Arm day... It has to be one of the best days of the week, right?
And if growing bigger arms is your goal, then you'll need the best tricep exercises to add to your arm workout.
We know curls can be fun, but the triceps make up for around 70% of your total arm mass, so if shirt-bulging arms is your goal – it's time to start focusing on building bigger triceps.
Having strong, well-conditioned triceps will also help you in other exercises, such as the bench press and shoulder press, where your triceps are still involved heavily in the lift.
So if getting big arms is your thing, this article is for you.
How To Build Big Triceps
So, you're here for one reason, and that's to find the best exercises to grow bigger triceps. Before we get on to those exercises, let's briefly cover a few key points when it comes to muscle growth.
To build bigger triceps, progressive overload and a calorie surplus will help you add size and strength.
Progressive Overload is essentially how hard you're willing to push yourself each workout. For each session, you should be looking to increase your training volume or weight by a small percentage. This will break down muscle fibers, forcing continual adaptation in the muscle and, therefore, an increase in muscle size and strength.
It's worth noting that your body will need lower-intensity sessions to help recover, where a lighter weight or less volume is used.
A Calorie Surplus is pretty straightforward and involves calculating your required calorie intake to gain weight and being consistent with your nutrition.
Both of the above should be applied across your training if strength and size are your goal – and are not specific to just growing bigger triceps.
The Anatomy Of The Triceps
To get the most out of your tricep exercises, it's good to know a quick overview of the triceps. There are three heads that make up the tricep, and when defined, give that 'horseshoe' like aesthetic.
The lateral head is the most visible out of the three tricep heads, positioned on the outer part of your arm.
The medial head is the least visible of the three heads, and is located lower down the arm toward towards torso. Although much smaller, the medial head provides a vital role in stabilization.
Attaching the shoulder and the elbow, the long head is positioned on the back of the arm and is the largest of the three tricep heads.
What Tricep Exercises Hit Which Head?
When training the triceps, we can emphasize which head we target dependent on the exercise and hand grip position – however, it is not possible to completely isolate each tricep head individually.
How To Target The Triceps Long Head
As the largest of the tricep brachii, its involvement in triceps exercises is significant. To target the long head of the triceps, we can utilize overhead movements where the long head is lengthened significantly.
This has been found to have a significant impact on hypertrophy training for the triceps (study).
For example, an Overhead Bar Extension would help target the long head of the tricep for bigger triceps!
How To Target The Medial and Lateral Head
Although these are the smaller heads of the tricep, we shouldn't neglect them.
To target the medial head and lateral head of the triceps, exercises such as the rope push-down and close-grip pressing movements can increase the emphasis on these areas of the muscle.
What Are The Best Tricep Exercises?
Now we've answered a few common questions on how to build bigger triceps, it's about time we gave you the best exercises for bigger triceps:
Overhead Tricep Extension
Close-Grip Bench Press
And remember, including a variety of movements will help place emphasis on different parts of the tricep muscle.
Overhead Tricep Extension
The first tricep exercise on our list,and for good reason!
In fact, multiple studies, including the European Journal For Sports Science, have found a significant increase in tricep activation and growth when performing tricep extensions in the overhead position compared to neutral elbow positions (elbows by your side).
Thought to be down to the fact an overhead tricep movement places the tricep in a lengthened state, taking advantage of a full range of motion during the extension.
Incorporating overhead tricep extensions into your workout is a great way to hit the long head, helping you build bigger triceps.
There are plenty of overhead variations to put your triceps through their paces, from barbells and cable, to seated dumbbells – mix it up and reap the rewards from a proven hack to gow bigger biceps!
Considered more of a compound movement when it comes to tricep training, the tricep dip is a great way to improve strength in the upper body. It's easy to progress and requires minimal equipment.
Probably one of the first exercises that come to mind when thinking of your triceps. As they require your triceps to take your whole-body weight, these bad boys are definitely a challenge.
Trust us, though; it’s worth the burn.
If you don't yet have the strength to perform these at bodyweight, or want to increase training volume, then resistance bands can be used to add a little assistance.
A tricep training staple, and one you've no doubt seen being performed in the gym, correctly or incorrectly.
The name comes from the bar position during the movement, as should the bar be dropped from overhead... you probably get what happens.
As previously mentioned above, greater elbow extension has been shown to improve triceps activation. The Skull Crusher allows for a greater range of motion, mimicking that of an overhead extension, placing the tricep in a lengthened position for a more targeted contraction.
Performed lying down, the skull crusher is generally done with an EZ bar. However, another great variation would be using dumbbells in a hammer-like grip, or barbell.
The clue’s in the name, but this exercise is great for building bigger triceps, if it is exectuted correctly.
It's easy to add too much weight here. Instead, keep the movement nice a controlled, with your body remaining totally still, using just your triceps to move the weight. If you find yourself swinging, or have movement at the shoulder joint – lower the weight!
Make sure that you keep your shoulders down throughout the whole exercise to focus the load onto your triceps and really start reaping the benefits.
A great tricep variation to try for this exercise is the reverse grip tricep pushdown.
Close-grip bench press
While the bench press is a great compound movement that will help to build your triceps (alongside your chest), switching up your grip can help place a greater emphasis on your triceps.
Moving your hands closer together places more focus on your triceps, adding to the training volume in the muscle group to help gtow bigger triceps.
Using a barbell with a safety rack allows for a greater weight to be lifted, but due to the natue of the movement, there are multiple muscle groups involved and therefore this exercise won't isolate your triceps.
Last but not least, it's time for the diamond press-up. The beauty of this bodyweight exercise is that it can literally be done anytime, anywhere! No gym, no problem.
Just as with the bench press, while a regular press-up will do the job, moving your hands closer together puts more load onto your triceps, which in turn helps to build up their strength and mass.
Don’t worry – you’ll still see those pec gains; however, your triceps will feel the burn with this variation.
How Many Tricep Exercises Should I Do?
It's a common question, and one that applies to general hypertrophy training, and not just building bigger triceps!
When it comes to gaining muscle, a study looking at Maximizing Muscle Hypertrohy concluded that:
'individuals seeking to maximize muscle growth should be hypertrophy-oriented RT consisting of multiple sets (3−6) of six to 12 repetitions with short rest intervals (60 s) and moderate intensity of effort (60−80% 1RM) with subsequent increases in training volume'.
Aiming for 12–28 sets per muscle, per week dependent on training level and conditioning.
Use the best tricep exercises provided in this article along with the science-backed reccomendation of sets and reps, and you'll be heading in the right direction when it comes to building bigger triceps!
Bookmark this post and give some of these a try in your next upper body day workout.
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WRITTEN BY: CHRIS BECK
Chris Beck is Senior Editor at Gymshark, with a passion for writing informative conditioning and health content. Chris is an experienced Personal Trainer, and also holds qualifications in Nutrition, Sports Performance, and is a certified Crossfit Level 1 Trainer.