The 8 Best Triceps Exercises That Work the Back of Your Arms
by Evelyn Valdez·
If you're looking to freshen up your upper body workouts and build stronger arms then you came to the right place! At UPPPER, we don't only supply you with the best weightlifting gear that supports your heavy lifts, we also do our best to give you the best strength training tips to ensure you're getting the most out of your UPPPER gear 😉
To build full-body strength, you have to focus on every single muscle group, even the small ones like your triceps! There are three main muscles in the triceps – The lateral head, long head, and medial head. This group of muscles are found along the back of your upper arms and are responsible for helping you extend and straighten your arms. Working on strengthening them can help give your upper body that strong and tone look you've been wanting... But aesthetic reasons aside, building and strengthening the tricep muscles help you do daily everyday tasks like placing an object on a high shelf or pushing yourself up off the floor. It will also help you have a better, balanced upper body strength which in turn will help you lift better and heavier.
If you're not incorporating tricep exercises in your arm workouts then you're missing out! But don't worry, you no longer have to miss out because we've put together 8 of the best isolation and compound exercises that work the entire tricep muscle group. Plus, we'll give you alternative exercises that are beginner and home workout-friendly!
HOW TO EFFECTIVELY TRAIN YOUR TRICEP MUSCLES
Creating the best tricep workout has more to do with than just selecting effective exercises! You have to make sure you implement the right techniques and structure your workout accordingly to avoid any unwanted injuries.
Here are a few tips to help train your triceps and maximize results while reducing your risk of injury:
- Find the best training split for you: To avoid overworking your triceps and prevent an overuse injury, make sure to split your workouts properly. The triceps are a small muscle group which means they recover fairly quickly, but they can be easily overworked if you're not implementing an effective training split. The most popular way to split your upper body workouts is through a pull/push split, meaning training chest/triceps/shoulders one day and back/biceps on another day. But this isn't the only way to train your triceps, you can also train them along with your biceps! Most go with a full pull day because chest exercises use the triceps as an assistance muscle, so it's just better and more effective to finish off training them. For those who want to seriously build and strengthen the triceps, then consider training them with biceps so they aren't pre-fatigued, this will help you lift heavier. Just make sure to not training your triceps on consecutive days, plan your split so there are at least 48 hours between any tricep-related workout!
- Start with a multi-joint movement: Although isolation exercises are great for zoning in on a specific muscle in an effort to strengthen it, you shouldn't ignore multi-joint movements (or compound exercises) that require the assistance of multiple muscle groups, including the triceps. Compound exercises that involve the triceps can help you not only get stronger, but more skilled and efficient in all types of movements! The problem is that compound exercises, opposed to isolation, require higher energy levels since you're recruiting more muscle mass. These moves are also more important for building muscle and strength, so it's best to prioritize them instead of waiting until you're fatigued at the end of your workout.
- Focus on maintaining good exercise form: Proper form is important for any strength training exercise, but for some reason, a lot of lifters and gym-goers struggle with their form on certain tricep exercises. Rushing through the exercise, neglecting to go through the full range of motion, and flaring elbows are common form mistakes people make that reduces the effectiveness of the exercise thus producing minimal results.
8 OF THE BEST TRICEPS EXERCISES FOR STRONGER ARMS
Now that you understand how to effectively work out your triceps, it's time to learn about the best exercises that target your triceps! We picked this group of exercises because they help work your triceps in the most effective way possible, along with other muscle groups thus helping you build better overall strength. In fact, most of these exercises were recommended by The American Council on Exercise (ACE)! ACE commissioned a study in which researchers examined a group of lifters and gym-goers perform common triceps exercises and recorded their muscle activity through EMG electrodes which were attached to their triceps.  So, these exercises are seriously the best for stimulating growth in your triceps.
Bent-over dumbbell triceps kickbacks
Triceps kickbacks are a must! When executed correctly, kickbacks are highly effective at activating the triceps and targets all three heads of the triceps. The downside is that this exercise is easy to cheat and mess up, especially when using dumbbells. Oftentimes people drop their elbows which causes other muscles to pick up the slack. To avoid this, start with a lighter weight and work your way up to heavier weights without compromising your form. Or if you're at the gym, switch things up and use a cable machine, and do single-arm cable kickbacks! We'll be focusing on the dumbbell exercise, but the same techniques can be applied to the cable version.
How To Do It – Grab a pair of dumbbells that match your fitness level. Start by holding both weights in each hand with your palms facing inward and slightly bending your knees. Hinge forward at your hips while keeping your back straight until your upper body is almost parallel to the floor. You’ll begin the movement by bending your elbows at about 90 degrees so that the dumbbells come up alongside each side of your chest, keeping your upper arms still and close to your body. Hold for a second and then straighten your arms behind you to the starting position and repeat for 10-15 reps depending on the weight used.
Form + Technique Tips – Use your shoulder to stabilize your upper arm thus allowing your forearm to extend behind you and place the focus on your triceps. Focus on your triceps, and move slowly through the movement to ensure that your elbows don't drop down. Lastly, don't forget to maximize contraction at the end, so when you hit the top of the movement hold the weight for 1-2 seconds before slowly moving back to the starting position.
Cable overhead triceps extension w/ rope
Overhead extensions are excellent for working the long head of the triceps which attaches to two joints - the shoulder and elbow. They help to work the muscles through their full range of contraction to help you get the most of your exercise. Cable overhead triceps extension utilizes a cable pulley system which provides a constant tension more than dumbbells.
How To Do It – Start by setting up a low cable pulley machine with a rope. Then stand with your back facing the machine. Bend down at the waist so that your body is almost parallel with the floor. Keep a staggered position so that one leg is in front of the other. Keeping your hands close together, push the rope out until your arms are fully extended, keeping your elbows in tight, and squeezing your triceps. Hold for a moment before returning to the starting position. Repeat for 8-12 reps.
Form + Technique Tips – To get the most out of the exercise, let your elbows go as far back as your body will allow, this will help the long head to get a full extension for better contraction. This is an isolation exercise so do it toward the end of your workout as a finisher.
Alternative Exercise for Home Workouts – Most people don't have cable machines in their home gym, but most do have dumbells or long resistance bands! The dumbbell variation is very similar to the above directions, except instead of using a rope pulley, you'll hold a dumbbell overhead with both hands under the inner plate (heart-shaped grip). Continue the movement by using your triceps to lower the forearm behind the upper arms. In case you don't have dumbbells, here's how to perform this exercise using an UPPPER Long Band...
Stand with one foot slightly in front of the other and place the center of the band under the back foot. Take the opposite end of the band with both hands, the band should be behind you (not in front), and extend your elbows above your head, your arms should be up towards the ceiling. Slowly lower the band behind the back of your head until your elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle. Make sure to keep elbows close to the side of your head. Press hands back up overhead slowly. And repeat.
Cable triceps pushdowns w/ rope
Pushdown exercises work the lateral head of your triceps, which is the outermost part of your arm and the most visible! But what's great about this cable variation of a pushdown exercise is that it also forces the long head into a full contraction.
How To Do It – Attach a rope attachment to a high pulley and grab with an overhand grip (palms facing down) at shoulder width. Bend over and bring the upper arms close to your body and perpendicular to the floor. The forearms should be pointing up towards the pulley as they hold the rope. This is your starting position. Using the triceps, bring the rope down until it touches the front of your thighs and the arms are fully extended perpendicular to the floor. The upper arms should always remain stationary next to your torso and only the forearms should move. Exhale as you perform this movement. After a second hold at the contracted position, then bring the rope slowly up to the starting point. Repeat for 8-12 reps.
Form + Technique Tips – Move slowly through the exercise and focus on keeping your upper arms stationary and only using your triceps to move the rope down. And don't let your arms drift from your sides! This is an isolation exercise so do it toward the end of your workout as a finisher.
Alternative Exercise for Home Workouts – To recreate this cable triceps pushdown exercise, you'll need a long resistance band and either a door hook or a squat rack to attach the band to in a high place. To do it, simply attach a long resistance band to the top of a door hook, or top of the squat rack, grab both ends of the band, and using your triceps push the band down until your arms are fully extended. Use the directions and form tips above for guidance!
Close grip bench press
This is a compound exercise that you should prioritize on your pull days! The bench press is considered to be a chest exercise, but a slight change in your grip helps to hit the triceps a little harder (while still hitting your pecs), especially if it’s performed with a heavy weight. Using a close grip, meaning placing your hands around 8-10 inches apart, helps to really fire up the back of your arms, while also working your chest muscles. For this exercise, you want to use a power rack so you can press the barbell off the pins, doing this ensures the triceps are activated and working.
Beginners, work on building strength in your upper body before trying this exercise!
How To Do It – Lie back on a flat bench and lift the bar from the rack with a close overhand grip, placing the arms around 8-10 inches apart. Hold the bar straight over your body with your arms locked, and slowly start lowering the weight until you feel it on your middle chest. Pause, keeping your elbows bent push the bar back up to the starting position, and repeat for either 10, 6, or 4 reps (this is a heavier exercise, so your reps will naturally be lower).
Form + Technique Tips – Perform this movement first or second on your pull day since it is a multi-joint movement. Avoid bouncing the bar from your chest, using momentum to lift the bar can be harmful, instead, engage your triceps and use your arm and chest muscles to lift the bar completely. Lastly, this exercise is heavy, whether you add weight to the barbell or not, so if you need extra support don't hesitate to use wrist wraps.
Alternative Exercises for Home Workouts – There are two home workout alternatives that you can try. For beginners, if you have a pair of dumbbells try a close grip dumbbell floor press by following the directions above, but in place of a barbell and power rack, use dumbells and a bench (or floor)! If you don't have dumbbells at home and want something more advanced, practice the diamond push-up. This is actually considered to be one of the hardest triceps exercises! To do it, begin by laying on at and with your fingers make a diamond shape (thumbs and forefingers touching). Straighten your legs behind you so that you're in a high plank position (or keep the knees on the floor if you're a beginner). Making sure your back is flat and core engaged, bend the elbows lowering until your chest touches the mat. Keep your elbows close to your sides, and press back up.
EZ-Bar overhead triceps extension
Cable and dumbbell overhead triceps extensions are great, but a simple change in equipment can make all the difference! The EZ-Bar is built to have a favorable hand positioning which helps to ease the strain on the wrists and elbows. And the best part is that it allows for a greater range of motion on the lower portion, thus helping stretch the triceps for better muscle growth.
How To Do It – Hold a loaded EZ-Bar with a medium overhand grip and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Begin to press the bar directly overhead, fully extending the arms so the triceps lockout at the top. This is your starting position. Keeping your core tight and engaged, bend your elbows to lower the bar behind your head until your forearms go past 90 degrees. Pause the movement and extend back to the starting position. Repeat for 8-12 reps.
Form Tips + Techniques – Load the bar carefully, you don't need a lot of weight for this exercise to be effective. Move slowly through the movement to help keep your elbows from flaring outward.
This is another compound exercise to add to your list! The landmine press is a shoulder exercise, but the angled barbell helps to recruit the chest and the triceps. Not only that but this exercise is also known to improve joint function and increase injury resilience! You will need a barbell and a device that you insert one end of the barbell. If your gym doesn't have one, simply push the barbell into a corner.
How To Do It – Position your barbell as described earlier so that it is in front of you. Grab the end of the bar with both hands, keeping them close together for better stability. Feet should be placed shoulder-width apart, and lean slightly towards the bar. Begin to push the bar away from you from the middle of your chest, making sure to keep your shoulders back, chest tight, and elbows tucked in. Your triceps will be fired up in this position. Hold, then slowly return the weight to the starting position and repeat for 8-12 reps.
Form + Technique Tips – If you want to recruit your triceps, even more, try doing a single-arm landmine press. The move is the same, just adopt a staggered position for stability and begin by holding the landmine over your shoulder.
This exercise is also known as lying triceps extensions, and like other extensions, it recruits the long head triceps, but also the lateral heads. You can do this exercise with dumbbells, cable machines, or an EZ-Bar, but we'll be focusing on the EZ-Bar variation since it helps to recruit the muscles better.
How To Do It – Lie on a bench and hold an EZ-Bar with hands placed shoulder-distance apart. Using an overhand grip, raise the bar straight up over your shoulders, keeping your elbows close in. Slowly lower the bar in an arc over your head until you feel a stretch in your tricep muscle Return the bar to the starting position and repeat for 8-12 reps.
Form Tips + Techniques – Try to extend the elbows back as far as your body allows when lowering the bar, this will help to stretch the long and lateral heads.
Alternative Exercises for Home Workouts – Try this exercise at home or at the gym for a more beginner-friendly version, by using dumbbells! Just follow the directions above, but in place of the EZ-Bar, use a pair of dumbbells.
Triceps dips are a tough compound bodyweight exercise that hits the chest and triceps. But a little angling in your position can help to hit the tricep muscles more! Now, you can do this exercise on an assisted pull-up machine for beginners, or simply use a stable surface like a bench. To keep it home-friendly, we'll be giving directions on how to do triceps bench dips.
How To Do It – Sit on a bench with your hands just outside of your hips and your knees bent (extend your feet out further to increase the intensity). Lift your body with your hands, bend your elbows while bringing your hips forward, and start lowering down your body. Make sure to keep your shoulders down, your abs engaged, and your elbows pointing back until they’re at about 90 degrees and your glutes are almost touching the floor, then push back to the starting position and repeat for 8-12 reps.
Form + Technique Tips – To favor your triceps over your chest, try to maintain your body as vertical as possible. Avoid leaning forward and keep elbows tight to your sides. Also, to keep your shoulders safe from unwanted strain, keep your hips close to the bench or stable surface you're using!
In summary, train your triceps at least two times a week and making sure that you have an appropriate training split that allows for sufficient rest in between workouts. Following our tips, and implementing these 8 exercises into your routine will help you build those strong, toned arms you've been dreaming of!
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