If an athlete’s arms ever catch your attention, whether the person is male or female, you might actually be noticing the size of their biceps. And it’s probably because the old school method of bodybuilding type training has mistakenly led us to believe that a person’s strength is derived from the size of their biceps.
When we pose for a picture and want to show off how strong we are, what do we usually do? We flex our biceps. But, did you know we’re focusing on the wrong muscle? That’s right. The human arm is made up of 23 muscles or muscle teams (not counting shoulder muscles), and the bicep is two-thirds smaller than its far more powerful counterpart, the tricep. Since CrossFit’s all about functionality, we’re highlighting five exercises to help strengthen the tricep which will help our pressing strength, shoulder stability, and general athletic performance.
Ring dips almost exclusively target the triceps. Olympic weightlifters regularly incorporate them into their training programs as an accessory exercise. Jump on to a pair of rings with your arms fully locked out and your knees bent. Make sure your feet don’t touch the ground. Bend your arms and lower your torso until your rings/hands are right by your armpits. Your chest should be slightly forward. Press yourself up to return to the lockout position.
Bodyweight dips help you become familiar with proper body positioning and help shoulder stability. For an advanced variation, wear a weight vest or hold a dumbbell between your legs, gradually increasing the weight until you can perform no more than 15-20 reps. Dip belts are also available for heavier weight.
Bench Dips (pictured above)
Place a bench or box behind you. Facing away from it, sit on the bench and grab the edges with your arms close to your body. Extend your legs and bring your butt off the bench. The further out you extend your legs the harder the exercise will be. Bend your elbows back and bring your body straight down with your back as perpendicular to the bench as possible. Push back through your arms to straighten your elbows and repeat for reps.
To scale: Place your feet flat on the floor. This is a good option for people who may not be able to complete a bench dip with their legs fully extended. By placing your feet flat down close to the bench, your legs take some of the weight off your triceps helping you drive your body up.
To increase difficulty: Place your feet on a raised surface in front of you. This will put more of your total body weight on your triceps. To make the movement even tougher, place a weight plate on your thighs.
Close-grip Bench Press
The close-grip bench press taxes your triceps more than a regular bench press. While seated on a bench, grip the barbell above you with a much narrower grip than you’d normally use for a regular bench press. Try different widths until you find one that works for you without straining your wrists. Lift the bar off the rack and bring it down with control until it makes contact with the lower part of your sternum, or breastbone. To return to the starting position, push the bar up and move your elbows back under the bar to create a more efficient bar path.
Start with your body in a plank position but rather than having only your palms on the floor as you would for a push-up, place your entire forearm on the floor shoulder-width apart. Press your palms into the floor and push up to lift your body off the ground, keeping your torso straight. Lower your forearms back to the ground and repeat for reps.
Bent-Over Dumbbell Tricep Extension
Hold a dumbbell in one hand with your palm facing in. Bend your knees and bend at the waist to bring your torso forward until it’s close to parallel, keeping a straight back. If you need additional support, place your empty hand on a box or other surface for stability. Bring the weight to a 90-degree angle to start. Keeping your upper arm still, lift the weight back until your arm is extended, with only your forearm moving. Bring the weight back to the 90-degree angle and repeat for reps on each arm.