Powerlifters and strongman competitors have strong, massive triceps. Why? Because to be a great powerlifter or strongman, you must have great lockout strength, and there are a lot of ways to build it.
Although many strength athletes aren't concerned with what their triceps look like, their triceps are bigger than most people's legs. And it's pretty damn cool. So here's how to take a page from their book and build a monstrous set of triceps.
The Three Types of Triceps Exercises
1 – Heavy Partials
Here we're talking about partial presses with a variety of positions/grips. There's an endless number of variations, but here are a few that'll have a profound effect on your triceps' size and ability to press a shit-ton of weight. Heavy-partials done off pins in a power rack work well for this, and they're great for developing absolute strength:
Dead Stop Bench (Or Floor) Press
Use standard bar or a football bar (as shown) for a neutral grip. Brace and press. Add accommodating resistance if you'd like (chains or bands).
Dead Stop Press Off Pins
Set the pins high enough that you're working just the top half. Brace and press.
Close-Grip Fat Bar Dead-Press Against Doubled Mini-Bands
For an extra challenge, use a fat bar and attach bands for this pin press.
Seated Safety Squat Bar Press Off Pins
This overhead press will challenge your triceps, grip, and forearms because of the awkwardness of the bar.
Some of the variations here allow accommodating resistance. If you're able to, use it to get even more variability in your training, not to mention the benefit of maximal tension when you're strongest – at lockout. But it's certainly not a requirement. By that same token, specialty bars are not needed either.
You need your presses done from a dead-stop, no bouncing off the pins. Use a moderate or close grip, and perform this work for maximal effort, building to a 1-5 rep max. This work should take place first in your upper-body training session.
2 – Floor Press Variations
The floor press will build massive triceps and lockout strength. The purpose of the floor press is to work the top-range of your pressing. Since you aren't able to use any leg-drive, as you would in a traditional bench press, most people can't handle the same loading. This will actually allow you to recover faster between workouts.
The floor press can provide insight into whether or not your bench press technique needs work. It says a lot if your floor press numbers are close to your bench press numbers. It indicates that you're not effectively using your legs in your bench press.
You can do floor presses with a barbell, dumbbells, or specialty bars like a football bar. Typically, the floor press will be done with max effort work, building to a 1-5 rep max, but that's not to say you couldn't use this with higher-rep ranges.
Floor Press Review
Watch this video to make sure you nail the floor press.
Dumbbell Floor Press
Try a pronated grip for this, engage the triceps, and keep your knees bent to make it more back-friendly.
Medicine Ball Floor Press
Try a less conventional implement, like a heavy med-ball for a high-rep finisher. In this case, you'll need anywhere from 75-150 pounds to get the job done.
3 – Direct Triceps Work
We could certainly go down the rabbit hole of variations that target all heads of the triceps, but I won't do that to you. Instead I've picked a smaller list of the ones I've found to be most effective over the years. Most won't come as surprise to you. For all of these variations I typically train higher-volumes of 50-100 total reps.
Use this underrated accessory movement to build your triceps. Take a look at how they're done.
Rollback Tricep Extensions
Lay on your back on the floor and do a tricep extension. At the bottom of the movement place the dumbbells on the ground near your head.
Barbell Tricep Extensions from the Floor
Use the same movement you'd use with standing tricep extension, but laying on the floor. Allow the plates to touch the ground behind your head.
Specialty Bar Tricep Extensions from the Floor
You can use a different bar to get a neutral grip, or add accommodating resistance with bands and repeat the same tricep extension movement.
And let's not forget about pushdowns when it comes to tricep growth. These variations are winners:
Keep your elbows tight to the body, then with control allow the rope to move back up to the starting position.
Attach a band to the rig, keep your elbows tight to the body and spread it apart at the bottom. Try for 100 reps.
Reverse-Grip Banded Tricep Pushdowns
Do these pulldowns with palms facing up to hit the medial head of the triceps.
The Best Way to Add These
Depending on the type of split you use, you'd want to keep it simple and choose one heavy movement to perform first. It could be done using any variation for a maximal effort.
You'd then follow that up with one assistance exercise. Yep, just one assistance exercise. You'll more than likely find that after your main lift and one assistance exercise, your triceps will be thoroughly smoked.
Just remember, more exercises won't necessarily lead to better results, and in this sense, quality over quantity is a more effective approach. Vary your selection in each session and rotate those variations weekly to find what works best for you.
Just because one program or variation worked for your buddy, it doesn't mean it's going to necessarily work for you. Being innovative with your training will facilitate long-term results.