Having strong arms is important, not only for crushing it at the gym but for day-to-day activities too. Your arms are composed of several muscles that help you with these tasks, but today we’re focusing on your triceps muscle. Why? Because these muscles are often the heavy lifters for whenever you need to push something or pick up something from the floor - they’re your finishing help! That’s why tricep exercises should be part of any upper-body routine. Adding a few tricep exercises to your usual workout routine will make it more interesting, and it will help you gain more arm mass in order to build nice toned arms, but also better overall strength.
With that being said, we've compiled a list of best at-home tricep exercises and a few exercises that require gym equipment! That way you can build an upper-body routine at home or at the gym, but first, let's get to know the tricep muscles...
Getting to know the tricep muscles
The triceps is the muscle that goes along the back of your upper arm, and it’s called triceps because it has three heads: the long head, the lateral head, and the medial head. Along with the biceps, the triceps helps you extend and retract your arm by giving support from the back of your arm, helping you complete tasks as simple as pushing yourself off the floor or lifting something overhead! When it comes to exercise and training, the tricep muscles play a key role in lifting weights, and it also supports muscles like the shoulders and chest with strength and stability during your workouts, so it’s important to train them if you really want to succeed.
Some movements emphasize different parts of the triceps muscle, and in order to effectively train them, you’ll need to hit all three triceps heads from different angles through a combination of compound exercises (multi-joint movements), single-joint exercises, and isolation exercises. So keep that in mind when working out if you really want to promote muscle growth!
How often should you train them?
According to the information of the American College of Sports Medicine on strength training, you should aim to train them two to three times a week, depending on your fitness level, on non-consecutive days. Remember that your muscles need time to recover after a workout, so working the same muscles two days in a row can be harmful to you and will only slow down your progress. A good way to avoid this is by having proper training splits. Training splits allow you to focus extensively on certain muscle groups each day. For the upper body, a good split would be the push/pull split. Meaning you train all the upper body pushing muscles - chest, triceps, shoulders - on one day. Then train the upper body pulling muscles - back and biceps - on another.
Best tricep exercises to do at the gym
Performing a great tricep exercise doesn’t mean using only your triceps muscle to do the movements, but instead combining the strength of different muscle groups while keeping your triceps fully engaged in order to truly reap the benefits of each workout. Some of the best triceps exercises are done at the gym with heavy equipment. Here are a few:
Close-grip bench press
To perform this exercise, lie back on a flat bench and lift the bar from the rack with a close grip and your hands shoulder-width apart. Hold the bar straight over your body with your arms locked, and slowly start lowering the weight until you feel it on your middle chest. Pause, keeping your elbows bent, and then push the bar back up to the starting position and repeat.
Tips: Avoid bouncing the bar from your chest. Using momentum to lift the bar can be harmful, instead, use your arm and chest muscles (and keep those triceps engaged!) to lift the bar completely.
This is one of the best triceps exercises. For this, you’ll need an EZ bar or a small barbell. Start by lying on a bench holding the weight with both hands at a shoulder-width distance and your feet firmly planted on the floor. Grab the weight with an overhand grip and lift it up over your shoulders, keeping your arms in a straight line. Then, start slowly bending your elbows back until they’re at about 90 degrees and close to your skull (hence the name). You should feel your triceps stretching as you do this movement. Return the weight up to the starting position and repeat.
Tips: Try this exercise at home with a set of dumbbells! Just hold both dumbbells in your hands and perform the same up-and-down movement, keeping your elbow joints close in.
Cable overhead triceps extension
Start by setting up a cable machine with a rope extension and stand facing away from the machine with your feet shoulder-width apart in a slightly staggered position to keep your balance. Grab the rope with a neutral grip behind you, bend down slightly at the hips, and begin by pulling the rope over your head until your arms are fully extended, squeezing your triceps. Hold, then slowly go back to the starting position and repeat.
Tips: Start with a lighter weight on the cable to ease your way into this exercise and then work your way up to heavier weights. If you want more of a challenge, perform this exercise while seated!
Cable triceps push-down
Attach a straight bar to a high pulley on a cable machine and grab it with an overhand grip with both hands at a shoulder-width distance. Stand in front of the pulley with a slight inclination forward, keeping the torso straight and your arms close to your sides. Your forearms should be almost parallel to the floor while holding the bar in front of your chest. Start the movement by lowering down the bar using your triceps until your arms are fully extended perpendicular to the floor and your hands are almost touching your thighs. Hold this position and then slowly bring the bar up to the start position and repeat. Remember to keep your upper arms stationary through the whole range of motion.
Tips: To perform well in this exercise, don’t forget to use both arms equally and don’t leave all the work to your back! This move works all three tricep muscles, so you’ll want to engage them as much as possible to get the best results. You can also use a resistance band attached to the top of a doorway if you want to try this at home.
This is considered a chest exercise, but this compound move also works the triceps. To start, position the landmine in front of you and grab it with both hands right at the end, keeping them together for stability. With your feet shoulder-width apart, slightly lean towards the bar and start pushing it away from you from the middle of your chest, keeping your shoulders back, your chest tight, and your elbows tucked in. You’ll feel your triceps working in this position. Hold, then slowly return the weight to the starting position and repeat.
Tips: You can perform this exercise with one or two hands. If you choose to go one hand at a time, adopt a staggered position for stability and begin by holding the landmine over your shoulder.
Best tricep exercises to do at home
For those strength training at home, or whenever you can't make it to the gym, there are many options for a good workout that requires little to no equipment! Some of the best at-home triceps workouts are:
To do a diamond push-up you first need to get into a traditional push-up position, with only your toes and hands touching the floor. Your hands should be below your face in a diamond position, which means that your index fingers and thumbs will be touching, forming a triangle with your hands. Make sure your torso and legs are straight, abs engaged, and start lowering your body to the floor until your face is almost touching your hands. Keep your elbows close to your body at the bottom of the movement, and then press to go back up to the start position and repeat.
Tips: For beginners, you can make this exercise a little easier by doing it on your knees instead of your toes, and slowly work your way up. Make sure that you lower your body as much as you can, but if you can’t go all the way down that’s okay! You’ll get there with time and practice.
Tricep bench dips
This is an excellent bodyweight exercise that really works the triceps. First, find a bench or a chair and sit on it with your hands just outside of your hips and your knees bent. Lift your body with your hands, bend your elbows while bringing your hips forward, and start lowering down your body. Make sure to keep your shoulders down, your abs engaged, and your elbows pointing back until they’re at about 90 degrees and your glutes are almost touching the floor, then push back to the starting position and repeat.
Tips: You can make this exercise more challenging by extending your legs. Keep extending them as you feel more comfortable with this movement. If you feel any discomfort in your shoulders, stop and avoid doing triceps dips, don’t push yourself!
Dumbbell tricep floor press
Start by lying on the floor with your back on the ground, bending your knees with your feet firmly planted on the floor, and grab a dumbbell in each hand. The elbow extension should be at a 90-degree angle while keeping your triceps resting on the floor, holding the weights above your chest. Begin by extending the dumbbells toward the ceiling, straightening your arms, and hold for a second. Then lower the weights to the start position where the elbows are touching the floor and repeat.
Tips: When you reach the top position, be careful not to let the weights collide! Instead, carefully press them tight against each other for stability. That goes for the starting position as well, letting your elbows drop to the floor could be harmful to you.
The tate press is similar to the dumbbell floor press, except that you’ll be hitting your triceps differently. Lie flat on your back, bending your knees with your feet firmly planted on the floor and a dumbbell in each hand. Lift the weights with your hands facing forward at shoulder-width distance. Begin the movement by bending your elbows toward your chest without moving your upper arms, until the weights are facing each other over your chest. Hold, then go back to the starting position and repeat.
Tips: Be careful not to let the weights fall onto your chest when coming down. Press them tight against each other before going up again.
Bent-over triceps kickback
This is a tricep favorite! For this exercise, you’ll need two dumbbells. Start by holding both weights in each hand with your palms facing inward and slightly bending your knees. Hinge forward at your hips while keeping your back straight until your upper body is almost parallel to the floor. You’ll begin the movement by bending your elbows at about 90 degrees so that the dumbbells come up alongside each side of your chest, keeping your upper arms still and close to your body. Hold for a second and then straighten your arms behind you to the starting position and repeat.
Tips: You can do this exercise one arm at a time if you prefer. Just complete the set with the first arm, and then switch to the other.
So there you have it! Some of the best tricep workouts that you can try next time that you’re working out, with a few tips to help you along the way. And remember to train your triceps at least twice a week with a proper training split!
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