Lose the flappy wings: Work Triceps

The tricep area is one of many women’s most hated feature because of the flabby skin hanging from our upper arms. This article will cover a variety of exercises to tighten the muscle under the skin and firm this area. This work is most effective as a part of a larger workout plan and great diet. However, getting toned arms is very attainable and easier than six pack abs!

While I primarily cover workouts for the back of the arm, please do not forget to work the front too! Sure, it is on top of your arm and not hanging down under it, but working the opposing muscles will increase your success rate, help avoid joint issues in your elbow, and prevent imbalances in your range of motion. If one side stays tight all the time and the other stays loose you will develop issues, so work the bicep too! I’ll add a few exercises tips for that at the end! Also look for two advanced strategies that anyone can incorporate to boost your workout efforts: Supersets and drop sets.

Exercise #1 Seated tricep extension. I prefer one dumbbell in both hands. Two dumbbells is an alternate. Go heavy on this exercise, one dumbbell can be brought up to the starting position more safely than two. Start by choosing a weight and sitting in a seat, all the way in the seat, with your back supported.  Keep your neck and head aligned and facing forward at all times. No looking around no watching other people while doing the exercise.

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Focus on you and the weight. Start with the weight on your knee, use both hands if needed, then transfer to your shoulder and then using both hands under the weight. When in  position with the weight behind your head and your elbows straight up and arms tucked in, lift with both hands and squeeze until your arms are straight. Bring it back down, controlled speed and slower than you lifted. That is one rep. Do 12 reps. Same for ALL exercises. You may get tired, but if you are tired, and still have enough energy and strength to do more, then pick a heavier weight for the next set! Do a minimum of 8 and a maximum of 12 and the last one should feel heavy and be about all of your strength to lift it.  That is a good set! Do 4 sets of 8-12 reps. Keep your focus through your sets and keep looking straight ahead. Break your concentration and you will lose all of your strength and power.

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Exercise #2 Standing one arm dumbbell tricep extension. Like the first exercise, but one arm at a time! 4 sets of 8 to 12. Vary them. Don’t always stop at 8 nor always stop at 12. Only stop when you can’t do any more because it is too heavy to lift again!!

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Exercise #3 Tricep Cable pushdown. Straight bar and v-bar alternates. Stand straight, with a slight forward tilt; bend at the hips. Keep head, neck and spine straight and look straight forward. Start with tension on the weight and forearms parallel to the floor and press down and straighten arms. Get all of your reps. Rest 30 seconds and do it again.

Exercise #4 Triceps Rope Pull down. Set up similar. The difference is that at the bottom you should pull your hands all the way apart until each is to your sides allowing your arms to be straight at your side.

Exercise #5 Triceps Rope Overhead extension. This exercise is a great one to stretch your triceps. It requires that you place the cable connection at or near floor level. Grab the ropes in your hands, turn away from the cable and face out, bringing the rope above your head with your elbows straight into the air. Place one foot one normal step forward and lean toward slightly to make a straight line down from top of head to heel on back foot. Keep your upper arm beside your ears and pull the rope up and out to straight above your head and forward. Bring it back down behind your head. Repeat for your reps and sets. On the last one pause at the bottom and allow the weight to stretch out your triceps. Stretching between sets or especially after you complete an exercise or workout is extremely beneficial to workout effectiveness, recovery and to help prevent soreness.

Exercise #6 Ez-bar lying tricep extension. Also known affectionately as skull crushers. The Ez-bar is frequently referred to as a “curl bar” it has a curved “w” shape to the bar. Lie flat on a bench, bringing the weight to your chest, with your feet flat on the floor on each side. Bring the bar straight up over you so that your arms align perpendicular to the floor. with your hands on the angle inside the “w.” Slowly bend at the elbow bringing the bar close to your head without hitting yourself. Return to straight up with a smooth motion. Bring down slowly and carefully an return for your reps. Do 3 to 4 sets. Shown in slide show from two different angles.

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Exercise #7 Close grip barbell bench press. Start from a lying on the bench with the bar straight up over your chest, hands spaced about one fist width apart. Bring your elbows down to your sides until your wrist touches your chest and then push back up straight. I like to do this one after, or superset with, the lying tricep extension exercise in #6.  A superset is doing two exercises with no stopping between sets. Easy trasition with your Ez-bar still in your hands this should be a minor adjustment if any from your skull crusher finishing spot. So you will do one set of Ez-bar lying triceps, for 8-12 reps, then one set of close grip barbell press for 8-12 and then rest for 30-45 seconds between pairs of sets and repeat. 4 Total sets of both exercises back to back.

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Exercise #8 Tricep Dips. There is a full version and bench or chair variations. The unassisted dip on version is a very tough exercise and a number of versions will be used to work your way up. The starter move is to sit on the edge of a chair or bench.  Have your feet flat on the floor with your hands at no more than shoulder width apart on the seat. You are going to lift your rear off of the seat and guide yourself down toward the floor and back up for 8-12 reps. If that was hard, do fewer reps and more sets and maybe move your feet closer to the seat. If you accomplished the 12 reps or more, move your feet away from the seat and eventually straight out onto your heels. The next level is to lift one foot or elevate the feet onto another bench. You can also add a plate to your lap.

If your gym has an assisted pull up machine you can perform


Machine Dips

dips there with counter weights to assist. Gym machine image on right. Lastly is the full unassisted tricep dip. When you first do these lean forward a bit to incorporate chest muscles to help. Work then on improving your reliance on your triceps.

Exercise #9. Tricep kickbacks. This one is the most common for non weight lifters. It may be the only one you know. It is actually my least favorite. You must keep your elbow up for it to be fully effective, at heavier weights it is a near impossible feat. If I were going to do this exercise it would be last in my workout to finish the workout with a lower weight and higher number of repetitions (reps) move. To set it up, put one knee and one hand on the bench, with a weight in your opposite hand. Keep your head up and hips back and neck in alignment. Do not turn your head to the right or the left! Keep that aligned position whenever working with weights. Bring your elbow up until your upper arm is parallel with the floor and then extend the weighted hand as far back as it will go, preferable to a straight arm position. The whole time your elbow and upper arm must stay up! You can see that is not easy to maintain form especially with challenging weights.

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Your last set of an exercise or especially the last exercise for a body part, consider incorporating a “drop-set” technique. Select your weight plus the next one or two lighter weights to do your set. Start with a challenging weight that torches your muscle strength in 6 to 10 reps. Then without taking a rest after you have exhausted your set, put it down and pick up a lighter one and begin again immediately. Waste no time between putting down the heavy and picking up the next lighter and keep going. Done right, you should not actually be able to do more with the lower weight because your are pre-exhausted. When too heavy to lift again exchange it for the next lower again. I’ve seen large strong men start with well over 200 pounds on a bench press get down to the bare bar and barely lift it. When you have taken all of the strength out of a muscle, your protein replenishment and rest will bring you back firmer and stronger the next time!

Bicep exercises should be done the same way with 8-12 reps for 3-4 sets each. Similar to the options for triceps you can do these with a cable, bar, or dumbbells. Usually you would do both triceps and biceps together OR chest and triceps together and back and biceps together on a different day. Do not neglect your biceps! My next post I will include exercises about building your upper body strength through chest focused exercise. Below pictured are 4 different start and finish positions for 4 bicep exercises.

To create workouts for the upperbody incorporate 2 to 4 exercises for muscle groups. I may do three tricep exercises, and two bicep exercises. Do the same program for 4 to 8 weeks then select different exercises for that bodypart. Being sporadic or indecisive about what you are doing can be a detriment to your workout. Pick the exercises ahead of time. Write them down or put them in “notes” on your phone for reference. That way once you are at the gym you will be focused on what you need to do and not guessing and second guessing what you are doing. Remember to do adequate volume of any exercise. I do not suggest to do all of the tricep exercises in the article in one workout. It is more effective to do 4 exercises with 8 reps for 4 sets, than to do 8 or 10 exercises with only one set of ten per exercise. Keep focused. My goal for this article is to provide variety in your exercise library. All of these are effective. Choose a handful to perfect over the next few weeks and then try new ones! If you are not taking rest periods for a minimum of 30 seconds between sets then you need to increase the weight you are using. A set should be challenging!

All the best on your fitness goals! This will put your arms on their way to a toned look. Comments welcome. For a full workout program and nutritional coaching contact via email at http://fitatfiftysamantha.com/Contact.html