Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Filtering by Tag: Triceps

Learn all about your triceps

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triceps_brachii_muscle

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triceps_brachii_muscle

There are three heads to the triceps brachii muscle: the medial head (pictured at right in green), the lateral head (pictured at right in yellow), and the long head (pictured at right in red). The long head originates at the scapula whereas both the medial and lateral heads originate on the humerus. All three heads insert or attaches to/on the ulna (forearm).


All three heads act on the forearm by extending (increasing joint angle) at the elbow. This is essentially the primary function of the medial and lateral heads. The long head, however, since it originates on the scapula also helps the shoulder to:

  • Adduct (moving arm towards body or midline)
  • Extend

By knowing and understanding exactly what the biceps do, you can then target them more effectively!

Elbow Extension

Shoulder Abduction (arm away from body)/Adduction (arm towards body)

Shoulder Extension

My Favourite Triceps Exercises

Although the long head is comprised of both main types of muscle fibers, the medial head is primarily made up of small type I fibers (“slow twitch” muscle fibers, which are used in lower intensity exercises. These fibers are involved in muscular endurance/high rep training), and the lateral head is predominantly made up of large type IIb fiber types (“fast twitch” muscle fibers, which are used during high intensity exercise. This fiber type is involved in high force, power, and speed generation).

Knowing this, to fully train your triceps, one should incorporate both low-rep, highly intense loads along with higher-rep, less intense loads. Because of the nature of the triceps, I believe that heavy loads should be handled only through compound movements such as pressing movements utilizing either the chest or shoulders (bench press, overhead press, etc.).

Many of my favourite triceps exercises can be found in my free workouts "The Armoury" and "Triple Threat."

How to: Bench Press

This guide will take you through the progressions and intricacies of how to bench press. The bench press is one of the best exercises to develop upper body strength and power. Lots of people love to bench press, especially men, however many are missing some key cues or techniques to maximize their bench press.

In my experience, most people I come across (in a training environment) have 2 main problems when it comes to incorrect or troublesome bench pressing. Either they are promoting too much anterior deltoid and not enough pectoral use, or they are not taking full advantage of using their lower bodies. Yes, the lower body is involved in the bench press as well.

Although it may seem like a pretty simple and basic exercise, there is far more going on with a bench press than what most people realize. There are also some pretty important technique flaws that hold many back.

Keep in mind that as with any form of exercise, there are inherent dangers associated with lifting weights, and if you have a history of injury or are unsure about a specific movement, it would be best to speak to a qualified medical professional such as your doctor to seek their opinion on whether or not you should partake in a particular exercise or program.


  1. You should have a sturdy bench positioned so that when you are laying down, your feet can be flat on the ground.
  2. Position yourself so that your eyes are directly beneath the bar.
  3. You should maintain 5 points of contact throughout the entire range of motion: 2 feet on the ground, glutes, upper back, and back of head on the bench.
  4. You should keep an arch to your lower back. This will help transition force from your legs, pushing heels into the ground, to your upper body. Having said that, make sure not to lift your glutes up off the bench when pressing hard.
  5. Grip the bar tight with the bar sitting in your palm rather than towards the fingers.
  6. Shoulder blades should be retracted and down. Rather than just squeezing your shoulder blades together, aim to bring the bottom tips of your scapulae together.
  7. When I am about to begin, I get my grip on the bar, pull my chest up towards the bar, lifting my back off the bench, and squeezing my shoulder blades together.
  8. Act as if you are about to break the bar like a pencil.
  9. If you do not have someone to spot you, make sure you are using a rack with safety rails to catch the bar if you cannot complete a repetition. The rails should be at a height allowing you to complete the full range of motion (bar to chest), yet not too low that it is not able to protect your chest from the bar. This needs to be taken seriously. The bench press is one exercise that can cause serious injury, even death if you do not take the correct safety precautions. If you are in a box gym, most people are more than happy to spot you so don't be afraid to ask!


  1. Take a nice deep breath and unrack the bar with straight arms and bring the bar into position straight over your mid-chest.
  2. Lower the bar to your chest, under control, without bouncing the bar off your chest. You should aim for the bar to touch your chest at the very tip of your sternum, about an inch or two below your nipple line. Hold your breath on the eccentric, or lowering portion of the lift.
  3. When the bar is touching your chest, your lower arms should be perpendicular to the bar. If not then you may need to either widen or narrow your grip. Your elbows should not be touching your sides nor flared out, in line with your shoulders. Instead, aim for about a 30 degree angle from your torso.
  4. Press the bar straight up as forcefully as possible while exhaling, driving through your heels.

Key Points to Focus On

  1. The bench press is a great way to increase the strength and size of the anterior shoulders, pectorals, triceps, etc. Having said that, make sure you avoid muscle imbalances by having a well-rounded program that also includes lifts like the overhead press and barbell row to work the posterior delts and upper back. This will not only make the shoulder more well-rounded and strong, but will also help you to better stabilize your shoulder blades, thus improving your bench press.
  2. The bar path should be straight up and down directly over the tip of the sternum.
  3. Do not use a thumbless or "suicide grip." There is a reason why it is called a suicide grip, because if that bar rolls out of your hands then that bar will end up on your chest or neck causing serious injury or death.
  4. Elbows should be close to your torso but not touching. Aim for a 30 degree angle.
  5. Maintain engaged shoulder blades throughout the entire range of motion. If you lose engagement then your anterior shoulders will be taking more of the load rather than your pectorals.
  6. Maintain your 5 points of contact throughout.
  7. Pressing your heels into the ground will help to transition force from your lower body, through your core, up to your arms and chest.

"Triple Threat" - 30 minute Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps Workout



Do you recommend that you always do the rotations you used in the seated alternating shoulder press and in the 6-direction fly, or were these the way you decided to do it for this workout.  In particular, I thought keeping thumbs up was safest for side and front shoulder raises.

I prefer palms down on the lateral raises because it recruits more muscle fibers that way (from lateral and even posterior delts). Shoulder impingement can be increased by overhead shoulder usage as well as palm-down anterior raises, that is why I like thumbs up for the anterior raises. If you don't like my variations, of course swap as you see fit. 

Do you get much triceps stress from the triceps moves where you were balancing on forearm?  For me, this turn out to be mostly core moves as I have to back off the weight to keep balanced.  I actually did not do the one where you move the weight in three directions while in one forearm plank as it looked risky for my old shoulders.

Since you are in plank, more emphasis gets placed on core and shoulder stability rather than triceps, I get that, but that is why I place the "heavy mover" exercises at the beginning of the workout. The "Robbins Rocker" where you move the weight in 3 directions is, and should be, done with very light weight. I have tested it and don't have any problems with it, although I can see some people having issues, which is fine. I still recommend you try it, even with just 2 directions (side arm extension and then triceps kickback) as extending the arm laterally has been shown to be an incredible core recruitment exercise.

The triceps are being worked on nearly every single chest and shoulder exercise in this workout, albeit just as synergists, but for just a 30 min workout, I would rather get more "bang for the buck" by doing chest and shoulder work rather than focusing solely on such a relatively small muscle group such as the triceps. That is why the triceps-only sets are sparse and often include other muscle recruitment.

Multi-joint movements not only recruit more muscle fibers and burn more calories, but they also improve neural adaptations better too!

For chest multi-set, I prefer to do the iso move (flies) first.  The idea is to work the pecs, then use the triceps to work them so more with a DB press, then finish things off with a body weight move.  Any thoughts?

Strength training always recommends large muscle groups with multi-joint recruitment first before "accessory" work. For example, a chest press has more muscle recruitment and 2 acting joints involved (shoulder and elbow). I would never have someone do a hamstring curl machine and then go do heavy squats because you are pre-fatiguing the hamstrings potentially leading to an imbalance in muscle recruitment for the heavier exercises that require more strength.

By doing iso flies first, although the elbows are isometrically involved, you are targeting the pecs only, so if you then progress to chest presses, you may over-compensate with other muscles such as anterior delta or triceps because the chest is already fatigued. Plus, rather than doing say, 30lbs for 8 reps of chest flys followed by 40lbs for 8 reps of the chest press, I would much rather do 60lbs for 8 reps of the chest presses followed by 30lbs for 8 reps of the flys.

"The Armoury" - 30 minute Shoulders & Arms Workout


"The Armoury" Worksheet


I'd be interested in your rational for structuring the workout the way you do: for example, the shoulders sequence seems to be compound work then iso work and the burnout is strip down sets. Why not, for example, do iso work then compound work in a multi-set? I'm not saying there is anything wrong with how you structured the workout; I am just wondering why you put it together that way.

I always prefer large muscle group, multi-joint actions over isolation work. So, for example in this workout, shoulders take priority over the biceps or triceps. Since the triceps are so heavily involved in shoulder pressing, if I have an isolation set of triceps prior to shoulder presses, then I wouldn't be able to maximize my benefits from the shoulder presses.

Incorporating the band into the warmup was also a good idea.

Thanks! Not sure why they don't use bands. I have had a couple funny little tweaky things happen to my shoulders in the past, so I definitely know that some pre-hab work is good for me to keep things working smoothly.

P90X University - P90X Shoulders and Arms