The triceps brachii—on the back of the upper arm—is a three-headed monster made up of a long head, a medial head and a lateral head. The triceps muscle is a primary mover in elbow extension. Each time the arm straightens, the triceps engage.
Because of its action at the forearm, the triceps muscle is fundamental in all pushing movements. As one of the five primary movement patterns, people push often throughout the day. So, strengthening the triceps is essential to daily activity.
Try these exercises to develop your triceps. For best results, control the weight throughout the entire movement.
Dumbbell Kickbacks // 10-15 reps
- Begin with a dumbbell in each hand. Bend at the hips with a slight bend in the knees so your torso is parallel to the floor.
- Bring your elbows up so your upper arm is parallel to your torso with your elbows tight to your rib cage. Your forearm should be at a 90-degree angle to your upper arm before you start the movement.
- With your shoulders packed down and your gaze forward, initiate the movement by engaging your triceps. Make sure not to drop your elbows and use your shoulders throughout the movement.
- Drive your pinky towards the ceiling until your forearm is parallel to the floor. Do not hyperextend at the elbow.
- Lower the weight slowly and under control until your forearm and upper arm are once again at a 90-degree angle.
- If your elbows begin to travel up or down, the weight may be too heavy.
Resistance Band Pull Downs // 12-20 reps
- Attach a resistance band to a stable object above your head.
- With one hand in each handle, begin in an upright position with your elbows once again tight to your rib cage.
- Your forearms should start at an angle slightly less than 90 degrees to your upper arm with the bands taught.
- Initiate the movement by engaging your triceps and pulling your hands to your hips. Again, make sure that your elbows stay tight to your rib cage.
- When your arm is straight, but not hyperextended, slowly allow the band to pull your hands back to the starting position. Resist the tension of the band to remain under control on the way back up.
- Do not hunch your shoulders forward. Throughout the movement, ensure you are standing tall with your shoulders pressed down and your upper back engaged.
Resistance Band Overhead Extension // 12-20 reps
- Start with your band in the same place as for the pull downs.
- Face away from the bands’ insertion point with a band in each hand.
- Maintain a slight forward lean and a staggered stance.
- Your elbows should start on either side of your head. Start with a 90-degree bend between your upper arm and forearm. Your hands should be over your head.
- Initiate the movement by engaging your triceps. Extend your forearms until they form a straight line with your upper arm. Do not hyperextend.
- Ensure your elbows remain stationary and there is no movement at the shoulder joint.
- Resist the bands’ pull to slowly return to the starting position.
Triangle Pushups // 8-12 reps
- On your knees, bring the tips of your thumbs and the tips of your index fingers together on the floor. Your thumbs and index fingers should now make a triangle.
- Raise your body into push up position with your shoulders, hip and heels aligned. Brace your core to hold this position throughout the movement.
- With your hands directly beneath your shoulders, slowly lower your chest to the floor.
- Without resting on the floor, engage your triceps and return to the starting position.
- If this is too difficult, try starting on your knees, rather than your toes. Remember to keep a straight line from shoulders to hips to knees (rather than heels).
- Keep your core engaged throughout each movement to support your lower back. To help with this, remember proper breathing: breathe in during eccentric moves (lowering the weight) and exhale with exertion.
- Avoid movement at the shoulder joint, except with the pushups. Once the shoulder joint mobilizes, the triceps muscle is no longer isolated. Keep your elbows in the same location throughout the first three movements by stabilizing your shoulders.
- Don’t lose your form. If your form begins to fall apart before reaching the suggested repetitions, the weight is most likely too heavy. The last two to three reps should be difficult, but not so hard you cannot maintain your form.