Banishing Batwings & Transforming Triceps
Ever wanted to wave goodbye to that back-of-the-arm flab that plagues so many women? That pesky little area (known as the tricep) that seems to taunt you with its evil jiggle every time you move? You’ve signed up for a program called “ReShape,” and chances are good you’d like to ReShape the back of the arm immediately!
Well, here’s the bad news: There is no such thing as spot reducing. Losing weight doesn’t work like a magic wand; simply making your so-called “trouble spots” disappear. And now for the good news: With a little hard work, you can transform your triceps from bothersome batwings to amazing arms. Here’s how:
Three Heads Are Better Than One
When it comes to arm muscles, the biceps (on the front of the arm) seem to get all the glory. But the fact is that your triceps comprise two-thirds of your arm – so it is, of course, important to train them properly. And in order to do that, we’ve got to understand them.
Let’s start off with a quick anatomy lesson. The back-of-the-arm muscle is known scientifically as the “triceps brachii muscle” – Latin for “three-headed arm muscle” – because the tricep is actually composed of three “heads” of varying length and size. These three heads (long, lateral and medial) run from the scapula to the ulna (or forearm bone). Their primary function is to extend the elbow, but they also play an important role in a variety of other functions, especially those that require fixating the elbow while the hand performs a smaller movement (like writing with a pencil).
The long head of the triceps is the largest and runs along the bottom side of the humerus (from the shoulder to the elbow). The lateral head is found on the outer side of the humerus, and the medial head is found on the inline of the body, mostly tucked under the other two heads. So when you’re performing a triceps exercise, you can target one or all of the heads, depending on your positioning and form. So the goal, of course, should be to target ALL THREE heads of the tricep. That’s the key to getting more bang for your batwing banishing buck.
All The Right Moves
So just what are the best exercises to train the triceps? The good people at the American Council on Exercise (ACE) sponsored a study with the University of Wisconsin’s La Crosse Exercise & Health Program to determine which of the most common tricep exercises are the most effective. Researchers worked with 15 female subjects, applying electomyographic (MEG) electrodes to the lateral and long heads of their triceps to monitor muscle fiber activity during each exercise.
The clear winner of the study was the triangle pushup, with dips and kickbacks tied for a close second place. These results are actually pretty exciting, because as it turns out, the three most effective tricep exercises can all be done from the comfort of your home. That means no fancy equipment required, which, of course, means there really are no excuses.
Try It Now
The Triangle Pushup is just what it sounds like. Lying facedown on a mat, place your hands underneath you. In a traditional pushup position, you’d put the hands underneath the shoulders – but with this move, you’re going to put your hands into a triangle position, with the thumbs and index fingers touching. This helps shift the focus away from your chest and shoulders, making it more challenging for the triceps. And remember, you can always modify the exercise by resting your weight on your knees instead of using a full plank position.
To do Dips at home, just find a ledge or sturdy chair, and start by just sitting with your hands placed on the sides of your hips, right on the edge. Now scoot your butt off the bench, keeping your hands where they are, and lower your hips toward the floor until the arms form a 90-degree angle. And now push back up.
Kickbacks seem simple enough, but are often done incorrectly because it’s easy to “cheat,” using momentum to perform the movement instead of properly engaging the tricep muscle. Take a split-stance position on a bench, with your right knee and right hand on the bench. Stand with the left foot planted on the floor, and hold a dumbbell in the left hand (or, when you’re starting out, even a soup can will do). Hold the left upper arm parallel to your torso, with the elbow bent 90 degrees. Slowly extend the elbow, using the triceps to drive the weight back behind you.