The Mighty Triceps
By George F. Jowett
ONE day I was amused in watching a group of young men practicing a series of impromptu feats of strength among themselves In a Turner’s gym. One young fellow with an imposing development, particularly of the arms, had them all stopped in chinning the bar. and curling d umbel Is and barbell to the shoulders from the full arm hang position, but what puzzled all his comrades was the fact that he was no better, and not as good as one of the boys In slowly raising a barbell or dumbell to arms’ length overhead. They just could not figure it out. None of them could compare with this particular young chap in arm development, but there it was. He could do so many feats of arm strength the others could not, but he was sunk when it came to feats of overhead lifting. The answer, while puzzling to them, is very simple. This young chap only excelled in feats where the forearm was bent on the upper arm in such movements as curling, chinning and dipping In other words he was all biceps, and only where the biceps muscles were involved did he excel. He failed at all movements, that Is in proportion to his other stunts, simply because he had no worth-while triceps development, and all feats that require the strengthening of the arms overhead, and even when pressing down, with straight aims, are controlled by the action of the triceps muscles.
This again brings out the fact which I have so often stressed upon — that the size of the upper arm is not a true criterion of upper arm strength as much as is balanced upper arm development. The upper arm girth may measure much less than that of another, yet to the surprise of the larger-armed chap, the other fellow will excel in more feats of strength. Some explain this as being better in performing the tricks, or knowing the knack of doing a thing, whereas, others claim the big-armed fellow has more beef than strength. This Is rarely true, yet most people believe It. especially when they see an untrained man equal or beat is most arm-building enthusiasts center all their efforts on biceps development and pay little or no attention to the triceps, with the result that they are only able to excel on particular feats such as curling, dipping and chinning the bar. The body builder travels further who pays more attention to balanced development than the one who sticks to isolated development of one particular group of muscle. Vanity, and the craze for large girthed muscles is the cause of this isolated development fad.
One must always remember that the biceps act antagonistic to the triceps, and vice versa. The word antagonistic, while commonly used to explain the point is not wholly true. I would prefer to say that each support the other, except in such movements where one acts independently of the other. In this case one muscle is relaxed while the other performs, but in many movements and the majority of movements of the upper arms, the triceps and the biceps act together. As one muscle fullfils its duty the other takes up its appointed duty and carries on. You see this properly demonstrated when a person picks a barbell or dumbell from off the floor to the shoulders, and then raises the weight overhead. In the first movement the biceps function to the point of just beginning to raise the weight overhead at which point the triceps take up and perform most of the work. This clearly shows that the more balanced the development of these two muscular groups are, the more perfect will be the completion of the lift overhead.
The triceps form the bulk of the back of the upper arm as the word triceps implies it is in a three-fold muscle finally inserted into one common tendon. This muscle originates from beneath the deltoid of shoulder cap muscles. They are divided into an inner head, an outer head and a long head. The first two heads are attached onto the extremity of the bone of the upper arm. The long head is attached to the end of the clavicle, or collar bone, and onto the tip of the shoulder blade. The bulk of these three muscles quickly merge into a broad tendon at a point easily visible to the eye when this muscle is contrated forcibly by straightening the arm. The tendon forms the flat part of the upper arm down to the elbow and is flanked on each side by the muscles as they flow down to insertion about the elbow joint. The triceps have powerful control over the forearm. Their chief function is in straightening the forearm with the upper arm.
In former articles of this series when explaining the muscles of the forearm and of the upper arm. I have shown how strongly certain forearm muscles aid the triceps in operation. Chief among these are the supinator longus and the anconeous. Particularly the later though partly visible on an anatomical chart, the major part of it hidden under the supinator longus and under the triceps as this muscle travels from the forearm up onto the upper arm. These two accessory muscles act as the arm just begins to straighten and when the arm is completely straightened, making the arm lock more definite. The start aids the triceps to get under way and again comes into action at the point just before the arm straightens, known to lifters as the weak point. This point is only weak because the muscles arc not as fully developed as should be in order to fully co-operate. Perhaps this fact will also make clear to my readers why I have advocated to lifters raising upward a dumbell from the shoulders only about six Inches from the shoulders also, while holding a weight overhead, merely lowering the weight a few Inches and then slowly straightening the arm These two exercises movements develop and strengthen these muscles at the point that is most important to a weight lifting enthusiast.
The triceps are very powerful muscles, in fact, much more powerful in proportion to size than are the biceps. This is because the biceps are more shorter ranged in operation. Judging arm strength by results, it would pay every body-builder and weight-lifter to pay greater attention to the development of the triceps than is usually done for the biceps.
Most body-builders when taking their upper arm measurement do so with the biceps flexed, for this reason we are more familiar with arm size when measured from this position, but. if all would make a point to give the measurement of the upper arm when held relaxed and straight by the sides, one could readily judge by comparison whether the biceps were more developed than the triceps. In other words, there would not be so great a difference between the flexed upper arm girth and the relaxed measurement. Incidentally, many do not take the measurement of the upper arm correctly. If they did, some upper arms would measure more than is ordinary shown. Many flex the bleeps, bending the forearm as much as possible upon the upper arm When this Is done, the triceps become completely stretched, and where there should be a full curve on the under side of the upper arm there is a flat line. The forearm should be held almost at right angles with the upper arm which permits biceps and triceps alike to supply their bulk to measurement. Of course if the arm lacks triceps development, holding the forearm at any angle when the biceps are flexed will mean nothing additional.
Men who have reached the summit of arm development always are blest with a pair of powerful triceps. Among heavyweights, the stronger and larger the triceps become the less definitation will be shown. They bulk very heavily. In such cases the only proof of powerful triceps development is the crest of the horseshoe formation of muscle that rises from the fascia midway on the back of the upper arm. In a few cases this condition is exceptional, such as with Hackenschmidt, whose triceps formation was as clear and as clean cut as that of a lightweight Of course Sandow showed finely molded triceps, but he was not a heavy weight in the sense of the word as we nowadays accept the term. At his best he weighed about 186 lbs., and around this body-weight I can mention many who display triceps even more perfectly molded than most biceps. Nevertheless, the real heavyweights have real triceps power, otherwise their arm power, particularly in the slow overhead lifts and jerks, would never have achieved the records credited to these men of might. One can always tell powerful triceps the moment they see a bare arm. The width across the arm just below the deltoid gives the story. Of course, we know that big strong men always run to massivenesa. Their muscles become so densified with muscular fibre hardly any separation is visible, but do not let this deceive you as to the existence of muscle and power. Of course it all depends on what one is after. If the purpose is purely body building with a desire to develop the muscles so that they display separation, this can be done by omitting the practice of heavyweight lifting Heavyweight lifting brings out the fullest in muscular size, but also densifies the structure in the process. One could not become extraordinarily strong without this happening, and to many, this development is a desirable conquest. Now do not get me wrong by thinking weight lifting does not produce men with a clear muscular separation it certainly does in numerous cases, but what I mean is you will find more real strong men with smooth, silky muscles and less separation than you will among those who strive purely for development for the purpose of muscular display.
After reading this you may be a little confused and wonder what is the difference in the exercise process to ac quire one or the other. It is very simple. The practice of heavyweight lifting involves a less number of exercises in one period and over a shorter length of time per exercise period, and less practice nights per week. Weight lifting exercises Involve whole groups of muscles in each exercise, whereas, for the purpose of separation, less weight is involved, but more repetitions per exercise, and more exercises to be practiced at each period, and these I every night Repeated repetitions of an I exercise directly imposed upon one single muscle group will cause greater fibre construction. Constant contraction causes separation and shapeliness more than it does increase size. While size will culminate, yet it does not show its gains as much as it shows separation and shaping of the muscles, and the more exercises that can be performed to stimulate a muscle, or the least muscle group from all points of operating angle, the greater contraction of the muscle and allied muscles, which is the reason why more repetitions and more exercises per period, and every night weekly, will create finer muscular separation. While this explains a point that perhaps is important to you, and which is important in explaining the difference to those who are not aware of the facts and wish to know them — what I has it got to do with the development of the triceps in size, shape, separation and strength. It has a great deal to do with it for no other reason than because barbell or dumbell exercise alone will not give one the fullest in triceps development. Barbell and dumbbells give a very limited form of exercise for the triceps. Therefore, other factors must be considered that will function the triceps from all they varied angles they are capable of functioning
Many body builders get a set notion that weights are the only thing even to the exclusion of all other methods and other apparatus. It is a wrong attitude. While I agree on the greater efficiency of progressive weights, yet I never met a man who had reached the peak of success in development and strength, who had not recognized the fact that his training periods must be mixed exercise in order to get the best out of ail the muscles.
There is a saying that a good workman always is plentifully supplied with the best tools. It is the same with the good body builder. He will recognize the necessity of employing other tools and methods for obvious reasons, other than weights, and will use than in the right place. I have used all forms of apparatus while not yielding first place to them in preference to progressive weights. I have used cable pulls for certain muscles I have used spring grips, dumbbells-grips, chest weights and what have you. and enjoyed them one of the forms of exercise I ever indulged in was that of swinging heavy weighted clubs, something one never hear tell of these days. I used to have a pair knocking around up to a short time ago. and have often been quite amused watching the helpless antics of many who stand high in strength fame today, trying to swing them They are the equal of kettle-bell juggling for the arms and shoulders, and provide a far more strenuous training routine. Then we had the single club, one that weighed from eighty pounds as to whatever you desire, which was swung in all directions while gripped with both hands. They made you realize you had a pair of triceps and if they were below par in strength and development they quickly improved. Breaking iron shoes afforded fine triceps works, and many years ago I used the iron shoe exercise purely for triceps and arm purposes, a-long with my other weight training exercises Cable pulls of strong elastic can be used to give fine triceps exercise, as also can the gymnastic exercise, dipping between the parallel bars.
Just try standing between pair of parallel bars, pressing with the hands on the bars as you raise the legs up backward while held straight, until you are m a pianche. You nail soon find out If your triceps are strong or not as this ss purely a triceps feat that cannot be equalled with weights. Hold the chest cable expander at arms’ length behind the back, and with straight arms raise the arms out and up, until they are in a line level with the shoulders. This is a pure triceps exercise, providing you do not bend the body while performing the movement. Raising a dumbell backwards, and twisting the arm when the full back arm raise has been made will give the triceps a fine work out, but the trouble it is so easy to swing the body with the arm raise, that the best value in the exercise for the triceps becomes lost. Yes, you can lift a barbell from the position where it hangs at aims’ length across the back of the thighs, and then with straight arms, lift up backwards as high as possible. This is line if — you do it right, but too many bend too far forward as they raise the arms, with the result, that they hardly raise the aims at all. They only bend forward, and think they are doing it right, but this kind of mental telepathy will not help a little bit The exercises I have mentioned with either apparatus give you less chance to mislead yourself, with the results, better triceps action is gained, and muscular action is what origins results
Be broad-minded with your training. Study the things that will give you the development benefits you desire, and use those methods. It is no travesty from a principle to use a chest cable pull for one exercise in your weight-lifting exercise training. Chest cable pulls. as well as other things mentioned herein, are tools of the trade so to speak. I never came across a truly successful body builder who could say that in all his life he had never used any but one type apparatus to secure his strength, size and development. Thomas Inch, the great English strength athlete was very fond of chest cable exercise mingled with his barbell and dumbbell routine. If you think it is only weaklings or sissies that use this type of apparatus, you ought to try stretching the cables Inch could stretch few strong men could budge them let alone completely stretch hem. It helped to make their muscles more versatile and supple it allowed the weight training program to secure better results. On the whole, weights cannot be surpassed, but for some muscles where weights are restricted in their adaptability to function the muscles completely, use other means and apparatus if they will do the work.
Results are what you are after so do not turn down a point that will help you secure the results, particularly does this advice hold good In the consideration of triceps development. The point to remember is that all movements that straighten the arms, and permit the arms to be turned while the arms are held In the straight arm position, and also permit a turn or twist while the arm is evolving into the straight arm position, provide triceps stimulation and development. Therefore, bearing this in mind, you will not find it difficult to form a triceps exercise routine, adding to the exercises illustrated within this article.
Take the above position grasp the barbell as shown by dotted lines and straighten the arms. Don’t swing the barbell but use the strength of the triceps to bring it to arms length overhead. Other good exercises that can be done from this position is the prone press, shoulder press and belly tows. All are good triceps exercises, and plenty of weight can be used.
Your Physique, Volume 3 № 1, Mar 1943