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5 Best Long Head Triceps Exercises to Add to Your Workout

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: April 8, 2021

Bodybuilders love to focus attention on their arms during weight training, but it needs to be a carefully planned routine to keep your arm muscles in proportion.

You definitely don’t want to end up with huge biceps and skinny triceps.

One area I get all my clients to focus more on is the long head of triceps.

And to help our readers better plan their arm days, we created this information guide to the best triceps exercises.

What Is The Long Head Of The Triceps Muscle?

shirtless man flexing his back muscles

As the name suggests, the triceps brachii is made up of 3 parts. And it’s important to understand what they do and look like [1].

Medial

The medial head runs along the center of the upper arm from the shoulder joint down to the elbow joint. It’s barely noticeable from the outside, especially if you have well-formed triceps.

Lateral

The lateral head is another slim part, and it runs along the outside of the arm. It extends down to the same place on the elbow joint as the medial.

Long Head

The triceps long head is the bulky part of the muscle that you notice with the horseshoe shape.

What’s interesting about all three heads is that they combine together into one tendon at the elbows, which means they work together for elbow extension, but slightly differently for shoulder extension.

That’s because they attach at different points around the shoulder joint.

“As your triceps become stronger, the strength and stability of your shoulders and elbows also increases. This in turn will increase the functionality, flexibility and range of motion of your arm, improving your performance in everyday tasks, as well as sports which require arm movements and upper-body strength like tennis, swimming, and basketball.” - Freeletics.com.

Why Is It Important To Isolate The Long Head?

close up image of a man's biceps

While all triceps heads work together in most exercise movements, it’s the triceps long head that you put on show.

It’s the largest and most visible of the tricep heads and also provides the majority of strength.

Now, here’s what happens when you don’t give the long head enough attention in your exercise routine.

Many people I see at the gym spend endless sets on biceps curls and manage to build up some impressive muscle fibers.

5 Best Long Head Triceps Exercises

Our team got together and narrowed things down to the most important triceps exercises that you can do for the long head.

There are many more triceps extensions you can do, but we find these compound and isolation exercises work a treat.

1. Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extensions

man doing overhead tricep extensions with dumbbells

We prefer the dumbbell overhead triceps extensions to the lying one as it tends to put more tension on the triceps long head.

Start in a standing position with a dumbbell in each hand and your arms overhead straight to the ceiling.

Lower the dumbbells down behind your back, but make sure that you keep your upper arms perfectly vertical.

Count to three on the down move, and then push the weights back up for a count of two.

This should be your bread and butter triceps workout and something you can fall back on with limited equipment.

2. Cable Overhead Triceps Extensions

man in a cable overhead position

For those that like doing a lot of their workouts on machines, the cable overhead triceps extensions are where you want to head.

It has a similar effect as the overhead dumbbell extensions, but you set up your body a bit differently.

Stand with your back to the machine and hold onto the rope attachment with both hands above your head.

Lean your body forward to start the tension.

Your elbow joints should be at a right angle and your hands behind your head.

Start the overhead rope extensions by pulling the cable forward, but avoid any kind of momentum from your body and keep your upper arms still as well.

From the top position, slowly bring your hands back behind your head.

3. Close Grip Bench Press

man doing a close grip bench press

Close-grip bench presses work great, but you have to make sure you get the form perfectly right.

Get your hands set up closer than shoulder-width apart as your starting position.

This will make it more difficult to keep the barbell balanced, so practice with a lighter weight load first.

Then lower the bar down to your chest and push it back up again.

The important thing for this workout is to not allow your elbows to flare out.

Keep the distance between them the same, and you have powerful triceps extensions.

4. Incline Dumbbell Tricep Extension

man in a incline gym bench lifting dumbbells

The elbow extension exercises are ideal if you’re doing some dumbbell chest presses as part of your workout routine.

Set the bench to about a 30-degree angle and get your elbows pointing straight up.

From there, follow the same form as the overhead triceps extensions workout.

Also, try to adjust the incline setting to see how that feels in your muscle heads to get the ideal position.

The important thing for this workout is to not allow your elbows to flare out.

Keep the distance between them the same, and you have powerful triceps extensions.

5. Dips

man using a dip station in a gym

I love doing dips because it’s a great compound exercise that puts a lot of tension on the long head of the muscle. It's also one of the best exercises for chest and triceps overall developement.

Set yourself up on a dip station with the handles quite narrow and just below your shoulders.

Start the exercise and lower your body down until your arms are bent at a right angle.

You can go lower, but make sure you have the strength to complete the exercise.

Do standard cable triceps pushdowns as an alternative to dips if you’re not strong enough yet.

Long Head Triceps Training Tips

shirtless buff man doing tricep dips inside a gym

In addition to adding the above exercises, I want to give you a couple of tips that will ensure your workout provides maximum benefits.

Free Weight Vs. Bodyweight Exercises

The majority of triceps extensions involve exercises that rely on some form of free weights or a cable machine. These are great for isolating this muscle group, but you should also consider compound muscle activity.

Your own body weight is a great tool in long head tricep exercises like dips and the good old diamond push-up.

You’ll get better success from routines that combine both types of moves.

Slow Down The Movement

The long head is a big muscle, and the longer you can increase the time under tension [2], the better the results will be from triceps extensions.

That means sticking with great form and not trying to be a hero with a huge dumbbell or bar.

A tricep exercise shouldn’t involve excessive body movement to get a bit of momentum. Your arms should do all the work, and the more you focus on that, the higher your success and progress towards a goal will be.

Pick the Right Number Of Reps

Some people will argue you need to do six reps and five sets, while others swear it needs to be 8 to 10 reps over three sets.

The main thing is that you need to limit the number of sets to about 10 for your triceps exercise. And the last two reps need to be a real struggle where you can barely complete the movement.

FAQs

What Does the Long Head of the Triceps Do?

The long head of the triceps is mainly responsible for extending the forearm. But because of its attachment location at the shoulder, it also plays a key role in lifting the arm up and down.

What head of the tricep do dips work?

Dips work all three heads of the tricep. With good form and a narrow hand position, you can encourage more strain on the long head triceps.

Are You Going To Try These Long Head Exercises?

All the above information should give you everything you need to change your arm days around and gain some size in your arms.

Remember that these are the muscles you have on show most of the time, which makes it very important to have a good balance and proportional muscles.

Let us know how the exercises work out for you and if you notice some gains in the coming weeks.


References:

  1. https://www.kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/triceps-brachii-muscle
  2. https://us.humankinetics.com/blogs/excerpt/is-there-an-ideal-time-under-tension-to-maximize-muscle-growth

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