Most people interested in building big arms focus on the biceps, which isn’t necessarily a mistake. But you might be surprised to learn that the triceps account for roughly two-thirds of the upper arm muscle volume. The biceps and brachialis make up the remaining third. So, if building big arms is your goal, you need to focus on tricep growth.
The good news is, we’ve put together a list of eight fantastic tricep exercises for mass and strength.
- Close-Grip Bench Press
- Bench Dips
- Cable Rope Tricep Extensions
- Overhead Cable Tricep Extension
- Dumbbell Tricep Kickback
- EZ Bar Skullcrusher
- Diamond Push-Ups
- Incline Dumbbell Crush Press
1. Close-Grip Bench Press
Close-grip bench pressing is one of the most effective activities you can do to strengthen your triceps, cause significant mechanical tension, and force them to grow.
The close-grip variation trains the triceps, chest, and shoulders (anterior deltoid head) like the regular bench press. But, the narrower grip puts your pectorals are at a mechanical disadvantage, forcing your triceps to do more of the work.
As far as grip width goes, we recommend having your hands shoulder-width apart. Anything more narrow would stress your wrists and elbows without bringing extra benefits.
2. Bench Dips
Bench dips are an effective bodyweight exercise that allows you to train your triceps with more weight. The movement is great because you don’t need any equipment and can even do it at home.
All you have to do is place a chair against a wall to prevent sliding, turn your back to it, and place your hands near the seat’s edge. From there, extend your body, engage your core, and use your triceps to lower yourself and push back to the top position.
Your body’s position prevents other muscles from contributing to the exercise, making the tricep the prime mover during bench dips.
3. Cable Rope Tricep Extensions
Among the many tricep isolation exercises, cable rope extensions are one of the best because of three reasons:
- The exercise reinforces proper technique, teaching trainees to prioritize form over the load they are lifting.
- Rope tricep extensions offer an excellent overloading potential, allowing you to isolate the muscle and cause significant mechanical tension.
- Performing the exercise on a cable machine provides constant tension from start to finish, making each repetition more disruptive and beneficial.
Plus, the exercise is relatively simple to learn, so long as you’re willing to set your ego aside and dedicate yourself to learning proper technique. Using a rope is also beneficial because you can spread it as you extend your elbows, placing more tension on the lateral tricep head.
4. Overhead Cable Tricep Extension
Similar to the previous exercise, the overhead cable tricep extension works great because it reinforces proper form, allows you to overload your triceps, and provides constant tension. Aside from that, the movement allows you to stretch the long head of the tricep, given your arm’s position.
What makes the exercise great is that your triceps have to work hard from start to finish, making each repetition quite disruptive and beneficial for strength and muscle gain. Plus, you can pick from different attachments to customize the exercise and make it fit your preferences. For example, you can use a cable, straight bar, or a single handle to train one side at a time.
5. Dumbbell Tricep Kickback
The dumbbell kickback has a mixed reputation among trainees, and many deem it ineffective for tricep growth. But, the truth is, performing kickbacks properly leads to impressive growth and strength gain.
For one, the exercise requires nothing but a simple dumbbell. You don’t need fancy gym equipment, and you can even do the exercise at home. Second, kickbacks allow you to train your triceps through a significant range of motion.
Plus, the overloading potential is decent, and you can make the exercise increasingly challenging for a long time. One option is to use a heavier dumbbell. Alternatively, you can do extra reps or add a slight pause at the top of each repetition.
6. EZ Bar Skullcrusher
EZ bar skullcrushers are another fantastic assistance movement you can do to inflate the back of your upper arms. The move is great for three reasons:
- The overloading potential is excellent
- You’re placing a significant stretch on your triceps due to your arm position
- Using an EZ bar allows you to keep your wrists in a safe position
We recommend extending your arms slightly back as you lie on the bench. Doing so pre-stretches your shoulders and allows the bar to travel behind your head as you bend your elbows. The result is a safer exercise and possibly a stronger stimulus on your triceps.
7. Diamond Push-Ups
Diamond push-ups are one of the best bodyweight exercises for tricep strength and growth. The movement’s name comes from the diamond-like shape you create by having your hands together on the floor.
Using a close stance for push-ups places your pectorals at a mechanical disadvantage and instead allows you to emphasize your triceps. If having your hands together causes any joint discomfort, you can spread them out by several inches until you find a stance that works for you.
The great thing about diamond push-ups is that you can do the exercise almost anywhere without any equipment. All you need is a bit of free space to make it work. You can start with your knees on the floor and gradually progress to a regular push-up position.
8. Incline Dumbbell Crush Press
Incline dumbbell crush presses are less popular than other exercises, but the movement works great. The objective is to set an adjustable bench at an incline of 30 to 45 degrees, grab a pair of dumbbells, and position yourself on top.
Once in position, lift the weights over your body, bring them together, and retract your shoulder blades. Take a breath and lower the dumbbells to your upper stomach while pressing them against one another. From there, press straight up.
Like diamond push-ups and the close-grip bench press, having the dumbbells together allows you to emphasize your triceps more effectively. Plus, you can adjust the difficulty based on your current strength. You can start with a light pair of dumbbells and slowly work up to heavier weights as you build tricep strength and mass.