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Strengthening the Triceps Muscle

In the muscles of the upper arm, the counterpoint to the biceps is the triceps, or triceps brachii, the “three headed muscle of the arm”, and it makes up the second of the major upper arm muscles. The triceps functions partly as a control of the biceps muscle movement as the elbow is positioned precisely to allow the hand to be placed where we can perform complex activities with our hands. The triceps should be strengthened whilst also thinking about the training of the biceps, shoulders and the whole upper body so that development remains in balance. The triceps is very easy to over train initially so a graded onset of training is important to avoid delayed onset muscle soreness, muscle strain or tendinitis

The triceps muscle straightens the arm and is a large muscle for an activity which is usually performed by gravity, so control of biceps action and lifting body weight and pushing things are the major actions. The triceps has three tendons of origin, two from the shoulder blade and one from the back of the upper arm bone. The three heads then pass down the arm and coalesce into one and become the combined triceps tendon which passes over the back of the elbow to insert onto the olecranon process, the point of the elbow. As the muscle contracts, the arm straightens and the triceps is active in all pushing activities.

The triceps can be trained using isolation exercises or combined movements which also involve the shoulders and chest. Initial training is best performed using combined movements such as bench presses for the chest and shoulder presses as these stress the muscle in natural movements and prevent excessive forces being transmitted to the triceps alone. Once the person has become stronger they can progress to pushdowns with the machine bars which isolates the muscle more strongly but cannot be done with large weights.

Once the muscle has got used to a certain intensity of training the more stressful movements can be introduced such as triceps dips. The dipping movement is done between parallel bars and unlike the movement to stress the chest muscles the elbows are kept in to the sides of the body to isolate the triceps muscle. This exercise develops the triceps strongly but is a very strong movement which can cause injury if the person is not prepared well enough.


Author: Jonathan Blood-Smyth

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