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Add Size to My Triceps

Q: Do you know a good workout I can use to add size to my triceps without aggravating elbow tendinitis? I’m over 50, and my elbow is really causing me problems.

A: Join the club. I’m over 50 and have been battling minor elbow tendinitis in my left arm, more on the inner elbow. That’s known as golfer’s elbow—even though I don’t play golf. Pain on the outer elbow is commonly known as tennis elbow.

You’ll have to experiment to find exercises that don’t aggravate it. I’ve found that bench presses are my prime elbow antagonist; however, I can do declines. So I start triceps work with close-grip decline-bench presses.

Lying extensions done with a bar can aggravate the elbow as well. I’ve found, though, that I can do them with dumbbells if I hold them in a parallel grip. Dumbbells give you more freedom of movement—no elbow restriction.

Cable pushouts, performed facing away from a high cable in a lunge position with a rope attachment in your hands (see photo at right), simulate overhead extensions for stretch-position work. Those don’t aggravate my elbow the way overhead barbell or dumbbell extensions do.

Like me, you’ll have to find the exercises that don’t irritate your elbow. Then build your triceps routine around them. X-centric-style sets—a.k.a. negative-accentuated, or NA, sets—can help too because you lower in six seconds and raise in one. Those can trigger growth trauma without excessive poundages and joint stress.

Here’s a triceps routine I’ve used with success to develop fullness in the outer head as well as sweep from the side:

Close-grip decline-bench presses 3 x 10, 8, 6

Lying dumbbell extensions (last set NA) 2 x 10, 7

Cable pushouts (drop) 1 x 10(6)

Bench dips 2 x 12-15

One last point: Before we launch into the first exercise, Jonathan and I do 10 to 15 light reps on cable pushdowns and pushouts to lube the elbow joints.

Editor’s note: Steve Holman is the author of many bodybuilding best-sellers and the creator of Positions-of-Flexion muscle training. For information on the POF videos and Size Surge programs at Also visit for information on X-Rep and 3D POF methods and e-booksIM

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