Triceps Exercises Basics *Q and A*

What do you think is the best exercise for triceps?

As long as you are choosing compound exercises like lying triceps extensions, cable pushdowns or close grip bench and overloading the triceps with increasingly heavier resistance, I am not sure there is a “best” exercise.

The Best Exercise for Triceps

My personal favorite is lying triceps extensions. I like lying triceps extensions because I can achieve maximum overload through a full and natural range of motion.

When I perform lying triceps extensions I lower the bar past my head. I do not stop at my forehead like many people, including myself, are initially taught to do.

Lowering the bar past my head places less stress on my wrists and elbows, plus allows for a greater and more comfortable range of motion. I also feel more powerful because I am working with my body’s natural biomechanics.

Lying Triceps Extensions

When you perform lying triceps extensions do you try to keep your upper arm in a locked position and only move at the elbow?

Lying triceps extensions are one of my favorite triceps movements. It’s a great compound exercise that allows you to effectively overload the triceps through a full range of motion.

In order to get the most out of this exercise I think you need to allow for some movement of the upper arm. If you try to lock your arms and only move at the elbow, you will limit your range of motion and limit the amount of overload you can use.

Range of Motion and Natural Motion

When I perform lying triceps extensions I do not lock my upper arms. I lower the bar over my head (not to my forehead) to get a full stretch and allow my upper arms to move naturally as I complete each rep.

This is a more natural motion that increases overload and takes stress off your elbows and wrists.

In the past, lying triceps extensions felt uncomfortable for me to perform. I did them in the “traditional” manner of lowering the bar to my forehead. Over time this started to bother my elbows and wrists to the point I stopped using this movement.

That all changed when I started lowering the bar over my head. Since the change in form, this exercise feels great and has been a staple movement in my triceps workouts.

Using an Angled Bar

Do you use angled bar when doing triceps push-downs? I have been using a straight bar attachment and now wonder if the angled bar would be more effective?

Whichever bar feels more comfortable and allows you to handle the most weight is the best choice.

The angled bar feels better on my wrists and elbows during heavy sets and that is why I choose that attachment.

Remember that overload builds muscle and achieving overload through a full range of motion is more important than the specific attachment you use. So choose which ever bar feels the best and execute triceps push-downs with intensity.

Choose the Exercise That Feels Best

I have been using the progressive overload for about a month now and love it! I am having a problem with triceps cable pushdowns though. I now do the full stack for my sets but it is getting less challenging. Is there an alternative exercise or variation I should try? Or should I just increase my reps?

In order to keep stimulating maximum muscle growth you need to choose exercises that allow you to effectively reach overload in a 4-8 rep range.

Stimulating Maximum Triceps Muscle Growth

If you are getting to the point where you can complete 8 reps with ease and you can’t add any more weights to cable pushdowns then it’s time to choose another exercise because progressive overload is a key to continual progress.

There are a number of good free weight compound triceps movements to choose from including: lying triceps extensions, close grip bench presses, curl bar overhead extensions and incline overhead extensions.

Any of these exercises will fit right into your triceps workouts and allow you to achieve maximum overload.

Avoiding Elbow Pain

When I do the lying triceps extensions my elbows kill me. I know this is a good triceps exercise and would like to keep using it. Do you have any ideas or suggestions as to what the problem could be?

Without seeing you perform the exercise it is hard for me to say exactly but a lot of times people have a problem executing lying triceps extensions and that can often lead to added stress to wrists and elbows. Taking a closer look at your form may very well help your problem.

My Favorite Triceps Movements

Start by lying on a flat bench with your head hanging slightly over the edge. When you lower the bar, don’t bring it down to your forehead. That position places a lot of undue stress on the wrist and elbows.

Instead, lower the bar over the top of your head allowing for a much better stretch and a more natural range of motion.

In the past I performed lying triceps extensions the traditional way and lowered the bar to my forehead. That never felt very comfortable and ultimately I started to experience wrist and elbow pain. It got to the point where I basically avoided doing them.

Then I met up with a colleague of mine who trained for powerlifting events and learned this nuance and I have been doing it that way ever since. Lying triceps extensions went from an exercise I had to avoid to my favorite triceps movements.

Unilateral Exercises to Correct Imbalances

Is Lying Triceps Extensions, Performed with One Dumbbell in Each Hand, a Worthwhile Exercise?

Most (if not all) athletes have one limb that is weaker than the other. If left uncorrected, these muscle imbalances can retard your ability to use maximum overload in the mass-building exercises.

Performing unilateral exercises are the only way to correct these imbalances. I think it’s a good idea to incorporate one unilateral exercise for each major muscle group into every strength training program.

I would not consider dumbbell lying triceps extensions as a mass-building exercise. However, this unilateral exercise may be a good choice to help correct differences in triceps strength. If you feel you might benefit, I recommend you incorporate this exercise into your triceps/ chest day.

Perform 2 maximum-effort sets with this exercise towards the end of this workout. In the first few weeks, be sure to start with a weight that is within your capability. As your skill level increases, gradually increase weight over a 4-6 week period. This progressive approach will improve coordination, reduce the difference in limb strength and help avoid injury.

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Triceps Exercises Basics *Q and A*
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Triceps Exercises Basics *Q and A*
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Building the triceps using compound exercises like lying triceps extensions, cable pushdowns or close grip bench and overloading the triceps with increasingly heavier resistance.
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Flat Iron Body
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