Westside Barbell Triceps Training
It's no secret that if you want to be capable of pressing heavy weights on the bench or overhead press, you will need to increase your triceps' strength. The triceps play a significant role in all pressing movements, considering their involvement in elbow extension. It's easy to understand; a lack of tricep strength will limit your ability to extend the elbow, leading to failed sets and reps when training at high levels of volume or intensity.
Fortunately, building tricep strength is a simple endeavor from a programming perspective. We do not need to introduce a significant amount of exercise variation; all we need to do is choose effective variations and perform them at ideal levels of volume and intensity. Regarding frequency, we typically focus on triceps training twice weekly on our max and dynamic effort upper training days.
We choose two or three triceps-focused accessory exercises each upper body training day. This will typically include one multi-joint exercise, followed by two single-joint exercises to isolate the triceps further. The value of the multi-joint work is the ability to focus on press technique and execution while performing a tricep exercise, while the value of the single-joint work is the ability to deliver muscle-building levels of hypertrophy specifically to the triceps.
Here are a few exercise variations we recommend to help with increasing the strength and size of the triceps:
Close Grip Bench Press
The close grip bench press is one of the most effective variations you can choose to improve your tricep strength and your overall press strength. This exercise will focus on the triceps while still offering benefits to the shoulders and pecs. As we know, close grip bench press improvements have great carryover to a competition-style bench press.
Our goal with the close grip bench press is to train the triceps at a higher intensity than our single-joint exercises would allow. We aim to train at higher volume levels when performing different variations of single-joint tricep extensions. However, the goal with a multi-joint movement, such as the close grip bench press, is to perform a triceps-focused press exercise at higher intensity levels.
When this exercise is featured in our training plan, we will perform it immediately following the main exercise. Considering the exercise is trained at a higher intensity level than the rest of our accessory exercise selections, we want to limit the amount of fatigue we accrue before performing this movement.
It is recommended that athletes work up to a top set of five reps with this exercise or perform 3 x 5 or 5 x 5. Either way, the goal is to train using the heaviest weight you can while completing all sets and reps to standard.
Rolling DB Tricep Extension
The rolling dumbbell tricep extension, commonly called dumbbell rollbacks, is one of the most frequently used tricep exercises at Westside Barbell. This exercise is similar to dumbbell skull crushers, except we aim for an increased range of motion to further stretch the triceps. This is accomplished by letting the dumbbells travel further than a typical skull crusher, with the goal being to bring the dumbbells high onto the shoulder and near parallel with the ears. The intent is to target both heads of the triceps and strengthen the distal triceps tendon.
Dumbbell rollbacks are a great single-joint accessory, whether your goal is a massive bench press or triceps. This exercise will provide gains in strength and muscle size and can be programmed in a few different ways. We will most commonly perform 3-5 sets of 12-15 reps per set. However, we will also train this movement a bit heavier, performing 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps.
Applying both programming schemes to your dumbbell rollback training would be considered good practice. On some days, it may be best to train at higher levels of volume and leave some reps in reserve, while on other days, it may make sense to raise the intensity a bit and work with some heavier dumbbells. It all depends on what you need, how you feel, and where you're at as far as overall recovery goes.
Banded Tricep Extension
This is one of the standard "finisher" exercises we utilize at Westside Barbell. The idea behind this type of exercise is to train at low intensity and ultra-high volume to allow us to target the tendons and ligaments. Doing this will increase the blood flow to the targeted areas, resulting in healthier tendons and ligaments.
To perform this exercise correctly, you must select the proper amount of band tension. This means you want to choose a band that allows you to perform at least 50 reps per set, with the goal being 75-100 reps per set. We will also perform these types of exercises for AMRAP sets, ending the training once we fail to reach the 50-rep threshold.
Given the stress and strain we place on the tendons and ligaments, this training is vital to improve joint health and limit the likelihood of injury. For that reason, we will typically perform an ultra-high volume banded tricep exercise nearly every time we train our upper body.
The Basics Work
Nowadays, it has become common to see different fitness and powerlifting influencers throw out a bunch of suggestions regarding what variations are optimal and why you should be using them. Often, these variations are only slightly different from the base exercise and are created so that the influencer can attempt to name an exercise after themselves.
Do not get lost in the world of social media when designing a training program or selecting accessory exercises. The basics work, and they work very well. An effective accessory exercise training plan will look very similar to what would be considered old-school bodybuilding exercise selections.
Building size and strength depend primarily on volume, intensity, and frequency. Exercise variation is important, but not to the extent it is commonly preached. We want to select 4-6 tricep accessory exercises, perform 2-3 each upper training day, and rotate them weekly. The ultimate goal of accessory training is to get the most adaptation from the least amount of variation while still effectively training all involved muscle groups.