Many people first think of bulging biceps when they think of someone with strong-looking arms, but your triceps are the largest muscles in your arm. With proper training and conditioning, you might just have strangers walking up to you asking about the exercises you do to train your arms.
Your triceps are located at the back of your upper arms, and they power movements that require extending your arms. Your triceps and biceps complement each other, making most arm movements possible.
Strong triceps and biceps allow you to get more out of your upper body workouts since they are often engaged. For example, you can’t bench press weights that are too much for your arms, even if your chest muscles are strong enough to handle them.
Target Your Triceps With These Exercises
Looking to build bigger, stronger, and more defined triceps? Here are some exercises you can incorporate into your fitness routine:
Push-ups are arguably the most effective bodyweight exercise for your upper body, and they can be modified to target more of your triceps. The trick is to bring your elbows closer to your body, which forces your triceps to do more work. Here’s how you perform a modified pushup:
- Start in a plank position, with your hands about six inches apart. Your elbows should be touching your torso.
- Slowly drop towards the floor while keeping your entire body straight.
- Push your body back to the starting position by extending your arms slowly to complete a rep. Your triceps should be doing most of the work. Aim for two to three sets.
2) Close Grip Bench Press
Your triceps are engaged anytime you perform a pressing motion. Bringing your hands closer while performing such motions increases the load placed on your triceps. Close grip bench presses are an effective way to force your triceps to handle heavy weights that build bigger, stronger muscles, since your chest muscles are also involved.
The only difference between a regular bench press and a close-grip version is the position of your hands. The closer your hands are together, the more work your triceps are forced to perform. The further your hands are from each other; the more your chest muscles are activated.
Here’s how you perform a bench press:
- Lay flat on a bench press. Your feet should be flat on the floor, and your shoulder blades and glutes should be touching the bench.
- Warm up with just the barbell before diving into the exercise. Get in as many reps as you can before you start to feel a slight burn.
- Add as much weight as you’re comfortable with and get back into position.
- Move your hands about six to twelve inches apart. Push up the weight from the rack and drop down slowly.
- Press the weight back up to return to the starting position to complete a rep. Avoid hyperextending or locking your arms at the top.
3) Cable Triceps Press Down
Here’s an excellent way to target your triceps in a highly controlled way. You’ll be using a cable column to perform the motion, which allows you to choose weights that suit your fitness goals. Use heavy weights with which you can only perform four to eight reps if building bigger, stronger muscles is your main priority. Lighter weights that you can perform 20 reps with are great for building muscle definition and endurance.
Here’s how you perform the exercise:
- Start standing while grabbing a bar or rope attached to a cable column. Your elbows should be right next to your torso, and your hands should be shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your torso at a 45-degree angle by hinging your hips back. Tighten your glutes and core.
- While moving only at the elbows, press the bar or rope downwards. Pause at full extension and slowly return to the starting position to complete a rep. Aim for three sets.
4) Dumbbell Kickback
It might take some practice for you to get used to this exercise, but it is one of the most effective ways to strengthen your triceps muscles. The exercise forces your triceps to handle two of their primary responsibilities simultaneously: making arm extension movements possible and stabilizing your shoulder muscles.
The exercise has many variations, and it can be performed while seated or standing. You’ll need a pair of dumbbells to do it. Here’s what it looks like:
- Start standing with a pair of dumbbells in your hands and your feet hip-width apart.
- Hinge forward at your waist, so your back is almost parallel with the ground.
- Bring your hands close to your chest, so your elbows form a 90-degree angle.
- Extend your arms moving the dumbbells behind your torso with your elbows fixed.
- Pause for a second at the top and slowly return to the starting position to complete a rep. Aim for two to three sets of 6 to 12 reps each.
5) Skull Crushers
Wondering why these are called skull crushers? That’s what can happen if you get ahead of yourself. It is a straightforward exercise, but it should be performed in a controlled manner, using weights you can handle. The exercise isolates your triceps and allows you to load up on heavy weights.
The exercise can be performed using a dumbbell or barbell. Many lifters prefer performing skull crushers with barbells since that allows them to add more weights. To perform the exercise:
- Lay down on a bench with your feet flat on the floor or bench if you have a spotter. If not, hold on to the weight as you get into position.
- Bring the weight up towards your head so that your upper arm is perpendicular to the floor.
- Moving only at your elbows, extend your arms, moving the weight away from your head.
- Stop right before you get to full extension and slowly return to the starting position to complete a rep. Aim for three sets of 6 to 12 reps each.
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