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The heads of the triceps are a group of three muscles located to the back of your upper arms.
Collectively, these are known as the triceps brachii and are made up of the lateral head of the triceps, the medial head, and the long head.
When working out, it’s common for people to focus their efforts on the long head of the triceps.
That’s because it’s the largest of the tricep heads.
Recommended Reading – Long Head Tricep Exercises
Even though the medial head of the triceps is the smallest and tends to look more insignificant, it shouldn’t be overlooked.
Triceps medial head exercises can still add mass and improve the overall look of your arm.
Whilst it’s not possible to isolate the medial head, you can choose exercises which place more emphasis on this small muscle.
In this article, we’re going to suggest some of the best exercises for working your triceps medial head.
What Does The Medial Tricep Head Do?
The primary function of the medial head of the triceps is to extend the forearm at the elbow joint.
However, it doesn’t do this exclusively.
All three of the different tricep heads work together to allow for elbow extension.
To put it simply, that’s bending your arm at the elbow.
The medial head is the deepest set of the triceps, sitting just beneath both the lateral and long head.
Many people tend to focus on the long or lateral head as they are superficial muscles, meaning that they sit closer to the surface of the body.
Despite the medial head being underneath, increasing muscle mass will contribute to overall arm development and definition.
No matter what triceps exercise you perform or how you do it, you’ll always be activating the medial head.
This means it’s an easy muscle to target during your triceps workouts.
When resistance is applied to your triceps, your lateral head and long head engage to support the medial head and stabilize your elbow.
In other words, you can’t single out the muscle but rather work it in conjunction with the other tricep heads.
When it comes to the long head of the triceps, this is a biarticular muscle meaning that it crosses two joints: those being the elbow and shoulder joint.
This means it has a little more responsibility by way of shoulder extension and adduction.
Best Medial Head Tricep Exercises For Size & Strength
Let’s look at the best exercises to train your medial triceps head so you can build stronger and bigger arms.
The skull crusher exercise will isolate the entire triceps muscle and engage the medial head to a significant extent.
It can be performed using either dumbbells or something like an ez bar which will remove some of the stress from your wrists.
This exercise can put a lot of pressure onto your elbow joint so bear this in mind before giving it a go.
How To Perform:
- Lie back on a flat bench so your head, upper back and glutes are properly supported.
- Take hold of your ez bar with both hands and hold it straight up overhead.
- Slowly lean the bar back until it’s now above the top of your head. This increases the tension on your triceps making for a more effective exercise.
- Bend your elbows carefully lowering the bar down and behind your head. Keep your elbows tucked in throughout.
- The back of your arm should be fully engaged to help stabilize the weight.
- Raise the bar back up to the starting position and then repeat.
Close Grip Bench Press
This is a great exercise for improving your lockout strength when performing a regular bench press.
This makes it a good choice for weightlifters and powerlifters.
By positioning your hands closer together on the bar, you’ll place greater emphasis on the medial head of your triceps.
When performing a close-grip bench press, stick to a lighter weight to properly work the medial tricep head.
How To Perform:
- Start by lying back on a bench so that a barbell is racked just above your head.
- Keep a slight arch to your lower back and your feet planted on the floor.
- Take hold of the bar with an overhand grip so that they’re just inside shoulder-width apart.
- Unrack the bar and hold it directly above your upper chest.
- Keeping your elbows tucked in, bend them so that the bar lowers down towards your sternum without allowing it to touch.
- Squeeze your triceps, pushing the bar back to the start.
Cable Tricep Extension
The cable extension is one of the best tricep exercises for isolation.
However, many people make the mistake of going too heavy when performing a cable tricep extension.
Doing this is going to result in poor form and you simply won’t be hitting the desired muscle groups along with that all important medial head.
Keep the weights low and reps high and perform the exercise with a full range of motion.
How To Perform:
- Set up the cable machine so that the pulley is positioned at the top and clip on a rope attachment (or similar).
- Facing the machine, grab the attachment with both hands and take a step back.
- Keep your feet hip-width apart with a slight bend to your knees. Tilt your torso forwards slightly to help with balance and proper triceps isolation.
- Start with your elbows bent to a 90 degree angle with your palms facing inwards.
- Bending just your elbows, squeeze your triceps and push the weight down until your elbows lock out.
- Use control to bring your arms back to the start and repeat.
Dumbbell Overhead Extension
The overhead extension is a fantastic exercise for activating your medial head and growing your triceps.
Overhead movements can be a little more challenging, especially on your shoulders so care should be taken to ensure it’s completed with good form.
Below, we explain how to do it whilst standing upright, but if you prefer it can also be performed from a seated position.
How To Perform:
- Start by holding a dumbbell at the end and take it overhead.
- Keep your elbows in and core and glutes engaged to help with stability.
- Extend your arms straight up and overhead. It’s not necessary to lock out your elbows.
- You should feel resistance down the back of your arm.
- Pause briefly then lower back to the starting position.
Close Grip Push-Ups
Push ups are a highly effective bodyweight exercise that will engage all heads of your triceps along with your chest and shoulders.
By altering your hand position and placing them closer together, you can increase the amount of resistance on your triceps.
If you find performing a push up a little too difficult, start off by doing them with your knees resting on the floor.
As your triceps become stronger you can then progress to a regular push up position.
How To Perform:
- Get yourself into a push up position with your legs out extended and resting on your toes.
- Keep your core engaged so your hips don’t sag. Your body should be in a straight line from your shoulders to your heels.
- Position your hands just inside shoulder width apart and push your shoulder blades down.
- Slowly lower yourself to the ground by bending your elbows. Keep your elbows close to your body as you descend.
- At the bottom of the exercise, your sternum should be just above your hands.
- You should feel a lot of resistance to the back of the upper arm.
- Push back up to the top and repeat.
Dips are one of the more challenging tricep exercises but also one of the best ways of working your medial head.
You’ll need to perform the exercise using dipping bars or a dedicated dipping machine.
A good tip for increased tricep activation is to keep your body as upright as possible.
When starting out, you can perform a stationary hold which is to simply lock out your elbows on dipping bars and maintain this position.
This will get you used to holding your bodyweight.
How To Perform:
- Take hold of the bars making sure your grip is slightly wider than shoulder-width.
- Fully extend your arms so your body elevates from the floor.
- Keep your elbows tight to your body and locked out. Be sure your body is in an upright position.
- Bend your elbows, lowering your body until your upper and lower arms are at a 90-degree angle.
- Then push through your triceps until your elbows are at full extension. Repeat for reps.
Should You Go Heavy On Tricep Exercises?
Training the triceps doesn’t always require lifting heavier weights, but the specific weight you should use depends on your individual goals and training program.
If your primary goal is to build muscle size (hypertrophy) and strength in your triceps, you’ll want to incorporate a mix of heavy, moderate, and lighter weight into your training routine.
Heavy weights with lower repetitions (around 6-8 reps) can help increase strength, whilst moderate weights at a rep range of around 8-12 are effective for increasing muscle size.
You can use lighter weights for higher reps (12-15+) to further fatigue your muscles and promote muscle endurance.
The most important thing to remember is that proper form is always adhered to.
When you don’t perform an exercise correctly not only could it lead to injury, but other stronger muscles could take over meaning you’re not working the desired muscle group.
Before You Go…
Whilst your triceps make up the bulk of your upper arm, keep in mind that you’ll want to incorporate some bicep exercises for equal muscle and strength balance.
But don’t do them on the same day.
It’s common to perform tricep exercises during chest day as both muscle groups rely on pushing exercises.
Keep your biceps training when working your back muscles and incorporate plenty of pulling movements.
If you’d like to know more about the key differences between your biceps and triceps why not have a ready of our article; biceps vs triceps: critical differences you need to know.