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Located to the back of the arm are your triceps brachii, a small muscle group that cross both the shoulder joint and the elbow joint.
The triceps are made up of three smaller muscles: the long head of the triceps, the short head and the lateral head.
To build equal muscle strength and symmetry across the entire upper arm, you’ll want to ensure you incorporate both bicep and tricep exercises.
It can be quite common for people to place more focus on the biceps but, as the triceps muscle makes up two thirds of your upper arm, developing a specific triceps workout is key to improving overall arm development.
Recommended Reading – 12 Best Tricep Exercises For Strength Gains
This article will consider several exercises that place more emphasis on your triceps lateral head.
It’s important to note that isolating this muscle is not possible as all heads of the triceps will activate at varying degrees.
So why would you want to focus more on the lateral head?
As the largest of the three heads, it sits on the outside of your arm (laterally) and, when muscle size is increased, it gives that aesthetically pleasing sweep and rounded shape when viewed from the front and side.
So, if you want bigger arms, continue reading to discover some of the best triceps exercises for working the lateral head.
7 Best Lateral Head Tricep Exercises
Below we’ve suggested 6 different exercises to really put the lateral head through its paces, so you can increase muscle mass and work on that long desired horseshoe shape.
Cable Crossover Tricep Extension
To be able to perform this exercise you’ll need access to a cable crossover machine making this a better option for the gym.
- Start by positioning the pulleys on both sides to the very top of the machine and select your desired weight.
- Add an appropriate grip attachment such as a single rope.
- Facing the machine, take hold of the attachment on the right-hand side with the left hand and vice versa.
- Step away from the machine slightly to create some resistance.
- Position your hands at your chest with palms facing inwards. L
- Lean forwards slightly so that your upper body is just over your hands. This is more important when doing this exercise with heavy weights.
- Keeping your elbows tucked in, slowly draw your hands towards sides making sure to keep your whole body still. The only movement should be elbow extension.
- At the bottom of the movement, pause briefly and allow your hands to rise back up to the starting position. Repeat.
A common mistake with this exercise is to allow the weight to pull your upper arms up too high and shoulders forward. If this happens you may be going to heavy. In this instance, drop to a lighter weight to maintain good form.
Diamond Push Ups
The diamond push up is a highly effective body weight exercise that can be done either at home or the gym.
When compared to a regular push, this variation will shift the focus more towards the triceps heads. It’s a good idea to become accustomed to regular push ups before you move on to this more challenging movement.
Recommended Reading – Diamond Push Ups Muscles Worked Plus 4 Huge Exercise Benefits
- Start by positioning yourself on all fours and bring your hands close together and under your chest.
- Position your hands so that your thumbs and fore fingers are touching. Your hands should be forming a diamond or triangle shape.
- Come up on your toes so you are now in a high plank position. Keep the glutes and core engaged to help with stability.
- Keeping your elbows tucked in, slowly lower your chest towards the floor.
- Pause briefly at the bottom before pushing through your hands back to the top. Repeat.
Make sure your hands are position correctly with this exercise to avoid your elbows flaring out as this could put undue stress on the elbow joint potentially resulting in injury.
The skull crusher is a great exercise to isolate the triceps and can be done with either a dumbbell or an EZ curl bar.
The benefit with using an ez bar is that it limits stress on the wrist joints, so you’ll be less prone to injury.
Recommended Reading – EZ Curl Bar Muscles Worked Plus 10 Effective Exercise Variations
Below we look at how to perform ez bar skull crushers.
- Sit at the end of a flat bench and take hold of the EZ bar with hands positioned on the inside grips with palms facing towards you.
- Lie back on the bench and raise your arms straight out in front of you, your palms should now be facing towards the ceiling.
- Your head should be slightly hanging off the bench, be sure to keep your neck relaxed.
- Slowly bend your elbows and allow your arms to drop down and behind you.
- The rest of your body should remain still throughout with the only movement being the extension of the elbow.
- From here, slowly and with control, raise your arms back up until they are straight and just behind your head. Repeat.
Some people make the mistake of pushing the bar back up and overhead. Avoid doing this as it can put stress on the elbow joint. Make sure you execute the movement with full range of motion to properly work the triceps.
Single Arm Pushdowns
The single arm pushdown, sometimes called tricep pushdowns, is one of the best isolation exercises for emphasizing the lateral head of your triceps.
You’ll need access to a pulley machine and a rope attachment or a D handle.
A useful gym cable attachment that can be connected to a range of cable machines. Perfect for pull exercises such as shoulder raises or mid row back exercises
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- Start off by positioning the pulley to the very top of the machine and clip on your attachment.
- Stand in front of the machine and slightly off set from the attachment. The arm closest to the attachment is the one that you’ll work on first.
- Take hold of the attachment so that your palm is facing away from you (pronated grip). Take a small step backwards.
- With a slight bent at the knees and chest up, push your glutes back slightly. This provides stability and prevents any jerky movements.
- Keeping the elbow tucked in, push down your arm by extending the elbow joint. Don’t lock out at the elbow.
- Take a brief pause at the bottom and slowly allow your arm to return to the starting position.
Be sure to concentrate on proper form and don’t allow the weight to pull your arm up too quickly as this could cause an injury.
All too often people perform the concentric phase of this exercise (pushing down) with controlled form but forget to do the same during the eccentric phase.
You’ll achieve better engagement of muscle fibers by doing the whole movement in a slow, purposeful way.
Close Grip Bench Press
The close grip bench press is a variation of a regular bench press and simply involves bringing your hands in closer together.
Whilst this variation works the upper chest, delts and triceps, the closer proximity of the hands, places more of the weight load onto the back of the upper arm and the shoulders.
Start by positioning a bench in a squat rack or power rack. Rack a barbell at the appropriate height so you can easily take hold of it when lying down.
- Lie back on the bench and position your head just beneath the barbell.
- Take hold of the bar with your hands just inside shoulder width apart.
- Keeping your back flat on the bench, unrack the bar and hold it up in front of you.
- Keep your elbows tucked in and lower the bar towards your belly button.
- Once your upper arms are approximately parallel to the floor, pause then press back up to the starting position.
Make sure you don’t position your hands too close together as this could put unnecessary stress on the joints of your wrists.
You’ll notice that when you perform a regular bench press, the movement is a vertical plane of motion.
However, when a close grip is utilised, it’ll be more comfortable if you allow the bar to come down and towards you stomach helping you to maintain a safer position.
The bodyweight dip is certainly one of the best tricep exercises but also one of the most challenging.
As well as working the triceps, it will also target the shoulders and chest. You’ll need access to dip stands to be able to perform this exercise.
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- Take hold of the handles so that your palms are facing towards each other.
- Push yourself and hold your body weight.
- Push back your hips so that your torso leans slightly forwards.
- Cross your feet behind you and slowly lower your body by bending at the elbows.
- Aim to get your elbows at a 45-degree angle before pushing back up.
This is a difficult exercise for many people to perform and if you want to make it easier, take a resistance band and position it around the handles.
From here, stand on the band and this will give you some assistance during the movement.
Don’t be tempted to go too low if this is uncomfortable as it can result in shoulder injuries.
Tricep kickbacks are a great movement to stimulate the lateral head.
This exercise requires balance and really isolates the tricep muscles so is a great movement to use after the large compound movements such as close grip bench press.
To perform the exercise
- Stand with feet shoulder width apart holding a dumbell in one hand
- Bend your upper body at the waist until it is almost parallel to the floor, lift your elbow up toward the ceiling forming an L shape with your arm
- Keep your core tight
- Push your forearms back and away from your body.
- Hold for a few seconds at the rear of the movement then slowly allow your arm to return to it’s original L position
Benefits of Working the Lateral Head of the Triceps
Increased Muscle Mass
If your goal is to increase the size of your arms, then emphasising the lateral head will certainly help to achieve this.
As mentioned, it’s the largest tricep head and will contribute the most to the overall look to the back and side of your arms.
Improved Elbow Health
The lateral head, along with the other tricep heads, cross at the elbow joint. By improving muscle mass and strength to these muscles can protect this joint helping to prevent injury and improving stability.
Good Carryover to Other Exercises
Even though the long head of the triceps is the strongest when compared to the other heads, it often takes over when performing standard tricep exercises.
By aiming to focus more on the lateral head can improve overall strength to the arms which can help to improve other exercises such as the overhead press and the bench press.
Collectively, the tricep heads play an important function when it comes to extension of the elbow.
When you work on increasing muscle mass and strength, this can aid with flexibility and stability making day to day activities easier and give your arms a muscular and healthy appearance.
Incorporate the recommended tricep lateral head exercises into your arm workout for best results.