Best triceps exercises

10 Best Tricep Exercises for Men

If you are looking to build your upper body, adding a full-scale set of triceps exercises is an absolute must. While they don’t often receive the same level of care and consideration that the biceps do, the muscle group makes up roughly two-thirds of your upper arm (1), thereby providing a literal foundation for your continuing muscle growth, definition, and improvement. To put it another way: your overall upper arm strength is only as good as the strength of your triceps. Furthermore, no fitness freak would really argue with horseshoe triceps, a veritable sign of modern fortitude. If all this isn’t enough to pivot your focus toward this oft-overlooked muscle group, then you just keep on with bicep workouts and see how far it takes you. Go ahead. We dare you…

You’ll also like:
10 Best Shoulder Exercises for Men
10 Best Core Exercises for Men
34 Best Bodyweight Exercises for Men

Anatomy of the triceps muscle

Anatomy of the Triceps Muscle | Image: Earth’s Lab

What are Your Triceps Muscles?

Simply put, your triceps (or triceps brachii) is a large muscle found on the back of your upper arm. It consists of three integral parts – the medial, the lateral and the long head, all of which aid in movement contraction. (2) Importantly, this muscle group is responsible for the extension of the elbow joint, which in turn, allows you to straighten your arm. According to Gordana Sendić MD, the triceps represent the only constituent of the posterior muscle group of the arm, spanning nearly the entire length of the humerus. (4)

Triceps Anatomy

As mentioned, the triceps brachii muscle has three heads, all of which have their origin. These components come together to form the muscle group, providing support to the exterior of the arm and furthering movement of the elbow joint.

  • Medial – This head arises proximally in the humerus, just inferior to the groove of the radial nerve; from the dorsal (back) surface of the humerus; from the medial intermuscular septum.
  • Lateral – As Platzer writes in Color Atlas of Human Anatomy (3), the lateral arises from the dorsal surface of the humerus, lateral and proximal to the groove of the radial nerve, from the greater tubercle down to the region of the lateral intermuscular septum
  • Long Head – This element arises from the infraglenoid tubercle of scapula. This element extends distally anterior to the teres minor and posterior to the teres major.

Function

The main function of the triceps is to allow movement and extension of the elbow joint. As such, this muscle is referred to as an extensor muscle and an antagonist of the biceps and brachialis muscles. As a core role, the triceps help to fixate the elbow joint when the forearm and hand are used for fine movements, otherwise known as active extension. This is best seen with the contraction of the triceps brachii muscle and the relaxation of the biceps brachii, which lends itself well to pushing or thrusting movements.

Best Tricep Exercises for Men

Welcome to muscle country. Population: you. That is, of course, presuming you pick up one or more of the following tricep exercises for men. Combine 6 or 7 to complete a full-blown tricep workout. Just as we said about our bicep, chest and forearm workouts, beginners should start on the machine before graduating to the bench. Also, maxing out your triceps isn’t necessarily frowned upon so keep pushing yourself once you feel the burn (but stop if you feel pain in your joints). Here we go:

1 close grip bench press

Close-Grip Bench Press | Image: Strength Level

1. Close-Grip Bench Press

It’s a staple option but it’s on the list for a reason. The Close-Grip Bench Press is a multijoint compound movement that allows you to work multiple body parts at once, putting greater strain on your muscles and providing a more complete workout. This variation, in particular, targets the triceps through the use of a close grip starting position, which adds to the progressive overload function of the movement. Recent studies have shown (5) that this position is better for sustained overload than a wider grip, meaning you can expect to see greater results when adding this to your list of triceps exercises. To execute, perform the following steps:

  1. Grab a barbell with an overhand grip, keeping your index fingers on the inside edge of the knurling (i.e. the rough and textural part of the bar)
  2. Slightly arch your back to create minor space between your lower back and the bench.
  3. Lift the bar off the rack and hold it above your sternum, keeping your arms completely straight and your elbows tucked at 45-degree angles on either side.
  4. Lower the bar until it lightly touches your body, pause, and then drive through at your feet as you press the bar upward.
  5. For the last set, consider reducing the weight and then increasing the number of reps, pushing yourself to failure.

Sets: 3-4
Reps: 6-8
Rest: 60 seconds between each set

2 cable rope tricep pushdown

Cable Rope Tricep Pushdown | Image: Strength Level

2. Cable Rope Tricep Pushdown

The quintessential triceps exercise for men, the cable rope tricep pushdown allows you to place significant strain on the muscle group safely and effectively. This movement targets the lateral head of the triceps and when executed properly, can lead to progressive overload and enhanced muscle-building activity. If you’re targeting the triceps, don’t overdo it on the weights when performing this exercise. Here’s how:

  1. Attach a rope to the cable station’s high pulley.
  2. Grab the handle with an overhand grip, keeping your arms bent and your hands shoulder-width apart.
  3. Tuck your upper arms toward your sides.
  4. Keeping your upper arms fixed in place, push the bar down until your elbows are locked.
  5. Return to the starting position and repeat.

Sets: 3
Reps: 10
Rest: 60 seconds between each set

3 lying triceps extension

Lying Triceps Extension | Image: Strength Level

3. Lying Triceps Extension

This exercise is sometimes known as the skullcrusher and that alone should tell you it’s not for beginners. And while there’s more than one way to perform it (over-the-head vs behind-the-head, for instance), elbow extension remains constant. After you’ve mastered other tricep workouts and exercises, bring this one into the fold. When you’ve become a true master of your upper domain, perform this tricep exercise and a dumbbell chest press as a superset.

Here’s one variant:

  1. Grabbing the inner grip, press an EZ bar over your chest in the overhand grip position.
  2. Extend your arms straight up.
  3. Keeping your elbows tucked in and your arms perpendicular to the floor, gradually lower the bar until it’s just above your forehead by about an inch.
  4. Slowly bring your arms back to the starting position without locking your elbows.
  5. Repeat.

Sets: 3
Reps: 10-12
Rest: 60 seconds between each set

4 tricep dips

Tricep Dips | Image: Strength Level

4. Tricep Dips

Here’s another tricep exercise for men who have more experience under their respective belts. It involves using your entire body weight and should be avoided by those with shoulder issues. Start with just 2 sets of 8-10 reps and increase the number of sets and reps as you improve over time. Importantly, dips are a highly-effective way to target the outer elements of your upper arm.

“Dips are an excellent movement to build size, strength and power into the triceps,” body-transformation coach, Charlie Johnson told Men’s Health. “(Having) some variation of dips within a training programme is a wise idea if you’re looking to develop this muscle group and improve your pressing strength.”

If you want to get the most out of your dips, there are a few things to remember – namely, don’t lean forward. By doing this, you alter the movement and put greater emphasis on your chest. Similarly, by dipping too low, you can put unnecessary strain on your pecs and upper shoulder muscles, which could lead to injury. To complete the triceps dips, follow these steps:

  1. Prop yourself up on the parallel bars (if needed, use a machine where you can rest your knees on a pad for assistance), keeping your torso perpendicular to the floor.
  2. Maintaining your original position throughout, bend your knees and cross your ankles if preferred.
  3. Lower your body until your shoulder joints are below your elbows or just before you reach that position.
  4. Push down through your hands to come back up to the starting position, until your elbows are just short of locked.
  5. Repeat.

Sets: 2
Reps: 8-10
Rest: 60 seconds between each set

5 diamond push ups

Diamond Push-Ups | Image: Strength Level

5. Diamond Push-Ups

A semi-strenuous alternative to your standard push-up, you can perform this tricep exercise from the comfort of your own home. While it’s traditionally seen as a chest movement, the diamond push-up requires you to push through the ground and use your triceps to elevate your body weight. General push-ups require you to place your hands just outside your shoulder width, however, by bringing them in and tucking your elbows, you can place greater strain on your triceps muscles (7), in particular, the lateral head. Here’s how to perform a diamond push-up:

  1. Assume the push-up position (with either toes or knees on the floor, depending on your strength level), but with your hands together in a diamond-like formation (i.e. index fingers and thumbs touching).
  2. Keeping your back straight and your core engaged, lower your chest until it almost touches the floor.
  3. Rise and repeat.

Sets: 3
Reps: 15-20
Rest: 60 seconds between each set

6 bench dip

Bench Dip | Image: Strength Level

6. Bench Dip

Unlike the tricep dip, this basic workout doesn’t require copious amounts of muscle or experience — however, it’s an easy exercise for beginners to get wrong, so ask a personal trainer or coach for pointers to get it right. Remarkably, while it does involve significantly less strain on the body, a bench dip can still have enormous benefits when it comes to your next triceps workout. A recent EMG study (6) found that there is substantial triceps activation during a bench dip, meaning that even smaller movements can deliver results. Grab a standard workout bench and perform the following steps:

  1. Stand up and face away from the bench, grabbing it with both hands at shoulder width.
  2. Keeping your legs straight and extended in front of you, slowly lower your body until your arms and forearms are at 90-degree angles. Avoid going lower than this. Keep your back close to the bench as you lower.
  3. Push down through your hands to engage the triceps as you lift back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat.

Sets: 3
Reps: 10-12
Rest: 60 seconds between each set

7 one arm overhead extension

One-Arm Overhead Extension | Image: Strength Level

7. One-Arm Overhead Extension

Odds are you’re already doing something like this, making it a fairly simple and approachable tricep exercise you can either do standing or seated on a bench. Specifically, the one-arm overhead extension allows you to target the long head of the triceps effectively, which is a major benefit. The muscle component is traditionally difficult to prioritise and isolate, so adding this movement to your existing list of triceps exercises is a must if you plan on bolstering your outer arm size and strength. Here’s how to execute:

  1. Stand or sit perfectly upright on a workout bench and grab a dumbbell with one hand (avoid going too heavy, especially when starting out).
  2. Holding the dumbbell, lift your arm slightly behind your head with your elbow bent.
  3. Extend your elbow until your arm is straight overhead.
  4. Perform 10 reps with one arm before switching to the other to round out the set.
  5. Keep your core engaged to protect the lower back when the weight is overhead, especially if you’re performing this exercise standing.

Sets: 3
Reps: 10-12
Rest: 60 seconds between each set

8 standard push up

Standard Push-Up | Image: Strength Level

8. Standard Push-Up

An oldie but goodie, the classic push-up builds strength in your core, chest, and triceps. To crank up that intensity dial, consider bringing in a weight vest or slowing the tempo of this exercise right down. Pardon us while we tell you how to perform an exercise you know all too well:

  1. Keeping your hands beneath your shoulders, your core locked, and your body in a straight line, prop yourself above the floor on your hands and toes (or knees, depending on your strength level).
  2. Lower your body until your chest is just above the ground.
  3. Thrust upward.
  4. Repeat.

Sets: 3
Reps: 15-20
Rest: 60 seconds between each set

9 standing overhead cable triceps extension straight arm cable pull down

Straight Arm Cable Pull-Down | Image: Strength Level

9. Standing Overhead Cable Triceps Extension + Straight Arm Cable Pull-Down

In case the title’s not a dead giveaway, you’ll need a cable machine for this tricep exercise, which forms a superset. Let’s get into it:

  1. Attach a rope to the high pulley of the cable station.
  2. Grab the handle and face away from the machine, keeping your hands even with your shoulders.
  3. Fully extend your arm forward in front of your head.
  4. Return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for 10-12 reps.
  6. Move directly into a straight arm cable pull-down, which involves grabbing the handle from the top pulley, palms facing one another.
  7. Bend 30 degrees forward at the waist, keeping your arms fully extended.
  8. Pull the bar down into your hips until your hands are even with your thighs.
  9. Return to the starting position and repeat.

Sets: 3
Reps: 10-12
Rest: Superset

10 45 degree incline dumbbell chest press

Incline Dumbbell Chest Press | Image: Strength

10. 45-Degree Incline Dumbbell Chest Press

Here’s another tricep exercise you might already be performing. This is how to get it done:

  1. Position your workout bench at a 45-degree angle.
  2. Lie back on the bench and lift the dumbbells to shoulder height, palms facing outward.
  3. Exhale as you simultaneously press up with both arms.
  4. Lock out your arms and contract your chest before slowly returning to the start position.
  5. Repeat.

Sets: 3
Reps: 10-12
Rest: 60 seconds between each set

Tricep Workout Pointers

Putting together an extensive triceps workout can help you to gain functional movement, alongside building muscle and increasing strength. Before you dive into the best tricep workouts and exercises for men, however, it’s important that you get the basics right. Allow us to dispense with a few pointers:

Warm Up

Whether you are training for a marathon, trying to build your deadlift strength or getting stuck into a triceps workout, warming up is pivotal to your overall health. Not only does the activity prevent injury, it can also aid in strength and allow you to hit greater numbers when performing physically taxing movements. A recent study found that warming-up was shown to improve performance in 79% of the criterions examined (8), with the degree of improvement varying widely, from less than 1% to nearly 20% improvement. Start your workout with some light callisthenics and small movements that get the blood flowing through your arms.

Don’t Overtrain

When you’re performing any workout, creating a measurable and timed list of exercises is critical to the effectiveness of the activity. it’s important that you don’t overtrain your triceps, as too much strain will lead to injuries and negatively impact your overall health. Make sure you target all three heads of the triceps muscles, incorporating a variety of exercises in to ensure there is balance in your workout regime. If you are starting out, simply aim to do around three sets of 10-12 reps for each exercise. From there, you can work on building your strength u by increasing the weight or working on your durability by increasing the number of reps or sets.

Focus on Multiple Muscle Groups

As triceps exercises tend to target the muscle group quite specifically, it’s often difficult to base an entire workout around the body part. What you’ll end up doing is overtraining your triceps by trying to do too much, so rather than blast your arms and run the risk of injury, try to incorporate a mixed muscle group approach. Whenever you are training triceps, couple the movements with shoulders and chest exercises, as the two areas of the body will compliment each other nicely.

Basic Triceps Tips

  • Don’t forget to warm-up those muscles before you start in on the harder exercises.
  • If you’re a beginner, stick with machines before moving onto free weights.
  • If you’re trying to build mass, start with multi-joint exercises and don’t be afraid to go to failure. Also, be sure to include both arm-overhead and lateral exercises in your tricep workout.
  • If muscle definition is your goal, start with multi-joint exercises and then work your way toward targeted supersets. Move quickly and don’t be afraid to go to failure.
  • The lateral head—which is located on the top of your tricep—is the largest of the three heads in your upper arm. If you’re focusing on this area, incorporate exercises during which your arms stay by your sides, such as an overhead grip.
  • If any of these tricep exercises cause persistent pain, particularly sharp pain in your shoulder or elbow joints, stop and seek guidance from a physiotherapist or other health professional.

General FAQ

What exercises work the tricep?

Some of the following exercises are the best for your triceps: Close-Grip Bench Press, Cable Triceps Extension, Lying Triceps Extension, Diamond Push-Up, and more.

How can I strengthen my triceps at home?

Some tricep exercises you can perform at home are as follows: Bench Dip, Standard Push-Up, Diamond Push-Up, Dumbbell Triceps Extension, and more.

You’ll also like:
10 Best Shoulder Exercises for Men
10 Best Core Exercises for Men
34 Best Bodyweight Exercises for Men

Last medically reviewed on 19 June 2022

Citations

  1. “Triceps Anatomy, Origin & Function | Body Maps”Healthline. 21 January 2018. Retrieved 19 September 2022.
  2. Palastanga, N., Field, D., & Soames, R. (1989). Anatomy and human movement: Structure and function. Oxford, England (6th edition): Churchill Livingstone.
  3. Platzer W (2004). Color Atlas of Human Anatomy, Vol. 1: Locomotor System (5th ed.). ThiemeISBN 3-13-533305-1.
  4. Madsen M, Marx RG, Millett PJ, Rodeo SA, Sperling JW, Warren RF (November 2006). “Surgical anatomy of the triceps brachii tendon: anatomical study and clinical correlation”. The American Journal of Sports Medicine34 (11): 1839–43. doi:10.1177/0363546506288752PMID 16735585S2CID 11671310.
  5. Gregory J Lehman (August 2005). “The influence of grip width and forearm pronation/supination on upper-body myoelectric activity during the flat bench press”. Department of Graduate Studies and Research. DOI: 10.1519/R-15024.1
  6. Md. Asraf Ali, Sundaraj, Ahmad, Ahamed, Islam (December 2013). “Surface electromyography for assessing triceps brachii muscle activities: A literature review”. DOI:10.1016/j.bbe.2013.09.001
  7. Cogley, Robert M; Archambault, Teasha A; Fibeger, Jon F; Koverman, Mandy M; et al.
    Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research; Champaign Vol. 19, Iss. 3, (Aug 2005): 628-33. DOI:10.1519/00124278-200508000-00024
  8. Fradkin, Andrea J1; Zazryn, Tsharni R2; Smoliga, James M. “Effects of Warming-up on Physical Performance: A Systematic Review With Meta-analysis”. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: January 2010 – Volume 24 – Issue 1 – p 140-148 DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181c643a0
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Jacob Osborn is an accomplished author and journalist with over 10 years of experience in the media industry. Jacob holds a Bachelor's degree in English and Communication Arts from the University of Wisconsin--Madison and has previously written for Stacker alongside co-authoring a Young Adult novel through Simon & Schuster. Now based in Portland, Oregon, Jacob specialises in entertainment, technology and alcohol reporting. You might find him crate-digging at the nearest record store or sampling whisky at the nearest bar. He daydreams of travelling around the world, but for now, the world will have to come to him by way of lifestyle products, gear, gadgetry, and entertainment. Let's call it a happy compromise while he saves up for the next big trip.