Equip your guns with the right kind of muscle by getting clued up on how they work.

Q/ What’s the perfect technique for triceps dips? Posture is key: the straighter you can keep your upper body, the more intense the load is on your triceps. Lean forward and you’ll use your chest muscles more. You decide whether you want the full impact on your triceps or if you want your chest muscles to do some of the work. But make sure you always look straight ahead, as looking down means more stress is placed on your neck and spine. Take your time in lowering yourself down, as your shoulders will have to work harder to maintain the right position. Aim to do a count of three seconds down, and three back up.

Q/ Are thicker grips on dumbbells really more effective? Unusual grip positions and thickness variations provide a new challenge for your arms. You’ll stimulate your muscles in different ways by changing up your grip, thereby promoting growth of stronger and bigger muscles. Dumbbells and barbells with special, thicker grips will force you to grip even harder to keep the right position. Stuck with standard dumbbells? Get yourself a pair of Fat Gripz at rebelstore.co.za

Q/ What should I eat before and after training? Plan your meals to provide both energy and the ingredients to build muscle. Have a big meal of complex carbs (rice, potatoes), protein (beef or chicken) and vitamins (peppers, spinach) two hours before a heavy arm session. Directly before the workout, drink some coffee for some energy, and right after training have a protein shake that’s rich in whey to help with recovery.

Q/ How do I get the most gains out of every single rep? Smaller weight plates (typically ½kg) are your best friends. Why? You should be able to increase your training every time – either by doing more reps or by adding more weight. With isolation arm exercises, it’s even more important to take small, regular steps to increase the load on your muscles. Make sure you have a training diary, as you’ll be able to pick up any weaknesses, record your data and adapt your training accordingly.

Q/ What is the best test of my bicep strength? Start with a dead hang on a pull-up bar, using a shoulder-width, underhand grip. Your legs should hang straight out below you, and your core should be contracted. Pull yourself up to get your chin over the bar – and hold yourself there. The test is to see how long you can hold that position (without letting your chin drop below the bar). Under 25 seconds? You’ve got some work to do. From 26 to 44 seconds, there’s room for improvement. Anything over 45 seconds is decent.

Q/ What exactly do my triceps do? Besides being used in any kind of pressing movement, they also work like a shock absorber for the elbow, protecting the joint in the case of an emergency flexion. For example, if you go over the handlebars of your bike, your triceps will absorb some of the shock of your landing if you land with your hands out in front of you.

Q/ Do bicep exercises strengthen the triceps too? Arm muscles always work as a team. Extending your arm mostly means work for the tricep, but at the same time the bicep need to stop hyperextension to protect the joint and ensure a smooth movement. Flexing of the arm works in the opposite way, where the biceps are the protagonist and triceps become the supporters. Any arm–strengthening exercise will strengthen the arm as a whole.

Finish your set by jumping into Part 4 of the A-Z Guide of Bigger Arms.