Want stronger arms? Then you’ll need to train your triceps. We asked a bunch of PTs to share their favourite tricep-hitting exercises for building strength quickly.
Having stronger arms is a great fitness goal. Sure, there might be an aesthetic side to that (especially with bare armed Christmas party dresses on the horizon), but let’s face it – it’s also really useful to be able to push a bit of weight around. So whether it’s to help progress our lifting in the gym, or just to make carrying heavy things easier, we’re always looking for the best ways to grow more muscle.
While the big moves like press-ups and deadlifts are great for building full-body strength quickly, it’s important to not forget about isolating our smaller muscles. Not only will this target imbalances, but adding strength to specific areas will help support you in those big lifts.
Your arms are the perfect example: building your triceps can support you in chest and shoulder exercises. But what tricep exercises are best if you want strong arms?
We asked a bunch PTs for their top tips for building stronger triceps.
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WHAT ARE THE BEST TRICEP EXERCISES?
“Press-ups are great for your triceps, but specifically close grip press-ups,” says SWTC trainer Emma Obayuvana.
“Make sure your hands are shoulder width apart, elbows are pinned back, and you lower all the way down so your chest touches the floor. If you’re squeezing your armpits into your side when you’re doing it you’ll be feeling your triceps work.”
Obayuvana also recommends including tricep kickbacks to your routine. That’s when you’re standing in a bent over position with bent elbows and you slowly straighten the arm so they extend backwards.
“Another really good one is tricep dips,” she says.
“Place your hands behind you on a stool, your sofa, a bench or any risen surface and bend your elbow to lower down. But the important thing here is tempo: go slow on the way down rather than just collapsing. Play with the timing of the exercises and just really use the eccentric, or lowering, phase of the movement to challenge the muscle.”
“My favourite exercise for the triceps is the overhead press,” says Alice Miller, PT. “Compound moves are going to offer you way more than just doing tricep isolation moves because you’ve got muscles that all work together, like your triceps, chest and shoulders.
HOW MANY TRICEP EXERCISES SHOULD YOU DO IN ONE SESSION?
Miller explains that it’s best to start with big compound moves at the start of a workout. That might mean doing one or two big lifts (think: deadlifts, chest press or clean and press – anything that uses more than one muscle group).
Then, if you have time, you can move onto those more focused moves. “If you want to build a little bit more muscle on the arms, go for one or two isolation exercises for the triceps.”
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HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU TRAIN TRICEPS?
Train them when doing an upper body workout
“Triceps are a really small muscle group, so it’s really important to choose a day when you’re training other parts of your upper body to do them,” explains Obayuvana. She advises against dedicating a whole workout to them, instead sticking tricep work onto a bicep workout to ensure that you’re hitting all the muscles in the arms equally. Alternatively, “do a few small isolation moves after a more compound push day”.
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