Getting the sweet, sculpted definition in your triceps—the three-headed muscles on the backs of your arms—can seem insanely difficult. And it is, but that’s not because tricep workouts are impossible or because these muscles are hard to hypertrophy. In fact, for most of us, muscle hypertrophy (i.e. muscle growth) comes easier in our arms, since the muscles in this area tend to be more replete with fast-twitch muscle fibres, which facilitate quick, explosive movements but tire quickly (as opposed to slow twitch fibres, which facilitate endurance movements and can go for hours—think quads, calves and glutes). When it comes to your triceps, specifically, the fast twitch muscles in your triceps outnumber slow twitch two to one. This means that your triceps should be easy to train for lean gains. So what gives?
It could be a couple things.
- Fat, friends. Fat gives. Or more to the point, fat won’t give. Your triceps may already be ripped AF, but if you can’t see them under a layer of excess fat, then you can’t see the rewards of all your tricep workouts.
- Light-weight, high-rep training. If you want to see solid definition in your triceps, you’re going to have to lift heavy, hard and for lower reps. Use equipment you can load up and be sure you include at least one piece of gear that allows you to train unilaterally (one side of the body at a time). Dumbbells are our top pick. In addition to letting you add on serious resistance, they allow you to see and fix any muscle imbalances between sides of the body to create a more functionally and aesthetically strong physique. And remember what we said about fast-twitch fibres: they’re meant to perform for short, intense bursts— not for the long-haul of high rep training. To see results from your tricep workouts, you want to pick up heavy weights and train for lower reps. How low? 8-12 is a good range, with around 12 being your rep count for your first set, and 8 being your count for subsequent sets when you’re more tired.
So, you shouldn’t train triceps for high-reps at all?
We didn’t say that. It’s always good to train every muscle in your body a variety of ways to keep fitness plateaus at bay and create a more balanced body, but if you’re looking to target train your triceps for honed-in gains, then you need to focus on fast-twitch training for your triceps at least once a week; maybe twice a week if your triceps are particularly stubborn. While people tend to have more fast-twitch muscle fibres in their arms, some people will have less of this more than others, and if this is you, you may need to do a fast-twitch tricep workout twice a week. The rest of the time, incorporate your tricep training into other workouts, like a yoga flow or a total body plyometric HIIT blast. Moves like cobra pose, a Hindu push-up in yoga or push-up burpees or dive bombers in HIIT will still train your triceps, but in a different way that will give your body more well-rounded strength.
The 30 Minute Fast-Twitch Tricep Workout
This tricep workout will not only help you hypertrophy your tris, but— since you can’t spot lose fat—it also incorporates total body plyometric moves that involve your triceps to help you burn more fat overall during your sweat ‘sesh. The result is a leaner, meaner body everywhere—especially your triceps.
Smash it out! Any exercise with an asterix (*), you’re going to perform for 8-12 reps--these are your fast-twitch moves, so be sure to load up. For the others, you’re going to time the move, setting your timer to 50 seconds work, 10 seconds rest. Aim to do the entire circuit 5 times through. You got this!
Single Arm Shoulder Press*
Modifications/Notes: Keep feet on the floor and focus on the shoulder presses if your form is failing trying to include the ab work. Doing one arm at a time allows you to really focus on any muscle imbalances. If one arm is stronger than the other, train at the weaker arm’s resistance for BOTH arms rather than using different dumbbell weights and increasing the imbalance. Gradually increase the weight of the weaker arm until is equal to that of your dominant one. Then, up the weight on both arms from there, when ready.
Fast Feet Drop
Modifications/Notes: If the drop is too difficult, try stepping back and then into plank pose, then stepping up to standing again for fast feet. Add the weighted vest for an extra challenge.
Modifications/Notes: Maintain a soft bend in your elbow as you push up; this will keep the weight in your muscles, not your joints. Your grip should be slightly wider than shoulder-width for a standard bench press, but to really target your triceps, bring your grip in closer, so your hands are above your chest.
In & Out Push-Up
Modification/Notes: For a less challenging option, remove the explosive part of the push-up and simply step your hands up to your Challenger Bar.
Skull Crusher + Kicks*
Modifications/Notes: Focus on the skull crusher and take out the kicks if the combination is too challenging.
Sandbag Clean & Tricep Extension
Modifications/Notes: Focus on the upper body part of the movement, but keep a soft bend in your knees. Remember to lift as heavy as you safely can to maximize hypertrophy.
Did you do this fast-twitch tricep workout? What did you think? Tell us in the comments!
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