Not just thoroughbreds have issues with faulty horseshoes. Bodybuilders hate them, too — at least when it comes to uneven triceps development between the long, lateral and medial heads of the muscle.
Such an imbalance, however, can be remedied with the right workout, assures Angelo J. Grinceri, FAFS, movement practitioner and trainer based in New York City, and author of Intrinsic Strength Training (intrinsicstrength training.com). “The exercises in this workout were chosen for their ability to fully stretch the three heads of the triceps during the bottom of each rep while achieving a full contraction at the top of each rep,” says Grinceri. That means a muscle that is worked more fully, and a stronger contraction thanks to the release of elastic energy stored during the eccentric part of the stretch.
The routine includes two superset pairings of a compound and an isolation exercise, followed by a finishing move. During each, you’ll accentuate the pause at the bottom of each rep for one or two seconds to achieve a deeper contraction. “This allows a great amount of stimulation without completely burning out your triceps by doing two similar movements,” says Grinceri. “It also creates a great pump.”
Superset No. 1
You’ll begin with a 45-degree incline close-grip barbell press, which Grinceri recommends for building mass in all three triceps heads, followed by a single-arm overhead cable extension. “The standing cable extension targets the long head of the triceps especially well, and is also a great way to involve the core,” Grinceri adds.
For that move, grasp a D-handle attached to a lower pulley and turn your back to the cable, taking a staggered stance with the same foot forward as your working arm. Extend your elbow so your arm is straight and slightly forward in relation to your head. Moving only at the elbow joint, bend your arm fully, pausing one or two seconds at the bottom, then powerfully extend back to the arm-straight position.
Superset No. 2
In the second superset, you’ll do bodyweight parallel-bar dips followed by straight-bar cable pressdowns, both of which activate all three triceps heads. For the dips, Grinceri recommends his trademark IST variation, which he says stimulates more muscle fibers in the medial and long heads. “As you dip downward, twist your upper body as you turn your head to the right, return to the start, then turn to the left on the next rep,” he explains.
The last exercise, reverse-grip single-arm cable extensions, takes direct aim at the typically lagging medial heads, thanks to the supinated (palms up) grip. You can do them regular-style, with your elbow at your side and pulling straight down, or more dynamically by standing sideways to the weight stack and lifting your outside arm up to shoulder level, parallel to the floor. From here, bend deeply at the elbow until the handle is even with your opposite delt cap, and extend your triceps to return to the start.
“I like this variation because it incorporates the core and challenges shoulder stability,” says Grinceri. “Do these with a four-count negative on each rep. Really focus on the stretch, and do four sets in total without resting.” In other words do your eight to 12 reps on the right, the immediately on the left, the back to the right and so on until you’ve done all four sets.