Best Tricep Exercises for Mass: Pro Arm Building (Tested)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: January 16, 2024
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You should integrate a full-fledged triceps exercise into your program if you want big arms.

As a certified fitness trainer, I've had clients working out their arms by concentrating solely on the biceps (doing curls). There is nothing wrong with curls, but if you want sleeve-busting arms, you should work out your triceps more.

In this article, I will detail my expertise, research, and findings on the best triceps exercises, anatomy, training tips, and benefits of performing the tricep exercises.

Quick Summary

  • The best triceps exercises for mass include the close grip bench press, one-arm dumbbell overhead press, barbell lying triceps extension, tricep dips, tricep pushdowns, floor press, barbell JM press, diamond push-ups, and cable kickbacks.
  • Because your triceps account for more than two-thirds of the entire arm, it's evident that you need to bulk up your triceps if you desire big arms.
  • According to an article from WIREs, the triceps mainly comprise type II muscle fibers, which assist your explosive strength.
  • Working out your triceps will increase your functional strength, enhance aesthetic appeal, and improve your muscle performance.

The Best Triceps Exercises for Mass

A person doing tricep exercises to build muscle mass.

Whether it's weight loss or muscle gain, I've always kept track of all my clients' growth based on the training program I assign them.

Lucky for me, I had years of data from bodybuilding and powerlifting clients to study which ones experience to most tricep growth.

Based on information collected from over 100 clients and studying their exercise programs and growth, here are the nine best exercises for tricep growth.

1. Close Grip Bench Press

In this bench press variant, you raise the barbell with both hands shoulder-width apart.

This hand positioning distributes additional weight to your triceps.

The close-grip bench press will not allow you to raise as much weight but will strengthen your triceps.

The arms-in form required to focus your triceps will relieve the strain on the shoulder joint.

More muscular mass on the rear of your arms translates straight to the lockout, or top section, of the classic bench press.

How to perform:

  1. Set yourself up on a flat bench, with both hands shoulder-width apart and the elbows tucked into your body.
  2. Pull the bar from the rack and place it over the chest.
  3. Draw the elbows in as the bar lowers to the chest.
  4. After touching the chest, push through your palms, feel the triceps engage, and raise the weight back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of sets.

2. One-arm Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension

A person doing one armed dumbbell overhead tricep workouts

The one-arm dumbbell overhead triceps extension is a single-joint tricep exercise that targets the triceps while strengthening core and shoulder stability.

When you use dumbbell tricep exentsion instead of an EZ bar for this workout, you engage each arm independently.

This avoids having one stronger side support the weaker one.

How to perform:

  1. Stand with both feet shoulder-width apart and raise a dumbbell overhead with the right hand.
  2. Hold it straight above with an overhand hold (palm facing front).
  3. Lower the weight behind the head and toward the left shoulder, maintaining your upper arm squarely behind your head until your elbow creates a 90-degree angle.
  4. Then, return to the starting position (full hand extension).
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Related: Best Dumbbell Triceps Exercises

3. Barbell Lying Triceps Extensions

The lying triceps extension (the skull crusher) is one of the best barbell tricep workouts.
This is a triceps muscle group isolation workout for the upper arm.

A broad grip focuses on the inner tricep (long head), while a narrow grip focuses on the outer (lateral head).

"The barbell lying triceps extension is less taxing on the shoulders, and you also get some core training. Another advantage is that you may tailor the movement to your workout style and mobility constraints to assist pack on more arm size."

- Ebenezer Samuel, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist

How to perform:

  1. Place a barbell on your thighs and sit on the end of a flat bench.
  2. Grasp the barbell with both hands shoulder-width apart using an overhand grip (palms facing down).
  3. Raise the bar to the chest and lie on your back. Straighten your arms above the chest.
  4. Gradually lower the barbell until it is approximately an inch from your forehead (thus the term skull crusher) while keeping your elbows stable and not pointed out.
  5. Pause, then gently return your arms to their starting position.
  6. Don't lock the elbows out.
  7. Repeat for the needed number of reps.

4. Tricep Dips

A person doing tricep dips

This is a great triceps workout since it is a closed kinetic chain (CKC) movement, which means you move your body to a fixed point.

This boosts the compression tension on the joints, which benefits joint stability.

It also stimulates both the agonist (triceps) and antagonist (rear delts/biceps) muscles simultaneously and continuously.

The more stable your joints are, the more weight you can lift. Dips make you strong since you must raise at least your body weight.

How to perform:

  1. Proceed to your dip station. Take a shoulder-width hold on the handles. Extend your arms to raise yourself into the beginning posture.
  2. To optimally target the triceps, keep your chest upright and your legs straight.
  3. Bend your hands until your elbows create a 90° angle and dip down.
  4. Return to the beginning position by pressing your torso until both arms are straight.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Also Read: How to Do Dips Correctly

5. Tricep Pushdowns

With the pushdown, you may isolate the triceps muscles. If you're wondering how to do tricep pushdowns, grasp a cable pulley or resistance band, move back so the cable or band is taut, and then flex the triceps to push it downward.

Because only your triceps push the load, you can focus on them more closely.

This is a classic bodybuilding activity because the isolation allows you to feel the muscle flex, resulting in tremendous pumps and increased activation.

How to perform:

  1. Place the band or cables at a high position.
  2. Bring your legs together and your elbows to the sides (by the ribs) with your torso facing the band.
  3. The chest should be up, the back flat, and your hips slightly forward.
  4. Grab the handles or band with both hands and completely extend the elbows to press the handles or band down, keeping the elbows slightly in front of your shoulders.
  5. Relax your arms to bring the handles or resistance band to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for reps.

6. Floor Press

A person doing floor presses

Weightlifters who wish to strengthen the upper section of the lift will like this bench press variant.

By pushing a barbell from the ground, you limit the range of motion in your arms.

This means you can often press more weight, resulting in a more powerful bench press and triceps.

The floor press is a good alternative if you can't bench with a complete range of motion because of an injury.

How to perform:

  1. Get your eyes beneath the bar, your legs straight or bent, and your upper body completely on the floor. This keeps you from being too close or too far from the rack.
  2. Take the best grip on the bar, unload it, engage the upper back, and allow the barbell to rest in your hands.
  3. Slowly lower the barbell toward the lower chest till the back of both arms rests on the floor, then stop for a second or two.
  4. Raise the barbell until your arms are completely extended.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

"The floor press is an excellent pressing variant for lifters of all levels to enhance muscular hypertrophy, lockout power, and bench press form. It can also be a good variant for people who have achy shoulders."

- Alex Polish, American Council on Exercise (ACE) Certified Personal Trainer

7. Barbell JM Press

The JM press combines a close-grip bench press and a skull crusher.

Because the chest is involved, you may use a greater load than in a normal triceps isolation workout.

The JM press is a triceps killer because of the elbow position.

How to perform:

  1. Set up like a close-grip bench press; however, ensure the barbell is fixed over your upper chest.
  2. Lower the weight while progressively flaring out the elbows to an angle of 45°.
  3. Allow the bar to move back towards the face as you lower it.
  4. Your arms should be parallel to the ground at the end of the exercise.
  5. Observe your movement and push back up once the elbows point forward (rather than downwards).
  6. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

8. Diamond Push-ups

A person doing diamond push-ups

Diamond push-ups are a wonderful place to start if you're searching for simple bodyweight tricep workouts to add to your regimen.

Diamond push-up is a more sophisticated form of the traditional push-up. Make a diamond or triangle formation below your chest by placing your hands nearer together.

This is a one-of-a-kind technique since it focuses on developing the lateral head of the triceps.

How to perform:

  1. Get on the ground and place your hands together beneath your chest. Place your thumbs and index fingers together to make a diamond shape.
  2. Extend your arms until your body is lifted, and a straight line runs from the head to your toes.
  3. Lower the chest towards your arms, keeping your back flat and the elbows from flaring to the sides.
  4. Stop before the chest hits the floor, then push yourself back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

9. Cable Kickback

The cable tricep kickback is a flexible and effective triceps muscle workout. If you're unfamiliar with the technique, learn how to do cable kickbacks.

It is an isolation workout that increases strength and muscle mass in all three heads of the tricep muscle.

This workout uses a cable machine with an attachment that enables you to modify the weight.

The cable triceps kickback includes extending the arm behind you and pulling the cable towards your torso using your triceps.

How to perform:

  1. Connect a single grip cable handle to the cable pulley system's lowest notch.
  2. Then, keeping your back straight, bend both knees and hold the cable with your right hand.
  3. For balance, place your opposite hand on your thigh.
  4. Maintain a parallel upper arm to the floor and stretch at the elbow till your hand is extended back and completely stretched.
  5. For balance, place your opposite hand on your hip.
  6. Finish all repetitions on the right arm, then switch to the left hand.

The Triceps Anatomy

A person flexing his triceps

The triceps comprises three muscles: the lateral, long, and medial head (hence the term tri-ceps).

According to an article I found in the National Library of Medicine, each one of these muscles links to the elbow and is in charge of arm extension [1].

Here's how this is the case with each head of the triceps:

  • The long head of the triceps arises from the shoulder blade (scapula) and integrates into the olecranon process of the ulna (among the forearm bones) [2].
  • The lateral head of the triceps emerges from the humerus and enters the same location as the long head [3].
  • The medial head of the triceps is also derived from the humerus but enters a different region of the ulna [4].

The triceps brachii's primary function is elbow extension, or extending the hand at the elbow joint [5].

Furthermore, the triceps brachii supports the shoulder joint throughout upper body motions [6].

Best Training Tips

A person working out their triceps

Use these workout tips to get the best outcomes possible.

1. Find the Right Angle

Some arm exercises need strong elbow and shoulder mobility. Still, you should be open to various activities and angles during the exercises to optimize your results.

As a three-headed muscle, some areas of the triceps will work more than others on different exercises, depending on your leverage and posture.

For example, when your arm is stretched behind your head, the long head of the tricep receives the greatest attention.

Diversify your movement options beyond traditional free-weight stretches like the skull crusher.

2. Choose Your Volume Wisely

A person choosing between weights

Overdoing it in the gym is easy, especially when working on smaller muscle groups like your triceps.

Volume, or how many challenging sets you execute on a session-by-session or week-to-week basis, may make or break your progress.

Most evidence-based recommendations for effective training volume range from 10 to 20 "working" sets per muscle weekly [7].

3. Often Go Overhead

The triceps' long head is the biggest of the muscle's three compartments; focusing on it will offer you the greatest aesthetic bang for your buck.

However, it is more challenging to isolate than the other two heads.

Some studies have indicated that overhead triceps extensions, in which your arm is elevated up behind the head, may be more successful than typical press downs at both long-head focus and overall triceps development [8].

Benefits of These Exercises

A person flexing their triceps

There are several reasons to work on your triceps at the gym.

1. Balanced Physique Development

Well-developed arms may hardly win bodybuilding competitions, but a lack of triceps on the physique stage can drag your complete physique down.

Even if you don't want to compete, focusing just on biceps curls and ignoring your tris is not a good method to bulk up.

Even without exercise, your triceps account for the bulk of the muscle in the upper arms. That means there is a lot of untapped hypertrophic capability.

Carving out these muscle groups is an absolute requirement if you want to seem symmetrical and proportionate.

2. Improved Functional Strength

Strong triceps are required for numerous everyday actions like pulling, pushing, and lifting items.

3. Better Pressing Power

A person doing chest press workouts

The triceps do half the work on all pressing activities, whether using a barbell or a dumbbell to bench press.

Expect to lock out none of your max-effort reps if the elbow extensors are undeveloped or weak.

An extra triceps workout is a great strategy to prevent missing a max attempt.

4. Improved Explosive Strength

The triceps brachii, primarily composed of Type II muscle fibers, responds well to exercises involving high intensity and lower repetitions [9]. These fibers are known for their fast-twitch characteristics, making them more suited for explosive, strength-based movements.

5. Aesthetic Appeal

A well-developed triceps muscle may dramatically improve the upper arms' appearance, giving them a better-defined and sculpted look.

6. Improved Performance

A person doing barbell press workouts

Tricep strength is required for various sports, like basketball, tennis, and football.

In addition to improving athletic performance, increasing tricep muscles can help you perform better during weight-lifting workouts.

Triceps strength is required for various upper-body complex activities such as bench presses, dips, and overhead presses.


What Exercises Bulk up Your Triceps?

The exercises that bulk up your triceps are weighted dips, clapping diamond push-ups, close grip bench presses, seated triceps extensions, and rope pushdowns.

Can I Train My Triceps Every Day?

Yes, you can train your triceps every day. However, it will be insufficient for maximum triceps muscular building. Instead, 2-3 times a week is a better triceps exercise frequency.

Do Skull Crushers Work All Tricep Heads?

Yes, skull crushers work all three heads of the triceps; however, the medial head is worked more.





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About The Author

Senior Coach
Tyler Sellers is a trained athlete and author with contributions to publications like Men’s Health, The Healthy, Fox Business, NerdWallet, Weight Watchers, and MSN. His unique approach extends beyond physical techniques, emphasizing the significance of mental techniques like the flow state and mind-muscle connection.
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Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
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