The triceps are arguably one of the easiest body parts to develop. After all, you have to just extend your elbow to build triceps. Also, the fact that triceps are engaged in some chest and shoulder exercises as the support muscle makes it further easier to train and build stronger triceps. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t make mistakes while doing triceps workout. Here are eight mistakes that you should never make while working your triceps. Step clear of these bad habits and hit your triceps more effectively, and build bigger arms.
Don’t start your workout with a weak movement
By weak movement, we mean the single joint exercises that don’t engage large number of muscles. This mistake is most commonly made by the beginners who believe all exercises are equal and you do them in any order possible. However, it isn’t true. Although, almost every type of exercise has its role in muscle development, but every exercise should be done at the right time in the workout to get the best possible results. For example, you can’t start the chest workout with dumbbell flyes. You have to start with a bench press, which will allow you to lift the heaviest weight possible.
Similarly, you have to start the triceps workout with an exercise that works two joints – elbows and shoulders. By doing such an exercise, you would be able to stimulate the maximum number of muscle fibers and can lift heavy weight for the greatest overload. The multi-joint exercises for triceps include weighted bench dips, the triceps-dip machine, close-grip bench presses, and parallel-bar dip. The single joint exercises can be done first to warm up the elbows and triceps muscles. But, they shouldn’t be the first main exercise in the workout.
Always do arms overhead movement
There are plenty of exercises that you can include in your triceps workout, but there is only one type of movement that can target the long head of triceps. The long head is just below the shoulder joint, so it can’t be stretched fully unless you are doing an overhead movement. And, as we all know, only the fully stretched muscle is capable of stronger contraction. This is why you need to have an overhead movement in your triceps training routine. If you don’t, then forget about building stronger and bigger arms.
There are plenty of triceps exercises that employ the overhead movement. Overhead extensions with an EZ-bar, dumbbells or cables are an excellent overhead triceps exercise. However, you have to keep your arms locked beside your head and the elbow should point straight up. The elbows should act as a hinge for the exercise.
Never flare your elbows out
The effectiveness of triceps extensions rely on one major factor. And, that factor is elbow acting as a hinge and assisting in isolating the triceps muscles. You have to keep them pointed straight up to get the most out of the exercise. And, if you allow them to flare out, you not only decrease the effectiveness and economy of the movement, but also put serious stress on the elbow joint.
This rule applies to all the triceps and biceps exercises. You have to keep your elbows as tight as possible to fully isolate the targeted muscle and to take surrounding muscles such as the chest and deltoids completely out of the equation.
So, when doing exercises such as overhead extensions, close-grip bench presses, machine triceps dips, parallel-bar dips, or other triceps movements, always keep your elbows as close to the body as possible. Otherwise, you are just wasting your time and effort.
Never drop your elbow when doing kickbacks
As we have discussed above, the biggest mistake you could make while doing most of the triceps exercises is to make it a multi-joint movement by moving elbow. In case of triceps kickbacks, it is often seen that even experienced pros drop their elbows, which makes it a multi-joint movement and instead of isolating the triceps also recruits the delts to accomplish the movement. So, as the workload is shared by the delts as well, the amount of load on the triceps is limited. Not a great thing, if you are looking to work your triceps to failure.
To get the most out of this exercise, you will have to lock your elbow by your side and ensure your upper arm is parallel (or almost parallel) to the ground. Hinging the movement at the elbow, straighten your arm in such a way that your entire arm is parallel to the ground. And, as you lower the dumbbell to the starting position, don’t allow your elbow to drop down.
Don’t turn pulldowns into multi-joint movement
The pull downs are another example of a single-joint movement being turned into a multi-joint movement by moving the elbow and upper arms. The right form for this exercise dictates that the upper arms should be locked by the sides so that only lateral triceps work to push the load. However, often, in pursuit to lift heavier weight than they can, many individuals allow elbows to stray to get better leverage. And, as they are engaging delts as well to complete the movement, they are able to lift heavier weights. It is a smart move, if your goal is to just lift heaviest possible weight. Not, in case, you are looking to sculpt bigger triceps muscles.
Never limit range of movement to lift heavier
Here is another mistake that is often made in pursuit to lift heavier weight. Okay, to build bigger muscles, you need to lift big and heavy. But, it shouldn’t come at the cost of proper form because by doing so not only you limit the effectiveness of the exercise, but also increase the risk of injury. Plus, you need to stretch the muscle completely to get the full contraction, which is a key to muscle development. This holds true for triceps as well. You have to complete the range of motion for the exercise to achieve greater overall development.
Sacrificing the range of motion can sometimes happen unintentionally as well. Often in haste to increase the load, we end up sacrificing the range of motion and end up doing partial reps. This could also happen towards the end of the set or exercise, when the muscle is already tired. In such cases, it is better to do fewer repetitions than to do it wrong.
This mistake is commonly noticed while doing the skull crushers and parallel bar dips. It can also happen when you have loaded too much weight while doing the pull downs. So, remember, range of motion is always more important than the resistance.
Never do triceps before shoulders or chest
It is a golden rule in bodybuilding that bigger muscle should always be trained before smaller muscles. The logic behind this rule is that the smaller muscles are used as a support group in training for bigger muscles. The triceps are employed in various pressing movements used in shoulder and chest workout. And, you need them fresh when you are going to do those challenging and heavy presses. If your triceps are pre-fatigued, the chances are you won’t be able to work your pectoral muscles to failure while doing bench press as your triceps will give up well before the completion of the set.
Never lock out your elbows
Yes, you have to complete the range of motion for every workout. But, refrain from locking out your elbows while doing the exercise. When you lock the elbows out during the exercise, the stress shifts from triceps to the elbow joint. And, in case you are lifting heavy weight, this could cause serious damage to the elbow joint.
Locking the elbow out is also counterproductive for building muscles. You need constant stress and load on the muscle to work it to failure. But, by locking your elbow out, you are giving it a momentary rest, which reduces the effectiveness of the exercise itself. So, refrain from locking the elbow after every repetition, and save your joints and get the most out of the exercise. The full range of the exercise should end just before locking your elbows out.