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Tri Harder

TRICEPS – That muscle at the back of your upper arm may be an awkward one to isolate but it can be done.

How you can blast your triceps in a Gym Pod

Strictly speaking, the triceps muscle, is any muscle with three heads. But usually the phrase refers to the large muscle along the back of the upper arm. It stems from just below the socket of the scapula (shoulder blade) and at two distinct areas at the humerus bone of the upper arm. 

Unlike the biceps, when the arm is straightened, the triceps contract. So a bodybuilder looking to show off this muscle, will stand sideways on and lock out his arm, so that the bulge of the triceps are at their maximum contraction. When the arm is bent at the elbow so as to flex the biceps, the triceps are stretched out and not nearly so prominent. 

Being a small muscle, it’s often activated when you’re looking to exercise many of the larger muscles. For example push ups, bench presses or parallel bar dips can be a good workout for the back of the upper arm, even though you’re probably focussing on your chest or core. It’s for this reason that you should probably work on the those bigger muscles first when at the gym, before focussing on smaller ones. That way the triceps get a focused session after having already worked quite hard. Do it the other way around and your pectoral (chest) muscles may not get the routine you crave because the triceps are failing before you get the full opportunity.

The most common triceps exercise is the rope pull down. Using a cable machine, grab a rope attachment and hold it at the knotted ends. The starting point should see your elbows by your side, while bent at 90 degrees or less. Then, extend the arms downwards straightening your arm out towards the floor, keeping those elbows tucked in and the upper arms as static as possible. To give an extra bit of nastiness, spread the rope apart at the bottom of the movement, to fully contract the triceps.

That exercise is commonly favoured because it’s easy to achieve and isolates the muscle well. One that’s more difficult but highly effective is the diamond push up. It’s very similar to a regular push up but with the hands closer together. Spread the fingers to give you as stable a base as possible and ensure that the thumbs and index fingers are touching,  forming the diamond shape that generates the name. This is tougher than a regular push up, so don’t be afraid to plant your knees on the deck, as you might with a regular push up, should this one be a little beyond your upper body strength levels.

Another one that’s very easy to do (even at home, with a chair), but very isolating, is a bench dip. I find this so isolating that I tend to avoid it. Even though I’ve been quite proficient over the years at parallel bar dips, the position on a bench dip, with the hands being slightly behind the torso, activates a portion of the muscle that quite clearly hasn’t been under much strain over the years; that means it frequently leads to cramps for me after just a few reps. See how it works for you though. 

You can start by sitting along the side of the bench, placing your hands on its surface either side of your body, with your fingers gripping over the edge. Now lift your backside off the bench and shuffle a few inches away from the bench so that your torso is upright and you’re now only supported by your hands. Lower yourself to a 90 degree angle at your elbow and then straightening up.

All of these will get that triceps nicely activated and should provide a firm, shapely upper arm in no time.
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