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(Triceps) Science Anatomy for Triceps Exercise

Learn the science behind triceps exercise and what is the correct way of doing it.


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When it comes to choosing tricep exercises, there are many to choose from. In this video, we are going to give you the top 6, or as we like to call them, the Super 6 exercises to build your triceps. To make these selections, we first need to dive into the anatomy of the triceps and their function.

We know that all 3 heads of the triceps cross the elbow in order to provide extension at the elbow. However, the long head attaches to the scapula as opposed to the upper arm, which means that it’s level of stretch and contraction differ from the medial and lateral heads of the triceps. In the case of the long head, to reach full stretch, the arms must be raised overhead while peak contraction is gained by extending the arm back behind the body.

In order to optimally build the triceps, the 6 exercises that we chose were based on placing all 3 heads of the triceps into peak contraction, full stretch, and the ability to provide progressive overload.

1. Triceps Rocking Pushdown
We love these modified triceps exercises because it allows for a peak contraction of the long head while maintaining the optimal line of resistance that you might otherwise be missing when doing traditional tricep rope pushdowns. By rocking backward while simultaneously pushing the rope down, you are able to keep the cable (line of resistance) perpendicular to your forearms which means the triceps are continuously under tension.

2. Lying Overhead Triceps Extensions
This traditional triceps exercise is great for putting the long head of the triceps into full stretch while under load. You don’t want to bring your arms all the way vertical because with the arms standing parallel to gravity, the triceps are no longer under optimal resistance. When at the stretch position, allow your hands to drop a little further to the ground as this will give peak stretch to all three heads of the triceps

3. Incline DB Power Bombs
This is another triceps exercise that puts the long head on stretch while under load. We prefer this exercise to the classic standing overhead extension because the incline position allows for the elbows to be in front of the body and in the scapular plane. The standing version places your elbows out to your sides which we know is a position equivalent to the behind-the-neck press.

4. DB Triceps Kickbacks
Now, before you call this a sissy movement, we believe that the kickback is a great triceps exercise, especially to hit the long head. Why? You are able to get the arms back behind the body, which by this point, we know means the long head of the triceps is now under peak contraction under load. Remember, you don’t have to use super lightweights on this triceps exercise!

5. Close Grip Bench Press
The close grip bench press is a great way to build triceps mass in all three heads. While the exercise doesn’t allow for peak stretch or contraction of the long head, you can load this exercise heavier than most other triceps exercises. The amount of load will still have a great stimulus for growth on all three triceps heads and also provides an opportunity for progressive overload.

6. Weighted Upright Dips
This is another triceps exercise that allows us to train under greater load that helps to make up for the lack of peak stretch and contraction of the long head of the triceps. One trick to help give better influence over the long head is the lean forward a little bit, allowing the arms to be a little further back in relation to the body. The further back the arm is, the closer it is to peak contraction.

Next time you are looking to build your triceps, take a look at this list not only to see what my 6 favorites are, but what you should be looking for in each exercise. Remember that long head takes up 2/3 of the triceps, which makes up for 2/3 of the upper arm.

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