There have been countless articles written in regards to getting bigger arms. Just about all of them will tell you that the triceps are two-thirds of one’s arm, and that to achieve success they should hit that area especially hard. To put it briefly, the triceps are made of three closely-knit muscles (known as “heads”). Specifically, these are the the long, medial, and lateral heads. Many article writers across the Web fail to properly address what rounds out the triceps: the long head. Here are some exercises that are key to developing that impressive horseshoe look.
Bench and Parallel Bar dips are the name of the game here. Dips are a fantastic way of placing safe stress on the triceps while working the chest as well. As weights are increased, the long head receives progressively more stimulus while the lateral and medial heads are worked equally hard. Depending on the kind of gym one has access to, parallel bar dips might not be an option, but dips done while holding onto a flat bench work just as well as other kinds. An athlete can place a dumbbell in between their legs for this exercise or use standard iron plates. For added difficulty, try this with legs suspended in TRX bands or on a ball. Many people do dips the wrong way; this is not an exercise to hyperextend the shoulders on, and one should never start at the bottom of the movement. End the movement at the end of the arm’s natural range of motion and keep elbows in to reduce cumulative stress on these joints.
To work the long head most effectively the elbows must be up by the ears, thus all (or close to it) overhead extension work is what recruits this head the most. When possible, use an EZ-curl bar to take some of the strain off of the elbows and wrists. Many of these exercises cause a fair amount of tension in the elbows regardless, so too much of any of these movements can land even the best athletes in Injuryville. It is difficult to pin down which exercises to suggest since many are similar in execution and effectiveness, but here are some exercises to begin with. Note that everyone’s musculature is slightly different, and imbalances are present in everyone to some degree. Some favorites are Skull Crushers (also known as nose breakers or French curls), Behind-the-Head Extensions (with a dumbbell), Seated Overhead Extensions (using an EZ-curl bar), and Skull Crushers on a decline bench. For these exercises, the added range of motion gives the long head extra TUT (Time Under Tension) which leads to greater muscle growth.
The JM Press
While some have claimed this to be the very best tricep exercise in the world, it is not ideal for anyone looking to maximize stimulus on the long head. During this exercise, a tremendous amount of muscle fibers are recruited for the medial and lateral heads, but the long head sees very little activity for such an exercise. Instead, try the JM Press (shown here). Like the video states, it is a cross between a standard close grip bench press and a tricep extension. The problem with extension exercises is that they are almost all exclusively single-joint (isolation) movements. While good in moderation, isolation movements are not suitable for most strength athletes except on conditioning days. Not so with the JM press. This exercise is similar to the bench press that it is feasible for ending a powerlifter’s bench routine, or concluding a lineman’s upper body workout.
The way to a well-rounded, properly developed physique is through variety in one’s workout and intelligent programming. The most important advice to take away from this article is to keep it safe. Any exercise can become dangerous when done incorrectly or too often. The long head is an oft-overlooked muscle due to its unusual requirements for activation, but the right diet, exercise, and persistence will yield impressive results.