Strong arms are important, not just aesthetically, but for almost every upper body movement you do each day and your triceps are often the heavy lifters. Anytime you push something — a door, a stroller, a lawnmower or a dumbbell, you’re using your triceps. Here’s our guide to the best workouts for building your triceps.
The triceps, as the name suggests, has three different heads — the long head, lateral head, and the medial head. All of these heads contract during triceps exercises, but some moves emphasize different parts of the triceps. All tricep workouts are not created equal.
Skullcrushers are, perhaps, the single best overall workout for building bigger, stronger triceps. While skullcrushers — also known as a French press or lying triceps extension — don’t necessarily isolate the lateral or long heads more than other exercises, having the arm position perpendicular to your body combines the activity of the two heads to catapult this movement to the top of the list.
How To Do Skullcrushers
Using an EZ-bar, small barbell, or dumbbell, do 3 sets for 8-12 reps as the first or second exercise in your routine. Make sure you have a spotter to help you get the weight into position and allow for a bit more safety when you’re lowering the bar toward your face — there’s a reason this exercise is called a skullcrusher!
The triangle pushup is a very hard exercise. It requires tremendous upper body strength, so you may need to try this move on your knees and slowly work your way up to the toes.
How To Do Triangle Pushups
Begin the move by positioning the hands on the mat directly under the chest with the fingers spread and the thumbs and forefingers touching, making a triangle shape. Then Straighten the legs into a plank position (harder) or keep the knees on the floor for an easier version. Make sure the back is flat and the abs are engaged as you bend the elbows, lowering until your chin or chest touches the mat. If you can’t go that low, go as low as you can and work to build enough strength to lower all the way down over time. At the bottom of the movement, your elbows will naturally flare out to the side. Press back to start keeping the torso rigid and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.
Weighted Parallel-Bar Dips
This is another multijoint triceps exercise, so it’s near the top of the muscle-building list — especially weighted, which makes it more ideal for building mass. Attaching a belt around your waist with plates can increase the resistance so you fail within the target rep range of 8-12 ideal for muscle growth.
To focus on the triceps, keep your body as vertical as possible. Don’t lean forward, which hits your chest instead of your arms, and keep those elbows tight to your sides. Think dips won’t work for you? Take a look at any male gymnast; horseshoe triceps come standard issue with all those dips!
How To Do Weighted Parallel-Bar Dips
While there’s a pretty high degree of muscle recruitment with dips, it’s often best to do them later in your workouts. Start your triceps workout with big weights and presses, then use dips in the middle to flush those arms with blood. Load up your dip belt and shoot for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.
Cable push-downs actually activate the lateral head of the triceps more even than skullcrushers, kickbacks, or any other major triceps exercises. If you’re not doing this movement already, it’s a fairly good single-joint, lateral-head movement as long as you don’t let your arms drift from your sides.
How To Do Cable Push-Downs
Since this is an isolation exercise, do it toward the end of your workout for 3 sets of 10-12 reps. Once you pass the beginner level, it may be okay to allow your elbows to drift a bit from your sides to allow a greater stretch on the triceps.
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