Q: I was reading that because most bodybuilders do a lot of pressing, they shouldn’t do much direct triceps work. I do bench presses and incline presses for chest and overhead presses for shoulders, so isn’t that enough work for my triceps? I’m drug-free, so I don’t want to overtrain them.
A: Two things to consider:
1) MRI studies show that bench presses and overhead presses do hit the triceps, but mostly the medial and lateral heads; in other words, the bulkiest section of the triceps, the big long head, is almost totally neglected.
2) On the presses you mentioned, you aren’t mentally focused on triceps—at least you shouldn’t be thinking about triceps—so that automatically reduces the arm stimulation (the mind is very important in triggering muscle growth).
If you’re concerned about overtraining your triceps, or at least the medial and lateral heads, you can do just one direct triceps exercise that focuses on the long head, like lying extensions (a.k.a. skull crushers). That emphasizes the long head with only minor activation of the other two heads (which you hit with pressing moves).
Or, if you want to use an exercise that hits all of the heads for insurance, but in a more isolated fashion, you could use overhead dumbbell extensions (stretch position) at one triceps workout and V-bar pushdowns (contracted position) at the following triceps session. That will give you stretch overload, with some force activation when you hit the overhead extensions and more tension/occlusion work when you use the pushdowns. And an overall triceps hit with both exercises.
As we mention in the Stretch-Overload Workout e-book, stretch overload has triggered enormous increases in muscle size quickly in animal studies (300 percent in one month!). And occlusion has done some great things for muscle size as well in a very short time. Alternating those two modes of muscle stimulation should keep your arms growing quickly without overtraining.
We’ve gotten great feedback from trainees who’ve had spectacular gains with stretch holds and contracted-position squeezes at the end of their arm workouts—more stretch overload and occlusion to finish off the target muscle with a growth jolt.
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Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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