Good tricep insertions are very important if you're a professional bodybuilder because they can give your physique a distinct advantage on stage. But what exactly does it mean to have bad tricep insertions? A high tricep insertion? A low tricep insertion?
While there is some subjectivity in determining what good tricep insertions actually look like, there are also some general principles that most lifters would agree with. So with that said, this guide will help you to understand what both low and high tricep insertions look like so that you can analyze your own physique.
What does a high tricep insertion look like?
So, what exactly does a high tricep insertion look like? In the simplest possible sense of the term, a high tricep insertion refers to a tricep muscle that inserts higher up on the arm, which is to say further away from the elbow.
Now, since the triceps brachii is a three-headed muscle, you can, theoretically, have different insertions for each head. The lateral head, for example, typically inserts much lower than the long head.
If the long head of your triceps inserts high up on your arm, then your triceps might look thinner from certain angles. The trade-off is that your long head would look more bunched up and perhaps even a bit bigger when flexed.
With the lateral head, it's very rare that people have truly terrible insertions. If you have even a somewhat low body fat level, then it's likely that the lateral head of your triceps will insert quite far down on your arm.
If your triceps aren't growing (which could make you think that your insertions are bad), then make sure to focus on the long head seeing as it makes up around two-thirds of your triceps size.
What does a low tricep insertion look like?
So, what does a low tricep insertion look like? A low tricep insertion refers to a triceps muscle (or a head of the triceps brachii) that inserts low down on the upper arm close to the elbow.
As mentioned, the lateral (outer) head of the triceps inserts much closer to the elbow than the long head. Yet, it makes up less of your overall tricep mass.
For this reason, the insertion of the long head is most important. After all, it’s well-known that longer muscle bellies (i.e., a long tricep insertion) have more growth potential than shorter muscle bellies (a short tricep insertion).
If the medial head of your triceps is developed, then it can, to an extent, compensate for bad triceps insertions. However, if you want really full-looking triceps without having the biggest triceps ever, then you need a low triceps insertion.
Can you fix bad tricep insertions?
While you can't physically alter the insertion of your muscles, you can always make your triceps look bigger and better by training all three heads.
With enough muscle mass, nobody will notice that you have long triceps or short triceps; they'll just notice that you have big triceps.
Additionally, when you lower your body fat level, you might be surprised to see that your tricep muscle bellies (especially the lateral head) insert quite a bit lower than you initially thought.
On the other hand, you might think that you have high tricep insertions when, in fact, your triceps just lack muscle mass. This is one reason why novice lifters shouldn't worry about muscle insertions; they don't yet have enough size to make good or bad tricep insertions noticeable or relevant.
There are, of course, much worse physique problems than simply having short triceps (e.g., if your right tricep is bigger than your left tricep).
What are some examples of high tricep insertions?
After doing my research, I came across a few names of notable bodybuilders who supposedly have high tricep insertions. This section will analyze their tricep development to figure out if they really do have a long or short tricep insertion.
I've heard people say that Marc Lobliner has bad triceps insertions, which was news to me. Like many bodybuilders, Marc has so much mass that you don't really notice his muscle insertions unless you scrutinize his physique. You just think, "oh, he's really big and shredded."
That said, after looking at a few pictures of Marc Lobliner's triceps, I would agree that the long head of his tris inserts quite high up on his arm, which isn't ideal for having really full looking triceps. On the other hand, the lateral head of his triceps inserts very low indeed, which really makes his triceps pop from the side.
Of course, when your chest, shoulders, and back muscles are as developed as Marc's, it's always going to be a struggle to build triceps that stand out. Still, Marc Lobliner is a good example of someone who has pretty high tricep insertions.
Former IFBB Pro bodybuilder Markus Ruhl was known for being an absolute mass monster. But many people say that he had a high triceps insertion.
I've looked at pictures of his side triceps pose, and his tricep insertions look fairly normal—I certainly wouldn't call them high.
However, Markus has biceps and shoulders that are so huge that I can see why people might think that his triceps were a weak point. But in terms of overall mass, it's hard to make the case that his triceps were anything less than impressive—especially the lateral head of his triceps—which looked wider than average.
Chris Dickerson is yet another name that's associated with high tricep insertions. In some photos, Dickerson's triceps looked a bit higher than normal, whereas, in other pictures, they looked completely normal.
This difference just shows how important the angle is when viewing a muscle. It's hard to compare insertions when you're looking at a muscle from different angles. Indeed, even in a side triceps pose, tilting your body a certain way can still make your triceps insertions look higher or lower than they really are.
Also, Chris Dickerson definitely had very impressive triceps as a whole. I'd say that they were better than his biceps.
The verdict: Should you be concerned about having long or short triceps?
Having good muscle insertions can definitely enhance your physique. But "good insertions" are somewhat subjective, although perhaps to a lesser extent with the triceps.
If you have low tricep insertions, then your triceps will naturally look bigger and fuller—given the same amount of muscle mass—than those of someone with very high tricep insertions.
Of course, with enough triceps mass, few people will notice that you have good or bad tricep insertions because they'll just see that your triceps are big. The only people who pay attention to the shape of a muscle are bodybuilding competitors and judges. The average person in the gym definitely won't be looking at your tricep insertions.
- Barco, R., Sánchez, P., Morrey, M. E., Morrey, B. F., & Sánchez-Sotelo, J. (2017). The distal triceps tendon insertional anatomy—implications for surgery. JSES Open Access, 1(2), 98–103. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jses.2017.05.002
- Ruhl, M. (2014, February 4). Markusaurus! Muscle & Fitness. https://www.muscleandfitness.com/flexonline/training/markusaurus/