Best Triceps Exercises: Your Guide to Stronger Arms

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Triceps are a key player when it comes to upper-body strength and aesthetics. They are responsible for elbow extension, meaning they play a pivotal role in movements like pushing open doors, shooting a basketball, or executing a proper bench press.

With a plethora of exercises available, it’s common to feel overwhelmed about where to start.

To ensure comprehensive triceps development, it’s important to incorporate a mix of movements that hit all angles and intensities. From bodyweight exercises like dips and push-ups to resistance training with dumbbells, cables, or barbells, selecting the right exercises can make all the difference in how your triceps look and perform. So, whether you’re looking to beef up your arms or just aiming for a stronger push, the upcoming list of best triceps exercises has got you covered.

The 8 Best Triceps Exercises

Close-Grip Bench Press

Coming in at number one we have the close grip bench. Preferably you would do them with a barbell, but dumbbells work great as well. I’m a fan of this because it’s one of the few triceps exercises that allows for heavy loading.

How to Do Close-Grip Bench Press

  • Position yourself as you would for a traditional bench press, but grab the bar shoulder-width apart and keep your elbows close to your body.
  • Unrack the bar and line it up with your shoulders.
  • Lower the bar towards your chest by bending at the elbows, keeping them close to your sides.
  • Push back up to return to the starting position.

Tips: Play around with grip width to find what feels the best for you and keep in mind that you’ll have to touch lower on the chest than you would when doing “normal” or wide grip bench press. Oh and don’t be afraid of some elbow flare!

Tricep Dips

Here’s another one of the people’s favorites – the dips. They are also one of the few exercises that allow for relatively heavy loading. However, they may not be a good option for you.

The main issue with dips is that they can be rough on the shoulders due to the high demand for shoulder extension. This is very individual, so you won’t know unless you try them, but just keep that in mind.

How to Do Tricep Dips

  • Grip the parallel bars, keeping your body straight with a modest forward lean, and extend your arms almost to full lockout.
  • Lower yourself by bending your arms until your upper arms are parallel to the ground.
  • Push back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms.

Tips: Don’t go much lower than parallel as that puts a lot of stress on your shoulders.

Overhead Tricep Extension

At number 3 we have our first overhead movement. The reason why I’m saying this is because overhead movements are required to hit all the three head of the triceps, notably the long head of the triceps. Scroll down to the anatomy section if you want to know more.

How to Do Overhead Triceps Extension

  • Stand or sit while holding a dumbbell or a cable handle above your head.
  • Hold the dumbbell with your palms facing the ceiling or the rope with a neutral grip, and extend your elbows.
  • Lower by bending at the elbows without flaring your arms to the sides.

Tips: Try to keep your elbows as close your body as possible. This makes the movement easier for the shoulders and elbows.

Single-Arm Triceps Extensions

This one is one of my favorites. Doing a single-arm triceps extension as opposed to both hands allows you to squeeze and control the weight better near the bottom position.

They can also be modified to train the long head of the triceps effectively by leaning forward and letting the cable cross your body.

How to Do Single-Arm Triceps Extensions

  • Stand in front of a cable machine with a high pulley and attach a single handle.
  • Grasp the handle with one hand using a neutral grip (palm facing in) and step back from the machine.
  • Perform a triceps extension and make sure your elbow doesn’t move excessively. You’ll know if it’s too much when you start feeling like you’re imitating skiing.

Skull Crushers

The last one in my top five are the skull crushers – also known as the lying triceps extension – are a staple in many people’s programs. I put them at number 5 because I believe that the previous four provide more bang for your buck when it comes to developing your triceps muscles.

Nevertheless, skull crushers are still a great exercise for the triceps. They still hit the long head better than most other exercises.

How to Do Skull Crushers

  • Lie on a flat bench holding the weight above your shoulders, arms straight.
  • Lower the weight toward your forehead by bending only at the elbows.
  • Extend your arms to return the weight to a position with a small backward angle of the upper arms. This will keep the tension in your triceps.

Triceps Pushdowns

The triceps pushdowns are yet another effective and simple accessory/isolation exercise that target the triceps. They are easy to set up – no need to mess around with any weights or dumbbells – and they allow you to move relatively heavy loads without compromising the elbow joints.

  • Position the cable attachment at a height above your head.
  • Stand facing the machine with a slight forward lean, feet together, elbows slightly in front of the body.
  • Push down on the handle until your arms are fully extended, again, slightly in front of your body.

Diamond Push-Ups

The diamond push-ups are the first and last bodyweight exercise on this list. They’re the perfect exercise for a gym rat looking for a bit more variation.

How to Do Diamond Push-Ups

  • Get into a plank position on the floor with your hands close together under your chest, forming a diamond shape with your thumbs and index fingers.
  • Keep your elbows close as you lower your body towards the floor and go as low as you can before pushing back up.

Reverse Grip Triceps Pushdowns

Last but not least we have the reverse grip triceps pushdown. It’s an exercise that you don’t see very often and for good reason. It’s not the best at training the whole triceps muscle.

It places a lot more emphasis on your forearm and takes away a lot from the lateral head. However, it does hit the medial head better than any other triceps exercise in my opinion.

How to Do Reverse Grip Triceps Pushdowns

  • Position the cable attachment at a height above your head.
  • Grab the attachment with an underhand grip.
  • Stand facing the machine with a slight forward lean, feet together, elbows slightly in front of the body.
  • Push down on the handle until your arms are fully extended, again, slightly in front of your body.

Best Triceps Workouts

Although your triceps will get plenty of stimulus from the chest and shoulder exercises, having a bit of fun and putting your tris on blast can be just what you need every once in a while.

I only included 3 exercises in both workouts because this makes it easy for you to just grab them and stick them into your program. Combine them with a back workout or a leg workout to get an effective upper body or a full-body session.

And since bro splits are a thing of the past, hitting multiple muscle groups in a single workout is the more effective strategy for your physique development anyway.

Here’s a quick guide to the structure of the following templates:

Exercise: (sets) x (reps) at (intensity)

I’ve set the intensity metrics to be Reps In Reserve (RIR) because it’s more beginner-friendly than RPE and using percentages on “lighter” movements just doesn’t make sense to me. So, familiarize yourself with this concept and get cracking!

Triceps Workout for Muscle Growth

To focus on muscle hypertrophy, you have to be doing exercises that hit all three heads of the triceps to ensure the most aesthetic and balanced look. I’ve included a combination of compound and isolation exercises for the most effective triceps workout.

  1. Close-Grip Bench Press 3×5 at 3RIR
  2. Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension 3×10 at 3RIR
  3. Single-Arm Triceps Extension 3×12-15 at 2RIR

This should be more than enough volume per single muscle group in one workout to stimulate hypertrophy.

Triceps Workout for Strength

For strength, focus on heavier loads and fewer reps. Remember to incorporate rest days for muscle recovery as strength workouts can be taxing.

  1. Close-Grip Bench Press 3×3 at 2RIR
  2. Weighted Dips 3×8-10 at 3RIR
  3. Skull Crushers 3×10 at 2RIR

Since strength improvements are all about moving heavy weight with high intent, doing more is not necessarily a good thing.

I suggest you cut one set from dips and skull crushers if you feel that the following session suffers from the fatigue of this workout.

How to Train Your Triceps

I wanted to include a short section on how to train your triceps to give you a better understanding of how the triceps muscles function and what to consider when programming and selecting exercises for that muscle group.

Anatomy of the Triceps

Your triceps brachii are comprised of three heads — the long head, the medial head, and the lateral head. They’re located at the back of your upper arm and they play a key role in the extension of your elbow joint. To effectively train your triceps, you should aim to engage all three heads.

Triceps Exercise Selection

As mentioned earlier, to hit the long head of the triceps most effectively, one must consider the anatomy of the triceps brachii.

From the following image, you can see the medial head of the triceps which is on the outside of the upper arm, and the long head of the triceps which is on the inside, closer to the body. The medial head lies underneath the pinkish part that you see between them.

triceps brachii anatomy
By Bodyworks Prime

As you can see, the long head crosses the shoulder joint and attaches to the infraglenoid tubercle of the scapula. This means that in addition to performing elbow extension, it also plays a role in shoulder extension.

This simply means that in order to work the long head most effectively, you must perform an exercise that involves some shoulder movement.

Overhead triceps extension movements work best because they train the end range of motion of the muscle which can arguably lead to more hypertrophy.

Triceps Warm-up

For every workout, it’s best to start with 5-10 minutes of light cardio to get your heart rate up and blood flowing.

When it comes to triceps workouts, I’d recommend following that up with some light cable triceps extensions to warm up your elbow joints. For this I specifically recommend a cable pulley because it provides constant tension throughout the full range of motion, leading to a more efficient warm-up.

Triceps Sets and Reps

For muscle growth, aim for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps with a challenging weight. If strength is your goal, increase the weight and aim for 3-6 reps.

Something that a lot of people tend to forget is that you also have to look at your whole training split as a whole before cranking up the volume or intensity of any exercise.

For tricep exercises, you have to consider the overall volume and fatigue created by the shoulder and chest exercises in your program. Exercises like the overhead press are very demanding on the triceps, so adding an extra set to your triceps dips may not really be necessary.


To wrap it up, let’s look at some of the most important things to consider when it comes to determining what are the best triceps exercises and tricep workouts.

  • The most effective tricep exercises are compound movements and exercises that target all three heads.
  • To hit the long heads of the triceps most effectively, you need shoulder extension.
  • Evaluate your whole training program before adding extra volume or intensity to the triceps.
  • Consider different repetition ranges depending on your goals.

I hope you find something useful or learned a few things by going through this article. Enjoy your training!

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you effectively work out all three heads of the tricep muscle?

You can target all three heads of the tricep by incorporating exercises that hit the muscle from different angles. Closed-grip bench presses and dips emphasize the medial and lateral heads, while overhead tricep extensions work the long head.

Can you recommend effective tricep exercises that can be done using a cable machine?

One effective cable machine exercise is the tricep pushdown which works your lateral head. For the long head, try cable overhead tricep extensions. To focus on the medial head, perform reverse grip pushdowns.

Is 2 tricep exercises enough?

Two exercises can be enough, provided they are done with high intensity and proper form. Aim for a combination that targets all heads of your triceps, like a pushdown or dip for the lateral and medial heads and an overhead extension for the long head.

Which triceps exercises should I include for the most muscle activation?

Close grip bench and dips are your best options, but skull crushers can also be great if done with sufficient weight.

How often should I perform tricep dips for the best results?

It depends on how heavy you’re going, how many reps you perform within one workout, and other exercises in your program that work the triceps.

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