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Muscle for life

How to Get Bigger and Stronger Triceps in Just 30 Days

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How to Get Bigger and Stronger Triceps in Just 30 Days

Give me 30 days and I’ll give you bigger and stronger triceps, guaranteed. Everything you need is right here in this article: theory, exercises, and workouts.

The triceps are the unsung heroes of arm muscles.

They may not have the sex appeal of the biceps, but, ironically, they comprise about two-thirds of the overall size of your upper arms.

That’s why developing great triceps is one of the little-known “secrets” to building big arms.

Case in point:

Arnold flexing tricep

A bit much, I know, but it illustrates the point nonetheless.

Here’s a shot of me that’s a bit more achievable for us mere natties:

Mike Matthews Triceps

So, if you want to know how I “made my horseshoes”, and how you can make more triceps gains in the next 30 days than you have in the last 3 months (or longer!), then you want to keep reading.

Whether you’re new to lifting and unsure of where to start, a seasoned gym rat looking to break through a plateau, or somewhere in between, if you want bigger and stronger triceps, you’re in the right place.

By the end of this article, you’ll know exactly what the triceps are, the best exercises for training them, and how to program your training for maximal triceps gains.

Let’s get to it.

What Are the Triceps, Exactly?

The triceps, aka the triceps brachii, is a three-headed muscle located on the back of your upper arm.

Here’s how it looks:

big triceips anatomy

As you can see, when each of the heads are properly developed, they form a distinctive upside-down horseshoe on the back of the arm.

You probably also noticed that the lateral head is the largest of the three, which means it’s also the part of the muscle group that both develops the fastest and most determines the overall look of your triceps.

In short, when people think of “big triceps,” they’re thinking of big lateral heads.

That said, if you want to see everything that your triceps have to offer, then you want to make sure that all three heads are fully developed.

Triceps Building 101
How to Get Bigger and Stronger Triceps

triceps-pulldown

 

There are a lot of theories out there about how to best train your triceps.

Some people say you have to focus on high-rep training and really “feel the burn.”

Others say you should be training them multiple times per week.

Others still say you don’t have to do triceps exercises at all and should focus on compound pressing movements instead.

Well, I’ve tried all the above and more, and I’ve worked with thousands of people, and here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Most of us can’t get the triceps we really want through pressing alone.

Hitting your chest hard and heavy will help you build bigger triceps, but this isn’t enough to get the type of arm size and strength that most of us desire.

The reality is most people have to directly train their triceps in addition to pressing to get the tris they want.

2. Heavy dumbbell, barbell, and cable extensions are best for gaining triceps strength and size.

Many people think that the triceps won’t respond well to heavy (80%+ of one-rep max) weightlifting — that you have to focus on getting a pump.

They’re wrong.

The triceps are mostly composed of type 2 muscle fibers, which respond well to heavy loads.

As you’ll see in the workouts I provide later in this article, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do any higher-rep work on your triceps.

You should, but you shouldn’t do what most people do in their triceps training: chase a pump week after week.

3. One heavy triceps workout per week is generally enough.

A big part of getting big triceps is optimizing your weekly volume, which is the total amount of reps and weight that you do every week.

Here’s a good rule of thumb for weightlifting volume:

The heavier the the weights are, the fewer reps you can do each week before you start experiencing symptoms of overtraining.

This is particularly true of compound exercises like the deadlift and squat, which are fantastic whole-body muscle builders, but are also very taxing. Thus, the heavier you pull and squat in your workouts, the more time your body and muscles need to fully recover.

I’ve tried many different workout splits and frequency schemes, and what I’ve found works best lines up with two extensive reviews on the subject.

When your training emphasizes heavy weights (80 to 85%+ of 1RM), optimal volume seems to be about 60 to 70 reps performed every 5 to 7 days.

This is true for every major muscle group that you train, not just your triceps.

Now, before you rush off to bang out a workout of just skullcrushers and kickbacks, don’t forget that the triceps are also involved in pressing movements.

If you’re doing, let’s say, about 60 reps of pressing per week for your chest and shoulders, adding another 60 reps of triceps work might be overkill.

That’s why I think that something closer to 30 to 40 reps of direct triceps work per week (in addition to the heavy pressing) is a better place to be for general training purposes.

Now, you’re going to be doing more than this for the next 30 days, but that’s only because we’re looking to temporarily push your tris to their limits (and then give them a break).

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

Getting Bigger and Stronger Triceps in 30 Days
The Diet

meal prep

You probably know that exercise alone isn’t enough to build muscle and lose fat.

Ultimately, your progress will largely be determined by your diet.

Think of it this way:

If your body were a car, exercise is the gas pedal and diet is the fuel in the tank.

You have to step on the gas (exercise) to get moving (improve your body composition), but you won’t get far without the right fuel.

It comes down to this:

If you know how to manage your diet properly, building muscle and burning fat will be simple and straightforward.

If you don’t, it will be absurdly difficult …if not impossible.

That’s why it’s not enough to just give you a 30-day workout plan. We need to set up your diet properly as well.

I break it all down in this in-depth guide to meal planning, which I highly recommend you read and implement alongside these workouts.

If you don’t, you simply won’t get as much out of them as you should.

Getting Bigger and Stronger Triceps in 30 Days
The Exercises

Unfortunately, the bulk of the information you can find online about building muscle is wrong, misleading, or even dangerous.

You don’t have to continually change up your routine (”muscle confusion” is a lie), heavy lifting doesn’t merely build strength and not size, and isolation exercises aren’t the key to building a great physique.

And in the case of the triceps, you don’t need to do thirty different movements or work them from eighteen different angles. Out of all of the triceps exercises you could do, a small handful will deliver most of the results.

Here they are…

1.  Close-Grip Bench Press

This is one of my favorite triceps exercises for several reasons:

  1. You can safely perform it with heavy weights.
  2. It trains your pecs, too.
  3. It improves your bench press performance.

2. Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Press

This exercise is particularly good for targeting the long head of the triceps and, like the close-grip bench press, is great for heavy loading.

3. Dip (Triceps Variation)

The dip is one of the best bodyweight exercises you can do for your upper body.

It trains your chest, shoulders, and triceps, and can be loaded with a dip belt to increase the difficulty.

4. Lying Triceps Extension (Skullcrusher)

The lying triceps extension is a movement that emphasizes the medial head.

I prefer doing it with an EZ bar.

5. Triceps Pushdown

This is the most common triceps exercise that people do and, surprisingly, it’s quite good.

That said, I like to save it for later in my workouts after I’ve done heavier work on the other exercises given in this list.

I also like the V-bar and straight bar attachments more than the rope.

Remember That Progression Is the Key

These are the only triceps exercises you’ll be doing for the next thirty days.

The key, however, isn’t just doing the exercises, it’s progressing on them. That is, increasing the amount of weight and/or reps you can move over time.

Remember: If your triceps don’t get stronger, they won’t get bigger.

Gain strength on these exercises and eat enough food, however, and your triceps will grow.

I guarantee it.

The Best Way to Get Bigger Triceps
The Workouts

man holding dumbbell

Here’s what we’ve covered so far:

  • The anatomy of the triceps
  • The simple science of triceps building
  • The importance of diet
  • The best triceps exercises for gaining size and strength

Now it’s time to get in the gym.

The first step is outlining our goal for the next 30 days, and that’s focusing the majority of our time and energy on maximizing triceps growth.

We won’t neglect the rest of the body, but we’re going to scale back everything else and really blitz your triceps for a month.

That’s why this is a 30-day program, by the way.

It’s not a balanced whole-body routine that you should do for an extended period of time. It’s a tool you can use periodically to “shock” your tris into growing. Once you’ve achieved your goal, you can go back to a normal workout routine or focus on another lagging body part.

So, here’s the workout plan:

Day 1

Push

Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press

Warm up and 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Dip

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

(Not sure how to do these chest exercises? Check out this article.)

Day 2

Pull

Barbell Deadlift

Warm up and 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Barbell Row

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Chin-Up

3 sets to failure (bodyweight)

(Not sure how to do these back exercises? Check out this article.)

Day 3

Triceps A

Dips (Triceps Variation)

Warm-up and 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Press

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

EZ Bar Lying Triceps Extension (Skull Crusher)

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Day 4

Legs

Barbell Back Squat

Warm-up sets and then 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Barbell Front Squat

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Romanian Deadlift

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

(Not sure how to do these exercises? Check out this article.)

Day 5

Triceps B

Dips (Triceps Variation)

Warm-up and 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Press

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Triceps Pushdown

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Day 6

Rest

Day 7

Rest

Take measurements, do four weeks of those workouts (sticking to your meal plan!), and measure again. I promise you that your triceps will be bigger.

(By the way, if you want to add in work for your abs and calves, you can.)

I also recommend that you take a week to deload before resuming your normal training. You’ll probably need a break after 30 days of this.

A few points to keep in mind when doing these workouts…

Rest 3 minutes in between your 4-to-6-rep sets and 2 minutes in between your 8-to-10-rep sets.

This will give your muscles enough time to fully recoup their strength so you can push yourself to your limit on each set.

You don’t have to push to absolute muscular failure every set, but you need to come close.

The subject of whether to train to failure (the point at which you can no longer keep the weight moving and have to end the set) or not is controversial.

Experts disagree left and right, and there are good arguments both for and against training to failure. Many people find success with different approaches.

I break the topic down in this article, but here’s the gist:

We should be training to failure, but not so much that we risk injury or overtrain.

Personally, I never train to failure for more than 2 to 3 sets per workout, and never on the squat, deadlift, bench press, or military press, as it can be dangerous.

I save it for my accessory (isolation) exercises, and it’s usually just a natural consequence of pushing to add reps and ultimate weight to the exercises.

Instead, the majority of your sets should be taken to the rep preceding failure (the last rep you can perform without help).

If you’re new to weightlifting it can be hard to find this point, but you’ll get a better feel for it as you gain experience on different exercises.

Once you hit the top of your rep range for one set, you move up in weight.

This is the easiest way to ensure you’re progressively overloading your muscles.

For instance, if you get 6 reps on your first set of your close-grip bench press, you add 5 pounds to each side of the bar for your next set and work with that weight until you can press it for 6 reps, and so forth.

What About Supplements?

get bigger tricep supplement
I saved this for last because, quite frankly, it’s far less important than proper diet and training.

You see, supplements don’t build great physiques–dedication to proper training and nutrition does.

Unfortunately, the workout supplement industry is plagued by pseudoscience, ridiculous hype, misleading advertising and endorsements, products full of junk ingredients, underdosing key ingredients, and many other shenanigans.

Most supplement companies produce cheap, junk products and try to dazzle you with ridiculous marketing claims, high-profile (and very expensive) endorsements, pseudo-scientific babble, fancy-sounding proprietary blends, and flashy packaging.

So, while workout supplements don’t play a vital role in building muscle and losing fat, and many are a complete waste of money…the right ones can help.

The truth of the matter is there are safe, natural substances that have been scientifically proven to deliver benefits such as increased strength, muscle endurance and growth, fat loss, and more.

As a part of my work, it’s been my job to know what these substances are, and find products with them that I can use myself and recommend to others.

Finding high-quality, effective, and fairly priced products has always been a struggle, though.

That’s why I took matters into my own hands and decided to create my own supplements. And not just another line of “me too” supplements–the exact formulations I myself have always wanted and wished others would create.

I won’t go into a whole spiel here though. If you want to learn more about my supplement line, check this out.

For the purpose of this article, let’s just quickly review the supplements that are going to help you get the most out of your triceps (and other) workouts.

Creatine

Creatine is a substance found naturally in the body and in foods like red meat. It’s perhaps the most researched molecule in the world of sport supplements–the subject of hundreds of studies–and the consensus is very clear:

Supplementation with creatine helps…

You may have heard that creatine is bad for your kidneys, but these claims have been categorically and repeatedly disproven. In healthy subjects, creatine has been shown to have no harmful side effects, in both short- or long-term usage. People with kidney disease are not advised to supplement with creatine, however.

If you have healthy kidneys, I highly recommend that you supplement with creatine. It’s safe, cheap, and effective.

In terms of specific products, I use my own, of course, which is called RECHARGE.

RECHARGE is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored and each serving contains:

  • 5 grams of creatine monohydrate
  • 2100 milligrams of L-carnitine L-tartrate
  • 10.8 milligrams of corosolic acid

This gives you the proven strength, size, and recovery benefits of creatine monohydrate plus the muscle repair and insulin sensitivity benefits of L-carnitine L-tartrate and corosolic acid.

creatine-supplement

Protein Powder

You don’t need protein supplements to gain muscle, but, considering how much protein you need to eat every day to maximize muscle growth, getting all your protein from whole food can be impractical.

That’s the main reason I created (and use) a whey protein supplement. (There’s also evidence that whey protein is particularly good for your post-workout nutrition.)
WHEY+ is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored whey isolate that is made from milk sourced from small dairy farms in Ireland, which are known for their exceptionally high-quality dairy.

I can confidently say that this is the creamiest, tastiest, healthiest all-natural whey protein powder you can find.

whey-protein-supplement

Pre-Workout Drink

There’s no question that a pre-workout supplement can get you fired up to get to work in the gym. There are downsides and potential risks, however.

Many pre-workout drinks are stuffed full of ineffective ingredients and/or minuscule dosages of otherwise good ingredients, making them little more than a few cheap stimulants with some “pixie dust” sprinkled in to make for a pretty label and convincing ad copy.

Many others don’t even have stimulants going for them and are just complete duds.

Others still are downright dangerous, like USPLabs’ popular pre-workout “Jack3d,”which contained a powerful (and now banned) stimulant known as DMAA.

Even worse was the popular pre-workout supplement “Craze,” which contained a chemical similar to methamphetamine.

The reality is it’s very hard to find a pre-workout supplement that’s light on stimulants but heavy on natural, safe, performance-enhancing ingredients like beta-alanine, betaine, and citrulline.

And that’s why I made my own pre-workout supplement. It’s called PULSE and it contains 6 of the most effective performance-enhancing ingredients available:

And what you won’t find in PULSE is equally special:

  • No artificial sweeteners or flavors..
  • No artificial food dyes.
  • No unnecessary fillers, carbohydrate powders, or junk ingredients.

The bottom line is if you want to know what a pre-workout is supposed to feel like…if you want to experience the type of energy rush and performance boost that only clinically effective dosages of scientifically validated ingredients can deliver…then you want to try PULSE.

pre-workout-supplement

Want More Workouts?

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How to Get Bigger and Stronger Legs in Just 30 Days

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How to Get Bigger and Stronger Shoulders in Just 30 Days

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What’s your take on getting bigger and stronger triceps? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

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  • Shawn Ashe

    anything you can recommend for triceps while I’m recovering from an old rotator cuff/tendonitis injury? Dr said no overhead or bench press.

    • Have you tried skullcrushers and triceps pushdown?

    • Hassan Ben Zouhba

      You must take up boxing. Hitting bags and training with medicine balls and other techniques will build your muscles up like mine. You will be strong as a bull.

  • Daniel Sousa

    I have an undeveloped chest, can I do the same workout routine but changing the triceps exercises to chest exercises?

    • Mika

      there is an article: How to Get a Bigger and Stronger Chest in Just 30 Days
      maybe you should try this one… 🙂

      • Daniel Sousa

        Oh, I haven’t seen this one. Thank you!

  • Ashley

    Hi MIke & team!

    I’m reverse dieting right now, and really focusing on growing my back, glutes, and Abs. My shoulders and arms are already where I want them to be muscle wise. I’m currently training them, but I’m debating taking them out because I don’t want them to get any bigger and they seem to grow quickly. I can’t really train anything else on those days though bc my legs are toast still. Should I keep training arms or do you have any suggestions for a different split?

    My split is
    M: hams/glutes
    T: tris/Abs
    W: isolated glutes
    Th:Back/chest/Abs
    F: quads/glutes
    Sun: cardio

    Thanks y’all!
    Ashley

  • Tom

    Hi Mike,

    So if I were using a 5-day split, am I to believe it’s OK to add a second day of triceps, perhaps two days after my regular arms day? Such as, if I did arms on Wednesdays (lower reps), I could follow with a triceps add-on with higher reps on Fridays (shoulder day)?

    Thanks!

  • jay

    What’s reverse dieting?

  • NoApoloG

    Should I be in a caloric surplus when doing the 30 day triceps workout?

    • If you’re trying to build, a surplus would be beneficial.

  • harry Turnbull

    Hey Mike/MFL/Legion team

    Ive did BLS for 1.5 years and since been doing BBLS for over a year now im currently 6ft 1inch, 177lb, 10% Bf, Male. Starting my Revese back to a bulk this week. I would count myself a Hardgainer and I have a physical job (Construction), last bulk calories I ended up north of 5000cal and wasnt even gaining 0.25lb per week!, and my Arms have been stuck at 14inch Flexed for 2 years still they wont grow!!! And chest lagging to because I had a injury couldnt train Chest for 5months.

    I should also mention my last Bulk lasted 6months and I did the extra 3 sets of 8-10 for Bis after back, and tris after Chest, aswell as the Arm day, the whole 6months but still to no gain, strength has increase across the board but no up in measurements.

    My question is: Once I hit Bulk caloires again can I alternate these 30 day bigger workout routines for example first month 30 Days bigger Biceps, week off, 30day bigger Tricep, week off, 30 day bigger Chest, week off repeat till end of Bulk? Would this be Beneficial in trying to force these lagging muscles to grow or would it be to much?

    Many thanks
    Harry Turnbull from the UK

    • Hey Harry, good questions! Since you were getting stronger, your training is on point. If you’re getting stronger, but not gaining size, you need to eat more. Shoot for 0.5-1lb a week on this next bulk and see how it goes.

      Regarding the 30-day routines, I’d maybe do the 30-day specialty routine followed by a phase of BBLS, then a different 30-day specialty followed by BBLS again. Basically, you’d be interspersing the 30-day routines with the general routine. You wont need to rest/deload every 30 days, especially while bulking. Make sense?

      I hope this helps!

      • Harry Turnbull

        I see I will indeed try that idea

        Thanks for your wisdom!

  • Briscan Andrei

    What to do if I can’t do weighted dips ( any type )? I feel a very sharp pain in my sternum and I don’t want to risk . Can I replace with another 3 sets of close-grip bench press ?
    Also, what do you think about the anabolic response that come from doing squats and deads when it’s come about growing our arms ? It’s another bodybuilding myth or it’s legit ?

    • No worries on the dips. You can just do more sets of any of the approved triceps exercises (close-grip bench, pushdowns, skullcrushers, overhead triceps press, etc.). There’s an anabolic response to training, but if you want to grow your arms as effectively as possible, then you need to do more than just squats and deadlifts.

  • Erik

    Performing the Close-Grip Bench Press, do you keep your feet firmly planted in the ground to recruit the legs in the movement (as with a normal bench press) or do you keep the tension out of the legs (for instance by keeping your feet on the bench) to further isolate the triceps?

    • Keep your feet on the ground just like for the bench press.

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