If your goal is big arm muscles then tricep workout routines may seem like the fastest way to achieve your target because the tricep muscle makes up 70 percent of your overall arm size. Triceps workout in conjunction with all your pressing motions such as bench presses, overhead presses, and pushups. The tricep muscles support your chest and shoulders so much in these motions that you typically see bodybuilders incorporating their triceps workout into their chest days.
When talking about tricep workout routines with bodybuilders you can get a whole variety of answers about the best triceps workout, dedicated arm workouts, and building arm muscles. Ask a strength trainer or powerlifter about their tricep workout routines and you typically get the same response, a blank stare.
I almost never workout my arm muscles directly as stand-alone exercises, yet I have good development and decent size (16 inches). The reason is really quite simple. When you are lifting heavy weights with compound movements you are training your arm muscles hard enough without a dedicated triceps workout or biceps workout routine. You have to remember that your body was designed to work as a complete unit not as isolated parts. When I load up a heavy bar for a pressing exercise it is my tricep muscle, shoulder muscles, chest muscles, and a whole variety of stabilizing muscles that get involved to move that weight. Having dedicated tricep workout routines is really redundant and too much for such a small muscle group.
Let's take a look at the different approaches to a triceps workouts in detail.
Here is a typical bodybuilding style tricep workout routine with a goal of muscle hypertrophy (gaining size). The thought process is to start with big lifts where you can use a significant amount of weight to really stress the medial head (large muscle in the middle).
You would do a tricep workout like this once a week and typically stack it with another body part training routine. Depending on what kind of philosophy the body builder is subscribing to this could be stacked with chest (push/pull), or with back (major muscle with opposite minor muscle), or with biceps (arm day). It really doesn't matter as you are still hitting the muscle group once a week with 4 different exercises.
In the lifting heavy sports or strength training styles a dedicate tricep workout doesn't really exist. Strength athletes understand that the tricep muscle plays a supporting role in pressing exercises just like the bicep plays a supporting role in pulling exercises. Working these little muscles individually doesn't really add any value to the workout since the muscles have already been stressed significantly during the main lifts.
From this perspective a standard strength training program hits the arm muscles several times a week. Overhead presses and bench presses work the tricep muscle. Deadlifts and bent rows work the biceps.
Similar to a strength training or powerlifting workout routine a bodyweight training program typically does not contain any direct work for arm muscles either. Tricep muscles are worked during pushups and dips. Biceps are worked during inverted rows and pull-ups.
Why only Bodybuilders?
The above breakdowns may be confusing to some as it seems like every fitness magazine you pick up advocates the use of body part specific training routines and numerous other articles like building big shoulders, sculpting a perfect chest, and so on. To this I am tempted to go on a rant about marketing, the supplement industry, fitness magazines, and all the product promoters but I will restrain myself today and keep it simple.
Think about it like this. What could I sell you if all you needed to achieve the perfect body was some heavy items, motivation to work out, and healthy eating habits? Maybe some heavy items, a cookbook, and a motivation seminar but those don't require monthly purchases of supplements, magazines, food orders, and fitness gadgets do they?
Just give it some thought. There were big strong guys with 20 inch arms long before there was the shake weight, perfect pushup, and P90X.