How to grow big triceps

Check out this YouTube tricep workout video starring Rob Riches and Steve Cook, two personal trainers who specialise in muscle growth and bodybuilding. Make sure you use good form on all tricep exercises, as the tendons at the elbow are easily damaged if you use too much weight or poor technique.

In this video you'll see bench lying supine tricep extensions with barbell, close grip bench press, and standing tricep pulldowns at one end of the cable crossover machine. There's an interesting discussion between Steve and Rob where they compare their training techniques. You'll also see the seated behind-neck dumbbell tricep extension performed in the outdoor section of Gold's Gym, Venice, California. It's worth having a spotter for this exercise if you go heavy.

Don't train your biceps without also training triceps the same week (although not necessarily in the same workout). Triceps make up 3/5 of the muscle mass of your upper arms, so if you want muscular arms don't neglect tricep training.

As a personal trainer in London for the last 12 years or so, I know from experience that your elbow joint is vulnerable to injury if you're not careful with your tricep exercises. So start light, focus on good form, and build up gradually. Before I started training him, one of my personal training clients in central London, had a severe case of tennis elbow from over-training his triceps with excessive weights.

One relatively safe set of tricep exercises is the tricep pressdown, and it's versatile too. You can hit the outer or inner head of the triceps depending on your hand position during this exercise. Experiment for yourself and you'll feel the difference between a pushdown with thumbs up (which hits the outer triceps), and one with thumbs down for emphasis on the inner triceps. You can also use a variety of handles, from the rope to a range of fixed position metal handles.

Do you want to build big arms which turn heads? Hire a personal trainer in London to take you to the next level. Click the link! Tricep training needs to be done with good form, otherwise you risk damaging your elbow joints with poor form or excessive weights.

Your triceps are the muscles at the rear of the upper arm. They make up around three fifths of the mass of the upper arm muscles. It's tempting to focus just on biceps, in the mistaken belief that this is the bulk of your arm muscles. Big mistake! The triceps comprise most of the bulk of a well-developed upper arm. Always aim for balanced development, or you will end up with elbow joint problems and an unbalanced appearance.

The three tricep muscles

The 3 tricep muscles of the muscle group 'triceps brachii' are the lateral (outer) head, (origin: upper half of rear of humerus), medial (inner) head, (origin: lower half of humerus), and long head (origin: scapula ie-shoulder blade, near armpit) . So the medial and lateral heads are used only in elbow extension, whereas the long head is also involved at the shoulder joint. The insertion of all 3 heads is the ulna, one of the forearm bones, and inserts near the elbow joint.

The medial head gives bulk to the lower triceps. The other 2 heads give bulk to the upper triceps.

The triceps enable all pushing motions of the arm, and allow you to straighten the arm from a bent position. Strong triceps also assist you in all chest exercises, and in the seated shoulder press above head.

If you don't have access to any gym equipment, one of the best tricep exercises require no equipment at all: pressups (otherwise known as pushups). To hit the triceps best, perform pressups with your hands a bit closer to each other than you would with regular pressups. The wider your hands, the greater the impact on the chest.

And my personal training clients who I train in London parks know the importance of park benches for tricep dips! If you do these on your own, make sure you don't go too fast on the way down, or you'll risk injuring your elbow joint. For safety, place a doubled up yoga mat under the bench, in case you slip and land on your backside.

Some of the best exercises for triceps

(Perform all the movements slowly and with strict form, so that you isolate the triceps. Go too fast or too heavy, and you'll find your chest/back muscles coming into play. This is where a personal trainer or gym buddy comes in handy, to ensure you're performing the exercise safely and effectively.)

Standing cable pressdowns (palms down) - targets medial head mostly

Reverse standing cable pressdowns (palms up) - most effective for the lateral head, the outer portion of the triceps

Cable pressdowns with rope - targets lateral head mostly, ie the outside of the triceps. Keep your thumbs at the top, and palms facing inwards towards each other. To target the inner portion of the triceps, you can twist your wrists inwards as you press down, so your thumbs come inwards and down. Also, squeeze and hold at the bottom of the movement for a couple of seconds, for maximum muscle contraction. You'll really feel the burn!

1 arm cable pressdowns - targets medial (inner) head

Dumbbell kickbacks (bent over) - great for lateral head - feel the burn!

Dips - great for whole triceps, mainly long head and lateral (outer) head

Close grip bench press

Barbell 'skull crushers' - lying on your back on a bench, extend a light barbell above your head.

Standing dumbbell tricep extension - 1 arm only,  keep upper arm still and vertical, dumbbell slowly descends behind your head, then press up, don't lock out the elbow joint at the top. Follow this up with a set of bent-over tricep extensions, and squeeze the tricep at the top of each rep.

Some people get elbow pain when performing certain tricep exercises, particularly the dips, barbell skull crushers, and close grip bench press. If this happens to you, try bent-over dumbbell kickbacks instead, which don't lock your elbows into a fixed position. Or simply lighten the weight of your skull crushers and close grip bench press.