Everybody wants bigger arms. Well, almost everyone. At one time, a certain monster of a bodybuilding champion known as Ronnie Coleman realized his arms were growing too quickly compared with his other muscle groups, leaving them out of proportion. He cut back his triceps training to 9 sets per week. The good news for you, however, is that your name isn't Ronnie Coleman and you were not born with other-worldly genetics. Therefore, you don't have that problem. You're trying to get bigger arms, plain and simple. So where do you start?
Most people attack biceps when they decide they want bigger arms. And that's great, well, and good… but the biceps only make up about 40% of the upper arm. And since they're the exercise that everyone and their mother usually trains first in the gym, there is usually not all that much untapped potential when it comes to biceps development. So you have to look someplace else.
That 'someplace else', of course, translates to mean your triceps. They make up three-fifths of the upper arm, and you probably haven't been training the bejesus out of them since the 5th grade. So there is some serious room for development here, provided you hit them wisely and don't get yourself hurt. Ready to dive in?
No more starting with pressdowns!
They're convenient, they're interesting, and they let you really connect with your triceps... but should you really be starting every triceps workout with pressdowns? All signs point to a very decisive "NO!" Each and every pressdown movement you see in the gym, from machine to cable, regardless of the grip, is a fixed motion, single-joint movement. In other words, it's a terrific isolation movement, and it'll really get your triceps pumped… but it probably won't build the kind of crazy triceps mass for which you're seeking. You'll make your arms tired, and stimulate *some* muscle fibers, but not all of them. You certainly won't be triggering the amount of growth you'd be seeing if you were willing to open up your training with heavy, compound, multi-joint movements such as skullcrushers or close-grip bench presses. Go big and heavy early - you can always pump to your heart's content later in the training session!
Vary the angles
Your muscle fibers, whether speaking of the triceps or any other muscle group, are a complex mesh of interlocking fibers working together to move parts of the body. You know that, and you train muscle groups such as chest, in an according manner. You use incline, decline, and flat presses, along with dips, flyes, and other movements, in an effort to hit the chest from multiple angles so that you can stimulate the maximum amount of muscle fibers. Then, if you're like most lifters, you get in the gym and do the exact opposite when it comes to training the triceps. Suddenly, it's "one size fits all" on your CG bench presses, skullcrushers, pressdowns, and other triceps movements. Doesn't that seem crazy? You should experiment with your angles, changing up the grip and position of the bar, cable, and machine, in order to hit the triceps muscles from as many angles as possible. This will maximize your muscle fiber stimulation - and your muscle growth too!
Going beyond the standard sets
Everyone gets in the gym, says hi to the person at the front desk, and invariably enters a mindset of "4 sets of 10 reps" for the next hour of their day. We've been conditioned to train in this manner. And we've grown as much as was required to meet the demands of this kind of training style. You're still reading this article, so obviously the amount of growth you have seen thus far isn't enough for you… you want more! Therefore, it's time to go past the 4x10 system. Mix in super sets, drop sets, extreme sets, and more. Invent ways to hit your muscles in new ways they've never seen before.
Change up range of motion
You've always been taught to aim for the maximum range of motion when it comes to training. And that's well and good. But what if those sticking points on the usual exercises are causing you to miss out on some muscle development? You may see people in the gym occasionally using rack deadlifts, allowing them to target the upper and middle back for optimum muscle stimulation, well past the lower third of the exercise, where the lower back would have short-circuited long ago. It'll take years to get past these points - so you're only using 2/3 of the movement to maximize the amount of muscle mass you can gain. The same premise works for triceps training! If you are failing at the lockout position of a movement, try attempting only 2/3 of each repetition. If it lets you use way more weight for more reps, and you're stimulating 2/3 of your triceps like never before, then it's a win! Hit the triceps with variations any way you can find them, and the unexpected training will lead to the growth you've been desiring so much.
The triceps are an often-neglected muscle group which, thanks to its obvious appearance in every major bodybuilding pose, is never ignored when the trunks come out and a physique or bodybuilding show. If you want big arms, you have to train them. And if you want even bigger arms, then you have to train them in new and creative ways. Always keep the triceps guessing, and they'll always keep growing for you. Good luck!