The question: I want the back of my arms to be stronger and more toned. Twice a week at the gym I do triceps press-downs on the cable machine and lift a weight back behind my head. What else can I do?
The answer: Ah, yes, the back of the arm. The bane of so many of our existences! The exercises you are doing are both great, but unfortunately, the annoying truth is that over time, even great exercises become less effective, and not to mention boring.
The good news is now that you have established a training base, the real fun can begin. If you love your current exercises, simply modify your reps, sets or tempo (lifting speed). Instead of two sets of each exercise, do three. Or instead of aiming for 15 repetitions, use heavier weights and aim for 10 to 12 repetitions. Or change up your tempo: Go slower or add pauses throughout the exercises.
Alternatively, you can try totally different triceps exercises:
Plank with triceps kickback: Start in a plank position, hands under shoulders. Don't arch or round your back. Holding a weight in your right hand, glue your right elbow into your right hip, then keep your hips level as you use your triceps to straighten and bend your right arm. Then switch sides.
Alternating shoulder-elbow press: Place your stomach on a stability ball, feet against a wall. Hold a weight in each hand, elbows bent and glued into your sides. Straighten your right arm backward so that the weight moves toward your feet. Simultaneously press your left arm by your ear. Return both elbows to their starting position. Repeat 10 times. Then, switch sides.
Lastly, keep in mind that doing triceps exercises are only one small piece of the puzzle. Pay attention to your nutrition and improve your overall metabolism by doing full-body strength-training exercises like squats and interval cardio workouts.
Trainer's tip: Before you add anything fancy to your program, make sure you have mastered the basics. Make sure your form is perfect and that your program is balanced. For example, for every triceps exercise you do, you should also do a biceps exercise.
Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.