In this bodybuilding question and answer, I talk about how tall men should train the triceps in order to get the best results from their training.
Bodybuilding Question: I am 6’5” tall, not very broad and I have thin knees, elbows and wrists. I have read a few articles that you have written about training for tall men, but they seem to center mostly on chest and legs. Can you tell me how I can make my triceps fuller? They look long and thin, without the three heads showing.
Bodybuilding Answer: Being just over 6 feet, I can imagine how much trouble you must be having considering that you have small joints along with a very long musculoskeletal system—especially your limbs. I can say that if you stick with the following methods for six months to a year, you will probably surprise yourself.
Let’s talk triceps. You can isolate your triceps to the most ultimate of details in the sense of intricate and elaborate exercises: and yet, if you don’t do something in the way of the multi-joint variety (for chest/triceps), you cannot make them as big as possible. So, that said, try using wrist wraps (or straps, anything to help your wrists stay in line with your palm) and do four sets of relatively heavy flat bench presses with your palms facing upward. Yes, reverse grip, fairly close grip (just enough to allow the elbows to drop by your sides before pushing the weight up again). Use a flat, long-bar, on a flat bench press. Be sure that your feet are flat on the floor and your long-legs are parallel with the floor—evenly so– if not, the bench is not for you—find one that allows you to have both feet flat on the floor; and yet, the bench high enough to account for your long legs. The legs should be such that your tibia/fibula (calves) are directly ninety degrees straight down from your knees, and you femur (thighs) are perfectly straight and form a 45 degree plane from which your upper and lower legs will be in when the bench is the right height.
I am a huge fan of using dumbbells (and not a bar) for chest (pectoral major and minor, when one’s arms are long); however, when it comes to this movement, I don’t think it can be matched for a multi-joint press for triceps. Is your chest going to be worked a bit? Yes, and that is why you will work your chest first and triceps just after. Doing these reverse-hand barbell presses are going to change the way your triceps grow—maximum hypertrophy for those with long arms, narrow shoulders and small joints. You find the weight that you can handle for 10-12 repetitions and be sure to have a spotter. Have your hands already tightly secured just an inch wider than shoulder-width. You and your spotter count to three together (if you want to take in three big breaths before each second of the count—that sometimes works on heavy training) and once you have the bar in total control over your head, then you drop the bar just about where you would a regular bench press. On the way up, drive the bar up with your triceps, and only lock-out on the last two (hardest) reps. Let the spotter put the bar back. Do four sets and keep building weight with this (using more weight as months pass as you master the movement and grow. As mentioned, you should be doing mostly dumbbell and machines for your pectorals; therefore, this “palms-up” flat bench press will be the only time that you will use an Olympic bar for chest or triceps—make it heavy and keep your cool—this is a bit tricky in the early stages of learning the movement. I think that you will find that this will help your triceps quite a bit.
Naturally, you should do two isolated exercises for your triceps after that one rather large and heavy exercise (reverse grip bench presses). I would advise that you go to heavy triceps push-downs with a straight bar; however, if a straight bar hurts your wrist, then use the bar that does not hurt your wrist, but still helps with leverage. Do four sets of 12 reps, with partials and/or X-reps at the end of the last two sets. Lock out those last few full-reps and partial-locks. Go from there to either a machine that has your elbows and hands above your chest (while seated); or, do what I like to call “Over-head triceps Push-outs.” Use a straight bar, a V-bar or a rope (depending upon which one you get the most leverage with) and with the pulley attached somewhere over head (preferably, the lowest of course is from the floor, but that will change the point of attack). Assuming the pulley is above your head and the bar is in your hands, push out so that the forearms and hands land directly above your head and end up right in front of you. Allow your forearms to collapse all the way back onto your biceps and press outward again. This seems to hit an area that nothing done below this height can touch. Obviously, I am giving you these with knowledge of what works for people such as yourself; however, don’t be afraid to use something else if this doesn’t work out for you. Use the dip-machine, or use another extension type triceps exercise. Keep the repetitions at a good pace and lock out towards the end of each set (the last 2-4 reps). Do as many lock-out X-reps and partials as you can for the last two sets of both isolation exercises.
One last thing that I always tell people with long limbs: If you pump up your biceps before doing your triceps (or if you are a professional bodybuilder and squat heavy and low, your leg biceps). What I mean by this is to pump the biceps muscles up so that they are full of blood and yet you are not working them so as to cause any tissue tearing or lactic acid build up—just pump them full of blood. What you will find is that everything that you do pressing wise will be easier.
Your pumped up biceps will act as a cushion when your forearms come back to bump up against them in the negative part of the triceps extension/stretch movement. Once you have mastered this, you will find that it will help your long arms (and legs is the case of leg biceps) to act as an absorber of some of that long extension/stretch; and, you will power to the full extension with better force and torque from the bottom of the lowest, toughest angle that you can find a pulley for triceps cable extensions.
Hit them hard twice in an eight day cycle. This will give them plenty of time to grow and plenty of hard work to coax them along. Train moderately heavy and be sure form is perfect. You will have those three heads popping out like the horses shoe that so many people call them.
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