Next Event: IDFA 107: MONTREAL – APRIL 8

How I Built Massive Triceps


by Rob DeLuca, IDFA Heavyweight Pro

It’s interesting at times to connect the dots between cause and effect. When I was 10 years of age, I had an older guy who continually poked fun at the fact that I appeared to have    extremely long arms. He would torment me on a regular basis asking, “do your knuckles have any skin left on them? Ha, ha, ha.” In hindsight, I’m actually indebted to him as this was the impetus that sparked my interest in weight training!  I assumed that my arms must appear long as a result of their minuscule diameter; essentially they were more like ‘pipe-cleaners’ than pipes! The solution seemed obvious, if I made my arms wider, they wouldn’t look as long! (Just as a note, my arms are actually a bit long in relation to my height, ha ha).

Since triceps is said to account for 60% of the overall mass of the upper arm, then it would be critical to get them growing, and quickly! Fast forward a few years, I’m Seventeen and have 18” arms?

Of course we are all, (or likely should be), in pursuit of the accumulation of knowledge. What follows is a sampling of the principles I ascribe to, the concepts I utilized and the exercises I choose that lead to the development of my Triceps.

Having a good understanding of the nature of the target muscle group, the Triceps, is key in achieving an optimal level of development. Aside from the obvious, that this group is comprised of 3 heads, which I’ll refer to as Lateral, Medial, and Posterior (or Rear), it’s also important to acknowledge that this tissue is very densely packed, a fair mix of white & red muscle fiber, it spans between 2 jointed mechanisms, the Elbow, and the Shoulder, and typically has very good arterial supply, (blood flow).

My belief for Triceps development, as it is for most other muscle groups, is that, in order to achieve maximal muscle hypertrophy, (growth), a training program should include periods that are intended to increase strength; strength which would in turn allow for the us of greater working loads and greater degrees of tissue breakdown. For a period intended to generate gains in strength I would utilize lower rep ranges, longer rest intervals and a greater degree of compound movements, (movements which involved the movement of more than one joint mechanism).

 Interestingly, I now realize that these distinct periods intended to bring about increases in strength did not have to be restricted to say 4-6 weeks in length, nor did they have to be continual throughout that or any other specified period. For example, you could have one training session during which you focus on strength work, and then the next could be geared toward increased blood flow and achieving a burning pump.

Also, over the years, I have come to conclude that the best way to ensure a steady rate of growth and improvement is to stay healthy and retain your ability to train with maximal intensity! Consistency over time is one of the keys to achieving the full expression of one’s genetic potential. As a result, I ascribe to the principal of continuous tension, and moderate to slow rep tempo. I believe that these principles can, and should, be utilized in either low rep or high rep protocols.

Therefore, although I firmly believe in taking a the muscle through it’s natural full range of function, this must be done while respecting the mechanical limitations of the joint(s) that are involved in the movement. Preserving the health and well being of the joint structure is paramount and I would suggest that if exaggerated range of motion is to be used then the working load, (weight used), should be greatly reduced. I would choose instead to apply the concept of ‘pre-stretch positioning’ as an alternative to extreme range movements. The Pre-Stretch, may be utilized more successfully with Triceps training than with any other muscle group. The pre-stretch positioning in the case of the Triceps is a method where by the upper arm would be configured in a manner so as to put one or more heads of the Tri into a more fully elongated stretched position where it would remain while being worked through it’s full range of motion.


The goal then was to construct a Training Protocol which incorporated distinct periods that focused on strength, and then muscle hypertrophy, these periods could vary in length and frequency, and should included exercises that would be suitable for low rep, (3-7), heavy load training as well as higher rep training, (8-15) with shorter rest intervals. The selected movements should safely allow for the muscle to work through its full range and in some cases from a pre-stretched position.

Exercises should target and recruit each of the 3 heads of the triceps to a very similar degree, and then in a manner that would put more emphasis on a given head(s). The failure or limitations of the secondary muscle movers should never be the limiting factor in the performance of the target muscle group.


Strength Phase


1) Flat Bench Barbell Close-grip PressThe King of all Tri exercises and indispensible!
6 sets with the first 3 being warm up sets

Set #4 X 7 Reps with increased load
Set #5 X 5 Reps with increased load
Set #6 X 3 Reps with increased load

-As an alternative use an E-Z Curl Bar/Cambered bar
-Hands will range from 12 to 16 inches apart
-Elbow stay close to the side of your body
-Rep Tempo is 2 or 3 seconds on the eccentric (negative) and 2 seconds on the Concentric (positive), and never lock out!
-I will execute one set during which I use an isometric at the bottom with a hold for 1 second, before pressing the weight up. 
-Throughout the execution of one full repetition, each of the 3 heads will be recruited to differing degrees to help complete the repetition.

2) Cross Bench Dips (Compound)
4 sets – with the first set as a warm up – 8-12 reps

Set #2 X 7 Reps with increased load
Set #3 X 6 Reps with increased load
Set #4 X 5 Reps with increased load if possible

With hands at shoulder width, place your palms on the edge of a flat bench, (lifting chalk may prevent your hands from sliding). Place the heels of your feet on another bench, (preferably one that is a little higher), that is located approx. 42 inches away from the other bench. Allow your gluteus and torso to descend slowly toward the floor below, (3 seconds), by bending at the Elbows that will result in a synchronized bend at the shoulder. Continue to descend until your upper arm, (Humerus), is parallel with the floor. The elbows may be allowed to flair out somewhat from the body, or as a variation, remain close to the body for a greater pre-stretch and challenge that results from a slight mechanical disadvantage while in this position.
So rep tempo is 3-0-2. However, again I would perform one of the working sets with a 3-1-2 tempo inserting an isometric pause at the bottom, or even the midway point. Throughout this movement, each of the 3 heads will be recruited to differing degrees to help complete the repetition. It is critical to retain continuous tension, so at the top as the rep is being completed, never lock out your elbow joints. Added resistance/load is accomplished by placing weight (plates or dumbbells etc.), across your thighs. If very heavy loads are required try having you partner sit across you lap, holding plates if need be?


3) Standing Cable Extensions
4 sets – the first being a warm up
– Set #2 X 7 Reps with increased load
– Set #3 X 6 Reps with increased load
– Set #4 X 5 Reps with increased load if possible and I may even drop down to 3 reps with this last set.

This movement primarily targets the Lateral and Medial heads. I prefer to use a Cambered Bar for this movement but have found many ‘V’ bars that were suitable. Key for me is to avoid allowing this to become a Press-down, so the elbows must remain close to the body. Your knees have to remain with a slight bend in them and your gluteus should be back over your heels somewhat so as to load your body weight on your hips and quads. This posture helps to protect your low back. Moving in a hinge-like fashion at the Elbow press the bar down toward the floor for a count of 2 or 3 seconds. When approaching the bottom of the movement it is important not to lock out, stopping 5 degrees before lockout if possible. This movement really provides for an isometric contraction of a second or 2 at the bottom and even in this lower rep range this pause will result quite the ‘burn’.

4) High Pulley over head leaning Rope Extensions
3 sets -with the first being a little lighter weight to get in sync with the movement.
-Set #2 X 7 Reps with increased load
-Set #3 X 5 or 6 Reps with increased load

Target would appear to be predominantly the Medial and lateral head, however the pre-stretched position of the rear head requires that it perform and isometric contraction throughout the majority of the repetition in order to stabilize the upper arm and retain the desired angle in relation to the shoulder complex. With the rope attachment assume a split stance leaning away from the selectorized weight stack pivoting the torso at the hips. Elbows should be in line with the center of the head and remain close to the head throughout the movement. A slight pulse of the torso should be used in order to initiate the movement. Unlike the previous 3 exercises, locking out of the Elbows will still allow all three heads to remain under continuous tension and this can lead to intensified isometric contraction, especially in the Rear Head. Maximal stretch should be employed, but only so far as the Elbows do not move to a point behind the head.

5) Lying 45 degree Barbell Extension
If performed correctly, this is an excellent exercise for targeting the Rear head of the Triceps
3 sets – with the first being a little lighter weight to get in sync with the movement.
-Set #2 X 7 Reps with increased load.
-Set #3 X 7 Reps with increased load if possible

As with the previous movement it would seem that the target muscles would be predominantly the Medial and Lateral heads, however , again the pre-stretched position of the rear head requires that it perform and isometric contraction throughout the majority of the repetition in order to stabilize the upper arm and retain the desired angle in relation to the shoulder complex. In this instances, do to the manner in which the load is bearing on the upper arm, the Rear head is stressed very heavily during the initial phase of the concentric portion of the repetition.
Lying on a flat bench, grasp a barbell with a grip of moderate width, (about 14-16 inches), allow the upper arms to move back until the center of the Elbow joint is in line with the temple region of the head. Keeping the upper arms fixed in place, allow the bar to decent to a point beyond the top of the head. For this movement the selected weight may need to be reduced somewhat. Locking out is almost impossible but as with the previous movement, continuous tension may be achieved at lock out. Great benefit may result if an isometric contraction can be accomplished at or near lockout position.

Muscle Hypertrophy Phase

For Hypertrophy focused Training session, simply increase the repetitions performed during each set, (typically doing a descending pattern of 15, 12, 10, 8). Possibly reduce the number of sets performed per exercise to control the over volume of the work out. For increased intensity, the Bench Dips can be Super- Setted with the Lying 45 degree barbell extensions. If the weight initially selected is found to be too challenging, strip, or drop sets, can be utilized to ensure hitting the higher rep counts.
Note: At times I have found it ideal to perform 3 Triceps training sessions in either phase and then reverting back to the opposite phase. While at other times, I would perform one session for strength and the next would be higher rep. During contest prep, I would actually combine the two concepts executing two micro-phases within a given training session. This would be accomplished by either performing the first 2 exercises in the lower rep ranges with more rest between sets, and then increasing the reps with the final 3 movements and steadily increase the pace of the session as it proceeded, or by allowing the reps to begin in the higher ranges and then drop to the lower ranges with very heavy weights, after which a higher rep drop set would be performed with a lighter weight.

So there you have it.

It’s true that there are many other movements that can be performed for Triceps training. When choosing one for your training session, carefully review them to ensure that they will generate the progress that you desire? Many factors come in to play that are very personal in nature. Biomechanical or physiological make-up; limitations in functional capabilities that may have come about through injury; and even one’s ability to make the mind muscle connection with certain movements. Given my structure, muscle attachment and insertion points etc. these are the movements that helped me with my Triceps development and allowed me to push those skinny little arms to over 20 inches!

No Drugs, No Chemicals, No Miracles

Take care, train smart, train safe, feed the machine and enjoy!

– END –

RETURN to Exercises Main Page

Leave a Comment

five + 6 =

Website by MediaTeknix