Whether you’re just getting into the gym or you’ve been training in the iron temple for years, you’ll probably know how important it is to be balanced in your strength training. There’s no point in trying to build massive quads if your hamstrings remain weak, and you can’t have big biceps if you don’t put any time into your triceps. In fact, the triceps form 60% of the muscle mass in your upper arms, making it critical to know some of the best triceps exercises for men as a part of your training plan.
If you’re new to specific muscle group training, never fear. The triceps are the three muscles (long head, medial head, and lateral head) at the back of the upper arm. They work together to allow for the extension of the elbow and straightening of the arm, working in tandem with the bicep at the front of your upper arm. The tricep and bicep basically work as pulleys to straighten or bend your arm at the elbow, with one relaxing while the other contracts, and vice-versa.
Because of how significant the tricep muscle group is to the strength of your arms overall, tricep exercises deserve ample attention when you’re in the gym. Don’t skimp on them just to focus on making your biceps bulge any bigger, because stronger triceps will actually build the strength of your entire arms.
RELATED: 10 Best Shoulder Exercises For Men
When you’re in the gym next, there are a few things you need to remember to make sure you have as productive a workout as possible. Firstly, remember to take the time to do a proper warm-up, before you try lifting anything really heavy. There’s nothing worse than getting an injury by lifting a weight you should be comfortable with, just because you didn’t warm up thoroughly enough. Second, if you’re still learning the perfect technique for any of these exercises, make sure you start using guided weights machines before moving onto free weights. Finally, no matter if you’re looking to build muscle mass or definition, don’t be afraid to keep going until failure. If you’ve taken the time and effort to get to the gym, you might as well work hard!
Now that we’ve got our bases covered, let’s take a look at a few of our favourite triceps exercises that will help build a seriously impressive set of upper arms.
1. Close Grip Bench Press
Performing Close Grip Bench Presses will work your triceps, chest muscles, and shoulder muscles, including the rotator cuff, and offers a larger range of motion than a simple floor press. However, you can only get great results in those areas, especially your triceps muscles, if you’re performing the workout correctly. We recommend that you use a spotter machine for safety, and follow these steps:
- Before you lie on the bench, fix the barbell at a comfortable position on the rack, where you can comfortably pick and return it while lying,
- Lie on a bench with your knees slightly bent below you, hold the barbell with both hands and extend your arms with your index fingers on the rough part of the bar,
- Ensure your hands are at least shoulder-width apart and your body straight,
- Slightly curve your back to create a small space between the bench and your lower back,
- Lift the bar from the rack with an overhand grip and hold it with your arms completely straight above your sternum, while holding your arms tightly to your body,
- Inhale and lower the bar until it lightly touches your chest,
- Exhale and push the bar from your chest using your tricep muscles,
- Repeat the procedure in 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 8 repetitions, with 60 seconds rest between each set
2. Tricep Dips
Looking for a great way to work your triceps without spending money on expensive equipment or a gym membership? Then you’ll absolutely love Triceps Dips, not just because of how easy they are to do, but because of their effectiveness.
Tricep dips are a workout that allows you to work your triceps using your entire body weight. All you need are parallel bars, through which you’ll be suspending your body. It’s a great workout if you’re looking to build some upper arm mass into your triceps, especially around the lateral head.
However, the technique is not the best if you are a beginner and are still building strength in your shoulder muscles. Because it’s a workout that uses your body weight as resistance, you’ll need to be able to support your own weight before you attempt this exercise. Below is the process you should follow when doing your tricep dips:
- With your hands holding onto the parallel bars, suspend your trunk between the parallel bars and perpendicular to the floor,
- Cross your ankles and fold your knees while still on the bars. The idea is to create some space beneath you to lower yourself into for the exercise,
- Now you’re in the starting position, lower your torso until the shoulder joints go below or are parallel to your elbows,
- Wait for two seconds, then push the torso back to your original position (when the elbows are almost locked),
- Repeat the whole process 8 to 10 times in 2 or 3 sets. Remember to take 60 seconds to rest between the sets.
3. Cable Rope Tricep Pushdown
The Cable Rope Tricep Pushdown is an excellent way of working your triceps, especially if you don’t want to do exercises that require heavier weights. Instead of free weights or your own body weight, this exercise uses a cable machine to control the movement and allows your elbow joint to be more stable. Before trying this exercise, it’s important to remember your feet should be hip-width apart, your elbows bent at 90 degrees, and the back should remain straight:
- Affix a rope to the highest pulley of the cable machine,
- Choose the weight that you can comfortably lift on the cable stack,
- Adjust the rope so that it hangs at a level or slightly above your chest,
- Now that you’re in the starting position, with an overhand grip, hold the cord with your trunk facing the machine
- With the upper arms tucked to your sides, push the bar down until the elbows are almost locked (without making your arms fully extended)
- Wait for two seconds before returning to the original position
- Perform the exercise in three sets of 10 reps each; with 60 minutes rest in between
4. Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extension
Also known as skull crusher, the Lying Triceps Extension is another way of enhancing your triceps’ endurance, strength, and even appearance. Like tricep dips, the lying triceps extensions are fit for individuals who have experience doing the other tricep workouts. Because as the nickname “skull crusher” suggests, it can be dangerous when done incorrectly. Never try this exercise with a weight you aren’t sure you can lift, as you can drop the weight on your own head.
You can complete the workout using the following steps:
- With barbells on your thighs, sit on the edge of a bench,
- Hold the barbells with your palms facing down while keeping your hands shoulder-width apart,
- Lift the bar to your chest and then lie down on your back as the starting position. Lift the bar off your chest so that it is perpendicularly above your sternum,
- Now, with your elbows tucked close to your sides, lower the load slowly until it’s an inch away from your forehead,
- Pause for a few seconds, and then push the bar back to the original position,
- Remember not to lock the elbow as this will let the tension off the triceps,
- Repeat the whole process 10 to 12 times within 2 to 3 sets in a day.
A slightly less dangerous version of the lying tricep extension is the overhead triceps extension, where you sit on a bench rather than lying down. By doing an overhead triceps extension, you’re lowering the weight behind your head, making it less dangerous if you accidentally drop the weight.
5. Standard Push-Up
They say old is gold, and this is true with our old but good Standard Push-Up technique. With it, you can effectively work your whole upper body, including chest, shoulders, and arms. Of course, this wouldn’t be on the list if it didn’t also deliver a searingly good workout to all triceps muscle in your arms.
While this exercise might seem too simple, it can help you achieve your fitness goals simply, without needing any equipment at all, making it one of the best triceps exercises there is. If you’ve never done pushups before, here’s what you need to do:
- Lie down with all your four limbs, with your elbows tucked to your sides (shoulder-width apart), while keeping the back and the legs straight,
- Using our elbows, lower your body until your chest almost touches the floor,
- Wait for 3 seconds with your elbow bent and push your body back to the starting position by extending your elbows till you have your arms straight,
- Repeat the procedure 8 to 10 times in 3 sets, with a 60 seconds break in between the sets
The best thing about pushups for the strength of your upper body is that you can literally do them anywhere, and as we’re about to find out, there are infinite variations to the pushup you can do.
6. Close Grip Parallette Tricep Push-Up
Like the typical push-ups, the Close Grip Parallette Tricep Push-Ups will let you work your triceps, shoulder, and chest muscles using your body weight. If you haven’t used them before, parallettes are basically a pair of bars that are just off the ground, allowing you to complete a larger range of body weight based workouts.
However, the elevation that your hands get by using the height of the parallette, gives this type of push-up an upper hand as far as properly working out your tricep heads. In other words, the idea behind the parallette height is to transfer all of your body weight to your arms, and specifically, the triceps.
To execute the exercise:
- Get down on all fours, with your hands holding the parallette shoulder-width apart,
- Keeping the core tight, the hips neutral, and the back straight, inhale and start lowering your body by bending the elbows until the chest is an inch away from the parallette, much like you would when doing a pushup,
- Wait for two seconds, exhale and then extend your elbows to push your body to the starting position,
- Repeat the process 10 to 12 times in 3 to 4 sets. Remember to take at least 60 seconds rest between the sets.
7. Single Arm Tricep Dumbbell Kickback
Also known as the tricep kickbacks, the Dumbbell Kickback is one of the top-ranked tricep exercises by the American Council on Exercise. The exercise is more effective if you use standard weight dumbbells, but if you’re doing a high number of repetitions, it’s definitely worth lowering your dumbbell weight.
As with all of these exercises, correct posture and technique are important, so always remember to use a bench and follow the steps as closely as you can:
- With a dumbbell on your right hand, kneel on a bench with your left foot and use your left arm to support your body,
- Your torso and the upper arm should be parallel to the bench or the floor. Also, your right elbow should be at 90 degrees with the weights on its grip,
- Keep your left arm stationary and extend your right elbow to lift the dumbbell backward. Lift the dumbbells until the elbow is fully straight,
- Wait for the count of two, then lower the dumbbells to the original position,
- Repeat the process 10 to 12 times with the right hand, then repeat the same for the left arm to complete a set,
- Perform the exercise in 3 to 4 sets with a 60-second break after every set
8. Diamond Push-Up
Various studies have found Diamond Push-Ups as one the most effective tricep workouts for achieving muscle mass, strength, and endurance. It involves the application of almost the full body weight to the muscles of your upper arms, making this another one of the best tricep workouts there is.
The diamond push up is also one of the many variations on the standard push up we mentioned earlier, which by itself is a great tricep exercise. If you’re keen to see what you’re made of, here’s how you master this tricep workout:
- Go down on all fours. Your hands should be less than shoulder-width apart. The back should remain straight, the hips above the knees,
- Connect your thumbs and the index fingers to create a triangle or diamond shape between your hands (below the chest),
- Now, engaging your core, lower the body slowly by folding the elbows tight until your upper arms align with the ribcage,
- Wait for two seconds, breath out and then return to the original position by extending the elbows,
- Repeat the moves 10 to 12 times for three sets.
9. Tate Press
Tate Press is your perfect exercise if you want to spark the growth of your triceps while giving a treat to the chest and the shoulder muscles. It is similar to the close grip bench press, although the dumbbell Tate press concentrates on triceps more than any muscle.
If you would like to try out the exercise, below is how to do it.
- Sit on a flat bench while holding dumbbells on both hands,
- Lie on the bench with your back arched to create some curved space between your back and the bench,
- With a pronated grip, lift the dumbbells over your chest,
- Keep the sides of the dumbbells closely touching,
- Keep your legs grounded, waist-length apart to stabilize your core,
- Now, inhale and fold your elbow slowly to lower the weights until they are an inch away from your chest,
- Hold the weights in that position for almost 2 seconds, then extend the elbows to return the dumbbells to their original position,
- Repeat the process 8 to 10 times, in 3 to 4 sets.
10. Standing Overhead Cable Triceps Extension + Straight Arm Cable Pull-Down
The Standing Overhead Cable + the Arm Cable Pull-Down will not only work your triceps but also work the lats, posterior deltoids, and other major muscles groups.
The standing overhead cable will also work your back if done in the right way. Below are the steps to follow in case you decide to try out this workout:
Working With the Standing Overhead Cable
- Affix a rope to the cable station’s high pulley,
- Grip the handle of the machine and face away from the machine. Also, keep your hands aligned with your shoulders,
- Pull your arms forward in front of your head and then return to the starting position,
- Repeat the steps 10 to 12 times to complete a set. You can hit up to three sets in a day.
Working with the Straight Cable Pull Down
Move directly to the straight Cable Pull-Down after you are done with the steps above:
- Grab the handle from the top fully off the station,
- With your waist bent at 30 degrees, slowly pull the bar down until your arms are fully extended and your hands align with the thighs,
- Return to the original position and repeat for 10 to 12 times for three sets.
11. 45-Degree Incline Dumbbell Chest Press
As the name suggests, the 45-Degree Incline Dumbbell Chest Press involves using a bench that is inclined at 45 degrees. So, by using this technique, you will have your back inclined at 45 degrees at the waist rather than 180 degrees associated with workouts like Tate press and the close grip bench press.
Here’s how you can get after it:
- Adjust your workout bench to 45-degrees,
- Lie on the bench with dumbbells on your hands,
- With palms facing to the outside, lift the dumbbells on the level of your shoulders,
- With your hands locked out, contract your chest and then return the dumbbells slowly to their original position,
- Repeat the moves for 10 to 12 reps in 3 sets,
- Remember to take a 60-second break after every set.
Doing the right triceps workouts can be extremely rewarding, not just for building a serious upper body, but also for the overall improvements to your strength that you’ll see. All you need to do is remember the fundamentals of warming up properly, following the correct technique and making sure you’re working hard. Plus, if done as a part of a considered workout program for your entire body, will nicely complement the rest of your weekly routine.