Triceps make up 75% of the muscle in your upper arms, making them critical to achieving a toned look.
As an MMA and kickboxing champion, I've learned the importance of building muscle, particularly in the triceps.
In this article, I’ll share my insights on creating muscle bulk and triceps anatomy and demonstrate seven of the best triceps exercises that have been effective for my training and coaching.
Combine these tricep exercises with a balanced diet and strategic nutrition, and you’ll be on track for weight loss, muscle gain, and getting fit in no time.
How to Get Bigger Triceps 101
There are two main tricks to building triceps, and they’re at the core of any muscle-building regimen. First, you need to plan to eat a calorie surplus—more calories in than out.
This will help your body have enough calories and nutrients to maximize the benefits of your workout and promote muscle growth.
Your diet should have around 50 to 60 grams of protein per day and a healthy balance of other vitamins and macronutrients.
Secondly, you’ll need to implement progressive overload in your weight training. This is a fancy way of saying that you’ll need to continuously increase the amount of weight that you train with so you can build muscle.
In this method, you gradually perform more reps with the same weight, then increase the weight used and return to the lower rep rate.
This keeps your body challenged, which promotes increased strength, explosive power, and stamina.
Anatomy of Triceps Muscles
Understanding tricep anatomy, or triceps brachii, is key to optimizing your workout .
Located at the back of the upper arms, these muscles are essential for extending the elbow joint, a movement central to daily activities and sports.
From my experience as a national soccer player, I know that strong triceps are crucial in sports, including MMA and kickboxing.
They contribute to powerful arm movements, enhancing performance in various athletic disciplines.
Tri = Three
The term "tri" in triceps refers to its three muscle bundles—the long, lateral, and medial heads—which converge at the elbow.
The lateral head forms the visible front of the horseshoe shape on your arm, while the long head makes up the back. The medial head, tucked between these two, stabilizes the group.
Being the largest muscle in the upper arm, each tricep head is uniquely positioned. Balanced workouts targeting the long head are essential for achieving that well-defined horseshoe shape.
Research from Acta Orthopaedica et Traumatologica Turcica shows each head plays a distinct role in movements, especially at different shoulder elevations, with the long head being more active at shoulder level and the medial head taking precedence above 90° .
7 Best Triceps Exercises
Here are the 7 best tricep exercises that you can do to build bigger triceps.
1. Close-Grip Bench Press
Unlike the standard bench press that targets chest muscles, the close-grip version shifts focus to the triceps.
Lie on a bench, grip a bar shoulder-width apart, and perform bench presses, keeping your elbows close to your body to engage the triceps more effectively.
2. Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension
You can do this either standing or seated.
Lift a dumbbell overhead and slowly lower it behind your head. Keep your elbows near your ears to focus the effort on your triceps.
Choose a weight that allows you to maintain good form and prevent strain in your back and chest.
Read More: Dumbbell Arm Exercises to Build Strength
3. Rope Triceps Press Down
Essential for elbow joint extension, this move requires a rope attachment and pulley.
Keep your upper arms stationary and pull the rope down by extending your forearms, engaging the triceps.
Wanna build bigger forearms? See our guide here
4. Dips (Bench Dips and Upright Dips)
Dips work your triceps, chest, and shoulders.
Use a bench or parallel bars, keeping your arms straight and lowering your body until your arms are at a 90-degree angle before pushing back up.
We wrote an article about the best portable dip bars for your home.
5. Skull Crushers
This exercise involves lying on a bench and using barbells.
Lower the weights by bending your arms at the elbows, bringing the barbells close to your head, and then extending your arms back up. This can also be done with an EZ bar or dumbbells for varied muscle engagement.
Dumbbells and barbells make each arm work separately, so there’s no risk of using your dominant arm to compensate for the other.
6. Dumbbell Kickbacks
Great for tricep sculpting and core stability. With one dumbbell in hand, extend your arm back while keeping the upper arm stationary.
This controlled motion focuses on the tricep muscles.
7. Overhead Tricep Extension
The overhead extension targets the long head of the triceps, which contributes the most bulk and mass to your arm.
Extend your forearms above your head while keeping your upper arms still.
8. Triangle Push-up
The Best Tricep Workout for Size
Knowing what you know now, you can begin a workout routine that grows your triceps.
Always spend 60 to 90 seconds resting between all long head triceps exercises to prevent strain or injury. Use full range of motion in your reps to maximize the challenge on the triceps.
The muscles in your arm, shoulder, and back are highly connected. To avoid overtraining, rest for 48 hours in between upper-body workouts.
1. Workout A - Monday
- Dips (weighted if possible): 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps
- Close grip barbell bench press: 3 sets of 6 to 8 reps
- Overhead triceps extension (cable): 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps
- Triangle push-ups: 3 sets to failure
2. Workout B - Thursday (Or Minimum 48 Hours After Workout A)
- Close grip barbell bench press: 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps
- Dumbbell skull crushers: 3 sets of 6 to 8 reps
- Cable triceps extension: 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps
- Triangle push-ups: 3 sets to failure
6 Pro Tips on Triceps Exercise & Nutrition
Pay close attention to these straightforward tips, as they can significantly transform the results of your triceps workout.
1. Lock Out Your Triceps When Performing Exercises
For targeting the lateral head in triceps exercises, ensure you lock out at the top third of your movement.
This maximizes the load on your lateral head but avoid bending beyond this point to prevent joint or tendon strain.
2. Don’t Allow Elbows to Flare out During Pushdowns and Extensions
Keep your elbows from flaring out during triceps exercises to maintain focus on your triceps.
If you're struggling, reduce the weight or reps to keep your form sharp.
3. Add Rest Days to Your Training Schedule
Schedule rest days between triceps workouts, ideally one or two days after working on your chest, back, and arms.
Muscles grow and strengthen during rest, so use this time for other activities or rest.
If you’re performing long head triceps exercises two or three days a week, it’s recommended that you give yourself one or two days between chest, back, and arm exercises.
You can either rest, spend time focusing on other muscle groups, or do other types of exercise, like cardio training.
4. Mind-Muscle Connection in Triceps Training
Concentrate on your triceps during each rep. This mental focus increases muscle engagement and growth, making your workouts more effective.
5. Schedule Protein Intake for Strategic Times
Post-workout, your metabolism spikes for 40 minutes. Capitalize on this by consuming protein- and fiber-rich foods during this window to aid muscle repair and growth.
6. See Gains Faster with a Strategic Diet
A balanced diet is crucial for building muscle mass. Ensure a calorie surplus and a mix of protein, fats, and carbs.
Protein is key for muscle building and fat loss, and it keeps you satiated, as stated in the article from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition .
Consider the following food choices:
- Cottage cheese
And supplements like protein shakes or bars to meet your protein needs.
7. Enhance Your Hard Work with Proven Supplements
If meeting daily calorie goals is challenging, look into muscle mass supplements like whey protein.
A 2010 research study published in the Nutrition and Metabolism journal showed that whey protein is packed with nutrients and amino acids that can help you increase strength, gain muscle, and lose significant amounts of body fat .
There are various options available to suit different dietary preferences.
Another option is creatine, which is a naturally occurring substance in your muscle cells that helps produce energy during strenuous exercise. Taking it as a supplement can improve your strength and exercise performance.
Are Triceps Hard to Build?
Triceps muscles are hard to build if you fail to work out all three heads of the triceps evenly. Although they are one muscle group, each head works hardest when the arm is at certain angles to the shoulder.
Do Triceps Respond Better to Higher Reps?
Triceps respond better to a lower rep range because you’re more likely to focus on getting the full range of movement in your exercises. You’ll also avoid overexertion and bad form.
Should You Train Triceps and Biceps Together?
You can build muscle by training the triceps and biceps together; the advantage is that since they are both relatively small muscle groups, you can focus on working on them without being exhausted from other workouts.
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