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Pump And Circumstance

Build strength and size in your upper arms with this burner of a triceps workout.

Jay Ashman


The triceps are composed of three muscles, which are the lateral, medial, and long head. Their Latin names are irrelevant to this discussion as you are mostly concerned with having slabs of beef hanging off the back of your arms. If you weren’t, you would be reading something else instead of learning a new routine that adds size to the muscle that makes up 75 percent of your upper arm. You read that correctly: The triceps are 75 of your guns. You may have a sweet bicep peak, but how big are your arms going to get when that biceps is a quarter of the total mass of your arms.

Not only are the triceps 75 percent of your total upper-arm musculature, they are also a primary mover in the bench press and overhead press. Bigger arms and a stronger bench press isn’t a bad trade off, is it? Filling your shirtsleeves out and throwing more weight off your chest is a win-win situation all around.

Since triceps are a primary mover of two big compound movements, we are going to start with what I call the loading phase. In layman’s terms, we’re going to throw some weight on a bar.

Adding a solid loading part and a targeted pump phase to your triceps workout gives you the best of both worlds. Do this routine for four to five weeks before switching it up.


Close Grip Bench Press on Smith Machine

Instruction: Set up the bar so it comes down to nipple level. Work up to a heavy eight reps and do three sets with it. Take off 20 percent of the weight and do a fourth set until you fail.

Execution: In this case, “close grip” means hands 12 to 14 inches apart. You need room for the bar to touch your chest without pinching your hands off along the way. I want to see you control the eccentric movement of this exercise for a good two to three seconds. Tuck your elbows in close to your side to work the triceps as much as possible. Once the bar touches your chest, push it back up with some power. Your goal is to find a heavy eight reps. I don’t mean you will fail with that eighth rep, but rather the eighth rep should be the last clean rep you can get before you need someone to help you lift it. Once you find that heavy eight, you will repeat it for three total working sets. Rest about two minutes between each set. Once those sets are over, strip 20 percent of the weight off the bar, rest two minutes, and do one set to complete failure.


Medicine Ball Push-Ups

Instruction: You will touch your chest to the ball/hands with each rep. Do three sets like this stopping just short of true failure for each set.

Execution: Place both hands on one ball with your feet on the ground behind you. For each rep, lower under control because balance is an issue. Touch your hands/ball to your chest and push yourself back up. You will do three working sets with each set stopping just short of failing.

Now that we finished the loading part of the day, let’s move on to the pumping phase. The pump phase is designed to flush your triceps with reps and blood. Classic hypertrophy rep ranges are what we will do. The weights will be lighter, and we’ll finish each rep in this phase with a hard flex of the triceps.



Hammer-Style Rope Pressdowns

Instruction: Perform these pressdowns in a hammer style. This means you will not flare your hands down and out. Keep your pinkies facing the floor throughout the movement, your wrists rigid and strong, and finish each rep with your fist aimed at the floor. Perform three sets of 20 for this exercise.

Execution: Gym bros the world over have performed the “flare out at the bottom of the rope pressdown” for ages, but there is a better way. By performing these hammer-style, you can focus on the flex at the bottom of the movement more efficiently. Keep the eccentric portion of the movement controlled, at about a three-count, and a controlled concentric for a one-count. Work the triceps, feel it stretch at the top, and flex it hard at lockout. Twenty reps of these will be a burner.


Reverse-Grip Pressdowns

Instruction:  Using an EZ-curl bar attachment, do three sets of 15 reps flexing hard at the bottom for a two-count.

Execution: To finish the day off, grab an EZ-curl bar attachment for the machine. If your gym doesn’t have one, a straight bar attachment is acceptable. Grab the bar with your palms facing you. Start from the top of the movement, pull the bar down with your hands, and flex for a two-count at the bottom. Return to the top with a three-count eccentric movement and repeat for three sets of 15 total reps. IM

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