Build Strong Tris With Giant Sets

If your triceps are lagging, it’s time to get down and dirty with giant sets.
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Giant sets, big results.

A giant set is what it sounds like: a set of three to five exercises performed in a row with little to no rest in between. “The sets alter two workout variables in one shot, increasing the volume while decreasing the rest periods,” says Jim Smith, CSCS, from Elmira, New York. “The benefit of changing these parameters is increased metabolism and greater lean muscle development.” Giant sets force your muscles to work beyond their normal capacity, which breaks them down and forces them to adapt. This is great news for anyone who wants to push past a plateau and boost lagging or underdeveloped areas.

Pump It Up

You may think that achieving a muscle “pump” is only for hardcore bodybuilders, but your triceps can certainly benefit from this physical response. A pump occurs when a hard-working muscle is inundated with blood — your body’s way of delivering fuel and oxygen to that area while removing waste products. The production of lactic acid within your muscles reduces your blood pH level, causing your body to produce the human growth hormone (HGH) as a result. Since HGH has been linked to both reduced body fat and increased muscle mass, this is beneficial on many levels. “Since giant sets challenge the muscles more and push the level of lactic acid in the body, they are ideal for eliciting this response,” notes Smith. Lactic acid also signals your body to produce testosterone, which is your muscle-building best friend.

Set Up For Success

Since you’ll want to spend as little time as possible going from one exercise to the next, try to arrange your exercise stations close to one another. When getting ready, gather all the handles and weights you’ll need, and set up shop close to the cable machine so that you can go through the moves without pausing. And having your equipment ready to go also provides another fringe benefit. “Because you’re moving continuously, your heart rate remains elevated and you burn more calories,” says Ben Bruno, a strength and conditioning coach in North Andover, Massachusetts. “This, combined with a clean diet, can help you get lean and add definition to your physique.”

Plan Of Attack

During your sets (find your level-specific plan above, right), you’ll use a cable machine and dumbbells. Grab weights that aren’t too heavy; for example, if you normally use a 35-pound weight for overhead dumbbell extensions, use one that is 25 to 30 pounds. Do all the reps for your first move, then go to the next. After one cycle, rest; repeat until you are through.

Your Workouts

Perform the required number of reps for each exercise before immediately going to the next. When you reach your last exercise, rest for the time specified, then repeat for the rest of your giant sets.

Beginner

Number of giant sets: 1–2

Rest between giant sets: 1–2 minutes

Exercise

Reps

Two-Handed Overhead Dumbbell Extension

10–12

Dumbbell Kickback

10–12

Cable Reverse-Grip Pressdown

10–12

Intermediate

Number of giant sets: 2

Rest between giant sets: 60–90 seconds

Exercise

Reps

Cable Rope Pressdown

10–12

Two-Handed Overhead Dumbbell Extension

10–12

Dumbbell Kickback

10–12

Cable Reverse-Grip Pressdown

10–12

Advanced

Number of giant sets: 2–3

Rest between giant sets: 45–60 seconds

Exercise

Reps

Cable Overhead Rope Extension

10–12

Cable Rope Pressdown

10–12

Cable Reverse-Grip Pressdown

10–12

Two-Handed Overhead Dumbbell Extension

10–12

Dumbbell Kickback

10–12

Cable Rope Pressdown

cable-rope-pressdown

Target Muscles: triceps brachii (lateral head emphasis)

Set Up: Face the cable machine with a rope attachment positioned high. Hold one end in each hand, arms bent, and tuck your upper arms close to your sides.

Action: Press the rope handles downward by straightening your arms. Slowly return to the starting position without letting the weights touch the stack.

Tip: At the bottom, drive the ends of the rope out to the sides.

Cable Reverse-Grip Pressdown

Cable-Reverse-Grip-Pressdown

Target Muscles: triceps brachii (medial head emphasis)

Set Up: Attach a short bar high on the cable machine. Grasp it with an underhand grip (palms facing upward), and bend your elbows to about 90 degrees.

Action: Press the bar downward by straightening your arms; keep your upper arms tight to your sides as you move. Slowly return to the start.

Tip: Use the cambered bar for this move — its curve allows you to bring the bar closer to your legs for a bigger contraction.

Cable Overhead Rope Extension

Cable-Overhead-Rope-Extnesion

Target Muscles: triceps brachii (long head emphasis)

Set Up: With a rope attachment set low on the cable machine, grab one side of the rope in each hand, then turn your back to the weight stack. Bend your arms to point your elbows toward the ceiling, and stagger your legs.

Action: Extend your arms above your head until they are straight but unlocked, then use control to slowly return to the start. Keep your upper arms near your ears throughout each rep.

Tip: Variety is the spice of life. Try using other attachments for this exercise.

Two-Handed Overhead Dumbbell Extension

Two-Handed-Overhead-Dumbbell-Extension

Target Muscles: triceps brachii (long head emphasis)

Set Up: Sit on a bench with your feet flat on the ground. Hold a single heavy dumbbell with both hands and extend your arms overhead as shown.

Action: Bend your elbows to lower the weight behind your head as low as you can physically allow, then straighten your arms to complete one rep. Make sure your upper arms stay beside your ears and that you do not overly arch your back.

Dumbbell Kickback

Dumbbell-Kickback

Target Muscles: triceps brachii (lateral head emphasis)

Set Up: Stand and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Bend your knees slightly and hinge forward from your hips until your torso is about 45 degrees to the ground, then lift and bend your arms to about 90 degrees.

Action: Slowly extend your arms to move the dumbbells behind you; use control to return to the start.

Tip: Make sure you pause and hold the contraction at the top before slowly releasing.

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