While weight training can help you achieve a number of goals, it’s a form of exercise that will primarily get you stronger and develop muscle mass. You can optimize your workout to focus more on either goal. For example, if you want to develop increased strength for a particular muscle group -- like the triceps -- your workout will focus around medium-weight/repetition exercises. If you want to develop bigger, but not necessarily stronger triceps, your workout will require some modification to accommodate that goal.
Triceps Muscle Group
The triceps muscle consists of three main heads – long, lateral and medial. This muscle group stretches along the back side of the arm from the deltoid to the elbow, and it is the primary muscle group that facilitates extension of the arm. Any strength training exercise that requires the arm to extend weight against resistance will engage at least one of the triceps heads, depending on the range of motion, and the angle of motion relative to the angle of the resistance.
Working for Strength
Triceps exercises for strength can go in one of two directions. You can use standard sets of exercises like the overhead extension, triceps kick-back or weighted dip. You can develop strength using a medium to high number of repetitions per set, while lifting a light to medium amount of weight. For example, you can perform four sets of 15 overhead extensions to work toward improving triceps strength, along with your other triceps exercises. The other option for increased strength is using supersets. A superset pairs one exercise for a muscle group with one exercise for an opposing muscle group. A triceps superset would pair one set of 12 kick-backs with one set of biceps hammer curls. Reps should be performed with speed, but carefully.
A triceps workout for building lean muscle mass leading to larger, thicker triceps will require a different approach. Instead of using medium or light weight, go heavy and reduce the number of repetitions for each set. No set of any exercise should include more than eight reps. This approach efficiently tears down your existing triceps muscle fibers, which will then grow larger and thicker during recuperation. Also, emphasize a slow, methodical form and use a complete range of motion for each exercise.
What to Avoid
If you’re focusing on triceps muscles, carefully structure the exercises of your workout so that you don’t perform too many exercises that target other muscles, but require the triceps to complete. For example, if you’re already performing the bench press, the military press and the chest fly, you may not need to add too many triceps-specific exercises to your routine. Scale back on those existing exercises to accommodate triceps-focused lifts to your routine. Watch out for signs of overtraining, such as muscle spasms, extreme and persistent soreness or stiffness, or pain in the joints or muscles.