There aren't many that haven't heard of the two major arm muscle groups: the triceps and the biceps. Working both in contrast and in tandem, these two muscle groups make the motion in your arms a reality, when curling your biceps contract and your triceps relax, and the opposite is true when returning your arm to a straight position. While this may seem like common knowledge, both the biceps and the triceps contain a "long head" or major isolated muscle within the arm structure that is responsible for most of your strength and movement.
In this article, we'll go over why training the long head areas in your arms is extremely beneficial and could be the one thing holding you back from maximizing your gains. We'll also go over the best exercise to target both muscles.
The long head is the primary muscle group found in both the biceps and the triceps. In the triceps specifically, the long head makes up about 60% of the muscle mass in the back of the arm, while the long head of the biceps makes up the majority at the front of the arm. Exercises should often focus on these muscle groups as they will benefit the most from increased weight training - while the other two minor muscles of both the biceps and the triceps are trained as auxiliary muscles for the workout. This will provide three major benefits:
Often only considered for cosmetic purposes, symmetry is one of the leading causes of training major muscle groups. While it may seem like a good idea to specifically isolate certain stabilizing muscles, in reality, this is not really beneficial unless it is to recover from pain, injury or muscle atrophy in that specific area. Working out your major muscle group is enough to isolate it, as it will take other auxiliary muscles from your arm to complete the workout or movement in a proper ratio.
Of course, symmetry is also beneficial for appearance and cosmetic purposes. It would be quite comical to see someone that has extremely large biceps, but has not worked their long head triceps in a long time. It would also cause a disproportionate weight adjustment, which could increase injury during workout or daily tasks.
Training the major muscles in the connected muscles, tensions and joint groups is the best use of your time when performing an exercise, as it maximizes the potential of increased functional strength. Properly developing the long head of your triceps would give you a drastic increase in push strength, and increasing the strength in your long head biceps would have enormous positive results on the amount you can pull. This helps to perform more complicated compound movements, and increases your effectiveness in labour-demanding careers or tasks.
The largest unseen benefit that often receives little to no attention is its importance to stability. While we only often think of stabilizing muscles as the smaller, auxiliary muscles that help during a workout, large muscles play a vital role in not just executing movements, but strengthening and supporting the health of our joints. Joints are extremely fragile while having such a vital role in our body, as without them, we can never bend or move any muscle. The long head of the triceps mostly supports the shoulder, and the long head of the biceps supports the elbow. In reality, both muscle groups help to support, directly or indirectly, the movement and range of motion that comes with both joints.
Incline Dumbbell Curls: The absolute best way to specifically train and target the long head of the bicep includes 2 minimal, but extremely important, variations to the curl: increased range of motion, and a close grip. The closer grip helps to target the long head, while the increased range of motion works out the entire muscle and helps to strengthen the auxiliaries that support it. Start by grabbing a heavy pair of dumbbells (aim for 5 reps per set) and sitting on an upright bench. Adjust the angle from 90 degrees to about a 50 degree angle. Hang your arms down once ready, and exhale when doing your curling motion with both dumbbells. At the height of your curl, rotate your forearms so that your palms face slightly outward. Inhale and return your hands slowly to the resting position.
Close grip pushups: One of the best triceps exercises can be done even in the comfort of your own home, or even while out for a jog. When setting up your push-up position, bring your arms close together so that they form a "triangle" or "diamond shape" with your thumb and forefingers together. Press down and up as usual, and you should feel your triceps and the top of your pectoral muscle engaged heavily. Aim to do 3 sets of 25 throughout the day, or until failure.
Can triceps and biceps be worked together?
Because they are contrasting muscles, triceps and biceps should be trained together every day to maintain a similar muscle mass, unless there is an injury or atrophy in one respective group. This is usually done by way of supersetting, or alternating the workouts quickly. There are no effective exercises that work both muscle groups simultaneously - when one contracts, the other relaxes.
Can triceps and biceps be trained every day?
Yes. Both triceps and biceps are fast twitch muscles, meaning they recover quickly and are safe to train every day at a regular weight. However, if you are conducting a strength training routine and looking to max out, or even perform personal records, your muscles may not have enough time to recover in a 24 hour period and could further damage the ligaments. In this case, alternate days.
Are triceps more important than biceps?
While it is true that a more developed triceps would contribute to a larger looking arm than the biceps counterpart (as the triceps is a bigger muscle), both are equally important and must be maintained around the same appearance. This is not only good for symmetry and appearance, but also for strength, coordination and stability.