by Jari Love
5 Exercises for Stronger Triceps
To get seriously cut arms, you need to devote a fair amount of attention to the biggest muscle in the area, and it’s not what you think. Biceps get a lot of attention because they’re located on the front of our arms, the part we see when we look in the mirror. While keeping them strong is important for everyday activities and overall strength, your triceps actually make up a larger portion of your arm. Neglecting these muscles can lead to imbalance, injury, and even hinder your ability to get stronger as they assist in pushing motions.
Let’s do a brief anatomy lesson to understand your triceps a little better. Tri, meaning three, accurately describes the backsides of your arms. This muscle group comprises the long, lateral, and medial heads. They each connect to the scapula and humerus, then travel down the backside of the arm where they connect at the ulna on your forearm. Together, they work to enable extension at the elbow.
Though many guys target their triceps with weights, often heavy ones, this isn’t necessary. Going for a load that’s too heavy can also compromise your form and, ultimately, lead to an ineffective workout. With nothing more than a resistance band, you can get an effective tricep workout with these five moves. Your arms will thank you.
- Close-Grip Pushup
Basic pushups do a decent job of targeting the triceps, though much of the work is also done by the chest and shoulder muscles. One of the benefits of this bodyweight exercise is the ability to change the target muscles by altering your position. To increase the load on your triceps, the close-grip, or diamond pushup, is one of the most effective moves; all you have to do is bring your hands closer together.
To perform this pushup variation, start in the standard position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your legs fully extended. Before you start moving, bring your hands close to each other and touch your thumbs and index fingers together. From this position, slowly lower yourself until your chest is just a few inches above the ground, making sure to keep your core tight during the move, then press yourself straight back up.
Even if you can crank out regular pushups at an astounding rate, you’ll likely need to reduce your number of repetitions for this challenging exercise. Men’s Fitness recommends four sets of as many repetitions as possible.
- Crab Walk
Most strength training exercises move in one plane of motion. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it means you have to rely on a lot more exercises in order to reach all the muscles you want to target. Muscle & Fitness likes crab walks because they target your shoulders and triceps while forcing you to build stability. This means all three muscles in your triceps will be engaged as you work to maintain balance.
Get into position with your chest facing up, hands and feet flat on the floor. Your fingers should be pointed behind you and your knees should be bent. Next, crawl by simultaneously stepping your left leg and right hand forward, then you right leg and left hand forward. Try to keep yourself as stable as possible while you move.
For more of a challenge, you can also move to the side. Perhaps the best part about this exercise is it requires no equipment, which means you can do it in the privacy of your own home. Let’s be honest, it looks a little strange.
- Plank-to-Triceps Extension
Plank-to-triceps extensions should be your replacement from tricep kickbacks, a move that involves extending your arm backwards with a dumbbell as you lean forward on a bench. In reality, this exercise just isn’t very effective.
Muscle For Life explains that kickbacks are far too easy and you often don’t feel any burn until you’re nearly finished. Additionally, it’s easy to get away with cheating since you can switch to a swinging motion. With the plank-to-triceps extension, you don’t have an opportunity to shortchange the move.
Start in a plank position with your weight resting on your forearms, your palms resting on the floor, and your legs extended as usual. Press your palms firmly into the ground and contract your triceps to raise your elbows off the ground until you’re in the pushup position, keeping your core tight the whole time. Men’s Health recommends aiming for 15 to 20 repetitions.
- Bodyweight Dips
Everyone likes to load this exercise with tons of weight — without giving much thought to the correct form. It doesn’t matter that you’re holding 60 extra pounds of weight if you barely bend your elbows. For most guys, performing dips without adding any additional load will be sufficient when they cover a full range of motion.
For this move, you need two parallel bars that are spaced a few feet apart. The gym is full of equipment for this specific move, but you can find suitable choices in a lot of places, such a local park. Grasp a bar with each hand and begin with your arms fully extended and your feet raised off the ground. Lower yourself down until your elbows reach 90-degree angles, then push yourself up until your arms are fully extended again. Make sure to keep your elbows close to your body as you move up and down rather than allowing them to wing out to the side. ACE Fitness demonstrates the proper form and offers a more detailed outline if you need some guidance.
Though this move is great for strengthening triceps, it can be hard on shoulders, so you don’t want to dip past the point when your elbows are at 90-degree angles. If you’ve had shoulder injuries in the past, you may want to skip this one.
- Band Skull Crushers
Of all the weighted exercises that target triceps, skull crushers might be the best. Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT, and creator of BuiltLean, even says that it’s his favorite exercise to target the area because it activates all three muscles. Unfortunately, you really shouldn’t perform this move without a spotter. If you swap the heavy barbell for a substantial resistance band, though, it’s much safer to do on your own.
There are a couple ways to set this move up, though the easiest is probably on the floor. Use something pretty heavy to weigh down the middle portion of a resistance band then get yourself into position lying on your back with the band fully extended and your arms pointed straight up at the ceiling. Slowly lower your hands towards your head, keeping your elbows steady, until they’re just a few inches above your forehead. Then, press your arms to extend the band until you’re back in the starting position.
Jari Love – original creator of Get RIPPED! DVD series and group exercise classes. The hot-selling and critically acclaimed Get RIPPED! series enables individuals of any fitness level to burn up to three times more calories than the traditional weight-training program, and has received rave reviews from fitness critics throughout North America since the first title debuted in late 2005.