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Many people tend to focus on the biceps when they’re looking to add muscle size and strength. However, the triceps muscles are equally as important to focus on so you can build a balanced physique across your upper body. The triceps form about two-thirds of the muscle mass in your upper arm and are crucial to your arm’s mobility and strength, with the main aim being to
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An effective triceps workout should be essential to your exercise routine for overall muscle growth to your upper body. To build strength, it’s crucial to prioritize these muscles and work them at the beginning of your upper-body exercise workouts. In this article we discover the best tricep exercises for strength
What Are Tricep Muscles?
The triceps refer to the three-headed muscle residing at the back of your upper arms, and this muscle group sits behind your biceps, which are muscles at the front of your upper arms. The tricep muscle comprises three heads, the long head of the triceps, the medial head, and the lateral head, and collectively these muscles form the entire posterior region of the upper arm.
The triceps, also known as the triceps brachii, crosses at the shoulder joint and the elbow joint making it a bi-articular muscle. The triceps are crucial to your arm movements and are responsible for arm extension. In comparison, the biceps aid with arm flexion. Therefore, these two muscles work synergistically to support arm mobility.
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Besides the role of the triceps in elongating the forearm at the elbow, they also play a significant role in extending and adducting the arm at the shoulder joint, aiding shoulder joint stability. Furthermore, besides supporting these joints, the triceps are essential to carrying out simple daily activities like maintaining a sitting posture and even holding a pen.
Exercises that specifically target the biceps will not likely have much effect on the triceps. Therefore, it’s essential to carry out tricep exercises to build strength to your overall arm. There are several exercises effective for targeting your triceps, these include overhead extensions and triceps kickbacks.
This article suggests the ten best exercises to strengthen your triceps muscles.
Best Tricep Exercises For Strength & Muscle
Simple Tricep Dips
Tricep dips are a great way to work your triceps and in terms of equipment, all you need is a chair or bench. If you suffer from any shoulder problems, this exercise should be avoided.
How to Perform Tricep Dips
- Begin by sitting on the edge of a bench.
- Lift yourself forward and off the bench, supporting your weight with your hands which should be on the edge of the bench
- Keep your legs out in front with them slightly bent and resting on your heels. This is your starting position.
- Lower your body away from the bench and toward the floor until your arms get to an approximate 90° angle.
- Push your body back up to the starting position.
- Repeat for about 2 to 4 sets of 10 or more reps.
Advanced Tricep Dips
This tricep exercise involves you lifting your entire body weight. To perform advanced tricep dips, you would need a set of parallel bars which attach to a power rack or access to a freestanding tricep dip machine. Some tricep dip machines do offer support making the exercise less challenging.
How to Perform Advanced Tricep Dips
- Take hold of the bars and suspend your body, keeping your chest and head up. Don’t be tempted to lean forward as this can put the weight load onto the chest as opposed to the triceps.
- Your leg should now be suspended in mid-air.
- Cross your legs at your ankles to provide stability to your lower body.
- Keeping your elbows tucked in, inhale and lower your body until your upper arm is parallel to the floor. Your shoulder should be on the same level as your elbows or slightly lower.
- Exhale and push yourself back up to the the starting position and then repeat.
Overhead Tricep Extensions
These kinds of resistance exercises help to strengthen the arms and build muscle. There are a few variations of this depending on how you are positioned while performing it.
The standing and seated overhead tricep extensions are two of the most common ways to execute this movement. To perform it, all you need is a dumbbell.
How To Perform a Standing Overhead Tricep Extension
- Sit on a chair or stand with your feet around shoulder width apart. Ensure that your weight is evenly distributed and your core is engaged.
- Extend your arms upward, lifting the dumbbell directly overhead. Hold the dumbbell at one end using both hands.
- Keeping your elbows locked in, bend your arms backward until your elbows are at a right angle or narrower. Be sure not to not arch your back.
- You should feel a stretch along the triceps.
- Straighten your arms back up and overhead while exhaling and repeat this movement for about two sets of 10-15 reps.
Also, be sure to complete the exercise with full range of motion (your elbows must get to a 90-degree angle). If you find it hard to do so, reduce the weight you’re lifting. You can also consider using resistance bands for this exercise.
Close Grip Bench Press
Also called tricep bench press, this strength exercise targets the triceps, chest, and shoulders. You will need a bench and a barbell to perform a close-grip bench press.
The primary difference between close grip bench press and a regular bench press is that you have to hold the barbell with a narrower grip, as its name suggests. A narrow grip ensures much of the tensions remains on the triceps throughout.
How To Perform Close Grip Bench Press
- Start by racking a barbell at the most suitable height on a squat rack, bench press bench or power rack. A bench should be placed in between the rack and when you lie back you should be able to reach up and comfortably unrack the bar without over stretching.
- Lie back on the bench with your feet flat on the floor. You head should be located directly underneath the barbell.
- Unrack the bar from the rack and hold it straight overhead with your arms locked.
- Take a deep breath and lower the bar slowly towards your chest. Keep your elbows tucked to your side and wrists straight.
- When the barbell reaches your upper abdomen, exhale and push the bar back up to the starting position.
- Perform two to three sets for 10 to 15 reps.
The tricep bench press produces immense strength gains in a short time and is easier to perform than most other compound tricep exercises. Not only will notice an increase in strength, you’ll quickly add muscle mass with this movement.
Lying Triceps Extension (Skullcrushers)
This is a great exercise to effectively overload the triceps, helping to increase muscle mass.
There are a few different variations and you can choose to use either a dumbbell, kettlebell or an EZ curl bar for this movement. This can be done lying on the floor but it’s important to note that your range of motion will be reduced when compared to performing it on a flat bench.
How To Perform Lying Tricep Extensions
- Take hold of your chosen weight and lie back on a flat bench or on the ground.
- Start with your arms perpendicular over your chest. This is your starting position.
- Lower the weight to your forehead (hence the name skullcrusher) by only bending at the elbows.
- From here extend back up to the starting position, keep tension on the triceps throughout.
- Repeat two to three times for 10 to 15 reps.
Performing this exercise with the EZ curl bar is a ideal if you have weak wrists. This is because the bar allows you to hold the weight with a slightly pronated grip, taking stress away from the wrists. A further advantage of using this bar, is that it increases weight load to the lateral head of the triceps.
When your arms are extended above you, you’ll find that the weight load is taken away from the triceps. If you want to make this exercise more challenging you can do this by altering your starting position.
Instead of the arms beginning straight up above you, keeping your arms straight, lower the weight back behind your head slightly. This will be your new starting position. From here, when you bend at the elbows, the weight will drop further behind your head as opposed to the forehead.
To do tricep Kickbacks, you need a pair of dumbbells or cables. This exercise effectively works the triceps and activates nearly 88% of the muscles.
How To Perform Tricep Kickbacks with Dumbbells
- Stand upright with feet shoulder width apart, bend your knees forward slightly whilst holding a dumbbell in each hand and by your sides, your arms should be bent to around 90 degrees.
- Hinge your upper body forward by the waist until your torso is almost parallel to the floor.
- Keep your core engaged and maintain a neutral spine.
- Bending just at the elbows, extend your forearms back and away from you.
- Hold this position for a few seconds, then inhale and return the dumbbells to the starting position.
- Repeat two to three times for 10 to 15 reps.
How To Perform Tricep Kickbacks with Cables
- Set the pulley to its lowest setting on a cable machine, attach a rope attachment and choose your weight.
- Bend forward slighty and ensure your torso is almost at a 90° angle at your waist.
- Take hold of the rope attachment with one hand and rest your other hand on either the machine of your thigh to provide support.
- Keeping your arm parallel to the floor, extend the forearm back bending just at the elbow.
- Hold the final position briefly and release the cable slowly, returning your arm to the starting position.
- Repeat for two to four sets of 8 to 15 reps
Narrow Chest Press
Whilst this is a chest exercise, it also offers great activation of the tricep muscles. All you need is a pair of dumbbells and a bench. If you don’t have access to a bench you can also perform this one lying on the floor.
How To Perform Narrow Chest Press
- Lie back on the floor or bench. If you’re doing this on the floor, keep your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
- With a dumbbell in each hand, raise your arms above your body, straightening your arms with your palms facing each other (a neutral grip).
- Bring the dumbbells together so that they are touching. This is your starting position.
- Lower the weights slowly towards your chest, making sure to keep your elbows tucked in throughout.
- Once the weights are at chest level, slowly press back up to the start.
The JM Press is a hybrid of the close grip bench press and tricep extension. The exercise motion was created by JM Blakely, a popular powerlifter, and is now a common strength training exercise for powerlifters.
How To Perform the JM Press
- Set up as you would for a close-grip bench press. The barbell should be just above your forehead, and your feet should be placed firmly on the floor.
- Unrack the barbell with a close grip.
- Keeping your elbows forward, slowly lower the weight down towards your chin.
- Be sure to keep your elbows pointing forward at all times.
- Once at the bottom, press back up to the starting position.
Unlike regular push-ups, how your hands are placed during a diamond push-up will allow you to target the triceps. These push-ups are challenging and require some upper body strength to perform as this move activates your triceps brachii more than regular push-ups.
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Like regular push-ups, you can start this exercise on your knees until you are comfortable doing it on your toes.
How To Perform Diamond Push-ups
- Get into a basic push-up or plank position.
- Place your hands close together on the floor below your chest, making a diamond shape with your thumbs and index fingers. Making the diamond shape is not compulsory as long as your hands are close together.
- Keep your core and glutes tight, and engage your back with your spine straight.
- Lower your entire body until you touch the ground. If you cannot get that low, simply go as low as you can
- When you get to the lowest point, ensure your elbows are close to your sides.
- Push back up and repeat the set for 10 to 15 reps.
Tricep Rope Pushdown
You can use a cable pulley or resistance bands to perform this exercise. This exercise will help you isolate the triceps and target them. If you don’t have a cable pulley, simply attach a resistance band to a high point, and knot the band halfway down so that you can take hold of each end.
How To Perform a Tricep Rope Pushdown
- If using a pulley machine, set the pulley to its highest setting and attach a rope attachment. Now, choose your desired weight.
- Take hold of each end of the rope using both hands and take a step back to create tension between you and the machine.
- Keep your chest up and elbows tucked in.
- Start the exercise with your elbows at a 90° angle, holding the rope at the ends. Ensure your feet are close together and your elbows are close to your sides.
- Pull the rope, extending your arms downwards towards your legs. Ensure your elbows are slightly ahead of your shoulders.
- Release the rope slowly back to the starting position
- Repeat the motion two or three times for 10 to 15 reps
Unilateral Dumbbell Floor Press
This exercise is great for people who want to press but may suffer from shoulder mobility issues. This press exercise targets the chest, shoulders, and tricep muscles. You need a pair of dumbbells to do a unilateral (one-hand) floor press.
How To Perform Unilateral Dumbbell Floor Press
- Hold a dumbbell in one hand with an overhand grip.
- Lie flat on your back with your knees bent upwards and your feet on the floor.
- Lift the arm holding the weight upwards till they are perpendicular to the ground.
- Keep your resting arm out by your side and flat on the ground to provide stability.
- Slowly lower the weight until your elbows are at a 90° angle. Your upper arm will end up resting on the ground momentarily.
- Exhale and push the dumbbells up again and hold the position.
Standing Landmine Press
The standing landmine press is an excellent option if you have elbow, shoulder, or tricep issues. Whilst primarily a chest exercise, this is also a good movement for activating the triceps.
How To Perform a Standing Landmine Press
- Take a barbell and either place into a landmine attachment or wedge one end of the bar tightly into the corner of a room.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and leaning forward slightly. Hold the end of the barbell with both hands at chest height.
- Extend your arms and press the barbell up.
- Hold for a couple of seconds before slowly lowering the weight back down.
- Repeat the desired number of reps.
You can also perform this exercise with one arm. To do this, copy the same motion but with only one arm and assume a split stance. It’s best to place the leg opposite to the arm in use in front of the other. This exercise has several variations, including the landmine shoulder-to-shoulder press and a kneeling landmine press.
Tips on How to Effectively Perform Tricep Workouts
Tricep workouts have several benefits, and building strength in your triceps is paramount to daily activities involving your elbow flexion. Strong triceps are also necessary to perform other exercises, such as chest presses and push-ups. There are several things to consider to get the most out of your tricep workout routine.
Studies show that warming up before strength exercises has several benefits. Therefore, it’s essential to have a warm-up session before you begin your reps. Taking a brisk walk or jog or performing jumping jacks before your triceps workouts help to get your blood circulating to your muscles and can help to prevent injury.
Work Out Multiple Muscle Groups
Some of the tricep exercises listed above effectively isolate the triceps whilst excluding other muscle groups. However, some are also compound movements meaning that they work more than one muscle group at a time.
It’s best to focus on starting your tricep workouts with exercises targeting muscle groups like the chest and shoulders. However, you should ensure that you give your muscles time to recover before training them again.
During strength training, your body expends strength in your larger muscle groups before recruiting smaller ones. Therefore, to build tricep strength, you should focus on exercises targeting the larger muscle groups, such as the delts and chest. Once you’ve tired these muscles out, your body will naturally begin to recruit the smaller muscles to help complete the exercise.
Start with Smaller Weights
As the triceps can tire quite quickly, be sure to begin with a lower weight. As your strength increases over time, then you can begin to increase the weight load. For maximum strength gains, do three to five sets of 6 to 15 reps at a moderate pace. The optimum number of reps will differ for endurance training and will also depend on a person’s ability.
Pay Attention to Your Body
Learn how to pace yourself. It’s important to remember that everybody has different levels of endurance. When you feel your muscles giving up, cut down on the reps. There is no shame in doing just one set as you start. Keep hydrated too and incorporate rest days to allow your muscles time to recover.
How Often to Perform Tricep Workouts
Smaller muscle groups can be trained more often than larger ones and when it comes to the triceps, working them 2 to 3 times per week will allow for effective muscle growth and strength gains. This workout frequency allows for sufficient time for recovery between reps.
Strength training exercises provide several benefits to your overall physical performance and fitness. The exercises discussed above not only work on your triceps strength but also help to bulk up your upper arms. Whilst most people focus on bicep exercises, the secret behind building well-rounded strength and bigger arms is focusing on the triceps.
For optimum strength training, choose three or four exercises from our list and do three sets of each one. You can also combine tricep and bicep training as part of your upper body training for maximum results. These sets will help shoulder stability and flexibility and increase your range of motion.