What are the Best Tricep Exercises for Athletes?

Training the tricep is extremely important for a lot of different sports. A big factor that needs to be considered is what the tricep is used for in movement. It is a lot of elbow extension and is also related to how the shoulder is moving, related to stability when completing overhead work or pressing off the chest. 

For some reason, a lot of coaches don’t want to isolate the tricep. This creates a problem. By not isolating the tricep, there is potential for serious tricep weakness and the inability to effectively coordinate well with the lats or shoulders. This can impact locking out a jerk, extending on a push press or pummeling as a wrestler, offensive lineman or defensive lineman in football. 

We believe that isolating the tricep in training can be very beneficial for athletes and their performance in sport. Concurrently, we believe that training the tricep in isolation in specific sporting movement positions is paramount as well. 

Seated Miracle Gro

We love the miracle gro. This is a variation of the miracle gro that can be done using a seated military press bench to assist with the overhead position. It is really important to have an open palm grip performing the movement. The open palm grip is important because a lot of athletic ventures are performed with an open palm: shot putting, pitching, and wrestling to name a few.


With the dumbbell overhead, gripped with an open palm, get a nice deep stretch all the way through the tricep as the weight is lowered behind the head. The movement then creates a connection from the tricep to the thoracic spine and upper back. In addition, the movement’s connection through the deltoids, particularly the rear delt to the upper back and thoracic spine can help coordinate muscles to provide a ton of stability into the shoulder. From there, completing the movement requires extending from overhead.

Training the tricep in an overhead position will improve shoulder stability, improve the lock-out position, and it is also going to transfer to a lot of various positions in the sporting world.


We like using seated miracle gro’s for four to five sets for seven to nine reps to try and go heavier, following it up with two drop sets pushing in the neighborhood of twenty reps.

wrestling training

Dips

Dips are not a typical isolated tricep movement. But one thing we have learned from Charles Polaquin, as we recall him saying, is that “If you can think of a tricep kick back as a little tickle, the dip is a donkey kick right to the nutz!” That’s the truth behind the dip.


We can utilize the dip in a couple different ways to improve the lock-out and elbow extension. As we think about isolation movements and isolating a specific muscle, we must consider the joint's function as being impacted. So when we are talking about the tricep and its relation to the shoulder and elbow, a lot of it is elbow extension.

We are huge fans of the classic dip: lower and drive up. But we can alter it, focusing on using drop sets, on which the head of the tricep is being targeted. The big factor behind the dip is that it transfers really, really well to lock out on the bench, running backs throwing a good stiff arm or shot putter launching the shot. If the athlete struggles with this, they most likely have weak triceps and are unable to extend with the elbow rapidly. Serious muscle mass and strength need to be developed. Then through contrast methods, train it explosively.


Dips need to be in almost every single program. Utilize them once a week. We like the V-bar. Maybe will give a slow eccentric. We may put a pause. Whatever the variation, the dip for four sets of four weighted with two sets of twelve to seventeen reps for drop sets. Stimulating the myofibrillar hypertrophy with the weighted sets, on the backend with super high reps to stimulate sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, satellite cells are stimulated and all of sudden athletes are getting great muscle mass size on the back of the tricep while also dramatically increasing the strength of the tricep.

Standing Cable Overhead Tricep Extensions

We like using a seated chair to put the rear end against to get more back support. If a support is not available, it will most likely require a greater lean forward, which may have the negative drawback of taking away from the tricep. With the butt firmly planted and the back angle correct, engage the tricep muscles and extend the weight attached to the cable.


Internally rotated athletes, think about wrestlers. Now internally rotated athletes who go to lock out in a snatch or jerk will tend to go forward because their rhomboids, rear delts and traps are not coordinated properly with their triceps. So, getting into the position with the slight overhead in the standing cable overhead tricep extension will force the t-spine to extend as much as it can, mimicking the position in a push press, snatch or jerk. It will also lead to help out locking out military presses.

Use this movement with weightlifters who press out, shot putters or discus throwers who lose overhead lifts forward or any internally rotated athletes. This movement will help lead to the cocontraction in the shoulder. Training in isolation can help the body to slowly learn the skill of cocontraction.


The co contraction is a skill the body has to learn. Educating the body with simple movements like this will help when the speed picks up, creating the transfer to the sporting world. Slowly educating the body through various movements increases the body movement vocabulary.

strength training for high school football

Pre-Fatigue: Ghostface Kickbacks Into Close Grip Bench Press

One of the best ways to train the fast twitch fibers in the triceps is to actually pre-fatigue them. By getting a little bit of permutation, a little bit of fatigue, and then rest, all of sudden the body has to respond physiologically--the body has to think about how to deal with stress and how to adapt more effectively.


Through that thought practice, we use bands to perform the ghostface kickback to pre-fatigue the body using a light load, thus the band. Isolation movements help with the pre-fatigue; we just want movement from the tricep in this case--a benefit of the band is to have a lot of tension at the lockout with a quick hold. Chase that pump for fifteen to twenty reps. As the fatigue sets in, we want to finish and rest thirty to sixty seconds. Let the body recover and start to feel a little better.

Here is the kicker. With the trize pre-fatigued, move onto a movement where a much greater load can be used, like a close grip bench press. This is where the combo with the pre-fatigued muscle can really blow up the tricep and carry over to the athletic realm because of using a compound movement.


The recovery of forty to sixty seconds from the pre-fatigue movement of the ghostface kickbacks is enough to stimulate to get through the compound, close grip bench set. The adaptation period is going to be a large recruitment of high threshold motor units even when the load isn’t that high. In this way, it will actually stimulate a ton of growth and strength without actually putting a ton of stress on the body. For a bonus, we like to slow down the eccentric of the close grip bench press just enough to really feel the movement and stimulate more growth. Fast off the chest into extension as rapidly as possible to focus on the fast twitch movements--the speed will carry over to the athletic realm.

Recap

Utilize all of these movements to strengthen the triceps to improve an athlete’s performance in sport. Understand the concept of pre-fatigue with the combination of an isolation movement and a compound movement. Understand, especially with the tricep, when training a fast twitch muscle group to try and use a slower eccentric with a rapid contraction on the concentric portion of the movement. Put it all together and reap the rewards of hard work in increasing strength, mass and sports performance.


DANE MILLER

Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.

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