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Common Tricep Workout Mistakes Keeping you from Giant Triceps

By jbehar at April 26, 2016, 4:46 p.m., 10921 hits

So many people want big arms and all they do is focus on bicep curls. The people that are small enough to understand the triceps account for two thirds of their arm cream triceps but in many cases they train them all wrong or if not all wrong, inefficiently.

Here is some of the most common tricep training mistakes that I've corrected can improve your arm game!

#1 Improper form

To focus the stress on your triceps, you need to keep your elbows locked in place. The moment you start moving your elbows forward, backward or outward, you shift some emphasis to your shoulders. Doing so allows you to use more weight or crank out more reps, but if you turn tri exercises into partial pullovers, you’re making it easier on your triceps when you should be making it harder.


Lock your elbows in place for all reps until you reach failure. For pushdowns this is easy to do by pressing your elbows against your sides and not allowing them to deviate from that position.

After reaching failure with strict reps, you can then loosen your form to eke out a few more reps. Do this by moving your elbows forward during the negative half of the rep and backward during the positive half. Cheat as little as you must to keep the set going.

#2 Not working the set to failure.

Sure the first few sets can hurt, and be difficult however if you want games you got a break for the paint area and do those extra three or four wraps when the pain feels unbearable. That is the type of deep work out you want to get to really work those triceps and get them on the road to greatness.

#3 Not stressing all three heads

As the name suggests, your triceps have three heads: long (upper inside), medial (lower inside) and lateral (outside). The heads always work together, so it’s impossible to isolate one from the others. However, the angle of your arms changes the emphasis, stressing the heads differently. Too many bodybuilders are unaware of how various exercises hit their tri’s, and thus they typically overemphasize their lateral heads and underemphasize the long and medial heads.


When your arms are straight by your sides with an overhand or a parallel grip (palms facing each other, also known as a neutral grip), the lateral heads are worked most, as during conventional pushdowns.

When your arms are straight by your sides with an underhand grip, the medial heads are hit most. Regardless of hand position, the medial heads also assist more on all triceps lifts as the arms reach full extension. To give your medial heads their due, consider adding reverse-grip pushdowns to your routine, and always squeeze out full contractions on triceps exercises.
When your elbows are moved in front of your body or overhead, the long heads are targeted. Overhead extensions are best for “going long,” so always include some form of overhead tri extension in your routine.

Many people skip the reverse tricep extension using the straight bar in the tricep machine. This works the third head very well and failure to do this exercise often results in a complete triceps for many.

#4 Inefficient exercise order

No exercise order is incorrect, but some are less efficient. Changing the order can shock your tri’s, and at times you may want to pre-exhaust by doing, say, pushdowns before close-grip benches. However, begin most workouts with the exercises in which you can overload your tri’s with the greatest resistance. Do those first in your routine because that’s when you’re strongest.


Do compound lifts, such as dips or close-grip bench presses, first. There is one caveat here. You must warm up properly if you're going to do this is that your joints are destroyed. For this reason many people will start out with rope extensions to warm up a joint before going extremely heavy on compound movements or push downs.

Do two-arm, free-weight extensions next. You can follow this up with heavy heavy tricep push downs and work the rack down (heavier) and then pure amid back down and increase the reps and work till failure.

Finish with unilateral (one-arm) or cable exercises.

This is just an example. There are many different exercises you can use with the same principles to always confuse your muscles and keep those triceps growing.

#5 Focusing too much on machines and cables

Many trainers rely too heavily on various pushdowns and cable extensions. For example, it’s not uncommon for bodybuilders to include four sets of both V-bar and rope pushdowns in the same workout, but these similar exercises stress the triceps in nearly identical ways, emphasizing the lateral heads.

If you want gigantic tries you've got to use compound movements and free weights to your advantage. These have shown to stimulate more muscle fibers, greater hyper trophy, resulting in greater growth.


Do a compound exercise (one that also involves the chest and shoulders) like a close grip bench press, in each tri workout. Other Examples include, upright dips and weighted chair dips with your hands behind your back.

Do at least one EZ-curl bar or dumbbell extension in each tri workout. Examples include lying EZ-curl bar triceps extensions, two-arm dumbbell overhead extensions and one-arm dumbbell overhead extensions.

If you do two pushdown exercises, one should be done with an overhand or parallel grip (to emphasize the lateral heads) and the other should be underhand (to emphasize the medial heads).

#6 Overtraining

Out of all your bodyparts, triceps are the most prone to overtraining. I will say this however, you can beat the shit out of your triceps pretty hard as long as you take enough days off before your next workout. If you work out fast enough and beat the shit out of your triceps but eat well and take fortified days between your workouts you will never overtrain. To many people in the gym however train for too long and then they come back to the gym to or three days later and train them again, and that can lead to overtraining.


I call that under and over training at the same time. So the lesson here is train at the highest levels of intensity and beat the shit out of your triceps and eat well and take 4 to 5 days off before the next workout and you will be just fine. On occasion you can also utilize many of the high-voltage training techniques I talk about in my other articles (Google Jeff behar high voltage training). Some techniques include: drop sets, pyramids, etc. by upping the intensity during your workout you warm actually finished earlier and be on your way home to start recuperating and repairing. Incorporating these techniques will also shock your muscles and keep them growing.

Tricep Workout Takeaway:

Always focus on intensity. There are several ways to keep intensely high such as higher weight, longer time under tension (TUT), less rest between sets, more sets, etc. for a good explanation on how to use time under tension to blast your workouts google Jeff Behar time under tension or Jeff Behar TUT

Keep the mind to muscle connection and visualize your triceps working and being filled with blood.

Do exercises in each triceps workout that emphasize the long, lateral and medial heads.

Generally, do compound lifts first, two-hand free-weight lifts next and finish with one-arm or cable exercises.
Include free-weight exercises in each tri workout.

Lock your elbows in place until you reach strict-rep failure.

Do not let your elbows flare out when you're doing triceps.

Typically, complete your tricep workout between 20 and 30 minutes, and utilize high-voltage training techniques.

Get at least four days rest between aggressive tricep workouts.

Become is it of the order of your exercises and your workout. Always start with the bigger muscle first. For instance if you do triceps on chest day do your chest first. If you do triceps first they will be tired and you will not be able to overload your chest. Same goes with shoulders. It is best to work your shoulders first set your triceps are slightly warmed up for your tricep workout. Doing it the other way around is typically not as effective especially if you want to use heavier weights for growth.

About the Author Jeff Behar

Jeff Behar, MS, MBA, is a well-known author, champion natural bodybuilder, and a recognized health, fitness and nutrition expert with over 30 years of experience in the health, fitness, disease prevention, nutrition, and anti-aging fields. As a recognized health, fitness and nutrition expert, Jeff Behar has been featured on several radio shows, TV, and in several popular bodybuilding publications such as Flex, Ironman and in several highly regarded peer reviewed scientific journals. Jeff Behar is also the CEO and founder and, a staff writer at and the current Medical Commentator on Exercise for the The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M), the world's largest medical anti-aging organization comprised of 26,000-plus member physicians, health practitioners, scientists, governmental officials, and members of the general public, representing over 120 nations.

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