It is no secret that building bigger arms can be difficult.
A lot of people put in the work to train their biceps but neglect the tricep muscles.
Triceps play a huge role in arm size and shape.
In this blog post, you’ll find the 12 best triceps exercises for all levels of fitness that you should include in your workouts.
If you want bigger arms, make sure your diet plan and exercise selection are prioritized.
Before we get into the best triceps exercises, we should learn about the different muscles that make up the tricep.
The triceps have three heads referred to as the lateral head, medial head, and long head.
The lateral head of the tricep is on the outside of your arm.
The medial head makes up the inside part of your arm and connects to your elbow.
The long head runs under the lateral and medial heads, but does not connect with either one at all!
Triceps are responsible for extending or straightening out each side of your elbow.
If you want to build bigger arms, then you must get your triceps working!
The best triceps exercises will help strengthen and tone the muscles of your entire arm through a variety of movements.
You can even tricep workouts with resistance bands for an intense workout!
Now, let’s dive right in.
Dips: Best Triceps Exercise with Bodyweight
Dips are the king of exercises for building big, strong triceps.
They target all three heads of the tricep.
Dips are relatively easy on the joints so it’s a good move if you have any joint problems or injuries.
Some people might be able to do more than 12 reps with this exercise, but it’s not recommended.
If you’re not sure what your max is for dips, stop at 12.
If you can do 12 or more, try adding weight with a belt.
You can also try adding weight by wearing a backpack with some heavy books or plates inside it.
If you’re looking for an advanced tricep exercise, dips are the best option for tricep activation and strength gains.
To focus on your triceps during dips, keep your body as vertical as possible.
Leaning forward targets your chest more.
Adding dips into your push or tricep routine will get you those horseshoe triceps in no time!
In your workout, start with dips if they’re tougher for you or do them in the middle of your routine.
If your focus is on aesthetics, do sets of about 8-12 reps. If you want to focus on strength, I prefer to do 4-5 sets with as much weight as possible for about 4-5 reps.
Dips are great, but here’s the thing.
When doing dips, make sure you keep your shoulders tucked down and back.
If you hunch forward, you risk shoulder pain, a rotator cuff injury, and bursitis.
Improper form forces the ball into the socket which can pinch your bursa and contribute to wear and tear on your rotator cuff tendons.
Avoid locking your elbows at the beginning of each rep to keep constant tension on those triceps!
Avoid dipping too low and always stay within a comfortable range for you.
Parallel or just below parallel is plenty deep enough or you risk unnecessary shoulder strain.
You can also incorporate them in your workout for triceps at home by doing a torso-elevated variation if you’re in a time crunch.
Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press
If you’re willing to lift heavy in your tricep workouts by using a barbell, this exercise is a must-have necessity for arm development.
It’s true that bench press variations mainly target your chest, but by using a narrow grip, you greatly increase tricep activation in all three heads.
It requires less shoulder flexibility than other triceps exercises, so it’s a good starter exercise for people who are new to strength training or have had some kind of injury in the past.
It helps powerlifters by improving the lockout and elbow positioning of their bench press which will only increase their lifting numbers.
It’s great for bodybuilders by adding extra stimulus to the triceps as a great compound movement.
Unlike many isolation moves like skull crushers and kickbacks that can put undue stress on your joints, this exercise is safe for just about any lifter.
It’s also a convenient exercise and can be performed after bench press without much setup.
Make sure you tuck your elbows in to reduce the stress placed on your pecs and shoulders while increasing tricep activation.
Skullcrusher is one of the best exercises for building massive triceps because it puts you in a good position to focus on the muscles’ primary function of extending your elbows.
It’s also an excellent exercise to help you break through plateaus in your bench press.
This exercise works the long and lateral heads of the tricep to help with arm development.
The most popular version involves lying on a flat bench and working your triceps with an EZ bar.
If you’re looking for variety in your triceps workout, dumbbells can be used as well!
Skull crushers will isolate your tricep muscles further than other exercises because you can’t use momentum to push through the movement.
To start, bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle and lower the weight until it just about touches your forehead.
Keep your upper arms in line with your head throughout this movement.
Don’t allow them to move forward or you’ll negate the effectiveness of the exercise by using more front delts than triceps.
Press through with your triceps to return your arm to the starting position.
You can also do this exercise with one arm at a time by using the leg opposite of the working arm for support.
This will make it harder and help you target each side of your body independently, which is especially useful if you have imbalances between sides.
Based on your routine, you can perform these at the beginning of an arm workout or later or at the end of a push routine.
You can also alter the bench incline or decline to change the angle of the movement.
Make sure you choose a comfortable weight that you can do for 8-12 reps as this exercise can put some strain on your elbows if you go too heavy.
Close-Grip Dumbbell Bench Press
I’m sure you’ve noticed the pattern, but I tend to favor compound movements over isolation movements for all muscle groups including back, shoulders, and legs.
They allow for the best progressive overload and muscle growth.
Shake up your tricep workouts with dumbbells to grow your arms fast.
Bench press variations typically target your chest, but by keeping the dumbbells pressed together or even turning them so that your palms face in, you significantly increase the tricep use.
The increased range of motion using dumbbell exercises for triceps hammers your arms for a lot of activation in all three heads.
You can increase the tension on your triceps further by slightly tilting the dumbbells towards your head.
This tricep exercise with dumbbells is great if you still want to use a compound movement to target your triceps while reducing the risk of shoulder pain that barbell variations may cause.
A benefit of this over the barbell variation is that you are required to move each arm unilaterally helping to fix any muscle imbalances that might be present.
You can perform this movement for ranges of 6-10 reps usually earlier on in the workout.
Don’t be afraid to try this lift later in the workout with lighter weight and more reps to focus on tricep development.
Tricep Cable Push-Down
This exercise is a paragon of tricep burnouts and for good reason.
This exercise is easy to perform and one of the most effective tricep exercises to target the lateral head of the tricep.
Just make sure you don’t let your arms move away from your sides or you reduce the tricep activation.
You hit your triceps even harder, mix it up with the pronated cable push-down.
While it looks similar to the regular push-downs, using a rope grip and by pronating your arms, you shift focus from the side heads towards the medial heads of your tricep which are more involved in elbow extension.
The best part about this exercise is that you can switch up your grip width to target various heads of the tricep.
It’s a great all-around arm mass builder!
Being an isolation exercise, you should do this at the end of your arm or push day with higher rep ranges of 10-12 reps.
If your tricep workout is at home, you NEED to include these.
Close-grip push-ups are a great way to work all three heads of your triceps and upper body muscles.
They can be done anywhere, anytime you have a little bit of free time.
Close-grip push-ups require more balance than traditional hand placement, which is why they engage the core as well.
You also see an increase in stability from this exercise because it requires some weight shifting from side to side for proper form.
If you find them to be too easy, you can do diamond push-ups by putting your hands together and forming a diamond in between your hands.
The key with diamond push-ups is how deep you go with each repetition.
The deeper you go, the more difficult the move becomes, and therefore the better your arms will feel after just one set!
You can further increase the difficulty by doing them at an incline if you hate yourself, but want to see your arms grow large.
Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extension
Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extensions are a great exercise for tricep development because it targets the long head of the triceps which tends to not get focus as much as other parts of the tricep.
The movement is done with an upright posture, which doesn’t focus as much on your chest.
It’s important to maintain a straight back throughout this exercise as well as keeping your elbows close to your body.
You can do these exercises with either one or two dumbbells depending on the weight you’re lifting and how many sets/reps you want to do.
Make sure that if you’re using just one dumbbell, you switch sides halfway through so that both arms get worked evenly and don’t feel neglected!
Finally, make sure that when doing these exercises, you keep your shoulders back and don’t let them round forward.
This exercise can be done for high reps or low reps depending on what you want to get out of it, but either way, make sure that your form is there throughout!
Do this tricep exercise with dumbbells toward the middle or end of your workout after heavier, compound movements.
You can also do single-arm extensions to focus on each arm independently to help fix any imbalances.
You can shoot for sets of 8-10 reps and focus on getting a good stretch when doing the eccentric portion of the lift while lowering the weight.
Overhead Tricep Cable Extension with Rope
The Cable Overhead Extension with Rope is a great exercise for long head development.
The movement involves holding onto a rope attachment from the pulley machine that allows you to pull it in front of your body, and then lowering it back again in a controlled manner.
This builds up the muscle fibers in the triceps muscle because they have to contract hard both when pulling in and when pushing out.
This variation is probably better than the dumbbell variation because tricep cable workouts create constant tension throughout the entire motion of the rep.
Do this exercise in the middle or end of the workout for sets of 8-12 reps to build some guns you’re proud of.
The Board Press (or block press) is a fantastic exercise for building up your triceps and break through plateaus.
You might think that it’s a bad bench press variation, but if you notice that when you bench, the last two-thirds of the movement is mostly elbow extension ie triceps.
This exercise will target the lateral and medial heads.
If you don’t have a board to use, you can always do this exercise within a rack and set the pins to the appropriate level.
It helps you improve the strength at your weakest point in the bench press.
Board press is great for tricep development because it allows you to lift a lot of weight.
The reduced range of motion allows you to add on the extra weight and hit those triceps harder than you could imagine without risking shoulder pain.
If you want big arms, then do lots of Board Presses!
Being a heavy compound lift, you should do them earlier in the routine and go heavy between 4-8 reps.
If you already have a strong bench, you can use elbow sleeves to reduce elbow strain and stay strong during the movement.
Close-Grip Barbell Floor Press
This exercise can target all three heads of the tricep for maximal development.
The idea behind the close-grip barbell floor press is similar to the board press in that the shortened range of motion allows you to lift a greater weight.
In turn, since most of the movement will depend on elbow extension, you’re hammering your triceps with heavier weight than they’re used to.
The reduced range of motion is also safer on the shoulders compared to other bench press variations.
This makes it a great option for those of us with shoulder pain or post-shoulder injuries.
However, this exercise hits your triceps harder than board presses because you’re laying on the ground.
This removes two important elements of your bench press form: the arch and leg drive.
As a result, your triceps are working EXTREMELY hard!
This movement also increases your eccentric control (lowering of the bar to your body) because you cannot bounce the weight off your chest like in bench press variations.
Being a tough, compound movement, you should typically do these earlier in the workout with heavier weights for 6-10 reps.
Close-Grip Dumbbell Floor Press
A great variation of the floor press, putting your body in the optimal position for tricep activation by reducing the efficiency of your bench press form.
You won’t be able to arch or use your leg drive to push the weight up.
This exercise targets all three heads of the tricep.
You will be able to use more weight than your triceps can handle compared to the full range of motion variations.
This is because they put your body in an optimal position to use the most weight possible, and also allow for maximum range of motion.
You can hit your triceps even harder than barbell floor presses by turning the dumbbells in so that your palms are facing inward.
Do these towards the beginning for sets of 6-10 reps since they’re a compound, tougher movement.
Triceps Machine Dip
Not as effective as bodyweight dips, but this compound exercise is great to hit your triceps hard using different rep ranges.
This exercise is great if you want to add some variety to your arm or push routine and still targets all three heads.
You can easily do forced reps, dropsets, or even pause reps to boost the intensity of your workout.
Do these earlier or in the middle of your arm workout for sets of 6-10 reps or towards the end of a push routine as a burnout to focus on tougher compound exercises.
The JM press is a very underrated exercise that deserves more attention.
It is a cross variation of the skullcrusher and close-grip bench press. tricep workouts with dumbbells.
To sum it up, you are doing a close-grip bench press rep but lowering the weight near your chin or neck.
It hits the triceps in a way that not many other exercises do, and it targets all three heads of the tricep.
It’s important to note, though, that this move should not be performed with heavyweights to the point where you might fail as it could lead to injury.
I can’t speak for you, but I won’t die for the gains!
If you’re looking for an exercise that will make your arms pop then try out some JM presses!
Single-Arm Cable Kick-Back
Though not anywhere near my favorite tricep exercise, kickbacks can be an excellent isolation exercise for building up the long head of your tricep.
A study showed that kickbacks, when done properly, have tricep activation similar to that of dips and other top-tier tricep exercises.
Trice dumbbell kickbacks aren’t as effective as using cables because the degree of cheating is reduced and the cables allow for constant tension.
I often see people swinging the dumbbell when doing this variation which just means they’re wasting their time!
You need to make sure you don’t drop your elbow and keep it parallel to the floor.
Fully extend and squeeze!
This exercise is great for helping build mind-muscle connection.
Place it at the end of your workout for sets of 10-12 reps.
How to select the best tricep exercises for size and strength.
A well-rounded workout routine for the triceps consists of a variety of exercises that hit all three heads.
Doing this will help you build size and strength, which is an important aspect of your physique.
Try to include at least one exercise that hits each head during your workout:
- One exercise with your shoulders extended (cable tricep kick-back)
- An exercise with your shoulder neutral (cable tricep push-down)
- One exercise with flexed shoulder (overhead tricep extensions)
Tricep Exercises FAQ
What tricep exercise is most effective?
Tricep dips are the most effective tricep exercise to do if you want to build your arms. It targets all three heads of your tricep and allows you to progressively overload them by utilizing extra weight if they get easy.
How do you hit all three heads of the triceps?
You can target all three heads with multi-joint exercises like dips and a close grip bench. If you prefer to focus on isolation exercises, you can do a mix of exercises with your arms and shoulders in different positions such as cable kickbacks for the long head, with pushdowns targeting the lateral head, and close grip presses for targeting the lateral head and medial head.
How do I bulk up my triceps?
target all three heads of your tricep with challenging weight. This will only get you so far and you will need to rely on a proper diet plan with sufficient protein, carbs, and fat to support your fitness goals.
Why are my triceps so weak?
Your triceps are probably weak because you do not give them enough attention compared to other muscle groups such as chest and legs. Make sure you are targeting all three heads of your tricep in your push or arm workouts with an array of different tricep-utilized exercises with challenging weight and rep ranges.
In this article, we have covered a wide variety of exercises that may be useful in your tricep workout.
They range from basic to more difficult and will enable you to get the most out of each exercise.
I hope that the knowledge provided has been helpful for you!
If any of these exercises are new or unfamiliar to you, try them out during a full-body routine so they can work synergistically with other muscle groups.
Remember: there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to fitness, we all have different bodies and goals.
Find works best for YOU!
Share this article with your workout partner that wants to blow their arms up like Popeye.