Safeguard Your Elbow Tendons
Some of you are like me and live in perpetual pain from inflamed elbow tendons. Elbows issues rarely bothers athletes only because they avoid the exercises that aggravate them—which unfortunately include nearly every type of triceps extension performed with free weights. Once you acquire tendinitis of the elbow, your elbows are never quite the same again. To avoid that disheartening state of affairs, take extra care to prevent injury.
Never jump right into heavy training for any of the pushing muscles: chest, shoulders or triceps. With triceps in particular, warm up thoroughly with at least two or three 15-to-25-rep sets of cable pushdowns before starting work sets. Never bounce, or rebound, out of the bottom of a rep to cheat a couple more reps or even use more resistance. You may want to consider wearing neoprene elbow sleeves, available at any sporting goods store, to keep your elbows warm and tightly supported. Just don’t buy them too tight or wear them too long, or you’ll find your hands going numb from blocked circulation! A key factor in getting bigger triceps is your ability to train them heavy with a wide variety of movements, something only possible when you have healthy joints and connective tissues.
Beware of overtraining
You run a much greater risk of overtraining your triceps than you do your biceps. While the biceps assist in most back exercises, the triceps join in during both chest and shoulder work. If you train both those body parts on different days and hit triceps on still another day, look out for that overtraining dragon breathing down your neck because essentially you’re working your triceps three times a week.
For most lifters the best strategy is to pair triceps with one of them. That said, I’ve found that working arms on a day all their own can often spur new growth even after years of stagnation. There are no hard-and-fast rules here, so use your best judgment and structure your training to ensure that the triceps recover.
One simple solution is to specialize on triceps for periods of four to eight weeks. During that time combine your chest and triceps workouts on one training day and work triceps and biceps on arm day, which you schedule at least 48—and preferably 72—hours, before or after the chest-and-triceps session. Another idea is to do a double split on the day you train triceps, working either chest or shoulders in the morning and then returning to the gym that afternoon or evening to hit triceps.