Arms

12 Best Tricep Exercises For Strength Gains

Best Tricep Exercises For Strength

It’s common to focus on your biceps when looking to add muscle size and strength to your upper arms.

However, the triceps muscles are just as important to focus on to ensure a balanced physique across your upper body.

Especially as they contribute to two-thirds of the muscle mass in your upper arm so it’s important not to neglect them.


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In this article we’ll be recommending some of the best tricep exercises for strength gains. But first, let’s learn more about this important muscle group.

What Are Tricep Muscles And What Do They Do?

The triceps refer to a muscle group which is located to the back of your upper arms. They sit behind your biceps, which are muscles at the front of your upper arms.

The tricep muscle comprises of three heads; the long head of the triceps, the medial head, and the lateral head. Collectively these muscles form the entire posterior region of your upper arm.

Also known as the triceps brachii, they cross over at the shoulder joint and the elbow joint making it a bi-articular muscle. This allows the joints to move simultaneously.

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.


Recommended Reading – Long Head Of The Triceps : 8 Exercises & Techniques To Supersize Your Arms


Besides the role of the triceps in lengthening 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.

They’re also essential to helping you carry 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 dedicated triceps exercises to build strength.

Some of the best tricep workouts include movements like overhead extensions and triceps kickbacks.

Let’s jump into to ten of the best triceps exercises that you can start doing today.

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

  1. Begin by sitting on the edge of a bench.
  2. Lift yourself forward and off the bench, supporting your weight with your hands which should be on the edge of the bench
  3. Keep your legs out in front with them slightly bent and resting on your heels. This is your starting position.
  4. Lower your body away from the bench and toward the floor until your arms get to an approximate 90° angle.
  5. Push your body back up to the starting position.
  6. 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 offer support making the exercise a little easier to do.

How to Perform Advanced Tricep Dips

  1. 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.
  2. Your leg should now be suspended in mid-air.
  3. Cross your legs at your ankles to provide stability to your lower body.
  4. 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.
  5. Exhale and push yourself back up to the the starting position and then repeat.

Overhead Tricep Extensions

These type of resistance exercises help to strengthen the arms and build muscle. There are a few variations of the tricep extension which depend on how you’re positioned while performing it.

overhead triceps extensions

The standing and seated overhead tricep extensions are two of the most common ways to execute this movement. To do it, all you need is a dumbbell.

How To Perform a Standing Overhead Tricep Extension

  1. 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.
  2. Extend your arms upward, lifting the dumbbell directly overhead. Hold the dumbbell at one end using both hands.
  3. 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.
  4. You should feel a stretch along the triceps.
  5. 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 the tricep bench press, this strength exercise targets the triceps, chest, and shoulders. You’ll need access to a bench and a barbell to perform a close-grip bench press.

The main difference between close grip bench press and a regular bench press is that you have to hold the barbell with a narrower grip as this keeps tension on the triceps throughout the exercise.

How To Perform Close Grip Bench Press

  1. 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.
  2. Lie back on the bench with your feet flat on the floor. You head should be located directly underneath the barbell.
  3. Unrack the bar from the rack and hold it straight overhead with your arms locked.
  4. Take a deep breath and lower the bar slowly towards your chest. Keep your elbows tucked to your side and wrists straight.
  5. When the barbell reaches your upper abdomen, exhale and push the bar back up to the starting position.
  6. 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 and boose strength.

There are several 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 worth noting that your range of motion will be reduced than if you were to do it on a flat bench.

How To Perform Lying Tricep Extensions

  1. Take hold of your chosen weight and lie back on a flat bench or on the ground.
  2. Start with your arms perpendicular over your chest. This is your starting position.
  3. Lower the weight to your forehead (hence the name skullcrusher) by only bending at the elbows.
  4. From here extend back up to the starting position, keep tension on the triceps throughout.
  5. 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.

Tricep Kickbacks

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.

tricep kickbacks

How To Perform Tricep Kickbacks with Dumbbells

  1. 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.
  2. Hinge your upper body forward by the waist until your torso is almost parallel to the floor.
  3. Keep your core engaged and maintain a neutral spine.
  4. Bending just at the elbows, extend your forearms back and away from you.
  5. Hold this position for a few seconds, then inhale and return the dumbbells to the starting position.
  6. Repeat two to three times for 10 to 15 reps.

How To Perform Tricep Kickbacks with Cables

  1. Set the pulley to its lowest setting on a cable machine, attach a rope attachment and choose your weight.
  2. Bend forward slighty and ensure your torso is almost at a 90° angle at your waist.
  3. Take hold of the rope attachment with one hand and rest your other hand on either the machine of your thigh to provide support.
  4. Keeping your arm parallel to the floor, extend the forearm back bending just at the elbow.
  5. Hold the final position briefly and release the cable slowly, returning your arm to the starting position.
  6. 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

  1. 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.
  2. With a dumbbell in each hand, raise your arms above your body, straightening your arms with your palms facing each other (a neutral grip).
  3. Bring the dumbbells together so that they are touching. This is your starting position.
  4. Lower the weights slowly towards your chest, making sure to keep your elbows tucked in throughout.
  5. Once the weights are at chest level, slowly press back up to the start.

JM Press

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

  1. 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.
  2. Unrack the barbell with a close grip.
  3. Keeping your elbows forward, slowly lower the weight down towards your chin.
  4. Be sure to keep your elbows pointing forward at all times.
  5. Once at the bottom, press back up to the starting position.

Diamond Push-ups

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

  1. Get into a basic push-up or plank position.
  2. 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.
  3. Keep your core and glutes tight, and engage your back with your spine straight.
  4. Lower your entire body until you touch the ground. If you cannot get that low, simply go as low as you can
  5. When you get to the lowest point, ensure your elbows are close to your sides.
  6. 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

  1. If using a pulley machine, set the pulley to its highest setting and attach a rope attachment. Now, choose your desired weight.
  2. Take hold of each end of the rope using both hands and take a step back to create tension between you and the machine.
  3. Keep your chest up and elbows tucked in.
  4. 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.
  5. Pull the rope, extending your arms downwards towards your legs. Ensure your elbows are slightly ahead of your shoulders.
  6. Release the rope slowly back to the starting position
  7. 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

  1. Hold a dumbbell in one hand with an overhand grip.
  2. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent upwards and your feet on the floor.
  3. Lift the arm holding the weight upwards till they are perpendicular to the ground.
  4. Keep your resting arm out by your side and flat on the ground to provide stability.
  5. Slowly lower the weight until your elbows are at a 90° angle. Your upper arm will end up resting on the ground momentarily.
  6. 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

  1. Take a barbell and either place into a landmine attachment or wedge one end of the bar tightly into the corner of a room.
  2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and leaning forward slightly. Hold the end of the barbell with both hands at chest height.
  3. Extend your arms and press the barbell up.
  4. Hold for a couple of seconds before slowly lowering the weight back down.
  5. 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 increasing strength is paramount to daily activities that involve elbow flexion.

Strong triceps are also necessary to perform other exercises like the chest press 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 have several benefits. Therefore, it’s essential to have a warm-up session before you start lifting weights. Just doing something like jumping jacks before your triceps workouts will get your blood circulating and can help to prevent injury.

Work Out Multiple Muscle Groups

Some of the tricep exercises listed above effectively isolate the triceps while 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 by targeting muscle groups like the chest and shoulders. But make sure 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 that work larger muscle groups, such as the delts and chest.

Once you’ve exhausted these muscles, 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 start to increase the weight load.

For maximum strength gains to your triceps, do three to five sets of 6 to 15 reps. Keep reps slow and use control throughout.

The optimum number of reps will differ for endurance training and will also depend on a person’s ability.

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 recovery time between training sessions.

Conclusion

Strength training exercises provide several benefits to your overall physical performance and fitness.

The exercises suggested 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 to effectively work your triceps.

For optimum strength training, choose three or four exercises from our list and do three sets of each one.

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