15 Best Tricep Exercises

Best Tricep Exercises

We all look in the mirror every single day and, for many of us, we can usually find something that we dislike.

If you’re one of those people, when you see your reflection, you don’t particularly like your arms. In truth, you hate them. You covet strong, athletic looking arms. So how do you get them? Well, read on. We’ll tell you which are the best tricep exercises to do to get those muscular arms you’ve always desired.

best tricep exercises - man showing his triceps

Anatomy of the Triceps

The triceps, named from tricep brachii (which is Latin for three-headed muscle), are in the arms. The three heads of the triceps are: the long head, the lateral head and the median head. The triceps muscle group begins just below the shoulder blade and at two distinct areas of the humerus, which is the bone in the upper arm. It then extends downward and attaches to the upper part of the ulna in the forearm. These muscles are used to straighten your arm at the elbow.

Best Triceps Exercises

​It’s important to have strong arms. Why? Because just about every upper body movement you do each and every day involves your triceps in some way. Your triceps are often considered the heavy lifters because, anytime you push something—be it a door, drawer, stroller, lawn mower, and so on—you are engaging your triceps.

Strength is important but, for many, so is having those shapely, toned arms. Women don’t always want their muscles to be bulky. Sometimes we want to them to be muscular, yet sleek, so we can wear sleeveless shirts and feel both healthy and sexy.

The best way to build strong, firm triceps is to perform exercises that hit all the muscle fibers from different sides. All of the following exercises will get the triceps to contract. However, some will emphasize different parts of the triceps more than others.

There are four major exercise moves which work your triceps to tone them. These are:

  • Push-ups - engages all three heads of the triceps muscles.
  • Kickbacks - targets all three heads of the triceps but not as much as a push-up.
  • Extensions - emphasizes the long head of the triceps muscles.
  • Push-downs - this focuses on the lateral head of the triceps.

There are many varied exercises that you can do within each of the four major move categories that will work all of your triceps. Here are the best triceps exercises and how to do them.

Take note that, if you’re a beginner, you should start out with a small amount of repetitions, usually between five and twenty, and just a few sets, one to three is enough. Later on, when the exercises begin to get easier and you want to challenge yourself, increase the number of repetitions and sets. If you want to bulk up your muscles, increase the mass of the weights you use.

Ready, set, go.

One Arm Overhead Extensions

  1. Stand upright—or sit on a chair, bench or stability ball—and hold one dumbbell, then raise your arm so that it is behind your head.
  2. Your elbow should be bent so that the dumbbell drops down until your elbow is at a ninety-degree angle.
  3. Raise your elbow so that your arm is straight overhead.
  4. Repeat the above for one to three sets, doing eight to sixteen repetitions per set.

Two Arm Overhead Extensions

  1. Stand upright—or sit on a chair, bench or stability ball—and hold a weight in both of your hands, extending it up over your head.
  2. Keep your shoulders next to your ears as you bend the elbows, lowering the weight behind your head until the elbows are at about a ninety-degree angle, resembling an L-shape.
  3. Straighten your arms upward again to their starting position.
  4. Keep the abs contracted throughout the exercise and avoid arching your back.
  5. Repeat the above for one to three sets, doing eight to sixteen repetitions per set.

Lying Barbell Triceps Extensions (Skull Crushers)

  1. Grab a weighted bar. Your palms should be facing away from your face.
  2. Now lay down on a bench.
  3. Push the bar above your chest and then with a slow, controlled movement, allow your upper arms to drift downward to about a forty-five degree angle.
  4. Then continue to slowly lower the bar down so that is is slightly behind your head.
  5. Next, you should lift the bar upwards and return it to its starting position.
  6. Try to keep your elbows lined up with your wrists throughout the exercise.
  7. Repeat the above for one to three sets, with eight to sixteen repetitions per set.

Variation 1: you can use dumbbells or kettlebells with this exercise. Using them will engage your core a bit more when you try to stabilize the extra weight.

Pullover

  1. Lie down on a bench or on the floor.
  2. Grab the bar with both hands, your palms will be facing away from your face and your hands should be shoulder width apart.
  3. Raise the bar so that it is above your chest. This is your starting position.
  4. Your elbows should be slightly bent.
  5. With a slow controlled movement, lower the bar over and past your head.
  6. Continue onward until you feel your triceps and latissimus dorsi muscles stretch. Pause for a count of two breaths.
  7. Contracting your abdominal muscles, pull the bar back up to the starting position.
  8. Tighten your triceps as you go back into the starting position.
  9. Repeat the above for one to three sets, with eight to sixteen repetitions per set.

Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extensions

  1. Lie down with your back placed securely against a bench or a flat surface. If you are on the floor, make sure your knees are bent with your feet planted firmly on the floor.
  2. Hold the dumbbells (or bar) with your arms stretched out fully— they should be shoulder-width apart above you.
  3. Keep your elbows in a locked position and lower the weights behind your head towards the ground. Pause for about two breaths.
  4. Now, lift your arms back to your starting position.
  5. Repeat the above for one to three sets, doing eight to sixteen repetitions per set.

Suspension Trainer Tricep Extension

  1. Lengthen the straps and stand or sit underneath the anchor point your trainer has attached the strap to.
  2. Lean forward slightly and bend your elbows until you feel your triceps stretch. Your palms should be facing each other behind your head.
  3. Keep your body straight and your core tight, raise your elbows upward, rotating your palms so they face away from your body when the arms have been fully extended.
  4. Repeat the above for one to three sets, doing eight to sixteen repetitions per set.

Dips

  1. If you are at a gym, use dip bars if available, If not, you can use a bench or a chair.
  2. Place your palms on a bench or chair, your fingers should drop lightly over the edge of the chair or bench. Your legs should be out in front of you.
  3. Lower your body until your upper arms are aligned parallel to the floor. Do not go any lower.
  4. Contract your muscles and raise yourself up to your starting position.
  5. Repeat the above for one to three sets, doing eight to sixteen repetitions per set.

Kickbacks

  1. Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Push your hips back slightly, lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor.
  3. Turn your palms facing each other in front of you.
  4. Keep your upper arms against your sides. Your arms should be at a ninety-degree angle.
  5. Push your elbows backward until your arms are parallel to your torso.
  6. Return your arms to their starting position.
  7. Repeat the above for one to three sets, doing eight to sixteen repetitions per set.

Variation: You can do this exercise using one arm at a time. You can also perform this exercise with one leg on a bench or chair to aid stability.

Rope/Band Push down

  1. Fix an elastic exercise band or rope to a strong overhead object—like a door or metal bar—then hold each side of the band/rope. Make sure that your palms are facing downward.
  2. Be sure to keep your elbows firmly against your sides then stretch your arms downward in a slow controlled movement.
  3. Slowly bring your arms up to the starting position.
  4. Repeat the above for one to three sets doing eight to sixteen repetitions per set.

If you are at the gym, you can do this exercise on a weight assisted machine instead.

Close Grip Floor Press

  1. Lie on the floor and move or roll the barbell up to your chest. If you have a partner, let them hand the bar to you. Grasp the bar at approximately shoulder-width.
  2. Arch your back so there is no space between your lower back and the floor.
  3. Lower the bar toward your chest, tucking your elbows closer to your sides, at about a forty-five degree angle.
  4. When your triceps touch the floor, push or press the bar back up.
  5. Repeat the above for one to three sets, doing eight to sixteen repetitions per set.

Close Grip Bench Press

  1. Lie down on the bench, with your feet firmly on the floor.
  2. Grasp the bar with your fingers at approximately shoulder width apart, make sure that you are grabbing the rough part of the bar.
  3. Arch your back so that there is a little space between your lower back and the bench.
  4. Lift the bar off the stand and lower it to your chest. Just as with the previous exercise mentioned above—make sure to tuck your elbows into your sides at about a forty-five degree angle.
  5. When the bar touches your body, thrust your feet hard into the floor as a means of helping you bear the weight and press the bar back up.
  6. On your last set of this exercise, remove half of the weight from the bar and perform as many repetitions as possible.

Decline Tricep Extension

  1. Set an adjustable bench to a slight decline— it should be around a thirty-degree angle. Lie on the bench with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Hold the dumbbell weights over your chest with your palms facing each other.
  3. Lower the weights to the sides of your head.
  4. Repeat the above for one to three sets, doing eight to sixteen repetitions per set.

Close Grip Push-Up

  1. Get yourself into a push-up position—legs straight behind you in a plank position—with your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor. If you need to, keep your knees on the floor to make it easier.
  2. Keep your abdominal muscles tight while you lower your body until your chest is just above the floor. If you cannot go that low, go as far as you can until you build the strength to complete it.
  3. Push yourself back up into your starting position.
  4. Repeat the above for one to three sets, doing eight to sixteen repetitions per set, or as many times as desired for your training.

Triangle Push Up

This is a more advanced push-up.

  1. The first thing you need to do is get yourself into a normal push-up position. If this position is too difficult, keep your knees on the floor.
  2. Then bring your hands together, with your fingers opened slightly. Then touch the thumbs and forefingers to each other. It should look like a triangle or a diamond shape.
  3. Your back needs to be horizontal to the floor with the abdominal muscles tight as you lower yourself down. Go down until your nose or chest touches the floor. If you can't go that low, then go as far as you can. Continue to work so that over time you build enough strength to lower yourself completely to the floor.
  4. Now lift yourself back up to your starting position.
  5. Repeat the above for one to three sets, doing eight to sixteen repetitions per set.

Variation: For an extra challenge, try doing the push ups using a stability ball to support your feet.

Tate Press

  1. Lie back on a bench or flat surface with a set of dumbbells in each hand. Your arms should be raised up and over your chest with your palms facing your feet.
  2. Lower the dumbbells downward toward your chest. Your elbows should be pointed away from your body.
  3. Lift your arms until they are stretched out to their full length complete one rep.
  4. Repeat the above for one to three sets, doing eight to sixteen repetitions per set.
best tricep exercises - Tricep Exercises Conclusion
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Conclusion

We discussed the best triceps exercises that will work your muscles from all directions. These exercises are designed not only to build your strength but to also build muscle mass.

If you want the bulk of a weight lifter, then heavier weights with more repetitions and sets will be the direction you should go in. If you would rather achieve a more athletic look without the bulk, then use lighter weights with less repetitions and sets.

Proper form is the key to any exercise you perform with weights. If you do not practice proper form you could injure yourself. Please take care and speak to a professional trainer if you have questions.