On the back of your arms opposite the biceps, our triceps are three-pronged muscles that can be individually or collectively developed with tricep exercises to increase your overall strength and arm size, with the following triceps exercises providing you with the building blocks to maximize size and strength.
When it comes to powerlifting, bodybuilding, or sports, pushing power is important, and well-developed triceps exhibit this. The triceps are located on the anterior portion of our upper arms, and provide for the power to push with our hands outwards from our bodies, alongside the pectoral muscles on our chests. To support maximize the size and strength of our triceps, there are many triceps exercises from which to choose. In this writing, we will explore the top 5 triceps exercises we can perform to build the most muscle, maxing out our strength and appearance.
As mentioned, the triceps are comprised of three heads to the muscle, the lateral, front, and anterior portion of your triceps. Each portion can be individually targeted for development to increase your overall size, and then the portions can be brought together with compound motions to further integrate the muscles. The first three exercises that follow will target the individual heads of your triceps, and the final two exercises are compound movements that engage the entirety of your triceps in addition to some of their complementary muscles.
Exercise 1: Overhead Forward Raises
To perform the overhead forward raise with your triceps, you’ll find a dumbbell at a weight at which you can perform 10 repetitions. Tricep exercises are best performed at higher reps, as they are supporting muscles. Identifying this weight can take time, and it is better to lift lighter than heavier while figuring out what works for you. Upon finding a dumbbell, take a seat on a bench, with you having the choice of sitting upon a traditional bench, or using a shoulder-press bench for back support.
Now that we’ve got our weight and are seated, using only one arm at a time, we’ll raise the dumbbell up overhead in our right hand first. Allow your hand holding the dumbbell to rest atop your shoulder while your elbow extends upwards towards the ceiling. Engaging your triceps muscle, raise your hand upwards towards the ceiling, moving in an arc towards the front of your body, engaging when your tricep is fully engaged and locked at the top of the motion. Slowly lower your hand back down, feeling the stretch on your triceps, and repeat using a continuous motion until fatigued, then switch hands to finish the set. Use the same number of repetitions per arm to maintain consistent development.
Once you’ve got the form down, such tricep exercises will become easier as you build strength and balance.
Exercise 2: Overhead Side Raises
The initial steps for this exercise are the same as with the overhead front raises, although the weight can be different, as this particular head of the triceps is larger and thus is often stronger. Select your dumbbell and take a seat, then raise your upper arm towards the ceiling, along with your hand and the dumbbell to make an angle towards the opposite shoulder. If you are holding the dumbbell in our right hand, your palm will face forward while holding the dumbbell which will rest to the left of your body behind your neck.
Rather than raising the dumbbell forward, instead it will raise in a swiping motion from the back of your neck upwards to the right and towards the ceiling until your right arm makes a straight line upwards. Your palm will remain facing forward the entire time, finishing with the right side of your hand facing to the right. This motion is essentially the same as the overhead front press just rotated back by 90 degrees so the arc your hand follows is left-to-right instead of back-to-front.
Exercise 3: Kickbacks
Of the tricep exercises presented here, the kickback hits the anterior head of your triceps, and is one of the most popular triceps exercises and one you may have already seen at the gym being performed by someone else. The setup for this tricep exercise is a bit more complex. We’ll need a bench and a dumbbell, generally around the weight of overhead forward raises although it may be lower due to the greater difficulty.
Upon selecting a dumbbell, place it in the hand you will perform repetitions with, for the sake of this exploration we’ll begin with the right hand. Place your left knee on the bench, our right left straight to the ground beside it. Bending your back to make your body parallel to the ground, place your left hand down atop the bench for stability. Now raise your right upper arm up so it is parallel to your body, and allow your hand holding the dumbbell to rest down at a 90-degree angle, perpendicular to the ground. This is the starting position.
From the starting position, move your hand holding the dumbbell from the front to the back in an arc, until your arm is straight, parallel to the ground and in line with the body. Hold at the top for a moment to maximize the work being done by your triceps, then slowly lower your hand with the dumbbell back towards the ground slowly, stopping at a perpendicular. Repeat to fatigue, moving deliberately and with control, as with all tricep exercises.
Exercise 4: Skull Crushers
The skull crusher, or cambered-bar press, is one of the most popular triceps exercises, and for good reason. This is one of the more productive tricep exercises. To perform this exercise, we’ll need a cambered bar and a flat bench press. A cambered bar is a shorter bar that looks like a stretched-out letter W, and allows you to select from three hand placements, outer camber, inner camber, and inner straight. For this exercise, we’ll place our hands on the inner straight portion of the cambered bar, so our hands will be about 6 inches to 1 foot apart.
To begin load the cambered bar with an appropriate amount of weight if you know how much you can handle, or just use the bar itself, which often weighs 25 pounds. Lay down upon the bench with the bar resting atop your chest. Raise the bar overhead so it is above an in line with your eyes. Keeping your upper arms fixed, elbows facing towards the front, palms facing back, slowly lower the bar in an arc towards our eyes. It will extend down in a swiping motion to rest just above your eyes, hold for a moment, then slowly raise it once again.
When performing skull crushers, keep the weight manageable, and work with a partner if possible for spotting help. This exercise if overdone can, in fact, damage your skull, as the weight is extending down just overhead, so this is not an exercise to test your strength on without adequate preparation and a spotter to ensure your safety.
Exercise 5: Close-Grip Bench Press
The final triceps exercise we’ll explore is the close-grip bench press. We’ve targeted each head of the triceps individually, incorporated them into the skull-crusher which is a complex movement that requires great balance and coordination, and now we can build raw strength. The close-grip bench press is to triceps exercises what the bench press is to chest or squats are to legs: essential.
For the close-grip bench press, we require a bench press with a rack, a barbell, and weights to add on as appropriate. We begin by lying down on the bench press, the barbell racked overhead. Using the lines on the bar to ensure equal placement, put your hands about 6 inches to 1 foot apart depending upon your personal comfort. The chest should be pushed somewhat close together if your form here is correct.
Pushing upward, remove the bar from the rack, and place your arms so that the bar is directly over your chest and shoulders. Lower the bar until it touches your chest, then engaging your triceps, push it back up until your elbows lock out. Do not maintain locked elbows for long, but rather immediately upon completing the repetition, again lower the bar to your chest and press it back up, maintaining a steady and continuous motion until fatigue ends the set. Using a spotter on this exercise will increase our confidence while reducing the risk of injury. Of triceps exercises, this one adds the most meat.
Your triceps are very important muscles in the body, and they provide support for many exercises outside of your arms. Strong triceps build through tricep exercises will increase your bench press and shoulder press and add to the overall stability of many more of your lifts. When it comes to pushing, your chest and triceps are the main movers, so building up the strength of your triceps is important to help you push more weight in the gym, and if you play sports such as football, to be able to move larger opponents on the field.
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