Men only want one thing in life: big arms. Aside from a shirt-filling chest, men – or least, the men who see working out as a pastime that won’t bring them disappointment – value arms so large they quite literally bust out of their shirt.
But, while performing various biceps workouts will bring you those muscular peaks you crave, it’s imperative you train the triceps muscles if you want to start seeing some serious size. And of course, you don’t want you to focus all your attention on just your arms or upper body. As the saying goes, never skip leg day. But if you don’t want to dedicate an entire session to your pins, then a full body workout is the next best thing.
But, back to the triceps and their importance. It’s unlikely you’ll spend an entire gym session working just the triceps muscles – they’d become way too fatigued – but add some exercises into your upper body or arm day workout and you’ll be checking yourself out in the mirror at any given notice.
So, want to know some of the best triceps workouts you can do? Read on to find out. But first, a little biology lesson.
What Are The Triceps Muscles?
The triceps – or triceps brachii – is a three-headed muscle (tri meaning three, of course) that is found on the back of the upper arm. It’s comprised of three parts, or heads: medial head; lateral head; and long head, which go some way to explaining why training them is a surefire way to gaining huge arms: more muscles equals more size.
The primary function of the triceps is to flex the elbow joint and straighten the arm, and it’s this movement that you should be making sure you fully complete with performing tricep workouts. You want to work the muscle group through the full range of contraction so that you work every single part of it.
Best Triceps Workouts
Close Grip Bench Press
Yep, the bench press, an exercise most commonly associated with building the chest muscles, can also be used to increase the size of your triceps, simply by changing where you place your hands on the bar. While a regular bench press grip – hands extended beyond shoulder width – will work your triceps to some extent, bringing your hands in closer together, to the point where they’re almost touching, will put far greater tension on them.
How to perform: Performing a close grip bench press is relatively simple, if you already know how to do a regular bench press. Lie down on a weights bench, bring your feet close to the bench and plant your feet on the ground. Lockdown your shoulder blades to ensure you are in a braced position. You don’t want to have your back arching when you lift.
Bring your hands in to around shoulder-width apart and use an overhand grip. Raise the bar as you would with a bench press: pushing yourself back into the bench. You’ll find, however, that because of the close hand grip you’re using, more effort will naturally be applied to the arms, which is want you want.
It’s because of this that you’re almost definitely not going to be able to lift the same amount of weight as you would with a chest press, so make sure to keep things light to start off with.
Keep the movement slow and controlled throughout and make sure to fully extend the arms so that you lock out the elbows. Return the bar slowly to your chest and repeat for 8-12 reps.
The skull crusher exercise doesn’t literally crush your skull, thankfully, but they are another one of the best triceps exercises you can perform to guarantee you super-huge arms. They’re also a great exercise to perform to increase the strength of your triceps, which will help you further down the line with other movements such as the bench press and overhead press.
How to perform: The skull crusher can be a bit of an awkward movement to get right if you’re new to them, but the steps are relatively easy to follow. Start lying down on a weight bench with a barbell or pre-weighted bar.
Raise it above you as if you were performing a bench press: hands set shoulder-width with apart and with an overhand grip. From here, lower the barbell back towards your head (the part of the movement that gives it its name) making sure to keep your elbows kept as closed in as possible, before going on to lower it down and behind your head.
Your shoulders will naturally want to roll a bit here, and your elbows will flare our a little. This is perfectly fine and perfectly normal, but the more you lose the desired form, the less tension you’ll be putting on your triceps.
Slowly return the bar to the starting position, bringing it back over your head and bending at the elbow joint, using the triceps to force the forearms to lift the bar up.
Triceps Push Down
Call it a push down, pull down or press down, whatever it’s name might be, this triceps exercise is one that features in pretty much any well-rounded triceps and arm workout. It does require the use of a cable machine, so unless you’re lucky enough to have a full gym set up at home, you’ll need to arm yourself with a gym membership.
How to perform: There are a few variations of the triceps push down, in that you can use a number of different hand attachments for the cable machine. The two most common are to use either a bar or a rope attachment. For the purposes of this example, we’ll be using the rope attachment.
Step up to the cable machine and set the pulley to a couple of notches above head height. Grab either side of the rope with palms facing inwards, and start with it close to your chest. With your feet together, knees bent and torso upright, pull the rope down, keeping your upper arms static and close to your body.
Once your arms at straight down in front of you, you can create extra tension on your triceps by moving your wrists so that your palms are facing down, again, still keeping your upper arms close to your body. Hold in this position for a second and really feel the squeeze in your triceps, before returning the rope to the starting position.
Sets: 3 to 4 sets with 10 to 12 reps per set
Tempo: 3 seconds down, 1 second up
Best Tricep Workouts With Dumbbells
Overhead Triceps Extension
Overhead triceps extensions are essential exercises for targeting and torching your triceps muscles. What makes them even greater, is that they can performed in a multitude of ways, so finding the method that feels best for you should be pretty easy. A word of caution, however, is to not got too heavy with the weight, especially if you’re new to them.
The key to performing effective triceps extension movements is to make sure your elbow goes through its full range of motion so that the entire muscle can be developed. Going too heavy with the weights will inhibit this range of motion, and you’ll get barely any benefit at all.
So, you need to choose which method of overhead triceps extension you want to perform. You can do them standing up, with two dumbbells; standing with one hand grasping a dumbbell and focusing on one arm at a time; using a cable machine to pull a rope of bar attachment from behind you and over your head; or you can even perform them lying down.
How to perform: If you go down the standing route, the steps to follow are the same for all. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and raise the dumbbell, or dumbbells, above your head and extend your arms. Them, bend your elbows and lower your forearm behind your head keeping your triceps as straight as possible.
You only need to bend your elbows to around 90-degrees, or when your forearms are parallel to the floor. From here, extend your arms straight up to their starting position before repeating the movement.
If you perform these triceps extensions with one arm, you want to start from the same starting position, but when you lower your forearm, you want to keep the dumbbell closer to your back, so your elbow – and the back of your arms to an extent – is pointing up to the sky.
The triceps kickback movement is an isolating movement that is one of best triceps exercises out there, and fortunately, they’re incredibly simple to perform. You can perform them in a couple of ways: either using a weight bench to kneel on, using one dumbbell at a time, or standing and holding two dumbbells.
The kneeling method is easier and will likely see you carrying out a more effective technique, so it’s the method we’d recommend for people new to this triceps exercise. Kneel on a weights bench, so that your knee, shin and even foot is on it. Slightly bend the knee of the standing leg, and bend your upper body so that is it parallel with the floor.
How to perform: Hold the dumbbell in the hand on the same side as the standing leg, making sure to not use a weight that is too heavy. You want to go high with the reps here. For the starting position, you want to be holding the dumbbell with your elbow bent at 90-degrees.
Then, straighten your arm so it is parallel with the floor, bending at the elbow joint. Contract, or squeeze, your triceps muscle at this point, before returning back to the starting position.
Best Tricep Workouts At Home
The classic push-up is already a good movement for working the triceps, although it’s far more effective at targeting the chest muscles. If you want to torch your triceps, only the diamond push-up will do. A more advanced version of the classic push-up diamond push-ups see you bringing your hands in closer together, and angling them so that they form a diamond shape.
How to perform: Get yourself into a classic push-up position and then bring your hands in closer together so your thumbs are touching each other, and your index fingers are touching each other. As with other push-up movements, you want to tuck your pelvis in, engaging your core and keeping your spine straight.
Lower your body down towards the floor, pushing your elbows out. You’ll immediately feel the burn in your triceps as you do so, but the real test comes in pushing yourself back up. Force your hands into the ground to raise yourself back to the starting position, before lowering yourself down again.
They literally have the name of the muscle group in the title. Triceps dips are one of the best triceps exercises you can perform, as they’re dedicated to giving you seriously big arms. Plus, you don’t necessarily even need a gym to perform them. If you have two surfaces at the same height and close enough together – two kitchen countertops, for example – you can carry out some dips.
Tricep dips are great because they require you to lift your entire bodyweight, putting incredible tension on the desired muscle group (they also work your shoulders and chest and the same time, especially if you lean forward slightly, so bonus).
How to perform: To perform tricep dips, you’ll need a set of bars just over hip-width apart. The best height for you will be determined by how tall you are. Grasp the bars and lift yourself up. Bend your knees slightly and cross your feet behind you, and then slowly lower your body down.
Be sure to bring your elbows to around a 90-degree angle behind you when you lower your body, or until your shoulders dip lower than your elbows. Push yourself back up to the starting position, although be sure to not fully lock out your elbows. Get to a point where you’re close to locking out, hold for a second or two, before you lower your body again.