The Ultimate Champions’ Triceps Workout

The triceps may not be as popular of a muscle group to train as the biceps may be, but hitting the back of the upper arms hard will add significant size and play a big role in developing a complete physique. They are also involved in major pressing movements. So having a set of triceps that look strong and are strong can’t be emphasized enough.

That’s why Muscle & Fitness, Flex, and M&F Hers has always taken triceps training seriously. Because of that we have talked shop with a lot of bodybuilding and physique champions over the years. We have found tips from four such champions that can help you push the limits and stretch the tape measure.

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Per Bernal

David Henry – Rest-Pause with the Rope Pressdown

The 2008 Olympia 202 Champion (yes, it was 202 pounds back then) didn’t waste any time when it came to triceps work. After two warmup sets of 20 to 25 reps with his first exercise of the day, rope pressdowns in this case, he would go all-out with one set to total failure. To make sure it was true failure, he would add rest-pauses to the equation.

“I then go directly to my maximum weight and do as many reps as I can, to absolute failure, which takes me across the pain threshold and into another realm of intensity,” he says. “At that point, I take a rest-pause of 15 breaths, go to failure again, I take another rest-pause of 15 breaths, and rep to failure a third time. That’s it.”

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Chris Lund / M+F Magazine

Gustavo Badell – Use Leverage with the Two-Arm Overhead Extension

Badell was a mainstay on the Olympia stage in the early to mid-2000s. He was one of the most popular athletes in the IFBB Pro League, and one reason why was his phenomenal arm development. The movement he gave credit to for his amazing triceps was overhead extensions with a cambered bar instead of a dumbbell. He shared his reasoning with Flex.

“I think that the overhead triceps extension with a cambered bar is one of the best exercises for adding mass to the triceps,” he says. “The upright position allows you to get a better stretch in the long head in the triceps, and you have more leverage than you do with flat extensions.”


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Per Bernal

Camala Rodriguez-McClure – Maintain Control with Bentover Dumbbell Kickbacks

Bikini athletes need well-developed arms as well. This is why Camala Rodriguez-McClure is usually in the first callouts of whichever contest she enters. She likes using the bent over dumbbell kickback for the back of her upper arms, but she doesn’t attack the weights with reckless abandon.

“I love this exercise because you’re really isolating your triceps, but it’s crucial to have correct form,” she says. “Make sure to move slowly and with control. I like to use a moderate weight for these.”


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Ian Spanier / M+F Magazine

Candice Lewis-Carter – Go to Failure with Flat-Arm Pushups

Former Figure International champ and Olympia runner-up Candice Lewis-Carter showcased serious muscle in her division. She left no stone unturned and no rep unfinished when it came to training. She would finish her triceps sessions with flat arm pushups.

“When it comes to triceps workouts, I focus on exercises that tone rather than build muscle mass,” Carter says. “To help with definition of these muscles, I perform the last set of each exercise to failure.” Carter would actually go to failure on all three sets of this exercise. “Begin in a full pushup position with hands close together, then drop to your forearms and return to a pushup position.”

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Ultimate Champions Triceps Workout

Now it’s time to apply what you’ve learned so you can take steps on your own championship journey. Use this session as part of an overall arm workout or add it to a fellow push muscle group like chest or triceps. Rest for no more than 60 seconds between sets unless otherwise instructed.

Rope Pushdown – 2 warmup sets of 20 to 25 reps. 1 working set to failure with two 15-second rest-pauses.

Overhead Extension with Cambered Bar – 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps

Bentover Dumbbell Kickback – 3 sets of 15 reps

Flat-Arm Pushup – 3 sets to failure

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