- Triceps Anatomy – How Do Triceps Muscles Work?
- 10 Best Triceps Exercises and Variations
- Incorporating Triceps Exercises into Your Routine
When it comes to building strong, well-defined arms, most people focus on the biceps. But the triceps make up a significant part of your arm muscles, and developing them will not only increase your physical strength but also contribute to a well-defined and aesthetically pleasing physique. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the best triceps exercises that are strategically designed to work your muscles from a variety of angles. Our goal is to help your muscle development and increase your overall arm strength.
Before we dive into the exercises, it’s essential to understand the anatomy of the triceps brachii. This knowledge will serve as the foundation for tailoring your workouts to effectively engage each triceps head, ensuring balanced development and optimal results.
Triceps Anatomy – How Do Triceps Muscles Work?
The triceps brachii, often referred to as the triceps, is a three-headed muscle located at the back of the upper arm. Each head—lateral, medial, and long—plays a distinctive role in the overall function of the triceps, contributing to arm strength, stability, and aesthetics.
- Lateral Head:
- The lateral head, situated on the outer side of the upper arm, is a robust contributor to elbow extension. Its primary function involves straightening the arm at the elbow joint, making it a key player in movements like triceps pushdowns and close-grip bench presses. A well-developed lateral head contributes to the overall mass and definition of the triceps.
- Medial Head:
- Nestled beneath the lateral head, the medial head aids in elbow extension and provides essential stability during various upper body movements. While it might not be as visually prominent as the lateral head, the medial head contributes to the overall balance and function of the triceps.
- Long Head:
- The long head, extending along the inner side of the upper arm, has a unique role in shoulder stability. Originating from the scapula, this head assists in shoulder extension and contributes to the overall function of the shoulder joint. The long head contributes to the overall aesthetic appeal of the triceps, particularly when viewed from the side.
All three parts of the tricep muscle will extend/straighten the elbow. Obviously, any exercise that focuses on straightening the elbow will work all heads of this muscle. During movements like push-ups, bench presses, and dips, all three heads work in synergy to extend the elbow and support the upper body. However, certain exercises can specifically target individual heads, allowing for a more targeted approach in triceps training.
10 Best Triceps Exercises and Variations
Each variation places a slightly different emphasis on specific triceps heads. Tailor your selection based on your goals and areas you want to prioritize in your triceps development.
1- Cable Triceps Pushdown
Cable triceps pushdown is one of the most popular triceps isolation exercises. The straight bar pushdown ensures comprehensive activation of all three heads of the triceps – the lateral, medial, and long heads. This makes it a versatile and efficient exercise for overall triceps development.
The cable pushdown accommodates a variety of grip attachments, allowing you to target the triceps from different angles. This versatility adds a layer of customization to your workout, contributing to well-rounded triceps development.
The V-bar attachment emphasizes the lateral head of the triceps, contributing to overall triceps width and definition.
Using a rope attachment allows for greater freedom of movement at the wrists, providing a unique contraction at the bottom of the exercise.
Reverse Grip Pushdowns:
Altering your grip to an underhand position shifts the emphasis to the medial head of the triceps, adding variety to your routine.
Isolate each arm independently to address any strength imbalances and ensure both triceps receive focused attention.
2- Dumbbell Kickback
This movement places a spotlight on the lateral head of the triceps, contributing not only to muscle growth but also to the refinement of arm aesthetics. The dumbbell kickback excels at isolating the lateral head of the triceps, emphasizing the outer aspect of your arm for a well-defined appearance.
Compared to some other triceps exercises, the kickback minimizes stress on the elbow joint, making it a suitable option for individuals with joint concerns or seeking a joint-friendly triceps workout.
Cable Triceps Kickback
The cable setup ensures continuous tension on the triceps throughout the entire range of motion. This constant tension promotes optimal muscle engagement and contributes to effective muscle growth.
Bent Over Kickback
The bent-over position emphasizes the lateral head of the triceps, and the angle creates a challenging workout that also engages stabilizing muscles.
Cable Rear Drive
The cable rear drive variation places emphasis on the long head of the triceps, contributing to overall triceps development. The movement provides a unique angle of engagement compared to traditional kickbacks.
3- Triceps Extension
The triceps extension, a foundational exercise for arm development, comes in various forms that target distinct aspects of the triceps muscles. Let’s explore advanced variations of the triceps extension, each offering a unique twist to intensify your triceps training and contribute to the sculpting of strong and defined arms.
Barbell Triceps Extension
The Standing Barbell Triceps Extension, with its overhead position, provides a good stretch to the long head of the triceps during the eccentric (lowering) phase. This engagement in the stretched position can contribute to muscle growth.
One-Arm Dumbbell Triceps Extension
The one arm dumbbell extension is a great way to isolate the triceps. You can always, isolate and focus on 1 arm at a time using dumbbells. When you use dumbbells it is impossible to cheat with your strong arm when your weaker arm gets fatigued.
Lying Barbell Triceps Extension
The Barbell Lying Triceps Extensions, commonly known as skull crushers, are indeed an effective exercise for targeting the triceps brachii, with a particular emphasis on the long head of the triceps.
Cable Rope Overhead Triceps Extension
The overhead position allows for a good range of motion, ensuring that the triceps are worked through their full extension. This can contribute to muscle flexibility and joint health.
Cable One-Arm Overhead Triceps Extension
The primary focus of this exercise is on the triceps, specifically the long head of the triceps brachii. This targeted engagement helps in developing strength and size in the triceps.
High Pulley Overhead Triceps Extension
The weight from the cable machine will pull your body backwards, so your core muscles will have to really work to keep you in the correct position. When you change the position of your arms, you change the emphasis in your triceps, and the overhead tricep extension will also challenge your core stability.
4- Triceps Dips
Triceps dips can be a time-efficient exercise, allowing you to work multiple muscle groups in a single movement. Triceps dips are a bodyweight exercise that primarily targets the triceps muscles but also engages the chest, shoulders, and upper back. This can be beneficial for those with limited time for their workouts.
Triceps Dips on Floor
Triceps dips on the floor effectively target and engage the triceps muscles.This exercise can be done anywhere with enough floor space, making it accessible for home workouts or when you don’t have access to gym equipment.
Performing bench dips with proper form ensures that all three heads of the triceps are effectively targeted, leading to comprehensive triceps development. This exercise also involves the engagement of other muscle groups, including the chest, shoulders, and core, making it a compound movement that provides a full upper body workout.
Korean Dips is a gymnastic exercise mainly aimed at strengthening the upper body. Since Korean dips are an advanced difficult exercise, they require physical competence and arm strength. This exercise will challenge you to increase your triceps strength. (As this is an advanced exercise, it is not recommended for beginners.)
This variation of dips is performed using gymnastics rings, adding an element of instability that requires greater stabilization and engagement of the core muscles. Rings allow for a more natural and unrestricted range of motion, allowing you to go deeper into the dip and engage the muscles more effectively.
5- Diamond (Triangle) Push-up
Diamond push-ups, also known as close-grip push-ups or triangle push-ups, are a bodyweight exercise that primarily targets the triceps, chest, and shoulders. This variation of the traditional push-up places more emphasis on the triceps due to the closer hand positioning.
The study suggests that diamond push-ups elicit around 100% activation of the triceps, making them a highly efficient exercise for triceps strengthening. While the primary focus is on the triceps, diamond push-ups also recruit and stimulate other muscle groups, including the pectoral muscles (pecs) and front deltoids. This makes diamond push-ups a compound exercise with multiple muscle engagement.
Knee diamond Push-Up
A knee diamond push-up is a modification of the traditional diamond push-up, which is designed to target the triceps and chest muscles. The knee variation reduces the load on the upper body, making it a suitable option for individuals who are working on building strength or need a lower-intensity version.
Close Grip Knee Push-up
The close grip knee push-up is an excellent modification for individuals who are working on building upper body strength, especially in the triceps and chest. As you gain strength and confidence, you can progress to more challenging variations, such as standard push-ups and close grip push-ups.
6- Close-Grip Bench Press
The close-grip bench press is a variation of the traditional bench press that involves a narrower hand placement on the barbell. This modification places greater emphasis on the triceps, making it an effective exercise for triceps development. This variation targets the triceps while still engaging the chest and shoulders, providing a well-rounded upper body workout.
Reverse Close-Grip Bench Press
Similar to the traditional close-grip bench press, this variation places a significant emphasis on the triceps. The reverse grip may engage the triceps in a slightly different way, providing variety to your triceps training.
The “squeeze press” motion, where you bring the dumbbells together at the peak of the movement, intensifies the contraction in the triceps. This targeted activation fosters enhanced muscle engagement, contributing to triceps strength and growth potential.
7- Seated Front and Back Tate Press
The Tate Press is often considered an accessory or isolation exercise for the triceps, and it can be beneficially incorporated into a workout routine after completing compound exercises for the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Performing the exercise bidirectionally challenges the triceps from different angles, promoting muscle development.
The emphasis on using light to moderate weights during the Tate Press aligns with the biomechanics of the exercise. The angle and position of the elbows make it challenging to handle heavy loads while maintaining proper form. Using lighter weights allows for better control, reduces the risk of injury, and helps you focus on the quality of the movement.
8- Bodyweight skull crushers
This exercise allows you to isolate and engage the triceps effectively, contributing to improved muscle strength and definition in the back of your arms. Keeping your body in a stable position during the exercise engages your core muscles. This adds a secondary benefit to the exercise by helping improve core strength.
9- Cross Arm Push-up
The unique arm positioning in cross-arm push-ups places a specific emphasis on the triceps muscles. This targeted activation makes it an effective exercise for building muscle mass and strength in the triceps. Strengthening the triceps is not only aesthetically beneficial but also important for functional upper body strength, as the triceps play a significant role in various pushing movements.
Cross-arm push-ups engage various muscle groups in the upper body, including the chest, triceps, shoulders, biceps, and upper back. This engagement contributes to the development of overall upper body strength and enhances endurance. The exercise’s demand on multiple muscle groups makes it an efficient way to target and strengthen these areas simultaneously.
10- Lever Triceps Extension
The design of the lever machine allows for a more controlled movement, reducing the involvement of other muscle groups. The seated position and the specific movement of the lever machine can help target the long head of the triceps, contributing to a well-rounded triceps development.
The machine provides stability and support, reducing the stress on your joints, particularly the elbows. This isolation can be beneficial for individuals who want to emphasize triceps development without incorporating additional muscles.
Incorporating Triceps Exercises into Your Routine
Follow these steps to seamlessly integrate effective triceps exercises into your training program:
- Login: Enter your membership account and log in.
- Profile Page: Once logged in, navigate to your profile page.
- New Program: Look for the “new program” button in your profile and click on it to begin creating your personalized workout program.
2. Filter Triceps Exercises:
- Exercise Selection: On the program creation page, use the filter options to specifically target triceps exercises. This ensures that your program is tailored to your triceps development goals.
- Variety: Select a mix of exercises to target different aspects of the triceps, incorporating variations such as cable exercises, dumbbell movements, and barbells.
3. Set Your Training Goals:
- Building Lean Muscle: For those aiming to build slabs of lean muscle, opt for a challenging weight that you can lift for 6-12 repetitions. Perform 3-5 sets of each exercise.
4. Vary Your Exercises Regularly:
- Prevent Plateaus: To avoid hitting a plateau or overworking specific muscles and joints, consider varying your exercises every 4-6 weeks. This keeps your routine dynamic and ensures continuous progress.
- Exercise Rotation: Experiment with different triceps exercises and variations to challenge your muscles in new ways. This helps target all aspects of the triceps for comprehensive development.
5. Considerations for Beginners:
- Light Weights: If you’re a beginner, start with lighter weights to decrease the chance of fatigue and to master proper form.
- Controlled Movements: Move in a slow and controlled manner to prevent momentum from taking over. This ensures that you engage your triceps effectively and reduce the risk of injury.
6. Form and Breathing:
- Good Form: Always prioritize good form over heavy weights. This not only maximizes the effectiveness of the exercises but also minimizes the risk of injury.
- Breathing: Don’t forget to breathe during each repetition. Exhale during the exertion phase and inhale during the return phase to maintain proper oxygen flow.
By following these steps, you’ll create a personalized triceps workout program that aligns with your specific goals and fitness level. Remember to stay consistent, listen to your body, and enjoy the journey towards sculpted and powerful triceps.
Integrating these exercises into your routine will not only build strength but also sculpt powerful and well-defined arms. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced lifter, consistent and intentional triceps training will undoubtedly lead to impressive results. Stay tuned for more tips, techniques, and advanced triceps workouts to take your arm development to new heights.