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The Best Tricep Workout for Size
Your Guide to Getting Bigger Arms

how-to-get-bigger-triceps
Isaac Robertson
Written by Isaac Robertson
Last Updated on

What comes to mind when you think of your bodybuilding goals? For most people, it’s showing off by flexing their guns and kissing their biceps.

But actually, biceps would look pretty lame without triceps bulk to back them up. Triceps make up 75% of the muscle in your arms, making them critical to achieving that strongman look.  

In this article, I’ll be showing you how to build muscle growth and jumpstart fat loss by dropping some knowledge on creating muscle bulk and triceps anatomy, show you 7 of the best triceps exercises, lay out a weekly exercise routine, lay out fitness tips, and answer some FAQs.

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.

Let’s get to work!

Muscle Building 101 - How to Get Bigger Triceps

big triceps

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 in a day, and a healthy balance of other vitamins and macronutrients.

Secondly, you’ll need to implement a 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, and 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

Knowing tricep anatomy will help you understand why exercises are designed the way they are and will help you make the most of your workout.

The triceps, also known as the triceps brachii, is a large muscle on the back of the upper arms. (1)

This muscle contributes to the extension of the elbow joint, which is necessary for everyday pushing and pulling motions.

triceps anatomy

Tri = Three

The “tri” in triceps comes from the fact that there are three bundles of muscles that join together at the elbow: long head, lateral head, and medial head.

The lateral head forms the front part of the horseshoe, and the long head is the backmost part of the arm and horseshoe. The medial head rests between the other two heads, providing stability to the entire muscle group.

The triceps are the largest muscle in your upper arm, but each bundle is aligned differently within your arm. It’s important to exercise your triceps evenly to gain the desired horseshoe shape.

​A study published by Acta Orthopaedica et Traumatologica Turcica concluded that each head of the triceps brachii exerts a different level of force and activity during different shoulder elevations. Their research showed that the long head contributes to elbow extension more at shoulder elevation and the medial head takes over at 90° and above. (2)

7 Best Triceps Exercises

​Here are the 7 best tricep exercises that you can do to build bigger triceps.

1. Close-Grip Bench Press

close grip bench press

A standard bench press focuses on the muscles in your chest, but doing a close-grip bench press moves the work to your triceps. 

To do the close grip, you’ll need a bench press, bar, and rack. ​To start, lay with your back flat on the bench. Grip the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart, and lift the bar over your head, with your arms fully extended.

​While breathing in, lower the bar to the middle of your chest. Keep your elbows near your torso to maximize work in the triceps muscles. To return to starting position, breathe out and push the bar up.

Watch this video below learn more about the close-grip bench press.

2. Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension (Seated and Standing)

​This exercise requires a dumbbell and can be done seated or standing. They have similar benefits, but seated can prevent strain in your back and chest, especially if the dumbbell exceeds 90 pounds.

To stand, start with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold one end of the dumbbell with both hands and palms facing up, and lift it above and slightly behind your head.

Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension

Slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head until your forearms and biceps touch. To maximize triceps muscle growth and keep good form, make sure your elbows stay close to your ears and isolate movement to your forearms.

To complete overhead triceps extensions seated, you will need a dumbbell and a bench with back support. Hold one end of the dumbbell with both hands and palms facing up.

Begin with the dumbbell above and slightly behind your head, with arms fully extended. Slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head until your forearm touches your bicep.

Keep your elbows close to your head and isolate movement to your forearms. If you can’t keep your elbows tucked in, your dumbbell is too heavy and should be swapped for a lighter one.

3. Rope Triceps Press Down

Rope Triceps Press Down

This exercise practices one of the primary functions of the triceps — extension of the elbow joint. 

To do this, you’ll need a rope attachment and a pulley.

Keep your triceps perpendicular to the floor, forearms parallel to the floor, and elbows close to your sides.

Grip both ends of the rope, with palms facing each other. ​Begin by slowly bringing the rope to your thighs. Your arms should be fully extended and pointed down.

To return to the starting position, breathe in and slowly bend your forearms so they’re parallel to the floor again.

Wanna build bigger forearms? See our guide here.

4. Dips (Bench Dips and Upright Dips)

​Dips promote growth in your triceps, as well as your chest and shoulders.

​To do a bench dip, place a bench behind you. Facing away from it, place your hands on the edge of the bench with fingertips facing forward. Legs should be straight and feet together.

To start, extend your arms enough so that you’re working your triceps without straining your elbows.

bench dips to get bigger triceps

​Your butt should be lifted from the ground and about the height of the bench. 

Lower your body so your arms are bent at 90 degrees. Repeat by extending again.

To do an upright dip, use an overhand grip to grasp parallel bars. Raise your body until your arms are straight, and bend your knees slightly so feet are off the ground.

While keeping your chest up, slowly lower until your arms are bent at 90 degrees. To return to starting position, press up so that arms are straight again.

5. Skull Crushers

Skull Crushers

Skull crushers get their name because this move requires moving weights near your head. This exercise isolates the triceps, making it a great one to add to your tricep workouts. 

You’ll need a bench and one barbell for each hand.

First, lay on the bench while holding the barbells.

Palms should be facing each other. Hold both each barbell above your head with your arms fully extended. 

Then, slowly lower the weights by bending your arms, keeping elbows pointed up and ending with the barbells on either side of your head. To return to arms extending, breathe out and straighten your arms. Repeat until set is complete.

This move can also be done with an EZ bar or dumbbell. EZ bars make it easy to adjust the width of your hands, which helps keep good form and your wrists comfortable.

Dumbbells and barbells make each arm work separately, so there’s no risk of using your dominant arm to compensate for the other.

All three require different grips, which works the triceps in different ways.

6. Dumbbell Kickbacks

Dumbbell kickbacks are great for sculpting triceps and enhance your core because of the stabilization required. 

This workout will require one dumbbell.  

Hold the dumbbell in your right hand, palm facing inward. Put your left foot forward and take one step backward with your right foot. 

dumbbell kickbacks

Bend at the waist and place your left hand on your left knee for support. Your upper arm should be parallel to the ground with your fist pointed to the floor.

With your right hand, slowly extend your arm behind you while keeping your upper arm stationary. You can then return to the starting position in one slow, controlled motion.

Return to starting position, and repeat. When set is complete, switch hand and feet positions.

7. Overhead Tricep Extension

Overhead Tricep Extension

The overhead extension targets the long head of the triceps, which contributes the most bulk to your arm. 

For this exercise, you’ll need a cable bar and a pulley. Hold the handle with both hands. You should be facing away from the handle, with arms bent behind you and elbows pointed forward and close to your head.

​To start, extend your forearms above your head while keeping your upper arms stationary. Return to starting position by breathing out and returning the cable handle to behind your head.

The Best Tricep Workout for Size

Knowing what you know now, you can begin a workout routine that grows your triceps. Combine these best tricep exercises with chest and back exercises for a full-blast upper body challenge.

Always spend 60 to 90 seconds resting between each set 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

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

6 Pro Tips on Triceps Exercise ​& Nutrition

1. Lock Out Your Triceps When Performing Exercises

To target the lateral head, your reps for triceps exercises need to involve locking out. This means using the top third of your maximum range of motion.

This puts the maximum load on your triceps, helping you get the most out of each rep.

Never bend beyond the lock out position or hyperextend your arm – this can cause strain and injury on your joints or tendons.

big triceps

2. Don’t Allow Elbows to Flare out During Pushdowns and Extensions

man working out

Allowing your elbows to flare out reduces the effectiveness of these exercises by removing the challenge off of your triceps.

If you find your elbows pointed outward, try lowering the weight or the amount of reps you complete to keep good form.

This makes your workout more effective.

3. Add Rest Days to Your Training Schedule

If you’re working on your triceps two or three days a week, it’s recommended that you give yourself one or two days between chest, back, and arm exercises.

Muscles repair, grow and strengthen during these rest periods. (3)

You can either rest, spend time focusing on other muscle groups, or do other types of exercise like cardio training.

training schedule

4. Schedule Protein Intake for Strategic Times

protein intake

​Your body’s metabolism is dramatically heightened for the first forty minutes after strength training.

Make the most of this time by eating foods your body can use to repair and build muscle such as protein powders and fruit and vegetable fiber. (4)

You'll maximize ​gains when protein is consumed at the right time.

5. See Gains Faster with a Strategic Diet

Even the best strength training program and triceps exercises can’t compete with a bad diet. 

Your body can’t build something from nothing. To create muscle bulk, you’ll need a calorie surplus.

Muscle is only built when your body “knows” that it’s other basic energy needs are met. Muscle tissue has high-energy requirements, so you need to consume more to maintain the muscle you have.

sweet potato

Your diet should also include a balance of protein, fat, and carbs. Protein is the most important macronutrient in diet nutrition because of its role in building muscle and promoting fat loss. 

It also keeps you fuller for longer, making it easier to avoid unhealthy snacks and boost excess weight loss.

Eggs, almonds, cottage cheese, and broccoli are all great sources of protein. There are also protein shakes, bars, and protein supplements that can help you meet the recommended daily protein intake.

You can watch the video below to know what high-protein foods you can add to your meal plan.

6. Enhance Your Hard Work with Proven Supplements

fruits

If you struggle to meet your calorie goals each day through food or exercises - or if you want a boost in muscle growth, consider taking some muscle mass supplements.

One supplement that’s available at almost any health store is whey protein.

​If you're not into whey, no worries.

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.

​A 2010 research study showed that whey protein packed with nutrients and amino acids that can help you increase strength, gain muscle, and lose significant amounts of body fat. (5)

FAQs

1. 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.

Make sure you’re alternating which angle your arm is at by rotating between different exercises to challenge each head equally.

idea

​During exercises, keep proper form by keeping elbows straight and not flared, and by using your elbow as a hinge to isolate the triceps.

You may also like: Advanced arm exercises and workouts

2. Do Triceps Respond Better to Higher Reps?

man doing triceps exercise

​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.

In your sets, use medium to heavy weights with lower reps to build muscle. Doing this helps your body create lactic acid.

​When you make enough lactic acid, your body will enter an anabolic state, meaning it begins the process of muscle building, and eventually, repairing muscle through growth.

3. Should You Train Triceps and Biceps Together?

You can build muscle by training the triceps and biceps together – the advantage being since they are both relatively small muscle groups, you can focus on working on them without being exhausted from other workouts.

Ideally, they should be trained separately. The amount of reps your triceps can handle probably varies from your biceps, so your exercise is likely to skimp or strain one of the muscle groups. (6)

biceps and triceps

​If you work on them together, be sure to diversify your exercises, and rotate which one you start with so that each gets a chance to be exercised from full-strength.

You May Also Like: How to build bigger biceps

​The Bottom Line On Getting Bigger Triceps

In this article, I went over the 101 of muscle building, anatomy of triceps muscles, and 7 different triceps exercises. I also provided a reps schedule that you can incorporate for a week-long exercise routine.

Lastly, I went over all the tips and tricks for muscle growth and dieting that will help you build bulk and be healthier now and into the future.

Triceps are a great place to start for beginners and experts alike because the equipment needed is minimal or easy – meaning you waste no time at the gym scratching your head.

Using these exercises for triceps will improve posture, boost energy, and reduce the risk of injury.

The next chance you get, start with one of the exercises above and begin working on the ultimate investment in enhancing your health, strength, and well-being.


​References:

​1. University of Washington, Department of Radiology, Triceps Brachii, retrieved from https://rad.washington.edu/muscle-atlas/triceps-brachii/
2. EricaKholinne, Rizki FajarZulkarnain, Yu Cheng Sun, Sung Joon Lim, Jae-Myeung Chun, In-Ho Jeon, The different role of each head of the triceps brachii muscle in elbow extension, retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1017995X17305898
3. K. Aleisha Fetters Medically, Samuel Mackenzie, MD, PhD, Postworkout Muscle Recovery: How to Let Your Muscles Heal and Why, retrieved from https://www.everydayhealth.com/fitness/post-workout-muscle-recovery-how-why-let-your-muscles-heal/
4. Andra Picincu, Does Whey Protein Help You Recover Faster?, retrieved from https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/whey-protein-recover-faster-7396.html
5. Hulmi JJ, Lockwood CM, Stout JR., Effect of protein/essential amino acids and resistance training on skeletal muscle hypertrophy: A case for whey protein., retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20565767
6. Paige Johansen, Is It Good to Work Your Triceps & Biceps in One Workout?, retrieved from https://www.livestrong.com/article/500732-is-it-good-to-work-your-triceps-biceps-in-one-workout/

About the author

Isaac Robertson

Isaac Robertson

I’m a personal fitness trainer and nutritionist living in sunny Indianapolis, IN. I’ve spent the last 8 years staying at the forefront of the health and fitness industry. In that time, I’ve helped hundreds of people shed the excess weight and get into shape, maintaining their healthy new lifestyle through proper training and eating habits. You can read more about me here​.

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