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Endless curls won’t build you sleeve-busting arms. For super-sized arms, you need to spend less time on your biceps, and devote more time on your triceps.
“Your triceps comprise more than two-thirds of your upper-arm mass,” says BJ Gaddour,Men’s Health Fitness Advisor. “So building thicker, more developed triceps muscles makes your entire arms look more like shotguns than pistols.”
What’s more, says Gaddour, triceps also play a huge role in some of the most effective and popular exercises, like the pushup and bench press. “Triceps strength is usually the limiting factor in pressing movements,” he says. “So your bench, pushup, and other presses only go as far as your triceps take them.”
That’s why you need to throw the following eight exercises into your routine. There’s no better way to build gigantic arms—and a bigger bench.
Foam Roller Press
“The lockout is all triceps, and you can use a big weight on the bar” says Tony Gentilcore, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA. It also allows you to train hard for the bench press, with minimal strain on your shoulders.
DO THIS: Lie down on a bench and place a foam roller length-wise on your chest. Secure it with a resistance band, if need be. Grab the barbell overhead and hold it directly above your chest. Lower the bar to touch the foam roller, and then press it back up
Dumbbell Triceps Kickback
The move hits the entire triceps, but it really focuses on the medial head, says Todd Durkin, C.S.C.S., owner of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego.
“Working the medial head is the missing link to adding size,” he says. That’s because that portion of the muscle lives near your elbow, so it has the most potential to peak out of your T-shirt.
DO THIS: Place your left hand and left knee on a flat bench. Your lower back should be naturally arched and your torso parallel to the floor.
Hold your right upper arm so that it’s parallel to the floor, with your elbows bent. Without moving your right upper arm, raise your forearm until your arm is completely straight.
Reverse the movement back to the starting position
Because you’re lifting your entire bodyweight, your triceps have to work against a much heavier load than they would in a triceps-isolating exercise, according to Ian King, owner of King Sports International.
DO THIS: Hoist yourself up on parallel bars with your torso perpendicular to the floor; you’ll maintain this posture throughout the exercise. (Leaning forward will shift emphasis to your chest and shoulders.)
Bend your knees and cross your ankles. Slowly lower your body until your shoulder joints are below your elbows. (Most guys stop short of this position.)
Push back up until your elbows are nearly straight but not locked. If you have shoulder issues, skip this move
Close-Grip Bench Press
“Placing your hands closer together makes it so your triceps have to work harder,” says Craig Ballantyne, Owner of Turbulence Training. “That can lead to new growth and more strength.”
DO THIS: Grasp a barbell with an overhand grip that’s shoulder-width apart, and hold it above your sternum with arms completely straight. Lower the bar straight down, pause, and then press the bar back up to the starting position.
Rolling EZ-Bar Triceps Extensions
DO THIS: Lie with your back flat on the ground, a loaded EZ-bar laying on the floor above your head. Grasp the bar, roll it towards your head until your upper arms are vertical. Now press the weight so that your arms are straight and vertical.
Reverse the move, placing the weight back on the floor and “rolling” the bar back. Repeat. Do as many reps as you can
Kettlebell Floor Press
And since the load is distributed differently with a kettlebell than a barbell, your stabilizing muscles have to work harder to keep the weight positioned correctly.
DO THIS: Grab a kettlebell with each hand and lie with your back on the ground. Hold the kettlebells overhead, the bell hanging on the outside of your wrists.
Bend your arm to lower the kettlebells. Touch your elbows to the ground, pause, then press them back up.
Dumbbell Lying Triceps Extensions
A review in the Strength and Conditioning Journal found that “the pump”—cellular swelling that occurs from blood pooling to the muscle—can actually speed muscle repair and growth after your workout.
DO THIS: Grab a pair of dumbbells and lie faceup on the ground. Hold the dumbbells over your head with straight arms, your palms facing each other.
Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows to lower the dumbbells until your forearms are beyond parallel to the floor. Pause, then lift the weights back to the starting position by straightening your arms.
Rope Triceps Pressdown
The trick: Imagine that you’re wearing tight suspenders that hold down your shoulders as you do the exercise. If you can’t keep your shoulders down, lighten the load.
DO THIS: Attach a rope handle to the high pulley of a cable station. Bend your arms and grab the bar with an overhand grip, your hands shoulder-width apart. Tuck your upper arms next to your sides.
Without moving your upper arms, push the bar down until your elbows are locked. Slowly return to the starting position