The 12 Best Triceps Exercises for More Mass and a Bigger Bench Press
Want stronger presses and bigger arms? Try our 12 favorite triceps exercises.
Written by Mike DewarUpdated by Shane McLean on November 15th, 2021
The biceps get too much credit. Dont get us wrong; trainingyour biceps is a must for bigger and stronger arms. But your triceps you know, that three-headed horseshoe-shaped muscle that sits on the back of your arm deserve more attention. Youll be stronger for it, too.
Your triceps make up two-thirds of your upper arm mass and cover the entirety of the back of your arm. Thats a chunk of prime real estate. Its not all show and no go, either. Whenever youre bench-pressing, performing an overhead press, or doing dips, its your triceps helping move that weight.
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When powerlifters cant lockout a heavy bench press, they shift their attention to the triceps. We outline a dozen of the best triceps exercises and provide knowledge on how to train the muscle to help you improve your bench press strength and build a meatier pair of arms.
Best Triceps Exercises
- Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press
- Parallel Bar Dip
- Triceps Pushdown
- Skull Crusher
- Bodyweight Skull Crusher
- Floor Press
- Decline Bench Cable Extension
- JM Press
- Overhead Triceps Extension
- Standing Landmine Press
- Diamond Push-Up
- Unilateral Dumbbell Floor Press
Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press
Benefits of the Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press
- The move is more comfortable for your shoulders.
- It directly targets your triceps for more growth and strength.
- Youll develop more pressing power at the top of the exercise.
How to Do the Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press
Set yourself up similar to a flat bench press, with your hands set inside shoulder-width and your elbows tucked into the body. Pull the bar out of the rack and stabilize it over your chest. Pull the elbows inwards as the bar descends to the chest. Once you have touched the chest, press through the palms, feel the triceps engage, and lift the weight back up.
Parallel Bar Dip
Benefits of the Parallel Bar Dip
- You can load your triceps with just your bodyweight.
- Having your arms closer together will better activate your triceps.
How to Do the Parallel Bar Dip
Grab the parallel bars with your torso upright (with a slight lean forward) as you are suspended. Have your elbows almost fully extended to support this position. With the chest up and shoulder blades squeezed together, bend at the elbows as you lower yourself downward until the elbows reach 90 degrees. Press yourself upwards until you fully extend the elbows and repeat.
Benefits of the Triceps Pushdown
- Youll be able to isolate the triceps completely.
- The ability to feel the muscle contract and get a nice pump.
How to Do the Triceps Pushdown
Set the cables or band at a high anchor point. With your body facing the band, place your feet together and elbows to your sides (by your ribs). The chest should be up, and the back flat, with the hips angled slightly forward. Grab the handles or band and fully extend the elbows to push the handles or band down, making sure to keep the elbows slightly in front of the shoulders.
Benefits of the Skull Crusher
- This is a versatile triceps exercise as you can use a barbell, kettlebells, or dumbbells, to name a few tools.
- Youre stronger in this position compared to most other triceps exercises, and so youll gain triceps strength.
How to Do the Skull Crusher
Start by lying back down on a bench, with the hands supporting a weight (a barbell, dumbbells, or various cable attachments) at the top of the bench pressing position. The back and hips should be set up identical to a bench press. Pull the elbows back slightly so that they are pointing behind you (rather than directly vertical) as you bend the elbow joint, lowering the bar handle or loads towards your head. The bar should nearly make contact with the forehead. When done correctly, you should feel the stretch on the triceps and partially on the lats. Push the bar back up.
Bodyweight Skull Crusher
Benefits of the Bodyweight Skull Crusher
- This advanced skull crusher variation adds an extra degree of difficulty.
- Your body will have to stabilize itself, bolstering your core strength.
How to Do the Bodyweight Skull Crusher
Start with your hands on a barbell that is set at hip height. With an overhand grip at shoulder width, allow the elbows to bend as you let your torso fall forward towards the bar, feeling the stretch on the triceps. The elbows should remain pulled close to the sides of the head. To increase difficulty, step the feet backward and open the hip. To decrease difficulty, step the feet forwards and allow for more hip flexion. This will increase or decrease the amount of your body weight being supported by your upper body. Once your head is under the bar, and your elbows are fully flexed, extend your elbows, pushing your body back into the original position.
Benefits of the Floor Press
- The decreased range of motion allows you to lift more weight.
- You can overload your triceps for more strength and a heavier bench press.
How to Do the Floor Press
Lay down in front of a power rack and extend your arms. Take note of where they end and adjust the hooks so that the barbell sits where your hands reach. Get back under the now-loaded barbell and plant your feet firmly on the floor. Grab the bar with your typical bench press grip. Lift the bar out of the rack, and lower the barbell to your sternum. Keep your elbows tucked in at 45 degrees. Press back up.
Decline Bench Cable Extension
Benefits of the Decline Bench Cable Extension
- The cable creates more tension on the muscle.
- The decline angle will increase the stretch of the triceps muscle.
How to Do the Decline Bench Cable Extension
Set a decline workout bench about a foot in front of a cable pulley machine. Set the cable pulley to low and attach a straight or ez-bar handle. Lay back on the bench and grab the handle with both hands. (It may be easier to have someone hand you the bar.) Now, perform a standard skull crusher.
Benefits of the JM Press
- The JM Press improves lockout strength on the bench and overhead press.
- The shorter range of motion allows you to load more weight.
How to Do the JM Press
Set up exactly as you would for a close-grip bench press, but make sure the bar is fixated above your upper chest. Lower the barbell downwards while slowly flaring the elbows out to a 45-degree angle. As you lower, allow the bar to drift back towards your face. At the bottom of the repetition, your forearms should be somewhat parallel to the floor. Once your elbows are pointed forwards (instead of downwards), revere the motion and press back up.
Overhead Triceps Extension
Benefits of the Overhead Triceps Extension
- Increased tension throughout a larger range of motion.
- Helps improve overhead lockout strength which is important for overhead pressing.
How to Do the Overhead Triceps Extension
With the band underneath the middle of both feet, step forward with one foot and bring the handles of the band up behind your ears. Standing tall and keeping your elbows tucked in, extend the elbows until lockout, and pause for a second. Slowly lower down to the starting position and then repeat.
Standing Landmine Press
Benefits of the Standing Landmine Press
- The neutral grip and the arc of the press train the triceps while helping to limit shoulder or elbow discomfort.
- Increased scapular stability and control because of the pressing angle and loading of the barbell.
How to Do the Standing Landmine Press
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold the end of the barbell just in front of your shoulder. Brace your core and lats and grip the barbell tight. Then, press to lockout by extending the elbow and reaching forward at the end of the movement. Slowly lower back down and repeat.
Benefits of the Diamond Push-Up
- It focuses more on the triceps while still training your shoulders and chest.
- The narrower base of support improves your core strength.
How to Do the Diamond Push-Up
Making a perfect diamond with your hands is not necessary, but the idea is to keep your hands close to focus on the triceps. Adjust your hand position to see what works for you. Perform a push-up with control while keeping your core and glutes tight to keep your spine neutral. Keep your elbows tucked alongside your ribcage, without flaring, during the entire movement.
Unilateral Dumbbell Floor Press
Using dumbbells instead of the barbell allows you to change your pressing angle, which is great if you have shoulder issues when pressing with the barbell. The barbell locks your wrists and shoulders into one position, which some lifters may find limiting.
Benefits of the Unilateral Dumbbell Floor Press
- Strengthens imbalances between sides.
- The reduced range of motion and the neutral grip are easy on the wrists and shoulders.
- Helps improve lockout strength for bench and overhead pressing.
How to Do the Unilateral Dumbbell Floor Press
Roll to one side and grab a dumbbell with both hands. Press it up to extension, and then place your free hand on the floor out to the side. Bend your knees or leave your legs flat on the floor. Slowly lower the weight until your upper arm grazes the ground, and then press back up to lockout.
About the Triceps
The triceps are made up of three muscles (hence the name, tri-ceps): The lateral head, the long head, and the medial head. All three of these muscles attach to your elbow and are responsible for extending your arm.
Thetriceps are involved in the back half of most pressing exercises. Think about how you bench press. Your pecs work hard at first to get the barbell off of your chest, but once your arms break 90 degrees, your triceps flex to extend your forearms and fully extend your arms. The same is true for an overhead press.
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If you want to press heavyweight, then strong triceps are a necessity not an option. And as you get stronger, itll become even more important to focus on specific parts of your lifts (like the down, middle or top position), as well as the other muscles involved. For this reason, powerlifters and strongmen typically prioritize their triceps to help them lock out a big bench press or a heavy log press.
Your triceps take up about two-thirds of your upper arm mass. Typically, you hear people say you need to target each head with specific exercises for complete growth. While exercise is variation is a good thing, your triceps primary function is to extend the arm so thatmost extension exercises will recruit your triceps. That said, the long head of your triceps originates from your scapula and helps to extend your entire arm behind you.
Compared to triceps exercises that lock your arms in at your sides like pushdowns and the close-grip bench press moves that work your triceps while your arms are extended, like skull crushers, will help build a complete long head.
How to Train Your Triceps
Your triceps are big compared to your biceps, but its still a small muscle. Stick with around 10 to 14 sets per week for your triceps. You can pair your triceps with your biceps,or you can tack your triceps training onto your bench press or push day. Because the triceps work in conjunction with other pushing exercises, we suggest pairing them with other pressing moves.
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Pick three to four movements off of this list, and complete three sets each. If youre a more advanced strength athlete, then you may benefit from even more volume. You can train your triceps on your push day and then complete a less intense arms day later in the week for 16 to 18 total sets of work.
More Triceps Training Tips
Here are some more articles that can help you add size and strength to your triceps and improve your pressing strength.
- 8 Great Triceps Exercises You Probably Arent Doing
- 14 Triceps Exercises to Improve Your Bench Press
Featured image: Bojan Milinkov/Shutterstock