Matt Mendenhall is already known as one of the best amateurs in the annals of bodybuilding, as well as having the extraordinary calf bump, as documented in our Matt Mendenhall Calves episode. But Mendenhall is also known for perhaps having the best front triceps pose ever. There are a few great back triceps shots, plenty of great side triceps images, but the field severely narrows when the criteria is displaying triceps, especially the long heads, both at the same time, striated, no less, from the front. Mendenhall may be the only bodybuilder who ever turned a variation of the front most muscular pose into such a distinct triceps pose.
Mendenhall came on the scene in 1982 when striated triceps, while definitely not unheard of, were still a bit of a novelty, especially when seen on the long head of the triceps, in a front facing pose. Mendenhall’s long head was inserted low, closer to his elbow. In this shot of Ronnie Coleman, the long head appears to be inserted higher up. The same can be seen in this shot of Franco Columbu. You can see in this photo of Mendenhall that the long head doesn’t arc back in, higher up, but continues further downward towards the elbow.
The long head of the triceps doesn’t appear to be dramatically arcing off bone because his tendons are bowing out so much that the underlying bone structure isn’t discerned. In this pre-nineteen 75 photo of Arnold, you can see a look similar to Mendenhall, muscle juxtaposed with underlying structure. Notice the straight line, separating tendon and muscle, running vertically down the humerus, and the countering arc of the long head. Here is the same effect with different lighting. Another example of muscle more clearly separated from bone structure is this 1980 outdoor shot of Arnold. On his right arm, you can see his brachialis follow the direction of his humerus down the center of his upper arm as it serves as a dividing line between the enormous biceps mass and the triceps mass bowing out below. This look is something that is lost when bodybuilders take the kinds of PEDs that swell everything up like a Belgian Blue cow.
Higher bodyfat levels obviously blur this type of separation effect seen on Arnold’s arm but so do certain P.E.D.s Look at the low fat, yet bloated appearing faces seen more often today versus the chiseled faces from years ago. That low fat, yet fat-like appearance doesn’t end at the face. It strips the clarity of some of the underlying structure on the body like it does on the face. Separation can refer to muscles being distinct from other muscles but muscle distinct from the underlying bone structure as well.
It’s important aesthetically to have a strong semblance of bone structure visible through the muscle and to have joints small enough to contrast between heavily muscled areas. In addition to the triceps arcing off bone look, Mendenhall also shared with Arnold the small knee joint and flaring calves look, and took it a step further with smaller ankle joints. Here’s another example of underlying structure sharply contrasting with the muscle that bows off it. You can visualize a thinner arm but then you have this giant mass of triceps attached to it.
There are photos of other bodybuilders hitting this pose but none displaying the inner head of the triceps quite like Mendenhall. The combination of low, long head of the triceps insertions, the striations, the muscle arcing off the bone look, and the ability to pose the arms in a front pose in such a way that a version of the most muscular becomes a triceps pose, makes this Matt Mendenhall version unique.