The “best” exercise to “work” your triceps

Copy of bake bread(18)Why did I put the word “best” and “work” in quotes?  We see these terms used all the time in fitness media. While they may be great for capturing our attention, in reality they distract from how the body is actually designed to work.

Of course we would want to do the “best” of something.  Marketers know that we don’t want to waste time on sub optimal exercises. However they take us away from what is “the best” at the same time.  How?  In exercise science, there is the “principle of individuality” which reminds us that every body is unique.  There is no one “best exercise” for any body.  What is best depends on what you want from exercise and how  your unique body moves.   The word “best” is a great red flag that the information is more marketing than science based.

What does it mean when an exercise is said to “work” a part of your body?  Last time I checked, the body is one part, a unit, not a bunch of parts working independently.  If I want to strengthen my triceps, or any other part of my body I need to consider how it connects to other movements and parts.  Muscles work together with other muscles along with bones, connective tissue and nerves to produce movement.  The word “work” is another great red flag you are being sold on the myth of spot reducing, not the science of how your body functions.

So, let me rephrase that title:  “how to how to improve the function of your triceps”. Yes, you are right, it is just not as catchy!   Fortunately, I am not here to sell you anything.  If you want your arms to function better, use your triceps when extending your arms. Check it out for yourself.  Extend your arms up overhead or out in front of you.  Look at your elbows.  Are they straight?  If so, your triceps did that.  If your elbows are bent, the triceps missed the memo that they are part of that movement.  You can help them function better by thinking about them when you are doing stretching and strength training movements involving reaching.  Your triceps will be more likely to do their job of extending your arm when you are reaching overhead, forward or sideways in daily life.  What happens if your triceps don’t do their job? Then your arm reach is shorter and you need to extend your back to try to reach further.  Those little triceps muscles are more important than you might think.

Let’s give up on finding the best exercises to work parts of the body.  Exercise to help your whole body function better by moving as it was designed.

Keep Moving, Be Well,


Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

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by | October 15, 2018 · 6:16 pm

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