Most athletes need strong triceps for pushing or throwing. The triceps muscle has three heads—hence “tri”—and one of its attachments is on the shoulder blade. We think of the triceps as the muscle that extends the elbow, but it also plays a crucial role in stabilizing the shoulder.
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Of particular focus is the long head of the triceps. You can find this by flexing your triceps and pulling your arm behind your body. The muscle that appears on the upper portion of the back of your arm toward your shoulder is the long head. Strengthening this section of the muscle adds an extra layer of support to the shoulder.
If you’re not careful, triceps exercises can put too much stress on your shoulders. Since athletes put a lot of stress on their shoulders, it makes sense to perform strength exercises that don’t duplicate or add to the stress when training. For instance, you should avoid Dips, because they put stress on the anterior compartment of the shoulder when done incorrectly and repeatedly. As the head of the humerus rotates down, the shoulder blade must tip forward slightly, putting pressure on the sensitive tendons and ligaments in tight areas that need space to pass through.
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For the sake of your season, your future, and even to prevent injury, try these alternatives. And don’t worry about rotating your hand position—it doesn’t change which head of the triceps gets worked.
Tricep Kickbacks can provide variation when done with different pieces of equipment, such as dumbbells, a cable or bands. When the shoulder is set in the retracted, depressed position, they work all of the posterior shoulder stabilizing muscles as well. Mixing up what you use for Kickbacks helps battle the monotony that can set in when you train hard day in and day out. It also provides a different challenge for stabilizing your rotator cuff muscles.
Tricep Extensions are a triceps exercise that can be interpreted in many ways. For the sake of this article, any triceps exercise performed with the elbows even with your shoulders and away from your body at a 90-degree angle is considered an extension. These can be done with one arm for athletes who throw, or with two arms, and with different pieces of equipment such as bands, a cable or suspension trainer.
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By placing your hands under your shoulders and your elbows next to your ribs, you put the triceps in a position to be used more than your chest muscles. It is critical to keep your shoulders retracted, so they don’t tip down as you lower your body to the floor. This compensation is similar to what happens during a Dip, but is easier to correct without losing strength or putting stress on the shoulder.