Getting Bigger Triceps: French Curls and Extensions

Although the biceps grab the lion’s share of the attention in the arms, I’ve always loved the triceps and felt they had a beauty which the simple ‘bump’ of the biceps, in my view, doesn’t.

To me, the triceps are a fascinating muscle, and I took great pride in developing, and sporting the beautiful horseshoe shape on the back of my upper arm.

Not only are the triceps a beautiful muscle but they also make up 2/3 of the size of the upper arm – so people sporting 20” biceps, normally, can attribute 66% of that size to their triceps.

I’ve always found building the triceps fairly easy, and very enjoyable. The exercises I advocate for building the triceps are:

1: French Curls

French curls are sometimes known as laying triceps extension, but this is more of confusion than anything – because there is a subtle, but important difference which makes the French curl far more effective, and that is the position of the upper arm and the position the barbell ends in.

In a laying triceps extension, the lifter starts out in an almost bench-press top position with a barbell or E-Z-Curl bar held at elbow lock-out. Keeping the upper arms still, the bar is them lowered carefully with the triceps controlling the movement, and then lifted upward again, with the triceps, to the starting position.

The French curl works in an almost identical way, although the position of the bar starts and ends backwards from the top of the head, and does so because the upper arms are pointing at a less-than vertical angle backwards of the head, making the method more effective because the stress is kept strictly on the triceps without respite, whereas when locked out at the top of the movement in the laying triceps extension, the triceps get a rest. To help you accomplish this, you should perform French Curls in a decline position.

2: Dumbbell Triceps Extensions

Dumbbell Triceps Extensions are a simple and highly effective exercise for the triceps which involve a single dumbbell, and are performed in a seating or standing position. I’ll assume seated.

Sitting in a bench, preferably with a backrest, all you need to do is hold a loaded dumbbell underneath one plate, with the middle of the bar running in between the thumbs and index fingers (like a diamond shape).

Now, holding this dumbbell above the head with the elbows locked out, keep the upper arms pointing vertical and lower the dumbbell behind the head slowly, and then raise them up again. An extra tip is to not totally lock out at the top of the movement once the reps start, and not to lower completely either, and this will increase the time under tension on the triceps.

3: Close Grip Bench Press

Bench pressing alone is an excellent way to build the triceps, but a way to make this exercise even more directly involve the triceps is to perform it with a close grip. How close? That’s impossible to say for sure, as everyone has different arm lengths, and torso widths, making ‘close’ different for everyone. Plus, everyone has their own benching style and you may already be benching close enough as it is. But, you may want to try getting your arms in as close to your sides as you can. That’s close.

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