Triceps control: what's wrong with your triceps workout?

While some joints and bones go to the side, you lose centimeters of arm circumference! Correct mistakes, go back to the gym and try again.

Author: Bill Geiger

There are two dangerous viruses that can be picked up in the gym, and both ruin your workouts. The first is transmitted through the bar and simulators from a guy with a cold, which, instead of lying around at home, dragged himself into the hall to share microbes. The second is infected when they take over the wrong technique of doing the exercise and conscientiously copy other people's mistakes.

Bad technique clings to the athlete, as an importunate insect, and then transferred to others. No doses of zinc or vitamin C can help here, radical measures are needed. With the help of Brendan Fokken, champion of North America 2015 in the category "Mens Physicist" according to IFBB, I will analyze the errors of training triceps, which many commit without knowing it.

I bet this multi-joint movement is part of your triceps workout, but have you ever thought about the optimal grip width? I've seen hundreds of athletes who put their hands on the neck close to each other, as if this improves muscle activation. Sorry, but the press is a narrow grip – this is not diamond push-ups under the bar.

Yes, activation of triceps increases when you shift your hands inwards relative to the grip in the classic bench press, but there is no evidence that the super narrow grip recruits the muscles even more. What is increasing is the load on the wrists and elbows.

"When I take the bar too narrow grip, the movement becomes uncomfortable; Most of the energy has to be spent so that the bar does not dangle from side to side, "says Fokken. "This creates unnecessary pressure on the shoulders and reduces the burden on the triceps, which is counterproductive."

Decision. Try grasping 25-35 cm or at a distance slightly less than the width of the shoulders. Then experiment with the position of the hands to find the best option for yourself.

2. The movement of the elbows in the dumbbell lead in the slope

The error is typical even for experienced athletes, and that's how it looks. From the position "the arm is straight, the elbow is pressed against the trunk" you allow the elbow to drop behind the forearm while the dumbbell is moving down. And when you raise your hand, simultaneously pull up and elbow. This little dance turns the classical single-joint movement for the lateral head of the triceps into an exercise in which the deltas also participate.

Decision. If you want to correctly perform the isolation movement, fix the elbows on the sides, so that the shoulder is parallel to the floor, and do not let them move. When the arm with a dumbbell is bent at an angle of 90 degrees, and the elbow joint plays the role of a door hinge, strain the triceps to fully straighten the arm. When you lower the shell, do not let the elbow go down.

"I'm very attentive to the position of the arm – especially the elbow – on the trunk, and I try to work so that only the triceps is cut," says Fokken. – Do the exercise in front of the mirror and watch the movement; start with a light weight to hone the shape. People too often grab for heavy dumbbells, and because of this they are doing the wrong thing. "

3. Full elbow extension in push-ups in the simulator

When it comes to the amplitude of movement, with triceps exercises it's easy to make a mistake. You can keep dumbbells in the lead in the slope or the rope in the press on the top block with a full extension of the arm, that is, in the position of the peak contraction, and get a chic triceps workout. But in movements like push-ups in the simulator, everything has to be done to the exact opposite. Straining your hands in the push-ups in the simulator to the end, you transfer weight to the bones, muscle tension drops sharply, and the joint is under serious pressure.

Of course, in most people, the elbow does not crack under such a load, but if you have ulnar joints, do not aggravate the problem with a full extension of your arm.

"When you unbend to the end, you get the maximum area of ​​contact between the joint surfaces, which is completely useless if you use a relatively heavy weight," says Guillermo Escalante, a sports doctor, a specialist in power and functional training.

Decision. So, where is the point of "diminishing returns"? Escalante warns that the last 10 degrees of extension give the maximum pressure on the joint surfaces, that is, the two bones are in maximum contact with each other. He recommends stopping shortly before or immediately at this 10-degree point.

4. The dislocation of elbows in the extension above the head

All single-joint exercises for triceps have a common feature: elbow extension. From the position of strong bending (the muscle is stretched) the elbow joint is fully straightened (the muscle is shortened). Pretty simple, right? But if in the movement like an extension above the head elbows diverge in the sides, you lose the triceps isolation and reduce the efficiency, once again converting the one-joint exercise into a multi-joint exercise.

The collapse of the elbows allows the deltoid and pectoral muscles to engage in work, which reduces the burden on the triceps. To reduce stress on deltas and breasts, keep your elbows pressed.

Decision. The bad news is that it is difficult to keep your elbows in place in the extensions above your head, especially if you do them with one dumbbell. The elbows naturally go to the sides, and your task is to prevent it in every possible way.

Using an EZ-neck with a slightly wider grip often simplifies this task, but you still need to remember the elbows and monitor their position.

5. Shoulder movements in the French press

The collapse of the elbows is not the only way to deprive one-joint exercise on the triceps of its isolating effect. French press, or extension to the triceps lying, involves movement only in one group of joints. But to look steep and raise a lot of weight, athletes often allow the shoulder to deviate from the vertical line.

In the eccentric part of the movement, when the neck is approaching the forehead, your shoulders will want to swerve backward from a barely noticeable offset to a deviation similar to the eccentric phase of a pullover. At this point, the shoulders, chest and even the broadest ones come into play, and the inclusion of these muscles is equivalent to a signal to reduce stimulation of the triceps.

With the French press it's hard to understand that you are making this mistake, so it makes sense to ask your partner or coach to follow your technique. Moreover, it often helps if someone physically holds the shoulders in place while you do a few repetitions so that you can feel how to properly perform them.

Decision. The basic idea is that for better stimulation of triceps, single-joint movements should be limited to only one joint. And if for this it is necessary to unload the bar, so be it.

6. Elbows go forward in press on the top block

It may seem that the press (extension) on the upper block is a simple exercise, you can do it with your eyes closed and get your portion of pumping. But many trainees perform this traditional movement incorrectly, because they do not give the eccentric phase as much attention as concentricity.

I'm not just talking about speed control in the negative phase, although this is also important. Approaching the final segment of the range of motion, you can let the weight pull your hands forward and upwards, because of which the elbows will leave their place on the sides. Here again we see movement in the shoulder joint, which turns the single-joint movement into a multi-joint movement. All the extra work that has to be done to return the elbows back in every repetition is a waste of time and effort.

"This exercise is often done incorrectly," says Fokken. – As in the case with the diversion of the arm with the dumbbell in the slope, the elbow goes back and forth in each repetition, which makes the movement multi-joint and includes the shoulders in the equation. "

Decision. If you can not do the exercise according to all the rules, then you put too much weight. Instead, try to carry out the movement cleanly – keep the elbows pressed to the body throughout the entire approach, completing the eccentric stage before the elbows are pulled forward.

Concentrate on the negative phase in the same way as on the positive one, and you will achieve the best pumping regardless of what percentage of the cargo stack you will use.


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