I’ve been doing variations of this triceps workout for 20 years, and it never fails to give me a huge pump. If only I could find a similarly reliable workout for my stupid chest. In any case, since I don’t have anything terribly fascinating to report—my flu is gone except for a nagging couth-tickle, work is keeping me extremely busy, I’ve been having delicious raisin toast with cinnamon and honey for breakfast all week—I’m sharing a little bit of my vanity gospel with you-all today. So get ready to kick the living heck out of your triceps (which are really the biggest part of your arm and therefore the most important to pump up if you’re gonna impress the chicks):
Close-grip bench press: 3 sets of 10 reps
If possible, do these on a Smith Machine—a bench press bar on two vertical tracks—so you can focus on your triceps and not let too much of this exercise leak over to your chest. Keep your upper arms parallel to your torso and close to your sides and put your thumbs on the same side of the bar as your fingers. And use just enough weight that you can’t complete any more reps than 10 per set. This exercise isn’t meant to give you a pump; it’s pre-exhausting your entire triceps so you can max out individual heads of the muscle later in the workout. (For this workout, give yourself 45 to 60 seconds between sets so you recover your strength but your triceps are still engaged when you start your next set.)
Skull crushers: 3 sets of 10 reps
Since I hate to be a bother and ask other people to spot me, I like doing these on a decline bench so my head is near the floor and I could drop the weight bar without hurting (or embarrassing) myself if I needed to. Use the inside grips of a bent bar so your hands are close together at a 45º angle and make sure your elbows point straight up as you lower the weights toward the top of your head. Again, use just enough weight that you can get only 10 reps per set.
Rope pulldowns: 3 sets of 16 reps
This two-part exercise is where you really blast both heads (the horseshoe shape you see on the back of a really muscular arm) of your triceps. Set the pulley on a cable machine so it’s above your head and attach a two-headed rope to it. Stand with your feet together, grab the rope with both hands, lock your elbows at your sides and slowly pull the rope straight down the front of your body and then out to your sides for eight reps. You should feel it on the outside back of your arm. Use weights that you can control but that make the last few reps a bit of a challenge. When you finish the first eight reps, immediately spread your feet to shoulder width apart and do eight more reps straight down the front of your body without flaring them out to your sides. You should feel it on the inside back of your arm. After three sets, your triceps should be noticeably jacked. But you’re not done yet …
Triceps dips: 3 sets to failure
Whether you dip using your body weight or you use a machine that gives you a bit of an assist, it’s important that you keep your arms relatively close to your sides and you keep your body as upright as possible so you’re not using too much chest or shoulders. Dip slowly without pausing so you max out your triceps on each set, and quit only when you absolutely can’t push your body back to upright. Your triceps should be rock-hard when you’re done—especially if you’ve done this workout after a good chest workout. Be sure to stretch your triceps afterward by reaching over your head as though you were trying to scratch the middle of your back. And get huge responsibly; try not to break the door frame as you walk your freakishly huge new arms out of the gym after your workout.