How Men Over 40 Can Train Their Triceps Safely

Author, fitness model, and trainer Kirk Charles, NASM-CPT CES, knows that as you get older, life can get more complicated. But that shouldn’t prevent you from being on top of your game. He’ll help to answer the tough training questions that come with age so you too can be Fit Beyond 40.

As my clients (and I) approach 60 years of age, sarcopenia (muscle loss) and injury prevention are two big concerns.

Once, when I was much younger, I was joking with one of my uncles about how we was “shrinking” as he got older. He didn’t take too kindly to it and sarcastically responded, “One day you’ll see, smartass!” Now the tables are turning on me. No one wants to lose muscle mass.

Although I’m a personal trainer and I exercise more than the average person, Father Time is undefeated. That said, I can consistently take action with total body and targeted exercises to retain my level of fitness—and even make new gains. But the last thing I want is to suffer an injury, because bouncing back becomes more difficult each year.

My focus is always to look for the most efficient and safest way to get the job done for my older clients and myself. Since all of them want arm definition and upper body strength, one exercise that I ask them to do (and find myself doing more often) is the close-grip pushup, specifically to work the triceps. It’s one exercise that I rarely did years ago, instead opting for triceps dips. However, some of my clients have shoulder issues and others don’t have the strength to do triceps dips. I personally find dips uncomfortable, so close-grip pushups is a great bodyweight option.

The set up for the close-grip pushup is similar to the regular pushup, except for the hand position. Start by going into a plank with your hands stacked directly below your shoulders and your feet shoulder with apart. Squeeze your glutes and core to lock your body into place. Then bring your hands close together on the floor, under your pecs. You might have done diamond pushups before in place of the close-grip variant—stay away from those from now on. Forming the diamond with your thumbs and forefingers touching underneath your chest puts your shoulders in a potentially hazardous spot, an internally rotated position. Avoid that by sticking with the close grip instead.

From the setup position, proceed as you would with a regular pushup. Lower your body toward the floor, and then push upward back the plank position. The key to maximize on the close-grip pushup is to keep your elbows as tight to your body as possible. That turns on your triceps more and your pecs less to complete the pushup, which is exactly what you want from this exercise.

Try sets of 8 to 10 reps of the close-grip pushups to master the form, then bump up the reps as you get stronger. It is a great exercise to mix in with triceps and biceps workouts for variety a couple of times per week.

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