When it comes to building bigger arms, most people focus on the biceps, but the key to buffed-up arms begins by training your triceps. The biceps (key word “bi”) contain two muscles and the triceps (key word “tri”) contain three muscles: the long head, the lateral head and the medial head. So it’s obvious where the bulk of your arm muscles comes from – the triceps. More specifically, the long head, or the area on the back of your arm, gives the arm the most bulk.

All three areas need attention to get the most benefit out of any triceps workout. Just as ab work requires you to train the upper, lower, middle and obliques, so too does training your triceps requires you to focus on all three areas for maximum growth and bulk.

As always, begin with a good warmup. Most pre-lifting routines begin with riding a bike followed by stretching, but little is done to warm up the upper body. These muscles are no different from your legs. If your gym has an U.B.E. (Upper Body Ergometer) or arm
bike, start there to warm up those cold arm and shoulder muscles. If you don’t have access to anything like that, pushups are a great way to warm up because you are using your own body weight. It’s a safe and effective way to begin any upper body strength work. Placing your hands close together as you do pushups will add extra triceps benefit as well.

After the muscles are warm, add some stretches to the triceps area:

Triceps/Shoulder Capsule Stretch

Stand tall and point your left elbow straight up the sky. Your left hand should be behind your head at this point. From here, touch the opposite shoulder blade with your fingers. With the right hand, reach over your head to grab the elbow. Now gently pull back and to the inside to get a nice shoulder and triceps stretch. Hold for 10-20 seconds, switch arms and repeat.

To really add bulk, focus on exercises that work the long head of the triceps. These include anything that is done overhead. When you train your triceps overhead, your arms will be by your ears. Try this exercise to work the long head:

Seated Dumbbell Triceps Extension

Sit tall on a bench or stability ball with good posture. Take one dumbbell and hold it vertically with both hands behind your head. Keep you elbows fixed near your ears and extend the dumbbell straight up. Perform 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

Don’t ignore the lateral head of the triceps. Dips and any exercise where your arms are close to or behind your body will target this area. Here’s an exercise to train this area:

Triceps Dumbbell Kickback

Put one knee on a bench and the hand from same side on the bench for support. The opposite leg can stay on the ground for balance. Take a dumbbell in the free hand and bend the elbow so there is a straight line from the shoulder across to the elbow and you’ve formed a 90-degree angle down to your hand. Keep the elbow fixed and extend the arm straight back to form a straight line from shoulder to hand. Return to the starting point. Perform 3 sets of 8-12 reps

The medial head is the smallest of the three triceps muscles and it lies in between the large and lateral heads. Luckily, this area gets attention no matter what exercise you are performing.

Use these tips and exercises to add bulk to your arms by training your triceps. Remember to lengthen and then strengthen. Stretch these muscles and then lift to get the best benefit out of each workout.