The 6 BEST Exercises For Bigger Triceps

The 6 BEST Exercises For Bigger Triceps

clock-circular-outlinePosted 10 Jun 2024

Arm day... it’s one of the best days of the week.

But, if you’re reading this article, we’re guessing you’ve realized that doing the best bicep exercises in the world won’t get you very far if you choose to neglect your tricep workouts.

We don’t blame you. We know curls can be fun, and what’s more satisfying than finishing a heavy bicep burner, turning to the mirror, and seeing that satisfying ‘pop’ on the front of your arm?

We hate to break it to you, but our triceps actually make up around 70% of our total arm mass. To build bulging arms that fill your muscle-fit t-shirt or sculpted muscles to show off in your vest top, you need to start focusing on building bigger triceps.

It’s not just looks we’re talking about here, either. Focus overly on training your biceps and forget the back of your arms, and your compound lifts will suffer. Our tricep muscles are key across many movements and help with shoulder stability and lockout strength. If you’re looking to increase your bench or improve your push ups, tricep exercises will help you get there.

Feeling convinced? – But how do you actually grow your triceps?

Well, we’ve done the hard graft for you and put together the best tricep exercises for mass. If you’re looking to accentuate your horseshoe, these are the six best tricep exercises you want to be doing. Sure, do them alongside your bicep training if it makes you feel better, but whatever you do, don’t skip these tricep exercises.


Ready to hit your tricep workout? Remember to download the Gymshark Training App: Access hundreds of free tricep workouts and track your weight, sets and reps to help you on your way to building bigger triceps.

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What Are The Triceps?

To build big triceps, you’ll need to be hitting all three tricep heads with your tricep exercises. Together, these will form the famed ‘horseshoe’ appearance that symbolizes a well-developed, strong tricep.

So what are the three heads?

  • The Long Head: This head attaches to the shoulder and elbow and is positioned on the back of the arm. It is the largest of the three tricep heads.

  • The Lateral Head: This is the most visible of the three tricep heads, positioned on the outer part of your arm.

  • The Medial Head: This is the least visible of the three heads and is located lower down the arm toward the torso. Although much smaller, the medial head provides a vital role in stabilization.

What Tricep Exercises Hit Which Head?

When training the triceps, we can emphasize which tricep head we target depending on the exercise and hand grip position. However, it is not possible to isolate each tricep head completely.

Long Head Tricep Exercises

As the largest of the tricep brachii, the long head’s involvement in tricep exercises is significant. The long head works closely with the lateral head, and together they significantly impact the shape and size of the triceps.

Overhead movements, such as the overhead tricep extension and skull crushers, are the best exercises for the long bicep head, but you’ll also activate your long tricep head when your elbows are out in front of you or up behind you. Studies have found that long head tricep exercises such as these, where the long head is lengthened significantly, are the best for hypertrophy (study) [1].

Long Head Tricep Exercises include:

  • Overhead tricep extensions

  • Skull crushers

  • Tricep dips

Medial Head Tricep Exercises

The medial tricep head (or short head) may not have the same growth potential as its counterparts, but it’s still very important to give this part of your triceps some attention. Responsible for aiding elbow extension and providing stability, this tricep head is essential for aiding more precise movements. It does still come with some aesthetic benefits, as a stronger medial head creates a strong lateral and long head (as the medial head acts as a bridge between the two), which, luckily for us, means more growth.

To hit the medial tricep head, you’ll want to use a reverse grip (underhand) and keep your elbows tucked at your sides. For example:

  • Reverse grip cable pushdown

  • Palm out tricep dips

  • Reverse grip bench press

Lateral Head Tricep Exercises

Despite not being the largest, the lateral head is the strongest of all three tricep muscles, contributing not only to overall tricep strength but size too. The lateral tricep head has a lot of growth potential, and the famed tricep horseshoe shape is primarily made up of the outside portion of the lateral head – so if you want to grow big triceps, you’ll want to be training the lateral head.

The lateral head’s job is to perform elbow extension. Lateral head tricep exercises are usually those that involve keeping your elbow at your side using a neutral grip. For example:

  • Rope push-down

  • Tricep kickbacks

  • Tricep Dips

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How To Get Bigger Triceps: The Six 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:

And remember, including a variety of tricep exercises will help place emphasis on different parts of the muscle.

1. Overhead Tricep Extension 

The first tricep exercise on our list, and for good reason! The overhead tricep extension is mainly a long head tricep exercise, making it effective at building bigger triceps as it works the largest of the three tricep heads.

Multiple studies, including a recent study by 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). This is thought to be down to the fact overhead tricep exercises place the tricep in a lengthened state, taking advantage of a full range of motion during the extension.

There are plenty of overhead variations to put your triceps through their paces, from barbells and cables to seated dumbbells. Switch up which variation you use during your tricep workouts.

Variation: To emphasize the lateral head more, use a rope extension with a narrower grip. This way, you’ll work both the long and lateral heads simultaneously.

2. Bench Tricep Dips 

Probably one of the first exercises that comes to mind when thinking of tricep exercises, tricep dips or bench dips are a bodybuilding classic for building bigger triceps. They mainly work the lateral tricep head but are considered more of a compound movement in tricep training, making them a great way to improve overall upper-body strength.

Whilst tricep dips may not include any external load, this bodyweight tricep exercise is a challenge in itself – Trust us, though; it’s worth the burn.

Having your feet closer to the bench will make these easier, whereas walking them further out to perform your dips with straight legs makes them more difficult. Keep your elbows tucked close into the body, and come down until your upper arms are parallel to the floor.

Variations: Turning your palms out on the bench will emphasize the medial tricep head.

To make tricep dips harder, perform them on a bar. This is a much harder variation, as you are required to press the whole of your body weight. If you don't yet have the strength to perform these at body weight or want to increase training volume, resistance bands can provide some assistance.

3. Skull Crushers

A tricep workout staple, and one you've no doubt seen being performed in the gym, correctly or incorrectly.

Skull crushers are one of the best long head tricep exercises and are particularly good if you’re trying to build huge triceps. Why? Because they allow for a large range of motion, mimicking that of an overhead extension, placing the tricep in a lengthened position for a more targeted contraction – a movement that we know is proven to increase tricep activation.

The name comes from the bar position during the movement, as should the bar be dropped from overhead, but there’s really nothing to be scared of here. Just start weight a lightweight first, before progressing up to heavier loads.

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.

Variations: Using two dumbbells and taking a neutral grip (palms facing together) makes these skull crushers into a lateral tricep head exercise. For even more lateral head activation, use a decline bench at -15˚.

4. Tricep Pushdown

The clue’s in the name, but this exercise is great for building bigger triceps. The tricep pushdown (or tricep pressdown) is best for hitting the lateral and medial tricep heads – depending on which cable attachment and grip position you use.

To make this into a long and lateral head tricep exercise, you’ll want to use the rope (neutral grip), straight bar (overhead grip) or v bar (partly-pronated grip, essentially a mix between overhead grip and hammer). The rope tricep pushdown is rated as superior (according to ACE) using any other attachment, likely due to the ability to add a little ‘flick’ at the bottom of the movement, twisting your wrists out to increase tricep activation and ROM [2].

To target the medial head, you’ll want to take an underhand grip (palms facing upwards) using a straight bar attachment to perform a reverse grip tricep pushdown. (James Beardwell loves these! In fact, they're rated as one of his top 3 tricep exercises).

Note: It's easy to add too much weight to this triceps exercise. Instead, keep the movement nice and controlled, with your body remaining totally still, using just your triceps to move the weight.

Keep your elbows tucked into your side, and only move your forearms down. Make sure that you keep your shoulders down and focus the load on your triceps. If you find yourself swinging or have any movement at the shoulder joint, lower the weight!

To make this one of the best tricep exercises for mass, use a higher rep range to push your triceps near failure.

Variation: If you’re doing your tricep workout from home, you can also perform tricep push downs using a resistance band. Attach it to something secure (like inside the door frame), and perform the pushdown as if you were doing it on a cable machine in the gym.

5. 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 transforms this into one of the best tricep exercises for mass.

Moving your hands closer together emphasizes your triceps more than your chest. By taking the bar in a narrower grip than your traditional bench press grip, your elbows are much closer to the body when you bring the bar down. This puts much more load through the triceps, making it one of the best tricep exercises for targeting all three heads.

Using a barbell with a safety rack allows for a greater weight to be lifted compared to bodyweight tricep exercises. Although this tricep exercise won’t isolate the triceps, it is very effective at building strength and size of the triceps, as well as overall upper body strength.

Variations: Whilst this is one of the best tricep exercises for working all three heads, changing the angle of the bench can change which tricep head is emphasized more. Moving the bench to a slight decline will target the lateral tricep head more, whereas keeping the bench flat or adding a slight incline emphasizes the long tricep head.

6. Diamond Press-Ups 

Last but not least, it's time for the diamond press up (AKA close grip push up or triangle push up). According to ACE, this is the most effective tricep exercise for targeting both the long and lateral tricep heads.

The beauty of this tricep exercise is that it requires no equipment, making it the ideal tricep exercise at home or on the go.

This tricep exercise may look simple, but it’s actually quite difficult. That being said, it helps contribute to that horseshoe shape that many of us seek if we’re looking for ways to grow our triceps.

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, making it a game changer is building bigger triceps is your goal.

Don’t worry – you’ll still see those pec gains; however, your triceps will feel the burn with this variation.

Variation: If you find doing the diamond push-up on your toes too difficult, grab a bench and perform them on an incline, which will take some of the load off your triceps. Performing diamond push-ups on an incline is also a great finisher, allowing you to train to failure and pump those triceps as much as possible.

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Why Should You Do Tricep Workouts?

There are a number of reasons you need to be doing tricep workouts – and they aren’t all just about looks. Building big triceps will help you to:

  • Build big, defined arms: You can do all the bicep curls in the world, but if you’re looking to fill out the sleeves of your muscle fit tshirt then you need to be doing tricep exercises. The triceps contribute to about two-thirds of our total arm size, so building bigger triceps is one surefire way to develop your arms.

  • Better elbow health: The triceps attach to the elbow, so strengthening them directly helps to strengthen the tendons and bones around the elbow joint, to keep the elbow healthy.

  • Improved shoulder stability: The long head of the tricep attaches to the shoulder blade, assisting with stability and keeping the shoulder joint strong and healthy.

  • Boost sports performance: Any sport that uses elbow extension, including tennis, volleyball, and basketball, requires strong triceps. Strong triceps and better shoulder stabilization will directly boost your performance.

  • Improved lockout strength: Have you ever gotten stuck halfway to pressing the barbell above you in an overhead press or felt unable to fully extend your arms during a bench press? Strengthening your triceps will give you added power to achieve this lockout, boosting strength and helping you push through pressing plateaus.

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How To Structure Your Tricep Workouts

You’ll want to start your triceps workouts with the heavier compound exercises (such as close grip bench press, before moving onto isolation exercises (skull crushers, tricep extension, tricep push down). How you structure your workout will largely depend on your workout split, for example:

  • Body part split, which often sees tricep exercises paired with biceps or chest.

  • Upper/lower split, which will see you pair your tricep exercises with a range of upper body movements.

  • Push/pull/legs, which would see tricep exercises programmed on push day, alongside chest and shoulders.

You’ll likely perform one or two compound exercises that work your target muscle groups for that day before moving on to isolation exercises for each muscle group.

Supersetting isolation exercises can be a good way to save time and increase your training volume within your session. By pairing opposing (antagonist) muscles in a superset, such as triceps and biceps, one muscle group can rest whilst the other works, making it a very time-efficient (and often more interesting) way of training.

Want to understand more about workout splits and how to choose the best one for your goals? Read our Workout Splits Guide.

Tricep Workout Rep Range

If your goal is to build big triceps, you’ll want to stick within the hypertrophy rep range for the majority of your training (8-12 reps @ 60-80% of your 1 rep max) [3].

If tricep strength is of higher importance, keep the majority of your rep ranges low (1 to 5 reps @ 80-100% of your 1 rep max).

The exception to this may be finishers or drop sets, where you are training your triceps to failure (great for getting that satisfying tricep burn at the end of your tricep workout). For this, you’ll implement a higher rep range, performing the exercise until you physically can’t carry on.

Remember that to grow your triceps, you’ll want to implement progressive overload: This refers to the continual challenge of the muscle group week on week, either by increasing the weight, adding reps, or reducing rest periods – or any method that makes the exercises slightly more challenging than the previous week. This will ensure you continue to make tricep gains, preventing you from hitting a plateau.

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Ready To Build Big Triceps?

If you’re looking to build your triceps, these are the best tricep exercises to get you there. One final word of advice: Leave your ego at the door for your tricep workout, focus on the mind-muscle connection, and perform each of the tricep exercises above with perfect form rather than trying to shift as much weight as possible.

By implementing these tricep exercises into your workout, you’ll hit each and every tricep head to develop your horseshoe muscle from every angle. If it’s big triceps you're after, this is the tricep workout to get you there.

Tricep Exercises FAQs

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WRITTEN BY: Alex Kirkup-Lee

Alex is an inhouse Content Writer for Gymshark’s Health & Conditioning categories. A qualified Personal Trainer, CrossFit Level 1 and Functional Fitness Coach, Alex is experienced in training clients from a range of sporting backgrounds. With a passion for functional training, her favorite workout is anything that includes deadlifts, rowing, or wallballs.

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  1. Maeo, S., Wu, Y., Huang, M., Sakurai, H., Kusagawa, Y., Sugiyama, T., Kanehisa, H. and Isaka, T. (2022). Triceps brachii hypertrophy is substantially greater after elbow extension training performed in the overhead versus neutral arm position. European Journal of Sport Science, pp.1–26. doi:

  2. ACE Fitness. (n.d.). Triceps Exercise: The Best Tricep Exercise for Women. [online] Available at:

  3. Schoenfeld, B.J., Grgic, J., Van Every, D.W. and Plotkin, D.L. (2021). Loading Recommendations for Muscle Strength, Hypertrophy, and Local Endurance: A Re-Examination of the Repetition Continuum. Sports, [online] 9(2), p.32. doi:

  4. Krzysztofik, M., Wilk, M., Wojdała, G. and Gołaś, A. (2019). Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. International journal of environmental research and public health, [online] 16(24), p.E4897. doi:

  5. Schoenfeld, B.J., Ogborn, D. and Krieger, J.W. (2016). Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine, [online] 46(11), pp.1689–1697. doi:

Alex Kirkup-LeeBy Alex Kirkup-Lee

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