After we covered most muscles of the front and rear upper body, it’s time address one, if not the most moonstruck muscle.
Well, yes I am not talking about massive calves, even though plenty of guys would kill to grow their calves.
Obviously, I am referring to the arms, more precisely the triceps since I already dug into the biceps in the last article.
If you’re not yet familiar with what volume is, how it affects muscle growth and what you should know about it, check out our complete guide about the optimal volume for hypertrophy.
First off, what can you expect from this volume article series?
Basically, based on D.r Mike Israetel’s knowledge and the experience that we gained throughout our journey while working with various clients and people, we want to clarify the parameters that truly matter for muscle hypertrophy.
So without further ado, let’s don’t waste any time and dive right in.
Who does not like to feel that stretch on you t-shirts sleeves?
When I think back, this was one of the major reasons why I started working out in the first place. I mean it can look a bit silly when only 1/3 of your t-shirt’s sleeves are filled…
Actually, that is also one popular stereotype towards bodybuilding. Simply shifting the whole attention towards arms and chest.
But does a big biceps make your arm look huge?
You might already predict the answer, no not necessarily.
But again as it applies to most things, this varies individually as everyone’s arms are composed differently by their genetic.
In general, we can say that the triceps take up 2/3 of our arms and accordingly the highly praised biceps contributes only 1/3 to your arm size.
On that note, the next two articles will cover everything you need to know about the optimal biceps and triceps volume.
Because of the fact that the triceps take up twice as much size as the biceps, this article will take a closer look at the optimal triceps volume, to give you all the required knowledge to size up your arms;)
MV – Maintenance Volume
Why is it important to know your Maintenance Volume?
Imagine you have to fall back from exercising for some time.
Well, you don’t want to lose your hard earned gains, do you?
Similarly when training close to failure in between your MAV and MRV, or even above your MRV, it is for sure a good thing to lower your volume every so often.
This help to desensitize your body while resetting for new stimuli.
For that reason, it is crucial to know where your MV lies to ensure muscle maintenance as well as sticking to the designated volume in the “deload phase”.
How much volume do you need to maintain your current triceps size?
MV: 0-4 sets / week
Some of you might be confused right now, how can 0 sets/week maintain the triceps?
This is because we’re talking about direct working sets for your triceps (e.g. isolation exercises). Most programs include heavy pressing exercises like bench press or military press. Both demand your triceps tremendously.
Therefore, the triceps requires a relatively small volume to maintain its current size. Nevertheless, don’t forget that these are only benchmarks and not fixed values!
Some of you don’t need any isolation work for your triceps, because your program includes a lot of heavy pushing exercises. others might need up to 4 sets of additional isolation work.
This applies to every other muscle, it is very individual how much volume you need for your certain goals.
Everybody is unique and has their own individual differences as well as most programs.
MEV – Minimum Effective Volume
Why is it important to know your Minimum Effective Volume?
To put it simply, as well as it is important to know how much volume your triceps need to keep its current size, it is at least of similar importance to know how much volume is required to grow your triceps.
So, where lies the MEV for the optimal triceps volume?
MEV: 2-6 sets / week
For most folks, 2-6 sets/week seems to be sufficient to stimulate some growth.
Again, here applies the same as for the MV value. If your program includes a lot of heavy pushing exercises (bench press, military press…) accordingly you don’t need to do infinite isolation work for your triceps.
Therefore, the heavier exercises you’re program includes the less additional isolation work is compulsory for your triceps to grow.
MAV – Maximum Adaptive Volume
Why is it important to know your Maximum Adaptive Volume?
Do you want to train all the time with only some sort of effectiveness instead of the maximum effect?
Exactly, I doubt that!
In order to get the best possible gains, we need to put more effort into our workout and increase the volume consistently.
For that reason, it is important to know where your MAV lies to maximize your muscle growth.
MAV: 10-14 sets / week
For most folks, a volume of 10-14 sets/week tends to be appropriate.
Like I already mentioned earlier, it correlates with how many compound push exercises your current program provides.
However, in general, it is very likely that you’ll make progress with around 10-14 sets/week of direct triceps work.
MRV – Maximum Recoverable Volume
Sooner or later in your mesocycle program, you’ll get to a point where your performance starts to stagnate or even decrease. This is an indication that you probably overreached your MRV.
What are other symptoms for overreaching in exercise? Check out the linked article that I wrote!
What does that mean?
The MRV refers to the maximum volume which we can keep up when all parameters (sleep, nutrition, and technique) are optimized.
In other words, the maximum amount of work that you can sustain before strength and performance might begin to decrease.
Why is it important to know your Maximum Recoverable Volume?
Pretty obvious, isn’t it?
Nobody wants to take a forced break as a result of excessive training. Therefore, it is very essential to know where your MRV lies to maintain a fresh and recovered body.
Thus, what is a good volume that is still recoverable?
12 – 18 sets / week
The MRV benchmark can be put somewhere between 12-18 sets/week. That should be recoverable for most individuals.
If you’re training 2-3 times per week, this would result in around 6-9 sets of additional triceps work, which is quite a lot!
Regarding the fact that the triceps is composed of three small muscles, you don’t need tons of isolation work.
Therefore, I recommend to start your mesocycle with a moderate volume and increase over the ongoing weeks. This makes it easier to assess your own personal volume landmarks (MV, MEV, MAC, MAV, MRV).
How often should we exercise for the optimal triceps volume?
Basically, we would recommend a frequency of 2-4 workouts/week that target the triceps.
Since smaller muscles have difficulties with heavy damage, it probably couldn’t fully recover from 5-6 triceps workouts each week.
To sum up, 2-4 workouts/week is for most individuals adequate.
A lower frequency is appropriate for people who have a big triceps which needs a longer period of time to fully recover.
The triceps is composed of a high percentage of fast-twitching muscle fibers.
Therefore, training triceps heavily works well, BUT because that is in most cases already taken over by exercises like bench press or military press, you don’t need heavy isolation work.
Accordingly, a rep range between 8-20 is most likely to result in efficient growth.
But as always, the optimal triceps volume varies individually.
Some people benefit from a lower rep range with 8+ and others even need 15-20 reps.
Whereby 20 reps is probably too light to stimulate any growth in your triceps at all in the long run.
Of course, can you implement higher rep ranges every so often to increase the variety and stimulate new incentives, but for the majority of your workouts, you should stay around 8-12 reps.
Conclusively, I would recommend you to stay somewhere around 8-12 reps on average because this tends to be the area where most of the growth happens.
Tricep workout – Exercises
Now, we’ll take a look at the triceps and the way how we can and should train it.
The triceps consists of three different ‘heads’; the long head, the medial head, and the lateral head.
- The long head particularly works well with exercises where the elbows are positioned in front of the body or above the head.
Exercises like that would be french press or any variation of overhead extensions.
- The lateral head benefits from exercises where the arms are positioned close to the body.
For example, pushdowns with a V grip pole.
- The medial head is the smallest of the three.
Especially exercises with an underhand grip trigger the medial head to grow!
In general, variations of the following exercises are great to exercise your triceps:
- OH (overhead) Extensions
- Pushdowns (underhand/overhand grip)
Range of motion
The triceps really benefits from a maximum range of motion. When you go all the way down to reach for maximum stretch, you a) get a crazy pump and b) activate as much muscles fibers as possible.
As a rule of thumb, in almost every exercise it is advisable to use the full range of motion.
In fact, it gets more exhausting and you cannot use as much weight as before, but trust me, its worth it!
Your muscles will benefit from higher muscle activation and a better pump.
When it comes to compiling the optimal triceps volume, you shouldn’t implement more than 2-4 exercises for your current mesocycle.
Why not though?
Well, there is no scientific reason behind it, more or less common sense.
If you switch your triceps exercises every workout/week, you will run out of variation quickly.
Therefore, I recommend to choose 2-4 exercises and stick with for 1-3 month. Every 2-3 mesocycles you then replace some exercises to increase the variety and get new incentives for your muscles to grow.
This will benefit you in two ways.
On the one hand, you can focus on a limited number of exercises and maximize your improvement. On the other hand, you still have a lot of variation left to implement in your next mesocycle.
Furthermore, another interesting thing to do would be emphasizing the different triceps heads cyclically.
What do I mean with that?
For example, spend a couple of mesocycles prioritizing one of the three heads (e.g. the long head with mainly overhead extensions) and keep the other two on a relatively low volume.
After a certain period of time, you switch the focus to a different head and so forth.
As a result, every “tricep head” will be prioritized to achieve the best progression.
Let’s briefly summarize the take-home keynotes for the optimal triceps volume!
The triceps consists of three different heads; the long, medial and lateral head.
You should definitely target every single head in order to fully develop your triceps!
Basically, we can identify three main motions: overhead extensions, pushdowns, and pressing/pushing movements. Your triceps will benefit from a good balance.
Range of motion
Same as always, leave your ego in front of the gym and use the full range of motion!
This will a) activate as many muscles fibers as possible and b) maximizes your pump.
In this section, we will give you some impressions on how to increase the variety and fun for the optimal triceps volume.
- Supersets: heavy compound exercise + isolation exercise or vice versa
A good technique to save time during your workout as well as for a great pump.
Means, any isolation exercise combined with a compound movement.
Check my article about supersets for further information!
Some really awesome supersets combos are;
Skull crushers + Close grip bench press
Overhead extensions + Shoulder press
Cable pushdown + Close grip push ups.
- Drop sets:
Choose a certain weight and go until failure, then you reduce the weight and again go until failure. Reduce another time and so on until your done.
This is a great way to finish your workout.
For example, if you’re training in a push/pull/leg split, on push day after you already did chest and shoulders, as your last triceps exercises you could do pushdowns and reduce the weights until complete failure.
Any further question? I recommend to check out a separate article about drop sets that goes way more in-depth.
- Giant sets:
Set yourself a certain number of total reps, then you perform as many sets to reach this certain number of reps.
For example, let’s say you want to do 100 pushdowns. In the first set, you do 20 reps, second 17, third 15 and so on.
Now, follow that pattern with as many sets as required to hit 100 reps.
Special shout-out to Dr. Mike Israetel, we really value his knowledge and the content that he shares with you guys on his YT channel and his blog.
Definitely check out his video about triceps volume!
I hope you enjoyed this article about the optimal triceps volume.
If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.
We’re pleased to answer your questions!
You can also reach us through our social media channels which are linked at the bottom, definitely check it out!
After I talked for quite a long time, now it’s your turn!
What is your favorite triceps exercise and how often do you train your triceps per week?