11 Best Triceps Workout & Exercises - Old School Labs
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Home » OSL Blog » 11 Best Triceps Workout & Exercises

11 Best Triceps Workout & Exercises

July 29, 2019

Key Takeaways

  1. Are you someone who neglects your triceps?
  2. Do you wish they were more defined?
  3. Do you prefer to train your triceps by themselves or with bigger muscle groups like chest and shoulders?
  4. Follow along for some of the best triceps workouts that can get you the horseshoe definition you crave.

For some people, sculpting well balanced and defined triceps is a struggle. For others, like Golden Era bodybuilder Serge Nubret, killer triceps seemed to come naturally. Whether you struggle or not to get defined triceps, we bet you can always use some improvement

Serge Nubret
Golden Era bodybuilder Serge Nubret.

If you haven’t already checked out some of our other workouts, be sure to do that after you read this one. And we love to see people’s progress and results from the workouts we put together. So be sure to comment on the articles to let us know how you do.

If you are looking for the coveted horseshoe triceps look, then you’ll definitely want to read this article.

We’ve put together the best triceps exercises for you to balance out your upper arms. You’re guaranteed to have people asking you what you’ve been doing when they see those guns you’re sporting.

The Triceps Muscle Explained

The triceps brachii muscle runs down the back of your upper arm and is made up of three separate heads. Your triceps muscle allows the arm to extend at the elbow joint and straighten your arm.

Triceps
The triceps muscle runs down the back of the upper arm.

Any muscle that has brachii in the name means that it has three heads to create the muscle. You saw this as well in the bicep workout & exercises article we did previously.

Let’s take a look at how the triceps are broken down into heads so you can focus on targeting:

  • Long head – starts at the scapula (shoulder bone) and runs along the inside of the upper arm down to the elbow. 
  • Medial head – runs from the back of the humerus (upper arm bone) down to the elbow. This head is mostly hidden by the long and lateral heads and is visible at the bottom of the upper arm.
  • Lateral head – starts at the scapula and runs along the outside of the upper arm down to the elbow.
Triceps muscles
The long, medial, & lateral head form the triceps muscle.

The lateral head is what shows on the outside as the defined horseshoe when properly exercised. We won’t be focusing on just the lateral head. Instead, we will provide a triceps workout routine that works each head for a balanced look and overall definition.

Equipment Needed

Cable machine
The cable/rope machine is number one for triceps exercises at the gym.

Most of these triceps exercises can be done at home, but some will have to be done at the gym. To perform the best triceps workouts we have on the list, you’ll need this equipment:

  • Incline bench (that can also lay flat)
  • Barbell
  • Dumbbells
  • Kettlebell
  • Cable/rope machine
  • Dip machine
  • EZ Bar
Gym equipment
Dumbbells & an EZ bar are some of the equipment you need for triceps exercises.

It’s okay if you don’t have all the equipment available. Just complete what you can with the stuff you do have. We’ve also included some variations that you might be able to work with at home for these best triceps exercises.

What makes them the best? They target either part or all of the triceps muscle. This way, you can work on what you need to so you can develop that killer horseshoe shape most bodybuilders are after.

Triceps Dips

This exercise made our list of best triceps work out for a few reasons. First, it works all three heads of the triceps muscle. Second, you can easily do this body-weight triceps workout at home or at the gym. You just need a sturdy bench or chair to do it.

triceps dips
Triceps dips are a classic body-weight exercises that targets these muscles.

How to do it: You’ll start off with the bench or chair behind you. Lower your body until you can grip the edge of the seat with your hands, fingers facing you. Your feet and arms should be shoulder width apart, with your legs out in front of you.

Start with your arms at a 90-degree angle. Using your triceps, raise yourself up until your arms are straight, squeezing at the top. Then, lower yourself back down to the starting position.

Complete 10 – 12 reps for four sets total. If needed, take up to a 30-second break between each set.

Cable/Rope Pressdown

For this killer triceps workout, you’ll need a cable machine. This triceps exercise works the lateral and medial heads. You don’t want to overload on weights for this one. Focus on a weight that allows you to use proper form for best results.

Cable rope pressdown
Cable press-down targets mainly the lateral & medial heads in triceps.

How to do it: Start by standing facing the cable machine and grasp the rope with both hands in a hammer grip. Make sure to maintain a neutral wrist throughout the exercise. Your elbows should be at your sides at all time.

Begin with your elbows at a 90-degree angle and use your triceps to press down on the rope. Keep going until your arms are straight and your hands are at your sides with the rope spread straight. Squeeze at the end before you go back to the starting position.

Complete 12 – 15 reps for three sets total. Take up to a 30-second break between each set as needed.

Close Grip Dips

This is one of the best triceps exercises that focuses on the lateral head of the muscle. You’ll need to use a dip machine to complete this bodyweight workout. 

Use a close grip on lateral head to isolate the triceps
Close grip dips isolate the lateral head of the triceps.

How to do it: Get yourself positioned in the dip machine to begin. Make sure that throughout the exercise you stay as straight as possible. If you start to lean forward, then you’ll activate the chest and not work the lateral head as much.

You’ll also want to keep the elbows locked instead of allowing them to go out to the sides. Begin by bending your knees and crossing one ankle over the other. Then, lower yourself down and then bring yourself back up to the starting position.

Variation: You can do this dip exercise facing the machine or facing away from it.

Just be sure that you don’t lean forward, especially when facing away. If you do, you get less triceps activation and more chest and shoulder activation. This is why it makes it a great compound movement as well.

Complete 12 – 15 reps for a total of three sets. Take up to a 30-second break as needed between sets.

Triangle Push-ups

A variation of the traditional push-up, the formation of the triangle shape is what works the triceps in this exercise. You’ll be working the long and lateral heads. The triangle push-up was found by the American Council of Exercise (ACE) to be the most effective for triceps. This is one of the best bodyweight triceps workouts which can be done at home or at the gym.

triangle push ups
This push up variation is the most effective body-weight triceps exercise.

How to do it: Get into a push-up position with your index fingers and thumbs touching to make a triangle shape. Your body should be parallel to the floor with your feet together and your arms at your sides. Engage your quads, glutes, and core throughout the exercise and maintain a neutral spine.

Do not allow your legs or body to sag during the exercise. Lower your body down until your chest or chin reaches the floor. Once there, begin to push up against the floor and continue until your arms are straight and your elbows are extended.

Complete 10 reps with a total of three sets for this exercise. If needed, take up to a 45-second rest between sets. As you get better at this challenging triceps workout, reduce your max resting time to 30 seconds.

Overhead Seated Dumbbell Extensions

This triceps exercise works the long and medial heads. You can use a bench or chair with a backrest. You can do this triceps exercise at home or at the gym with dumbbells.

Overhead dumbbell extension
Overhead dumbbell extension can be done in a seated or standing position.

How to do it: Sit down on a bench or chair with your back against the support. Grab a dumbbell and hold it in both hands behind your head to get into the starting position. Begin to raise the dumbbell straight up until your arms are fully extended.

Keep your arms as close to your head as possible without letting your elbows bow out throughout the exercise. Hold the position for a second while squeezing your triceps. Then, slowly lower the dumbbell back down to the starting position. 

Variation: You can also perform the overhead dumbbell extension standing if you prefer. The exercise will be the same from a standing position instead of a seated position. Make sure your feet stay planted throughout the entire exercise so you don’t lose your balance. If you prefer to use a barbell instead, you can do the standing version of this triceps exercise instead.

Complete 10 -12 reps for a total of four sets. Take up to a 30-second break between sets if needed.

Close Grip Barbell Bench Press

This is one of the best triceps exercises for working the entire triceps muscle and to increase size. The grip choice in this workout targets not only muscle gains but also strength gains as well.

The closer your hands are on the barbell, the greater the triceps activation you’ll get. 

You’ll need a barbell and bench to complete this exercise. Load the bar heavier to start and then reduce the weight as you proceed through the sets. If you haven’t done this triceps exercise before, have a spotter check your form to be sure you’re at the right weight.

close grip bench press
Perfecting the close grip barbell bench press is all about lowering the weight & maintaining a good form.

How to do it: Lay flat on the bench and grasp the barbell with an overhand grip and your hands shoulder-width apart. Lift the barbell above your chest until your arms are straight. Pause at the top before you begin to slowly lower the weight down until it’s just above your sternum. Pause again before you lift the barbell back to the starting position.

Complete 10 – 12 reps for three sets total, starting with a heavyweight and reducing as you progress in sets. Take up to a 30-second break between sets if you need to.

Triceps Kickbacks

Workout the long and lateral heads with this triceps exercise using dumbbells. You’ll want to be sure your form is perfect on these to reduce stress on your spine and avoid injury. Get a spotter to make sure you’re doing these right and then work those triceps.

triceps kickbacks
Engage your abs & keep a good form when doing triceps kickbacks to avoid injury.

How to do it: Grab a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing your sides. Stand with your knees slightly bent and hinge forward at the hips. Engage your core and make sure your spine is neutral and stays straight throughout the exercise.

Start with your elbows bent and the dumbbells at your sides. Push the dumbbells back and up until your arms are straight behind you. Pause for a second and then bring the dumbbells back to the starting position.

tricep kickbacks
Bench triceps kickbacks .

Variations: There are a few variations you can do with this triceps exercise. You can kneel with one knee on a bench using that same hand as leverage. Your other foot should remain flat on the floor. Hold the dumbbell at your side in the opposite hand and then begin the exercise. Then you’ll switch to complete the other side. 

You could also stand in a split stance with your hand on your forward thigh for leverage. Keep even weight distribution on both feet throughout the exercise. Hold a dumbbell in the opposite hand and then begin the exercise. Switch and then do the opposite side.

Complete 12 – 15 reps for a total of three sets or on each arm if you do the variations. If you need to take a break, no more than 30 seconds between each set.

Lying Dumbbell French Press

We had to include this exercise as one of the best triceps workouts to achieve the horseshoe look. It works the entire triceps muscle and only requires a bench and dumbbells. You can choose to do these at the gym or at home.

You can also try this with kettlebells if you like including those in your workout routine. If you do, it’ll increase the triceps activation and you’ll get more out of this workout. 

Lying dumbbell with a french press
Lying dumbbell french press engages entire triceps muscles.

How to do it: Lay down flat on the bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Use an overhand grip for this triceps exercise. Hold the dumbbells so they are in front of your face with the back of your hands facing you. To get into the starting position, raise the dumbbells up until your arms are straight.

Breath in and begin to lower the dumbbells down evenly together until your hands are right above your head. Hold for a second and then breathe out as you lift the dumbbells back to the starting position. Make sure your elbows stay locked and stationary throughout the exercise. Keep your wrist neutral don’t forget to squeeze those triceps before you bring them back up.

Complete 10 – 12 reps and see if you can complete four sets total. If not, then reduce the weight until you can complete all four sets. Take at most a 30-second break between sets if needed.

Tate Press/Elbows Out Triceps Extension

The Tate press also called the elbows out triceps extension, is a great lower triceps workout using dumbbells. It’s one of the best triceps exercises to do if you have elbow sensitivity and an alternative to skull crushers. 

You’ll need an incline bench for this as well as dumbbells. Try this triceps workout at the gym or at home.

dumbbells tate press
The tate is a great lower triceps workout using dumbbells.

How to do it: Sit with your back against the bench pad of the incline bench. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and raise your hands until your arms are straight. Your palms should be facing away from you. As the name implies, you’ll be doing this exercise with your elbows out.

Begin by lowering the dumbbells down toward your chest with your elbows out. Once they’ve reached your chest, pause and then push them back to the starting position in one swift motion. 

Complete 12 – 15 reps with three sets total for this exercise. Only take a break if you have to between sets, no longer than 30-seconds between sets.

Kettlebell Floor Press

This is one of the best triceps workouts to really define that horseshoe shape you are after. The lockout portion of this exercise will really get your triceps burning after you’re done your sets.

You’ll need kettlebells and a large enough spot on the floor to lay flat.

kettlebell floor press
The kettlebell floor press is one of the best workouts to define that horseshoe triceps shape.

How to do it: Begin by laying flat on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat. Grab a kettlebell in each hand and make sure the bell is on the outside of your wrists. Bend your arms to lower the kettlebells until your elbows touch the floor. Pause and then begin to lift the weights back up in one fluid motion, until you reach the starting position. 

Variation: Until you get comfortable with this exercise, you can choose to do one arm at a time. You can also do this triceps exercise using dumbbells if you prefer.

Complete 10 -12 reps for a total of three sets. If you can’t complete the sets, it means you need to reduce your weight until you can. If you need to take a break between sets, make it less than 30 seconds.

EZ Bar Skull Crushers

Proper form is really important and what makes this exercise one of the best triceps workouts for the entire triceps muscle. Keeping your feet flat on the floor and really engaging your glutes throughout is the key to killer triceps here. 

This triceps exercise is not ideal for people who have elbow issues. If that’s you, you might want to skip this one and focus on the Tate press instead.

EZ bar skull crushes
EZ bar skull crushes put some effort on elbows, so form is essential to prevent injury.

How to do it: Lay flat on the bench with your feet flat on the floor. Keep your glutes and core engaged throughout the exercise. You also want to drive your shoulders into the bench. These tips will ensure that you are maximizing your triceps and not using your shoulders, chest or delts to do the work for you.

Your arms should be bent at the elbow with your hands on either side of your head. Bend at just past a 90-degree angle for greatest activation and keep your humerus steady the entire exercise. The only part of your body that should move is your elbows. Grab the EZ bar and hold it in an overhand grip.

Begin to lower the bar until it’s just over your head but not touching the bench. Squeeze your triceps and pause before you raise the bar back to the starting position.

Complete 10 – 12 reps for a total of three sets. Take up to a 30-second break if you need to before you begin the next set.

Summing It Up

We hope you liked this list of some of the best triceps workouts to get you the killer horseshoe triceps you’re after! 

Which one of these triceps exercises is your favorite? Do you have one to add that we didn’t include? Let us know in the comments, and tell us about your progress as you build your triceps!

Disclaimer: None of the individuals and/or companies mentioned necessarily endorse Old School Labs or COSIDLA Inc. products or the contents of this article. Any programs provided for illustration purposes only. Always consult with your personal trainer, nutritionist and physician before changing or starting any new exercise, nutrition, or supplementation program.
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