Ronnie Coleman is already a bodybuilding legend and there’s hardly a muscle on his body that he hasn’t developed to a legendary size.
In this article we present to you what he does to build up his triceps using only dumbbells, and taking advantage of the specific benefit they offer in that they allow you to better isolate and stimulate the three separate triceps heads to such a degree that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to achieve with cables or an ordinary barbell.
The barbell is best suited to develop overall size and mass, but because it doesn’t allow for wrist rotation, you cannot isolate the separate muscles that comprise the triceps. Cables, on the other hand, do offer some degree of isolation, but they compromise the contractions via the mechanical advantage that the pulley system offers.
And lastly, dumbbells, combine both versatility to help muscle isolation and the forces of gravity pulling on the free weights to aid in increasing mass.
The best way to go when structuring triceps routines is to use 4 exercises, 2 of them done with the elbows over your head, like behind the neck extensions or seated French curls and 2 of them to the front of the elbows or downward, like lying French curls, close grip bench presses, dips, pressbacks or pushdowns.
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The order of execution is not that important and you can switch it up. Ronnie does not abide by the rules saying that you should start the workout with a heavy exercise first and then proceed with assistance exercises later.
Sometimes he starts the workout with an isolation exercise making his muscles accumulate a lot of lactic acid, like a single-arm dumbbell extension and then proceed with dips or close grip bench presses and at another workout he would do the exact opposite.
The main goal is to build up a burning feeling in your muscles with the first exercise and then hold on to the burning sensation with the other exercises. Anyhow, dumbbell exercises, especially the three to follow, are according to him vital for his triceps progress.
1. Dumbbell extension with both arms
This exercise is almost equal in efficiency as the close grip bench press, French curls, both seated and lying and dips when it comes to adding pure muscle mass. It’s a very unique movement in that it allows you to isolate the upper part of the three heads of the triceps and increase their strength and size. Since your arms will be restricted in their range of motion, you won’t be able to cheat.
Do the exercise seated on a bench or if you prefer with the back positioned against an upright bench. Cup one of the ends of the dumbbell with your hands. Raise it above the head at arms’ length. Let the elbows be pointed in a vertical position during the exercise as you are lowering the dumbbell behind the head.
Strive to give the triceps a good stretch at the bottom position, and then raise the dumbbell again to its starting position above your head at arms’ length, while getting a peak contraction. As you begin to get close to muscle failure and cannot get a full contraction, proceed with doing some presses in an explosive manner and ensure you do them every rep with a full range of motion.
Do four sets in a pyramid scheme of ascending and descending reps. Start the first set with 15 reps and try not to go lower than 8 reps.
2. Dumbbell extension with one arm
The execution form and the positioning in this exercise are very similar to the previous exercise but the purpose of it is pretty different. Dumbbell extensions done with both arms are meant to add strength and size in the triceps bellies. This movement, on the other hand, server to build the inner triceps head and isolate it from the other heads in the triceps muscle.
Extend the arm as high as you can and try to reach a good peak contraction at each rep. Do it in a full range of motion too.
Do four sets in a pyramid scheme of ascending and descending reps for each arm. Start the first set with 15 reps and try not to go lower than 10 reps.
3. Dumbbell Kickback
Even though the other popular name for this movement is “kickbacks”, do not under any circumstance try to “kick” the dumbbells. It’s the same as trying to swing the dumbbell by using acceleration. Instead of doing this, bend your waist at around 90 degrees; brace yourself with the free arm on a bench or some other piece of equipment.
With the free hand, grab a dumbbell and try to stabilize that upper arm against your side. Also, keep it pressed into it. With only the elbow bent, pull the dumbbell forward until you reach a full contraction in your arm, and then press it backward until you fully extend it. Try to keep tension whilst pushing and pulling.
Remember to always think in the terms of pulling and pressing, instead of kicking and swinging. Do 4 sets per each arm with 8-12 reps per set. After trying out these 3 exercises you will the benefit that dumbbells can provide to your triceps workout program.
So, let’s summarize:
Dumbbell Extensions with two arms – 4 sets x 8-15 reps. (Pyramid)
Dumbbell Extensions with one arm – 4 sets x 8-15 reps. (Pyramid)
Close Grip Bench Presses – 4 sets x 8-15 reps. (added)
Dumbbell Pressbacks – 4 sets x 8-12 reps.