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How To Get Big Triceps FAST (The Single Best Triceps Exercise)

by Jeremy Ethier - October 3, 2020

Your triceps won't grow? Or, do you just want to get big triceps FAST? Then there’s one triceps exercise you need to include in your weekly routine for the mass you want. Let me explain.

Many of you have likely heard the following. By just doing enough of your compound movements, like bench pressing, your arms will naturally grow and get bigger as a result. And that is true. In fact, multiple papers have shown that adding additional triceps exercise to a program already consisting of various pressing movements didn’t significantly increase triceps growth.

One recent 2020 study re-visited this. And, once again, showed the same result. Adding in an additional triceps exercise to a bench press program did not significantly increase total triceps size after 10 weeks. However, this study did something differently. That is, the researchers analyzed the growth of each of the 3 heads of the triceps as opposed to just measuring whole-muscle triceps growth. Here’s what they found:

Subjects that performed only the bench press experienced significant growth in the lateral and medial heads of their triceps. But not the long head.

Whereas subjects that supplemented their bench pressing with a triceps exercise, the lying overhead extension, experienced significantly greater growth in the long head of their triceps.

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Pressing Exercises Do A Poor Job Of Developing The Long Head Of The Triceps

This indicates that pressing movements alone seems to be enough to grow the lateral and medial heads. But do a poor job at developing the long head of the triceps. Just so you know, the long head is actually what makes up most of the mass of your triceps.

What's the reasoning behind this, though? It's all got to do with anatomy. See: the other two heads of your triceps only cross the elbow joint. Thus, their only function is to extend the elbow. Compare that to the long head, which also crosses the shoulder joint. This means that the long head has an additional function to extend the shoulder.

And research has shown that during your movements like the bench press, your nervous system will preferentially recruit muscles that only cross one joint because those muscles tend to be more efficient.

Meaning, if:

  • You aren’t supplementing your pressing movements with additional triceps work, OR
  • You are but you’re not choosing the right triceps exercises specifically for the long head of your triceps

... Then you’re leaving a ton of potential gains on the table.

Building Triceps Mass Requires You To Focus On Your Long Head

So, here's my recommendation. Ensure that you’re regularly performing a triceps exercise that specifically emphasizes the long head. Most triceps exercises where the arms are held overhead will effectively accomplish this. This can be seen in the study I previously went through. The researchers used the lying overhead extension, which did prove to elicit significant growth in the long head. And is, therefore, a great potential option.

But, we can take this movement and make it even more effective. That's because we have the knowledge that the long head of the triceps functions to both extend the shoulder and extend the elbow. So, we can combine these two functions into one movement.

Option 1: Modified Pushdowns

One option is to simply modify your traditional rope or bar pushdowns. Instead of keeping your elbows locked into your sides, allow them to raise up. Initiate each rep by first extending the shoulder:
Modified pushdowns triceps exercise... And then finishing the rep with elbow extension with your elbows by your sides:
Modified pushdowns step 2This exercise effectively incorporates the two main movement functions of the long head. There's even a way to take it one step further. Once your triceps fatigue to the point where you can no longer finish the reps, you can just perform the first part of the exercise until you completely fatigue there. This helps extend the set. As a result, you’ll likely feel a burn in your triceps that you’ve never quite experienced before.

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Option 2: Lying Modified Pushdowns

Another option is to perform these modified pushdowns lying down instead like so.
How to get bigger triceps lying modified pushdownsThis orientation helps prevent any momentum or cheating during your reps. And, more importantly, the line of resistance from the cable forces the long head to constantly work against the resistance to accomplish two things:

  • Bring the elbows down AND
  • Keep the elbows pinned in place

... As you fully extend at the end of each rep.

Option 3: Long Head Destruction

And the same concept can be taken and applied to your traditional lying overhead extensions with either a bar or dumbbells. For this movement, there are 4 parts to it.
Long head triceps destruction exercise step 1
Part 1: First, start with your hands held directly above you. Then, lower them to your sides.
Long head destruction step 2
Part 2: From here, straighten your arms back behind your body. Then, lock your elbows in position.
Long head destruction step 3
Part 3: Lower the dumbbells to behind your head. Then, extend them back up again.
Long head destruction step 4
Part 4: From here, drive your elbows back to the starting position. Then, straighten your arms up overhead.

That all counts as 1 rep. As you can imagine, you won’t be able to get many reps. But each individual rep will place a ton of tension on your long head as you move through its various movement functions. Focus on control. Use light weights. And do experiment with different grips and ranges of motion with this movement just to find what feels most comfortable for you and your elbows. I’ve found that using a neutral grip with dumbbells tends to be the best option for most people.

How To Get Big Triceps: Takeaway

But try out these different exercises. And find which one enables you to best feel that long head working. I’d highly recommend choosing one or two of these exercises to do at least once a week to supplement your current pressing movements or to even swap out some of your other triceps exercises with. As this is the head that tends to get left behind yet is largely responsible for the overall size of your triceps. By focusing on this, you’ll very quickly be able to spark new growth in your triceps.

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I hope you enjoyed this article and now know how to grow your triceps! Don’t forget to give me a follow and connect with me on InstagramFacebook, and Youtube as well, in order to stay up to date with my content.

By the way, here’s the article summed up into a YouTube video:

Why Your Triceps Aren't Growing (1 Key Exercise You're Not Doing Enough)

How To Get Big Triceps FAST (The Single Best Triceps Exercise)