This exercise is one of the most effective for recruiting all three heads of the triceps. By using a decline angle on the bench, the triceps are stretched more at the lowest point, so it is a tough exercise.
The triceps can be seen to the left under the number 13. One attachment is below the back of the elbow onto the lower part of the arm, meaning that the main action of the triceps is to straighten the arm from bent. There are 3 other attachments, 2 on the back of the upper arm, and the 3rd attachment is on the back of the outside edge of the shoulder blade, and is called the long head. It is this long head of the triceps that holds the key to effective tricep strengthening.
Because this long head attaches onto the shoulder blade, in order to recruit the triceps, the shoulder blade had to be sitting in the right place; and that is flat on the ribs and miles from the ears. Lifestyle usually leads to the shoulders being rounded forwards, lifted up towards the ears and winging off the ribs, which is not a good position for the many muscles attaching onto the shoulder blades to work from and leads to overall weakness, which will be felt especially in the triceps. The video instructs, ‘shoulders back, chest up’. I would put it, ‘shoulders back, down and broad’. Lifting the chest can arch the back and, in my experience, this is not a good thing to encourage because people tend to be over strong in the back and not strong enough in the deep ab muscles. Whatever, if you find your triceps feel very weak in comparison to your biceps, then I recommend fiddling about with shoulder position until the position is found that works best for you. And you will know it is right because the triceps will be noticeably stronger.
- Keep the elbows at the ceiling.
- Only move at the elbow joint. Keep the upper arms absolutely still. This is easier said than done, especially as the triceps tire.
- It helps to put a slight pause just after straightening the arms from the bottom point, because in that moment we can feel the triceps tighten up and can then pull through the muscle better instead of just cheating. If you can’t feel your triceps working, that is because they aren’t and something else is.
- Triceps respond best to higher reps than the biceps. So make sure you can do about 2 more reps in a set with your triceps than you do with your biceps in the same workout.