Summer’s finally here, and it’s natural to want to pump up your arms to look in peak condition for a week on the beach.

But focusing exclusively on everybody’s favourite mirror muscles, the biceps, would be a big mistake.

The powerful but easily neglected triceps actually make up roughly two-thirds of your upper-arm mass, making them a much smarter area to target.

If you want to pack out your summer t-shirts, or look good clutching a cocktail, targeting your triceps is the best way to go in the weeks ahead.

5 ways to grow your triceps

01. Lock in an arm day

If your triceps are looking a little underdeveloped and underused, it’s probably because they are. Neglecting your triceps is an easy mistake to make, even for regular gym-goers.

If most of your workouts focus on your chest, shoulders and biceps, your triceps may not be getting more than a few incidental workouts along the way.

“If you find your arms lagging behind your bigger body parts, think about giving your arms their own training day,” says Scott Laidler, an online personal trainer who has worked with both celebrities and athletes.

“Getting your triceps out of the shadow of your chest workout, in particular, will provide your triceps with a better opportunity to grow.”

But if you lack the time or inclination for a dedicated arms-only session, there are other, subtler techniques to try.

“An alternative is to shock your system by inverting your usual training order,” suggests Laidler. “Try pre-exhausting your triceps with focused triceps exercises before training your chest.

“By focusing on your triceps first, it’ll give them their due chance to grow.”

02. Hit all three heads

If you want to beef up your triceps, it’s worth brushing up on your physiology. Your triceps are actually made up of three heads: the long, the medial and the lateral – with the lateral being the biggest.

“Ensure significant strength and size improvements in your triceps by effectively working all three heads,” says Laidler.

“While all triceps-building elbow extension exercises are going to broadly hit the target, you need to make sure your session works the long, medial, and lateral head.

“Triceps kickbacks, close-grip bench presses and reverse-grip push-downs would be a great combination to hit all three.”

Triceps respond best to high-volume work, so do at least 10-rep sets of each.

But don’t forget the power of everyday bodyweight exercises, either, like bench dips or ring dips.

“They will heavily tax your triceps right off the bat, and as your strength increases you can take on additional weight above your bodyweight,” suggests Laidler.

“At the end of a workout, consider a bodyweight finisher like max reps of diamond press-ups, too.”

03. Focus on form

Good form is essential for every lift, but it’s particularly important when you’re trying to maximise gains in one specific area, like the triceps. Start by paying close attention to your elbows.

“One of the most common triceps mistakes is a reluctance to keep the elbows tucked in,” warns Laidler.

“To really isolate your triceps you must keep your elbows tucked in. Try to imagine a strip of paint from your waist to your armpit. The goal is to think: if I had paint there, by the end of the set I want to also have paint on my elbows.”

You also need to ensure you keep your spine neutral, and don’t bend or extend when you lift, adds Laidler.

“Remember that training your triceps for hypertrophy is about isolation and overload so, in effect, it doesn’t matter how much you lift, it matters that you are causing an adaptation which will trigger growth. So there is no need to risk getting hurt for bigger lifts. Focus on form and the rest will follow.”

04. Keep up the contraction

Static contraction training is when you take a weight and hold it in a fixed position for several seconds to trigger extra adaptation.

“Short static contractions between sets have been found to help maximise growth potential,” explains Laidler.

“Firstly, from time to time you could strategically deploy static contractions of your triceps between sets. Note that this is going to further exhaust your muscles, so expect a slightly diminished performance. But this is a worthwhile trade-off for greater growth.

“Secondly, gradually work on your ability to contract your muscles during each exercise. This will make each set more effective.

“Try tensing the main muscles in your body one by one. If you can’t easily tense your triceps, in contrast to your biceps, practise creating a better mind-muscle connection by tensing the muscle during your routine triceps exercises.”

05. Seek out adaptation 

When your triceps start to swell, it’s easy to get complacent and think that your goal has been achieved. But your triceps – like every other muscle – need to be constantly challenged.

“Don’t rest on your laurels when it comes to triceps training,” says Laidler. “Make sure you are tracking your workouts, keeping track of rest periods, weights and reps to maintain your progressive overload.

“And if you start to see diminishing returns, take a rest week and come back with new variables – whether it be volume of sets, rep range, exercise selection or exercise order – so you can force a new adaptive response.”

Words: Mark Bailey

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