There's nothing wrong with a bare-bones workout made up of just a few movements. If anything, a minimalist workout can allow you to hit each movement harder than you would otherwise, and spend less time jockeying for equipment and waiting for machines. Sound good? Then meet your new triceps routine. All you need for this workout is:
- A barbell and some plates
- A bench
- Two dumbbells
That may not seem like much, but it's just enough to do exactly the kind of work that triceps need to grow. Barbells place a heavier load on the muscles, which powerlifters will tell you is essential for triceps growth (they're right, by the way). Dumbbells allow you to work each side in relative isolation while you're chasing the pump, and dip variations maximize the stretch and muscle damage.
Between the three, that's a serious amount of muscle-building stimulus. Want to up the ante even more? Stash your dumbbells by the bench station and perform all three moves in triset fashion. Just be warned, you might need to adjust the weights you use since you're going to be doing more work in less time. Rest 60 seconds between trisets, and your triceps will be crying.
Kick-backs are one of those essential dumbbell exercises that a lot of advanced lifters often abandon in favor of machines. Let's bring them back! At the beginning of a triceps workout, they function as a perfect pre-exhaust before the heavy lifting of a close-grip bench, warming up the elbows and letting your tris know they're in for it.
The key: Don't try to be the king of kick-backs, bro. Go light, keep your upper arm up, and control the weight throughout the entire rep. Simply letting it drop relieves tension from the working muscle, which is exactly the opposite of the point in this movement. It's a movement that only works with maximum time under tension in mind. Plus, go too heavy or sloppy, and your elbow could let you hear about it.
Close-Grip Bench Press
The close-grip places more emphasis on the triceps than on the chest or shoulders, and since you're using a barbell, you can push more weight than any other triceps movement.
However, don't let the name fool you. Don't press with your hands right next to each other, since that places too much stress on your wrists and elbows and doesn't work your triceps any more than a shoulder-width grip. You can maybe go an inch closer than shoulder-width, but that's it. On many barbells, that puts your pinkies right around where the knurling starts.
Lower the bar with control, and—here's the trick—stop right before it hits your chest. This will keep tension on the triceps and prevent the muscles from relaxing. Slowly press up and squeeze the triceps hard at the top.
Choose a weight that allows you to complete the number of reps listed. If you feel like you have one or two reps left, that's perfect. You don't want to risk getting pinned, especially if you train alone.
Place your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart when you position yourself for the dips. Place your feet up on a seat. Don't worry about doing more weight with these than body weight. Quality reps are what's important here.
If you have shoulder issues, bench dips may not be your best friend. If so, you have a couple of options. You could perform the dips between two benches, which can put less strain on the front of the shoulder. Alternately, you could opt for triceps push-ups instead, with your hands in an arrow formation. This will definitely burn out the tris, but without much risk to the shoulders.