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Three-Headed Monster - Triceps Exercises That Cover All Bases

Joe Pietaro

Joe Pietaro

Joe Pietaro Contributer
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Your triceps may not be a large body part, training-wise, but they are a very intricate muscle group that requires some educated pre-planning. The reason for this is that they are divided upon in three parts, hence the 'tri' in 'triceps.' These parts are actually called heads in kinesiology and the way you work them are not always isolated to triceps exercises, but rather those coupled with other 'push' body parts such as chest and shoulders where the triceps are a secondary muscle. The breakdown goes as follows:

1 - Lateral Head
- the side portion of your triceps is where the lateral head is located. Its location makes it a very visible part of your arms, so you obviously want to hit this hard. Your grip plays a big part in determining which head of the traces are being used and you will want to do at least one triceps movement with an overhand grip to engage the lateral head. Another aspect is that exercises where your arms are by your sides will work the lateral head more. So you can in reality do triceps kickbacks and then during an other workout perform dumbbell side lateral raises for your shoulders and that triceps lateral head will than k you.

2 - Long Head
- the longest of the trio attaches your deltoid all the way down to your elbow areas and is the back portion of the triceps. The best way to train them is to always include at least one overhead movement. Regardless of the body part being trained, exercises with a full range of motion such as overhead presses or skull crushers will also make that going head thicker.

3 - Medial Head - frequently overlooked because it is the smallest and least conspicuous head (you'll find it right under the elbow end of the long head), the medial head is taxed most when using an underhand grip, such as reverse grip triceps pushdowns.

The majority of exercises - triceps and otherwise that include them as secondary or even a third muscle engaged to complete a rep - will work two or all three heads. Look at the close grip bench press for a perfect example where all three heads and your pectorals and deltoids are being used. Dips are also great for this multi-pack of muscles being used. But keep in mind that keeping your body straight will emphasize the triceps more, and leaning forward at a slight angle is viewed more as a chest movement.

Triceps pushdowns are a favorite amongst most gym goers and for a goods reason - they work. But they also hit all three heads and you can use a number of different bars/grips while performing them. Two important points - stand about a full step away from the station and keep the 'top' of each rep when your elbows/arms are at a 90 degree angle; bring ing the bar higher does not help the triceps and your outer forearms begin to take over. That is an area where isolated exercises work best and your triceps will feel more pumped if you hold it at that 90 degree angle for a moment before moving on to the following rep.

Another good tip is to keep your elbows at your sides while performing pushdowns, regardless of the grip/handle. When you flair out your elbows, it usually is because the weight is too heavy and your form goes out the window. Those reps and even full sets where someone leans into the station and stoops their head to one side of the cable is not recommended whatsoever.

So before your next workout, keep in mind that you don't perform exercises that work only one or two thirds of your triceps.
 

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