10 Triceps Exercises For Stronger, More Defined Arms

Despite the popular misconception that working on your biceps is what gives you impressive-looking arms, your triceps are the main muscles responsible for the size and definition of your arms. That’s because your triceps are the largest muscles in your arms – most people that work out know the fact that they’re far bigger than your biceps. 

The more developed and defined your triceps look, the more impressive your arms will be. Having strong arms is important for almost every upper body exercise you can perform, with your triceps typically carrying most of the load. For example, how strong your triceps are limits how much you can bench press. Your triceps are activated whenever you push on something like a lawn mower, stroller, or door. 

As their name implies, your triceps are made up of three different heads: the medial, lateral, and long heads. All these heads contract when your triceps are engaged, but some exercises engage more heads than others. The best way to build strong, well-defined triceps is to choose a mix of exercises that target your muscles from multiple angles.

Increasing the strength of your triceps translates into functional movements in many everyday activities that involve pushing on something. Your triceps, deltoids, and chest muscles are engaged whenever you perform push exercises, so try working them out on the same day. Start with compound movements that work all three muscles like push-ups and bench presses, and finish your workout by isolating your triceps. 

The number of reps you perform when building your triceps varies based on your specific goals. Aim for about four to eight reps if increasing size and power is your main priority. Aim for 10 to 12 reps to improve strength, size, and muscle endurance. 20 or more reps primarily improves muscle definition. 


Ten Best Exercises For Building Stronger, Bigger, More Defined Triceps

Ready to find out what the most effective exercises for your triceps are? Let’s jump right into our list:


1) Diamond Push-Ups

You don’t need any equipment to enjoy the benefits of this exercise. Your body weight is more than enough. The exercise activates all three heads of your triceps, which is something most exercises don’t do. 

It is considered one of the hardest triceps exercises on our list since you need a decent amount of body strength to pull it off. You can make the exercise easier by performing it with your knees on the ground instead of a high plank position.

Here’s what the exercise looks like: 

  • Get into the starting position by placing your hands on the mat directly under your chest with your fingers spread apart and your forefingers and thumbs touching, forming a diamond shape.
  • Straighten your legs into a plank position or keep your knees on the ground to perform the easier variation of the exercise.
  • Keep your back flat and tighten your abs to keep your body straight. Bend at your elbow to lower yourself toward the ground until your chest touches the floor. Go as low as possible if you can’t go that low. Your elbows should be close to your upper body at the bottom of the movement.
  • Press yourself back to the starting position, keeping your body straight throughout the movement to complete a rep. Aim for three sets.


2) Triceps Dips

Triceps dips are another effective way to give your triceps a thorough workout. You can increase or reduce the difficulty of the exercise by adjusting the position of your feet. The more bent your knees are, the easier the exercise becomes. The more you extend your feet in front of you, the more weight your triceps will be forced to carry. 

One of the keys to getting the most out of this exercise is to keep your hips close to the bench or chair you use to support yourself. You should also pull your shoulders down and away from your ears to force your triceps to carry most of your body weight.  

Here’s what the exercise looks like: 

  • Sit on a bench or chair with your hands placed just outside your hips. Adjust the position of your legs to suit your taste.
  • Lift your behind off the chair while keeping your hips close to its edge and lower yourself down until your elbows bend at a 90-degree angle.
  • Push yourself back to the starting position to complete a rep. Aim for three sets.


3) Tricep Kickbacks

Tricep kickbacks are almost as effective at activating the three heads of the triceps as diamond pushups. The exercise forces you to work against gravity as you move your weight up and down. The key to stabilizing your upper arm with your shoulder is extending your forearm behind you. If your elbow drifts down while performing the exercise, the weight you’re using is probably too heavy for you. Get something lighter you can rep with proper technique. 

Tricep kickbacks give you almost full muscle activation in your triceps, making it one of the best isolation exercises for your triceps. 

Here’s what the exercise looks like:

  • Place your right foot on a raised platform and rest your right forearm on your thigh. Alternatively, you can allow your right arm to drop below your shoulder if you prefer.
  • Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in your left hand and pull your elbow up to the same level as your torso.
  • While keeping your left elbow fixed in that position, extend your arms behind you by contracting your triceps. Lower your forearm back down until your elbow forms a 90-degree angle to complete a rep. Aim for about three sets of four to twelve reps.


4) Rope Pushdowns

Rope pushdowns are typically done on cable machines with rope attachments, and it’s another one of the best exercises for your triceps. It gives you about 74 percent of total muscle activation during your reps. The key to getting the most out of this exercise is to spread the rope at the bottom of the movement to fire up your triceps. 

Rope pushdowns can also be performed with a resistance band if you don’t have access to a cable machine. You simply tie a knot in the middle of the band and attach it to the top of a doorway. You close the door of the doorway on the knot to keep it in place and use the two ends of the band as a rope. 

Here’s what the exercise looks like: 

  • Attach a rope attachment to a cable machine and hold the rope near its knotted ends. Bend your arms so your elbows form 90-degree angles and keep them next to your torso. The starting point is the same if you use a resistance band.
  • Extend your arms downward by contracting your triceps, spreading the rope slightly to the sides as you go down.
  • Bring your forearms back to the starting position to complete a rep. Aim for three sets of four to twelve reps.


5) Overhead Triceps Extensions

Overhead triceps extensions give you about the same level of muscle activation as rope pulldowns. Keep your arms next to your ears as you lower the weight during the movement to get the most out of it. Another useful tip is to keep your abs engaged to prevent your back from arching. 

Overhead triceps can be performed either standing or seating. Sitting increases the difficulty of the exercise slightly and forces your abs to do more work. 

Here’s what the exercise looks like: 

  • Get into position holding weights in both hands. Extend your arms overhead.
  • While keeping your elbows pointing forward and your biceps close to your ears, lower the weights behind your head until your elbows form a 90-degree angle. This is the starting position for the exercise.
  • Straighten your arms by contracting your triceps, pausing for a second at the top. Lower your arms back down to the starting position to complete a rep. Aim for three sets of four to twelve reps. Remember that engaging your abs prevent your back from arching while performing the movement.


6) Bar Pushdowns

Bar pushdowns are a lot like rope pushdowns, but they are significantly less effective. However, it still gives you close to 70 percent muscle activation, so your triceps still get a good workout. The key to getting the most out of this exercise is to keep your elbows stationary as you push the weight down. 

Here’s how to perform bar pushdowns:

  • Stand in front of a cable machine while holding on to the bar with your arms bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Keep your elbows still as you push the bar downward by contracting your triceps.
  • Keep going until your arms are fully extended, then slowly return to the starting position to complete a rep. Aim for three sets of four to twelve reps.


7) Lying Triceps Extensions

This exercise is also called the skull crusher for a good reason. You might end up dropping the weight on your head if you’re careless with your form so start with light weights that you can comfortably move. Skull crushers give you about 60 percent muscle activation in your triceps despite being one of the more challenging exercises for your arms. 

Here’s what the exercise looks like: 

  • Lay on a bench with a barbell or dumbbells in your hands. Keep your hands spaced about shoulder-width apart.
  • Start the exercise by extending the weight over your head with your palms facing forward. Bend at your elbows and bring the weight down until your elbows form a 90-degree angle. Don’t go too low when doing this or risk getting firsthand experience of why lying triceps extensions are also called skull crushers.
  • Contract your triceps to straighten your arms, but don’t lock your elbows. Bring the weight back down so your elbows are forcing a 90-degree angle to complete a rep. Aim for three sets of six to twelve reps.


8) Close Grip Bench Presses

The close grip bench press is another excellent exercise for building volume and strength in your triceps. The exercise is performed with a barbell, which allows you to go as heavy as you need. This move also engages your chest muscles to a significant extent so use it as a transition from your chest workouts to triceps exercises. 

Here’s how to perform a close-grip bench press:

  • Lay on a bench or step while holding a barbell with both hands. Bring your hands together as close as you comfortably can.
  • Start the exercise by lowering the barbell by bending your elbows until the barbell hovers right above your rib cage.
  • Extend your arms back to the starting position by contracting your triceps to complete a rep. Aim for about three sets of four to twelve reps.


9) Dumbbell Floor Press

This exercise gives your triceps a thorough workout while challenging muscles around your triceps. It’s particularly great for building size in your triceps since you’re free to use heavy dumbbells. Here’s what the exercise looks like:

  • Start laying on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. Hold on to a dumbbell in each hand, with your elbows out at a 45-degree angle.
  • Keep your lower back touching the ground as you push the weights straight up over your chest with your arms extended.
  • Pause for a second at the top and slowly lower the weight until the back of your upper arm touches the floor. Aim for three sets of eight to twenty reps.


10) Half Turkish Get-Up To Push-Up

We’ll end our list with a challenging bodyweight exercise that gives your triceps a serious burn. You can add dumbbells to the exercise to make it even more challenging once you get used to the movements. Turkish get-ups engage most of the muscle groups in your body, but this specific variation puts your triceps to the test. 

Here’s what the exercise looks like:

  • Lay face up with your right leg straight and your left knee bent. Your left foot should also be flat on the floor. Hold a dumbbell in your left hand, with your arm bent.
  • Press the weight into the air, extending your left arm. Keep going until you’re now supporting yourself with your left forearm.
  • Lift your hips off the floor and push down with your left heel to flip your body over so you end up in a push-up.
  • Complete a push-up and slowly reverse the movement back to the starting position to complete a rep. Repeat the exercise with your opposite side after completing a set. Aim for three sets of four to ten reps.


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