27/05/2016 06:53 BST | Updated 27/05/2017 06:12 BST

The Golden Rule for Bigger Arms

Take a look in any mainstream gym, and you'll find the most popular exercise at any given time to be the bicep curl.

It's the exercise of choice for insecure guys trying to blow up their arms. And whilst bicep curls do have their place, it's definitely not the most important exercise if you want bigger arms.

This is because the biggest muscle in the arms is the tricep, not the bicep. In fact, it takes up approximately two thirds of the upper arm.


Being honest with yourself, do you dedicate two thirds of your arm training to tricep development?

Didn't think so.

If you want bigger arms, target the triceps, not the biceps. Here's how to do it.

Anatomy of the tricep

Before we move on, it's important to understand the anatomy of the tricep in order to work out how to make it grow effectively.

As the name suggests, the tricep (think tricycle) isn't just one muscle. It's actually a group of three muscle 'heads' - the lateral head, the medial head, and the long head.

The long head of the tricep runs down the back of the arm from the scapula to the humerus, whilst the lateral head is located more to the side, contributing to the 'horseshoe' look of the overall tricep. The medial head sits deep underneath the lateral and long head, meaning that whist it isn't visible, it still contributes directly to the overall mass of the tricep.


By knowing how the different heads of the tricep come together to form the overall muscle, we can work to target them each effectively for greater growth potential.

How to build bigger triceps

The key to a thick and well-proportioned tricep is to hit the long and lateral heads in equal measure. Most people overly stimulate the lateral head of the tricep without enough focus on the long head, which is why their arms lack 'depth' and they still struggle to fill out a tee shirt.

Note that it isn't possible to isolate the medial head of the tricep, however it is best stimulated with the bigger pressing movements such as a close grip bench press or military press.

Close grip bench press is one of the best exercises for packing size onto both the long and medial heads of the tricep, given the potential for pushing a lot of weight that this exercise offers. That said, you will still need to cut your weight significantly from the regular bench press, and work in the 10 - 15 range for maximum stimulation.


Bodyweight dips, pullovers and skullcrushers are also excellent moves for hitting the long head of the tricep. If you struggle to do a solid 10 bodyweight dips with good form then it's a sure fire sign the long head of your triceps need some work. Either that, or you need to lose some weight!

If you do need to work on bringing up the lateral head of your triceps, cable pulldowns are the best exercise for this objective. However they are much more of a 'definition' exercise than a mass builder, as the lack of stimulation to the medial head means the size gains from this exercise will be very limited.

Although not the most 'manly' exercise, dumbbell kickbacks also target the lateral head of the tricep with some crossover stimulation to the medial head, so are a viable alternative to the classic cable pulldown.

As a general rule, higher rep ranges work best for overall tricep development. The tricep is a slow twitch muscle fibre, so benefits most from higher reps.

So, armed with all this new tricep knowledge, what's the best way to put it into action?


Example tricep training programme

The triceps recover fast, so the good news is you can hit them multiple times per week for faster growth. Train them correctly, and you'll soon find they blow up to a more than respectable size.

Depending on your training split, you can add 1 or 2 tricep exercises on the end of your chest, shoulder or back workouts. This way, they'll also get some great crossover stimulation from the pressing exercises such as dumbbell chest press or barbell military press. For an extra session, you can then make them the focus of your arm day, training them first before the biceps when they're at their freshest.

An example tricep building split is as follows:

Monday: Chest and triceps

Dumbbell chest press 3 sets of 8

Dumbbell incline chest press 3 sets of 8

Close grip bench press 4 sets of 12

Dumbbell kickbacks 4 sets of 15

Tuesday: Legs

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Arms

Tricep dips 3 sets of 15

Skullcrushers 3 sets of 15

Cable pulldowns 4 sets of 15

(other exercises for biceps and forearms to follow)

Friday: Conditioning

Saturday: Back, shoulders and triceps

Wide grip pull ups 3 sets of 10

Dumbbell rows 4 sets of 8

Military press 4 sets of 8

Dumbbell kickbacks 4 sets of 15

Tricep dips 3 sets of 15

Sunday: Rest

Prioritise tricep training, work hard, and watch how fast your arms grow!

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