity then you may be able to perform as many as 4 maximal effort drop sets for your triceps in a single workout!
Here is an arm workout that you may want to try. To make things somewhat easier on your recovery system you will only be performing maximal effort drop sets for the triceps. All of your sets for the elbow flexors will be “straight sets.”
Check it out:
Triceps Maximal Effort Drop Sets Routine
- A1: Seated half press in a rack (shoulder-width grip), 4 x 2/1/1/1**, 2/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- A2: Bilateral preacher zottman curl, 4 x 5-6, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: Standing overhead cable rope extension, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- B2: 60 degree incline cable curl, 3 x 8-10, 2/0/X/1, 120 seconds rest
One of the biggest benefits of maximal effort drop sets is that they are an extremely time-efficient training method. It is possible to perform a very large volume of work in a very short period of time.
Just think about it: 4 maximal effort drop sets is roughly the equivalent of 16 total sets! This means that you are performing approximately 19 total sets for triceps in this workout. That is a huge number of sets!
This high volume of low-rep sets can be great for eliciting training related adaptations that might not otherwise occur. If you want to learn more about various other maximal effort drop set protocols then I highly recommend you check out the following article:
Part 8: Forced Reps
Forced reps are a beyond-failure training method used by many bodybuilders to build muscular size and strength. Forced reps are reps that you complete with the help of a spotter after reaching concentric muscular failure.
The procedure for performing a set with forced reps is pretty straightforward. First you perform a set all the way to concentric muscular failure. You should actually *fail* on your final repetition.
Immediately after you stall on your last rep your training partner will provide some assistance to help you lift the weight through the concentric range. This process can be repeated for 1-3 total forced reps at the end of your set.
Of course it would be impossible to talk about forced reps without mentioning Dorian Yates. Dorian trained exclusively with forced reps to become one of the biggest and strongest bodybuilders the world had ever seen.
Dorian’s triceps were so strong that he could incline bench press well over 400 pounds for 8 reps. If you are looking for a great forced reps triceps routine then you can’t go wrong with Dorian’s triceps routine. Check it out:
Triceps Forced Reps Routine
- A1: Standing cable push down (straight bar / pronated grip), 1 x 6-8**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
- A2: Lying ez-bar extension (to forehead), 1 x 6-8**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
- A3: Standing unilateral cable pushdown (supinated grip), 1 x 6-8**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
**Perform 2 additional forced reps with the help of a spotter after reaching concentric muscular failure.
I am sure some of you are still a little confused as to why I am talking about a bodybuilding training method in an article on boosting triceps strength.
In reality forced reps are a fantastic tool to use when your goal is all-out strength gains. Forced reps work so well for boosting strength because they allow you to overload the eccentric portion of an exercise.
Just think about it: when you reach failure on an exercise your eccentric strength levels have not been fully taxed. If you had to you could probably lower the weight under control a few more times even if you could not lift it up on your own.
Forced reps allow you to continue to overload your eccentric strength levels after reaching concentric muscular failure. Dorian Yates was well aware of this concept when he started using forced reps early in his training career:
The bottom line is forced reps help you boost your maximal strength levels by overloading the eccentric portion of the exercise.
If you are looking to increase your triceps strength but want a break from low-rep sets then I strongly recommend you give Dorian’s forced reps triceps routine a shot!
Part 9: Iso-Dynamic Tri-Sets
Iso-dynamic tri-sets are a training method that I picked up from the strength training genius Josh Bryant. They are an incredible way to build both strength and size on the triceps in record time.
The idea is simple: you are going to perform a tri-set for the triceps incorporating all-out overcoming isometrics and more traditional dynamic muscular contractions. In this case I think it’s best if I just show you the exact routine before discussing it further. Check it out:
Triceps Iso-Dynamics Routine
- A1: Bench press overcoming isometric (shoulder-width grip)**, 3 x 1, 20 seconds rest
- A2: Bench press against bands (shoulder-width grip), 3 x 3, 2/0/X0, 20 seconds rest
- A3: Decline DB extension, 3 x 6, 5/0/X/0, 240 seconds rest
**Press an empty barbell into a set of safety pins set 2 inches below lockout. You are going to press as hard as you can into the pins for 6 total seconds before resting. Your goal is to literally break the safety pins in half! See the video below for more details.
Here is a great video by Josh Bryant showcasing the iso-dynamics method:
This tri-set starts with an overcoming isometric contraction in the bench press. It is no secret that Josh is a huge fan of using overcoming isometrics to build strength in the triceps.
The main benefit of overcoming isometrics is that it allows you to recruit up to 15% more motor units in the triceps than any other contraction type.
So the first exercise is more of a “primer” exercise that is designed to recruit as many motor units as possible. Then you move onto two different types of dynamic exercises designed to fatigue as many motor units as possible in the triceps.
The banded close grip bench press is an awesome triceps exercise because it perfectly accommodates the strength curve of the triceps. The bands are weaker in the bottom where your triceps are weaker and stronger near lockout where your triceps are capable of producing the most force.
Finally the tri-set concludes with decline dumbbell extensions for more moderate reps. This is a fantastic exercise for exhausting the lateral head of the triceps. If you are looking for a novel triceps workout designed to build both strength and size on the lateral head of your triceps then look no further than Josh’s iso-dynamic tri-set routine!
Part 10: Patient Lifter’s Method
The patient lifter’s method is another extremely effective training method for boosting maximal strength in the triceps. It is not nearly as flashy or “sexy” as some of the other training methods covered in this article. However, it is a solid option that gets the job done.
The idea is simple: you are going to pick a weight that you can complete for 6 sets of 2 reps. You are then going to stick with the same weight at each of your workouts until you can complete 6 sets of 4 reps. Once you perform 4 reps on all 6 sets then you will thumb up the weight and start all over again.
For example here is a sample progression over 6 workouts:
- Workout #1: 300 lbs x 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2
- Workout #2: 300 lbs x 3, 3, 3, 3, 2, 2
- Workout #3: 300 lbs x 4, 4, 4, 3, 3, 2
- Workout #4: 300 lbs x 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4
- Workout #5: 320 lbs x 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2
- Workout #6: 320 lbs x 3, 3, 2, 2, 2, 2
After about 4-6 workouts you should move on to another training method. Of course this is generally true regardless of whether you are training with the patient lifter’s method or any other type of routine. After all, a training routine is only as good as the time it takes for you to adapt to it!
Once your body has fully adapted to a routine you must mix things up if you want to continue progressing. Neurotransmitter based program design is probably the fastest way to figure out how often you should change your triceps workouts but there are of course many other options.
Here is a sample upper body workout that you may want to try. It features the patient lifter’s method and features exercises somewhat emphasizing the triceps over the chest and shoulders. Check it out:
Triceps Routine #10
- A1: V-bar dips (upright torso), 6 x 2-4, 3/2/X/0, 100 seconds rest
- A2: Wide overhand grip pull ups, 6 x 2-4, 3/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
- B1: Seated DB overhead press, 3 x 5-7, 3/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest
- B2: Barbell dead stop row, 3 x 5-7, 2/1/X/0, 75 seconds rest
- C1: Dead stop skull crushers, 3 x 7-9, 2/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest
- C2: Seated zottman curls, 3 x 7-9, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
One of the things that I really like about the patient lifter’s method is that it isn’t quite as hard on your central nervous system as some other strength training methods such as overcoming isometrics or cluster sets.
The odds of you burning out on this type of routine are relatively low. Of course not everyone responds well to sets in the 2-4 rep range. However, if you do respond well to lower-rep sets then the patient lifter’s method can be a fantastic option.
Part 11: The 5 To 8 Method
The 5 to 8 method was invented by the creative genius Charles Poliquin. Charles used this training method with a wide variety of athletes to build strength and functional hypertrophy at a ridiculously fast pace.
The procedure for performing a 5 to 8 set is as follows:
- Perform 5 reps with your 5-rep max, rest 15 seconds
- Perform 1 more rep with the same weight, rest 15 seconds
- Perform 1 more rep with the same weight, rest 15 seconds
- Perform 1 more rep with the same weight, done!
These extra single repetitions performed at the end of the set represent a powerful stimulus for strength and size gains in your working muscles. If you set up your workout properly then you may be able to perform as many as 3-5 total “5 to 8” sets per major exercise.
Here is a sample arms workout emphasizing the triceps that you may want to try. Check it out:
Triceps 5 To 8 Method Routine
- A1: Bench press against chains (shoulder-width grip), 3 x 5/1/1/1**, 5/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- A2: 60 degree incline DB curl (supinated grip), 3 x 5, 5/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: Decline ez-bar extension (to forehead), 3 x 6-8, 2/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest
- B2: Standing bilateral cable curl (pronated grip), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
In case you were wondering, the 5 to 8 method is really nothing more than a modified version of Dante Trudel’s “rest-pause” training system. If I had to guess I would say that Charles drew inspiration from Dante Trudel when developing his training method.
Of course there is one big difference between these two training methods that you should be aware of. Dante Trudel’s rest-pause method is based around training all the way to failure. On the 5 to 8 method you are NOT training to failure! This is extremely important.
If you train all the way to failure on any of your “5 to 8” sets then your results from this routine will be extremely sub-optimal. You may even find yourself overtraining with very little hope of recovering from one workout to the next.
The 5 to 8 method is a very powerful training method that tends to work for a large percentage of the training population. If you are at all interested in building stronger triceps then I strongly recommend you give this routine a shot!
Part 12: The 3 Then 1 Method
The 3 then 1 method is another training method that I picked up from Charles Poliquin. The 3 then 1 method is an advanced form of contrast training or wave loading. You are going to alternate sets of 3 reps with sets of supra-maximal eccentric singles.
- Set #1: 3 reps
- Set #2: 1 eccentric-only rep
- Set #3: 3 reps
- Set #4: 1 eccentric-only rep
- Set #5: 3 reps
- Set #6: 1 eccentric-only rep
Just like the 1/6 method the 3 then 1 method takes advantage of the principle of post-tetanic potentiation.
The eccentric singles are going to force your body to maximally recruit all of the available high-threshold motor units. Then when you go to perform your next triple the weight is going to feel so light that it practically flies right out of your hands!
Ok, maybe that was an exaggeration. The truth is that your strength should go up at least a little bit on each successive “wave.” This is obviously beneficial in terms of boosting your maximal strength levels.
There are a few ways that you can perform this training method. The first option is to use weight releasers during your supra-maximal eccentric reps. A second option is to select exercises that allow you to perform supra-maximal eccentric reps without the use of a spotter.
V-bar dips are a perfect example of an exercise that you can use to perform eccentric training for the triceps. You simply stand up on the platform and lower yourself down to the bottom position over 8-10 seconds.
You obviously don’t need to worry about getting “stuck” in the bottom position of the exercise as you just land your feet on the ground below you.
Here is a sample 3 then 1 triceps and back routine that you may want to try. Check it out:
Triceps 3 Then 1 Method Routine
- A1: V-bar dips (upright torso), 3 x 3, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- A2: Shoulder-width supinated grip chin ups, 3 x 3, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- A3: Eccentric-only v-bar dips (upright torso)**, 3 x 1, 10/0/X/0***, 120 seconds rest
- A4: Shoulder-width supinated grip chin ups, 3 x 3, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: Flat DB extensions, 3 x 6-8, 3/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest
- B2: Seated cable rope face pull, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/2, 60 seconds rest
**You are only performing the eccentric range for this exercise. Start at the top and lower yourself down to the bottom position under control.
***No, that is not a typo: you are going to use a 10-second lowering phase! If you cannot lower yourself down over 10 seconds then the weight is too heavy.
If you are interested in using the 3 then 1 method then you must use the correct training percentages. I recommend you use about 90% of your 1-rep max for your first triple and anywhere from 100-120% of your 1-rep max for your first eccentric-only single.
If you have a lot of experience with eccentric training then you may be able to handle 120% (or more!) of your 1-rep max.
On the other hand if you are brand new to eccentric training then you may want to start with 100% of your 1-rep max. On each subsequent wave try your best to add at least 1% in weight for both your triples and eccentric-only singles.
I think you will be surprised at how much your strength increases from one set to the next!
Part 13: Devil’s Tri-Sets
I first learned about devil’s tri-sets from Wolfgang Unsoeld, one of Germany’s top strength coaches. The idea behind a devil’s tri-set is pretty straightforward: you are going to perform a tri-set with 6 reps on each exercise.
- Perform exercise “A” x 6 reps, rest 10 seconds
- Perform exercise “B” x 6 reps, rest 10 seconds
- Perform exercise “C” x 6 reps, rest 10 seconds
This training method earns its name because of the 6/6/6 numbering scheme. Don’t worry, you won’t burn in hell if you use Devil’s tri-sets. Only my old childhood Catholic school teachers could say something as ridiculous as that!
Devil’s tri-sets is a great option for boosting triceps strength because it jacks up your functional hypertrophy levels. In other words this routine makes you stronger because it increases the size of your fast-twitch muscle fibers.
Although the reps are relatively low this routine is not as effective for eliciting more neurological based adaptations. Here is a sample triceps routine that you may want to try.
Check it out:
Triceps Devil’s Tri-Sets Routine
- A1: Dead stop skull crushers, 3-5 x 6, 2/1/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A2: Overhead cable rope extensions, 3-5 x 6, 2/1/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A3: Cable rope pushdowns, 3-5 x 6, 2/0/X/1, 180 seconds rest
You can click here for a great video of dead stop skull crushers if you are not familiar with this exercise.
For this sample routine I have decided to focus more on triceps isolation exercises. This is a great approach to use if you are someone who has a difficult time recruiting their triceps during more compound exercises.
Of course it is also possible to design a devil’s tri-sets routine with at least one compound exercise. In that case I recommend you make your first or second triceps exercise a compound exercise. Some great choices would be close grip bench presses, decline close grip bench presses, dips, and barbell overhead presses.
Part 14: The Chuck Sipes Method
Chuck Sipes was an unbelievably strong bodybuilder who competed in the 1970s. In fact Chuck’s record in the bench press was 570 pounds. Keep in mind Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best bench press during his competitive years was 500 pounds. Yes, Chuck was THAT strong!
In fact Chuck had what Stan Efferding likes to call “mutant strength.” Chuck had a secret routine that he used to build up his bench press. It involved alternating sets of bench press rack lockouts with regular sets of bench presses.
- Set #1: Bench press rack lockout x 1 rep
- Set #2: Bench press x 6 reps
- Set #3: Bench press rack lockout x 1 rep
- Set #4: Bench press x 6 reps
- Set #5: Bench press rack lockout x 1 rep
- Set #6: Bench press x 6 reps
Bench press rack lockouts are nothing more than partial range of motion lifts performed in the last 1-3 inches of a bench press.
These partial range of motion lifts are extremely beneficial for boosting maximal strength both in the bench press and in the triceps.
The main benefit of rack lockouts is that they down-regulate the golgi-tendon organ. The golgi tendon organ is located in all of the muscles of your body. Its job is to figure out if you are attempting to do something that might result in an injury to the musculoskeletal system.
If you are doing something it perceives as dangerous then it will inhibit your nervous system from producing maximal force on that exercise. This is obviously a good thing as you don’t want to injure yourself in the gym!
However, one of the problems with the golgi tendon is that it is often hyper-active. In other words it may be shutting down your pressing strength even in situations where it is safe to apply maximal force.
The rack lockouts help to down-regulate the golgi-tendon organ by getting your central nervous system used to the feeling of extremely heavy weights.
In case you are more of a visual learner the click right here to listen to Christian Thibadeau giving a great overview of the benefits of down-regulating the golgi tendon organ:
Here is an awesome chest / shoulders / triceps routine featuring the Chuck Sipes method. Although you are training all of your pressing muscles there is definitely an increased emphasis on jacking up your triceps strength.
Check it out:
Triceps Chuck Sipes Method Routine
- A1: Bench press rack lockouts (shoulder width grip)**, 3 x 1, X/0/X/8, 180 seconds rest
- A2: Bench press (shoulder width grip), 3 x 6, 3/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
- B1: 30 degree incline DB press, 3 x 7-9, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- C1: PJR pullover, 3 x 7-9, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
**Performed 2 inches below lockout height.
If you are going to use this training routine then please make sure that you are doing everything you can outside of the gym to properly recover.
The rack lockouts are an extremely demanding training method that really taxes your connective tissues. You want to make sure that you are doing everything in your power to help your tendons and ligaments recover from the stress of this workout.
There are of course many other ways to incorporate rack lockouts into your training routine. Many powerlifting coaches such as Josh Bryant regularly include them in their clients’ bench press peaking programs.
If you want to learn more about how Josh Bryant incorporates rack lockouts then I strongly recommend you check out the following article:
Part 15: The 4+2 Method
The 4+2 method is an extremely demanding form of accentuated eccentric training that was invented and popularized by Charles Poliquin. The basic idea is to perform 4 regular reps followed by 2 eccentric-only reps with extra weight.
- Step #1: Perform 4 regular repetitions
- Step #2: Increase the load by 5-20% and perform 2 eccentric-only repetitions
This is an absolutely brutal training system that maximally overloads both your concentric and eccentric strength within a single set. Charles believed the 4+2 method was the single greatest training method for boosting functional hypertrophy.
There are two main ways you can perform the eccentric-only reps on the 4+2 method:
- You can use weight releasers
- You can use exercises where it is safe to perform eccentric-only reps
For the purposes of this routine I am going to choose the second option. Once again you will be using free weight dips to perform your eccentric-only reps. In other words you would perform 4 reps on dips with your 4-rep max, then increase the weight on your dip belt and perform 2 eccentric-only reps.
Here is a sample chest / shoulders / triceps workout that you may want to try.
Check it out:
Triceps 4+2 Method Routine
- A1: V-bar dips (upright torso), 3-5 x 4, 4/0/X/0, no rest
- A2: Eccentric-only v-bar dips (upright torso), 3-5 x 2, 10/0/1/0, 240 seconds rest
- B1: 60 degree incline DB press, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- C1: Flat DB extension, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
Performing eccentric-only dips is far more painful than it sounds. You will probably feel an intense pressure in your sternum and your triceps and chest are going to feel like they are about to rip off the bone!
I definitely recommend you hold off on this routine unless you have at least a reasonably healthy upper body. If you have poor shoulder health or poor upper body structural balance levels then fixing those problems should take precedence over boosting your triceps strength.
You are now fully equipped with 15 of the most effective training methods of all time for building stronger triceps. I recommend you experiment with at least a few of these routines to figure out what works best for you.
After all, we are all built differently and we all respond best to different types of routines, training methods and long-term programming.
That being said I am extremely confident that at least a few of these routines will give you some of the best triceps gains of your entire life! Of course if you are more interested in learning how to increase the size of your triceps then you can check out the following article:
“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck in your strength training journey!
Milos Sarcev is an IFBB professional bodybuilder and one of the greatest bodybuilding coaches of all time. His nickname is “The Mind” because of his intelligent approach to training and...
Milos Sarcev is an IFBB professional bodybuilder and one of the greatest bodybuilding coaches of all time. His nickname is “The Mind” because of his intelligent approach to training and...