3 Common Triceps Training Mistakes that will limit your Arm Growth

How to train your “ X Body Part” Series…

First understand that whenever we consider Training Programming its important to appreciate that each Muscle Group will both adhere to certain “Universal Programming Rules”

and at the same time

There are usually at least a couple of quirks that we might be able to leverage to our advantage that will be somewhat unique to that specific Muscle Group, at least ” more or less so” when compared to other Muscle Groups. 

In the case of Triceps Training I would say the three biggest “ Unique to Triceps”  considerations that I regularly don’t see Guys practicing are as follows

1, Training Volume 

The Triceps are heavily involved in Chest Training and some Shoulder Pressing Movements and the long Head of the Triceps which is stimulated preferentially in Overhead Extension is engaged during Back Training

This means that the standalone Triceps Training Volume Load requirements are less than for other similar sized Muscle Groups like Chest or Back or Shoulders.

Takeaway ?

If you are doing 15 hard sets for Chest a Week, 15 hard sets for Shoulders and 15 hard sets for Back a Week you will not need to do 15 hard sets for Triceps, indeed IMO if you do that much you might, might be “over training them”…

But how do you tell ? That is the question we must answer next, right ? … How do we know when you are ” doing too much” … we will get to that in future posts. 

2, Range of Motion – Locking out your Elbows 

We all know that all Muscle groups should ideally be trained through their full range of motion, but because of the Architecture of Triceps,  this is perhaps more important here than anywhere else on the Body

The overwhelming majority of reps need to be done all the way through full range of motion ie from a deep stretch at full lengthening of the Triceps to “ locked out” at the shortened length of the Muscle – one of the primary anatomical functions of the Triceps is to lock out the elbow.

So “ full range of motion” here becomes

Maximum stretch at the bottom of the movement ( lengthened muscle under load ) and a complete contraction all the way to lock out ( shortened muscle under load )

I see a lot of guys not going to full stretch and not locking out and when I ask them why, they often say they where told not too to that !

By who ?

I think this mostly comes from guys that have ” bad elbows” .. but understand its not a full range of motion here that caused the ” bad elbows”… that is a big part of what elbows “do” they lock out the elbow and its there that you find the fully shortened position of the Muscle.

Now if it hurts you to do so, if you have injured your elbows over the years through bad form or simply “over use” you might not be able to do that, sure I agree  … but understand that is then a modification of good practice based on your own limitations – its certainly not “preferential” to train that way.. you do that sure, but don’t tell others to restrict their progress just because you have to work within your limitations, because you need to work around preexisting injuries

Takeaway ? 

The preferential way to train a muscle is always through full range of motion. 

Maximum stretch at the bottom of the movement ( lengthened muscle under load ) and a complete contraction all the way to lock out ( shortened muscle under load )


If you are ever going to apply the principal of Weighted Extreme Stretching ( AKA Dog Crapp or Fortitude Training ) then IMO Triceps is the Muscle to practice this on.

The simplest way to try that is using a single seated one arm dumbell extreme stretch following the completion of the Triceps Training Session.

3, Exercise Selection

To fully stimulate the Triceps you must use all of the following types of Exercises over Time. 

1, Compound Exercise Category (eg Dips )
2, Horizontal or Standing Extension Exercise Category (eg Skull crushers or Pushdowns)
3, Overhead Extension  Category. ( long head of the Triceps is engaged preferentially here  )

The easiest way to do that if you dont have someone guiding you is this… 

If you are Training with a frequency of one Triceps Session per week you should include  one exercise from the following

1, One Compound Exercise Category (eg Dips )
2, One Horizontal or Standing Extension Exercise Category (eg Skull crushers or Pushdowns)
3, One exercise from the Overhead Extension  Category.

If you are Training with a frequency of two Triceps Training Sessions per Week I recommend one training session should include one isolation exercise ( eg pushdowns or skull crushers ) and one compound exercise (eg dips) and the other one compound exercise and one from the overhead extension  category.

If you are Training with a frequency 3 times week – well then one choice per session fits nicely here

Takeaway ? 

The real takeaway here being making sure you get at least one exercise from the compound category (eg dips ), one exercise from the horizontal or standing extension category (skull crushers or pushdowns), and one exercise from the overhead extension  category over a time block.

Some Triceps Exercises for your Consideration

Compound Category 

Dip Variants

Assisted Dip ( in the upright position )

Dips (in upright position)

Smith Machine

Close Grip Bench Press in the Smith Machine

Reverse Grip Bench Press in the Smith Machine

Horizontal or Standing Extension Category

Skullcrusher Variants

Dumbbell Skullcrusher

Barbell Skullcrusher

Inverted Skullcrusher

Machine Triceps Extension

Machine Triceps Pushdown

Triceps Pushdown – VBar

Cable Rope Pushdown

Cable Single Arm Pushdown

Overhead Extension Variants 

Dumbell Triceps Overhead Extension

EZ Bar Overhead Triceps Extension

Seated Barbell Overhead Triceps Extension

Rope Overhead Triceps Extension

Lean more about How to Train your Abs Here

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