The upper arm looks great when the muscles that act on the shoulder and arm are toned, lean, and healthy. The triceps, or the back of the upper arm, definitely fall into this highly desired look. With short-sleeve weather just around the corner, many will start to focus on this area during their fitness routine. However, it’s not just a “mirror muscle”; the triceps are highly functional, and strong triceps are crucial to our daily living activities.
Keeping these muscles healthy will allow us to age more independently. Think about the last time you used your arms to push yourself up to a standing position from a chair: your triceps were working hard. Think about the last time you raised yourself up out of the bathtub: your triceps did most of the heavy lifting.
The triceps act to straighten the arm at the elbow, so all those activities you do every day, where you straighten your arm, your triceps are at work. The tricep is one large muscle formed by three sections. The triceps comprises a medial, lateral, and long head. Your triceps attach to your upper arm bone (humerus) and your shoulder blade (scapula) and then connects to a forearm bone (ulna).
- Mix up your tricep exercises by trying one or more of the many push up variations such as yogi pushups, wide or narrow pushups, and pushups with a clap. I find that the yogi pushups really target my triceps, and I reach muscle exhaustion more quickly than with the traditional push-up. I also love a band triceps extension, cable triceps extension, and a chair or bench dip.
- Give bands a chance. There is no need to do potentially dangerous overhead lifts with heavy weights (especially if you are alone) when a resistance band can offer an equitable workout. Consider that the x-heavy pull up band from Physix Gear Sport offers an estimated 175 pounds of resistance! No worries if you aren’t there; they also come in light, medium, and heavy strength!
Similarly, adding chair tricep dips into your routine is an equipment-free way to build your triceps anywhere. Just remember to avoid chairs on wheels! Resistance bands are an affordable way to build up your home gym and are perfect for those who are often on the road as they are lightweight and compact.
- When performing exercises for your triceps, explore the variety of options. As explained earlier, the triceps muscle has three “heads.” Concentrate fully, and become aware of which tricep head you can really feel the work in when doing your various triceps exercises. By targeting the different areas of the triceps, you will build that desired shape and tone. Keep in mind that you need to take your triceps extension all the way, which means your arm is fully extended at the elbow joint (a straight arm). It is in this position that you can achieve a full muscle contraction.
- Remember the basics of fitness training: FITT: frequency, intensity, time, and type. If you desire a toned, lean look, keep your repetitions high with your weight modest. If you want to build muscle bulk, keep your weight high, sets high, and repetitions low. Another useful training method is “pyramids.” Pyramids are simple: increase your weight each set while decreasing the number of repetitions you are completing in each set. Then, move down the other side of the pyramid.
- Incorporate functional movements, as well as yoga and Pilates moves. Functional moves for the triceps will mimic those activities mentioned earlier, such as standing up from a chair. If you find this move difficult now, it’s definitely time to work those triceps. Yoga poses offer an engaging way to work not just the triceps but the entire body. The poses are accessible by all, as most yogis can provide you with modifications if necessary.
Yoga can be as gentle or as intense as you want and does not involve any impact or intricately choreographed patterns. These same principles apply to pilates as well, although many pilates moves can be relatively fast-paced. Explore the many different exercise modalities available, and you will be sure to find your best fit.