If you want bigger arms, then you want bigger triceps. All too often, trainers both old and young will proclaim they want to build their arms to unheard levels of new sizes, and will then proceed to train their maxed out biceps until the cows come home. Yes, they'll dedicate 100% of their newfound training efforts to a muscle group which comprises about 40% of the upper arm size and thickness. They do this because almost everyone who "makes a muscle" from the time they can walk, does so by flexing the biceps. The triceps, despite being three-fifths of the upper arm, falls by the wayside as a lowly player whose sole role is to hold up the biceps to look its best in every pose.
Of course, this doesn't have to be the case with you. See, you understand the importance of complete arm development, and you realize that only by developing the triceps muscle to its maximum capability will you ever be able to grow the entire upper arm to its greatest potential. So, you make a game plan. You target triceps. You train them with the intensity of a madman until the cows come home - and they grow. But are they growing enough? If not, you may not be correctly or adequately targeting the triceps long head. Let's look at this muscle area and learn the best way to target it. Are you ready?
The triceps has three heads - the lateral, long, and medial. The bulk of the triceps is the long head, starting at the shoulder blade and running the length of the upper arm. This is the meat seen in every pose, and the power that gives you the push you need in movements such as the bench press or overhead presses. When fully extended, the long head is doing the work - and you need to find better ways to adequately and optimally target this section of the triceps muscle!
First off, your goal needs to be to fully activate the long head of the triceps muscle. You do this by completing full repetitions, which cover 100% of the range of motion. Those heavy weight "pumping" repetitions that you see in the bodybuilding videos may look cool, but they're being completed by chemically-assisted athletes who have been training for years, who are incidentally showing off for the camera. At your stage in this game, full repetitions which recruit every possible muscle fiber for the growth process is certainly the way for you to go!
Various repetition ranges
Just like any other muscle group, the triceps (and the long head of the triceps) is packed with both slow and fast twitch muscle fibers. Heavy sets of 4 to 6 repetitions will hit that muscle group, targeting the patches of fast-twitch fiber responsible for thickness and explosive power. On the other hand, lighter sets of 12 to 15 repetitions will light up those slower-twitch muscle fibers which are often neglected by bodybuilders who feel safer in the pain-free lower reps. Use BOTH ranges of repetition to ensure you are always hitting every fiber possible, thus leading to every possible opportunity for long head triceps muscle growth.
Mass before class
Always start your workouts with the heavy compound movements. Hitting them when you are at your freshest and strongest will ensure you hit those BIG muscle fiber groups early. And as the workout moves on, you can shift over to the isolation triceps movements which bring out the detail using much less weight. Going for broke with heavy dumbbell exercises when you're 40 minutes into a triceps workout is a recipe for injury when your balance fails and skull crushers become… well… all too real!
Don't neglect your warmups
Your elbows are at a very precarious position when you're pressing weight overhead when hitting the long head of the triceps with movements such as skull crushers and overhead dumbbell presses. Because of this, you'll always want to devote 1 to 2 light sets of each movement to get the joints, tendons, and muscles warmed up, and blood flowing to the region. A simple triceps tweak can cost you a month of training, and a warmup set or two only adds a few minutes to your workout. Always include them!
Don't forget the other factors
In addition to training the triceps with increased focus using a wide variety of rep ranges and the best exercises in the right order - you need to focus upon the factors which take place OUTSIDE of the gym. Eating plenty of clean meals, packed with protein, carbs, cats, and water will ensure your system has the amino acids to recover, and the energy to train each day. Enjoying 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep each night gives your body the recovery time it needs to actually grow the triceps! If you're sleeping 5 hours a night, then your triceps will always be small and stringy! Finally, be sure to try a few supplements - the hidden advantage for recovery and training energy that many lifters forget. Good luck!