8 Best Tricep Exercises for Sculpted Upper Arms

·6-min read
Photo credit: CHX
Photo credit: CHX

Tricep exercises are a fundamental part of arm day – did you know the muscle makes up 60% of your upper arm? So, if you're skipping working the muscle in favour of yet another bicep curl, newsflash: you're doing yourself a disservice.

However moving from blanket 'upper body workouts' to more muscle-specific sessions can be confusing – so let's get some basics squared away before we dive into the best tricep exercises to build serious strength.

Where are your tricep muscles?

The tricep muscle lies along the back of your upper arm and, as mentioned, is a major muscle. Twice the size of the bicep muscles and with more muscle fibres per square inch, targeting the triceps is necessary for building a strong upper body. To build a universally strong upper body you need all your arm muscles working in tandem.

Why are tricep exercises important?

Even though the tricep muscle is only one muscle – in comparison the bicep muscle is three different muscles – due to its large surface size and function, it's fundamental when performing movements such as press-ups, overhead extensions and dips.

What are the benefits of doing tricep exercises?

  • Build and sculpt upper body muscle

  • Increased upper body strength

  • Improved range of motion

  • Increased flexibility

  • Improves stability of other upper body muscles

Should I train triceps in isolation?

'I wouldn't train triceps on their own. Instead, incorporate some tricep exercises into an upper body session,' explains personal trainer and founder of Body Beautiful Method, Aimee Victoria Long. 'Or if you split your upper body sessions into push and pull sessions, perform them on a push day.'

Learn everything you need to know about workout splits with our handy guide. It'll teach you how to split up your weekly workout routine in a way that works towards your goals.

8 best tricep exercises for women

So, whether you’re after stronger arms or more obvious muscle definition these are the best tricep exercises and dumbbell tricep exercises to perform. STAT.

1. Tricep kickbacks

a) Start standing with a dumbbell in each hand, arms bent at 90 degrees and palms facing each other. Keep a slight bend in your knees.

b) Engage your core and hinge at the waist to tilt your torso slightly forwards. Focus on keeping your spine neutral – that's no arching or rounding of the back, and tucking your chin slightly.

c) Keeping your arms close to your body, straighten your arms to push the weight back behind you. Bare careful not to flare your elbows or move your upper arm. No swinging!

d) Pause for a moment before reversing the move to bring the weights back to your starting point.

2. Tricep extensions

a) Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold one dumbbell with both hands above your head.

b) Slowly lower the weight behind your head, flexing at the elbows and keeping your upper arms still.

c) Extend your arms back to the starting position.

3. Floor press

a) Lying flat on the floor, place your knees upwards and feet flat on the floor.

b) Holding a dumbbell in each hand, hold your weights by your shoulders. Slowly extend your arms towards the ceiling and hold, then extend the weights back down towards your shoulders. Repeat.

4. Single tricep kickback

a) Start standing with a dumbbell in one hand, weighted arm bent at 90 degrees and palm facing each inwards. Keep a slight bend in your knees.

b) Engage your core and hinge at the waist to tilt your torso slightly forwards. Focus on keeping your spine neutral – that's no arching or rounding of the back, and tucking your chin slightly.

c) Keeping your arm close to your body, straighten your arm to push the weight back behind you. Be careful not to flare your elbows or move your upper arm. No swinging!

d) Pause for a moment before reversing the move to bring the weight back to your starting point.

5. Kettlebell floor press

a) Lying flat on the floor, place your knees upwards and feet flat on the floor.

b) Holding a kettlebell by the handle in one hand, hold the weight by your shoulders. Slowly extend your arm towards the ceiling and hold, then extend the weight back down towards your shoulder. Repeat.

6. Push up

a) Get into a plank position, with your hands under but slightly outside of your shoulders. Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor.

b) As you lower yourself, tuck your elbows, pulling them close to your body so that your upper arms form a 45-degree angle when your torso is in the bottom position of the move. Pause, then push back to the starting position as quickly as possible. Keep your core braced the entire time.

c) If your hips sag at any point during the exercise, your form has been broken. When this happens, consider that your last repetition and end the set.

7. Diamond push up

a) Get into a high plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders.

b) Bring each hand directly under your chest with thumbs and forefingers touching to create a diamond shape.

c) From here, lower your body until your chest almost touches the floor, keeping your elbows tucked into the sides of your body.

d) Pause, then push directly up to starting position.

8. Push up on bent knees

a) Get into a plank position, with your hands under but slightly outside of your shoulders. Drop your knees to the floor so that your body forms a high diagonal from shoulders to hips.

b) Keeping your elbows tucked close to your body, lower down until your chest nearly touches the floor. Your upper arms should form a 45-degree angle when your torso is in the bottom position of the move. Pause, then push back to the starting position as quickly as possible. Keep your core braced the entire time.

If your hips sag at any point during the exercise, your form has been broken. When this happens, consider that your last repetition and end the set.

How can I train my triceps at home?

Training your triceps at home doesn't have to be second fiddle to your gym-based arm workouts. In fact, every single one of the moves listed above can be performed at home.

(No weights bench? Use the edge of your sofa. No dumbbells? Focus on the bodyweight moves such as tricep dips or reverse plank dips.)

However, one thing to note is that varying the exercises you're doing will help target the muscle from a number of angles and prevent your body from becoming too used to the movement patterns.

'There are many variations you can play around with’, says Georgia Legg, Trainer at Equilibrium Total Balance. 'Changing them up keeps your training programme fresh and achieves muscle even tone'.

Do you need to use weights to train your triceps?

Not at all, says Long. 'I love bodyweight training – you can play around with the speed of your lifts to make the exercise harder or easier.'

Is there anyone who shouldn't do tricep exercises?

'Unless you suffer from a tricep issue or rotator cuff injury it is always a good idea to train your triceps in some form,' says Long. 'If you have a shoulder injury I’d suggest visiting a physiotherapist who can provide a correct rehab programme to follow before looking to progress into tricep specific exercises.'

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