Starting Conjugate: Basic Triceps Training

Starting Conjugate: Basic Triceps Training

The Conjugate Method provides the framework for a coach or athlete to address any strength or conditioning-related issue that is responsible for holding an athlete back from improving their abilities. Combining high and moderate-intensity strength-focused training with hypertrophy training focused on muscular hypertrophy allows an athlete to become bigger, stronger, and faster simultaneously.

Unlike traditional phase training, where extended periods are dedicated to focusing only on one aspect of strength and conditioning, the Conjugate Method allows us to solve multiple strength-related problems simultaneously by slightly adjusting our programming.

One muscle group that significantly benefits from a Conjugate-based approach is the triceps brachii. With the max effort training we employ, and the amount of triceps training included in upper body accessory training, the triceps can't do anything other than get stronger. Much like how we are constantly focused on building up our back strength, we are just as focused on improving the strength of the triceps.

The triceps play a vital role in any sport that involves the use of the arms. Whether you are focused on powerlifting, football, or golf, having stronger triceps, and an improved ability to extend the forearm at the elbow joint when faced with resistance will always help to improve athletic performance.

At Westside, we spend a significant amount of time focusing on improving the triceps' strength, size, and work capacity. Below, I will discuss some common exercises we use to develop the triceps and suggest how to program each exercise.

Main Exercises

The main exercise of a max or dynamic effort upper training day presents the first opportunity to focus on training the triceps. Max effort training allows us to focus on loading the triceps by training at or above 90% intensity, often working up to a top set of 1-3 repetitions. By doing this, we are not only able to enhance absolute strength, but we can improve tendon and bone density as well.

If you want the strength and durability to press heavy weights or extend your arms and move opponents violently, you will need strong triceps with properly developed tendons.

Dynamic effort training can be used to focus on triceps development by implementing the close-grip bench press into your exercise rotation. At Westside, we add the close-grip bench to our dynamic effort bench pressing by dedicating a three-week wave to close-grip bench press only or alternating between close, regular, and wide grip within the same training day.

This means that we will perform the close-grip bench press for nine sets of three reps over a three-week wave, or we will perform the close-grip bench for three sets of every DE upper training day, along with three regular grip and three wide grip sets.

Dynamic effort upper training, particularly when the focus is placed on the triceps, will improve an athlete's ability to extend the forearms explosively and quickly apply max levels of force onto a barbell, implement, or opponent. Add to that the hypertrophy-related benefits afforded by the increased training volume associated with dynamic effort training, and it is easy to see how the main exercises we use can assist in the development of the triceps.

Here are a few of the most common triceps-focused upper body main exercises we use at Westside Barbell:

Max Effort

Close-Grip Bench Press

Close-Grip Bench Press vs. Bands

Floor Press

Pin Press

Football Bar Bench Press

2-3 Board Bench Press

Dynamic Effort

Close-Grip Bench Press

Football Bar Bench Press

Accessory Exercises

The next opportunity to focus training on the triceps is during the accessory exercise portion of any upper body training day. At Westside, our primary focus of any upper body accessory training is to enhance the strength of the triceps and back. This is due to the role of the triceps and back in any pressing exercise.

Tricep-focused accessory training can be accomplished in a few different ways. This means we will focus on either heavy tricep work, moderate tricep work, or light tricep work. Each option presents benefits as long as you know the basis for each type of training.

Heavy tricep training means we want to stay at a higher intensity range to find a sweet spot between strength-focused and hypertrophy-focused training. At Westside, we have found this is best done by keeping the reps regulated at 5-8 per set, performing a total of 3-5 sets depending on the current state of recovery. The weight should be the heaviest weight we can use while completing all prescribed sets and reps with proper form.

Typically, heavy tricep work would be performed immediately after the main exercise, used as what we refer to as a primary accessory exercise.

Moderate tricep training is bodybuilding-style training, where there will still be some strength-related benefits, but the main focus is improving the size of the triceps. This means we will perform 10-15 reps per set for 3-4 sets. Like heavy tricep training, we train using the heaviest weight we can use while completing all prescribed sets and reps with proper form.

Light tricep training targets the tendons by using an appropriate resistance band to regulate resistance at a lower intensity. This work is accomplished by implementing ultra-high volume exercises into your upper body accessory training toward the end of the training day. At Westside, this training is most often used as an exercise to finish the training day.

Executing light tricep training is simple. We will choose a band that allows us to perform 50-100 repetitions, and we will perform banded tricep extensions. At Westside, we shoot to get at least 50 reps in each set, then aim to get as many reps past 50 as we can before fatigue sets in. We perform sets until we reach the point we cannot accomplish at least 50 reps. Considering this training ends the day, don't expect to do more than 3-4 sets at most before fatigue shuts you down.

Here are a few of the most common tricep-focused upper body accessory exercises we use at Westside Barbell:

Close-Grip Bench

JM Press

Rolling Dumbbell Tricep Extension

Williams Extension


Dumbbell Floor Press

Tricep Cable Pressdown (various attachments)

Weighted Dips

Weighted Push-Ups

One Method for All Problems

The Conjugate Method provides the foundation to solve practically any issue an athlete could face during their quest to improve sports performance. Whether the issue is related to a lack of strength, coordination, or muscle mass, our methods can be programmed to solve the problem quickly and allow the athlete to continue making gains in the gym.

No other method allows for the level of optimization associated with Conjugate Method-based training. We can always find the proper exercise and the right approach because of the freedom provided by a training system that simultaneously improves all aspects of strength and conditioning. No other method addresses all special strengths like the Conjugate Method does, not even close.

Ditch the phases, and begin building complete athletes all year round. Eliminating training phases reduces the level of detraining and skill loss experienced by athletes, allowing athletes to improve performance in a stair-step pattern as opposed to the peaks and valleys pattern associated with phase-based training.

Athletes don't need to be strong sometimes, they don't need to be fast sometimes, and they don't need to be big sometimes. They need to be big, strong, and fast at all times. Following a Conjugate-based training program will ensure athletes bring their best performance to the platform, court, field, or mat every time it is time to compete.

Make no mistake; if you train long enough, you will eventually realize all roads lead to Conjugate-based training.


Simmons, L. (2007). Westside Barbell Book of Methods. Westside Barbell.

Verkhoshansky, Y., & Siff, M. C. (2009). Supertraining. Verkhoshansky.

Zatsiorsky, V. M., & Kraemer, W. J. (2006). Science and Practice of Strength Training. Human Kinetics

Burley Hawk

Burley Hawk

Burley Hawk is the Digital Content Manager at Westside Barbell and a Conjugate Method strength coach. Training and studying under Louie Simmons over the past decade, Burley has attained the experience, knowledge and understanding necessary to master the Conjugate Method.

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