Building Bigger Stronger Triceps

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Triceps Brachii: Long Head

Origin: At the scapular infraglenoid tubercle

Inserts: At the posterior surface of the ulnar olecranon

Function: Extends the elbow and extends the arm behind the body; has minimal action, except when the extension is forceful

Muscle: Triceps Brachii: Lateral Head

Origin: At the lateral and posterior proximal humerus

Inserts: At the posterior surface of the ulnar olecranon

Function: Extends the elbow; minimal action, except when the extension is forceful

Muscle: Triceps Brachii: Medial Head Origin: At the medial and posterior distal humerus

Inserts: At the posterior surface of the ulnar olecranon

Function: Extends the elbow; “Work Horse”—active in all arm extensions

Indications of Weakness If the triceps becomes shortened, the ROM of elbow flexion decreases. Shortening and hypertonicity of the triceps can also decrease strength in the biceps neurologically due to the muscles’ interaction as agonist and antagonist. Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arm, forearm, or hand indicate possible radial nerve entrapment in the shoulder due to shortening of the triceps long head compressing the nerve. Weakness in the triceps can cause problems with locking out the bench press or overhead shoulder press.

Optimal Training Principles In triceps extensions with little or no resistance, the medial head is the Work Horse and is always active. The lateral head contracts minimally. The long head is virtually inactive. In triceps extensions with resistance, the medial is involved even more. The lateral and long heads are recruited to aid. The lateral and long heads are reserved for heavily resisted elbow extensions. Train all three heads with a variety of exercises in different planes and ROM.

Exercising the long head (a.k.a. the “Lazy Head”) requires a lot of weight. This head fully contracts only when the weight is in the 5 to 8 ROM range. It is maximally stressed in: – Close-grip bench press – Lying E-Z curl triceps extension – Power lifter tricep push-downs (by internally rotating the hands and allowing elbows to swing out)

Exercising the lateral head: – Narrow grip triceps push-down – Dumbbell kickbacks

Exercising the medial head: – Used in most triceps exercises – Dumbbell kickbacks – Heavy overhead presses

Triceps isometrically contract the most at 90 degrees of arm flexion (Currier).

The exercises that best mimic that position are: – Close-grip bench presses – Dips – Triceps push-downs

All have external torque patterns that peak at close to 90 degrees. The triceps kickback has a reverse torque pattern, overloads the triceps at its weakest position of full extension, and recruits all three heads.

The triceps extensor or stabilization response: Pressure on the ulnar surface of the palm (little finger-side) causes a neuromuscular reflex that allows greater contraction of the triceps. The triceps reflex extensor maneuver (TREM technique) can be used in the bench press and triceps push-down.

TREM technique — Bench Press: The hands are positioned by internally rotating the arm five degrees when the person is under the bar, and the bar sits across the palm.

TREM technique — Triceps Push-Down: The hands internally rotate on the bar and allow the elbows to swing out. This is the “Power lifter” version and allows for more contraction and strength development, especially in the long head.

Gorman states that the strength of the triceps, like that of the biceps, varies with the arm position relative to the shoulder:

Overhead Triceps Extension (arm above shoulder) = 95 pounds (43 kg) – Horizontal Machine Triceps Extension (arms level with shoulder) = 82 pounds (37 kg) – Dips (arms below shoulders) = 112 pounds (51 kg).

Obviously, dips are one of the better triceps exercises, provided the person is strong enough, or their shoulders are healthy enough to perform them with good form.

Dr. Jim Bell

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