Training the muscles in your arms—of which your triceps is the largest—is crucial to the development of upper-body strength. Your triceps are in charge of extending your elbow, a key movement in many jobs and sports. It also provides support for other important movements, such as lowering your upper arm from an overhead position. Although many people focus on their biceps when they want to increase the size of their upper arms, the triceps makes up most of the bulk and provides a better results-to-effort ratio.
5 Overhead Triceps Extension
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The overhead triceps extension was the fourth most effective exercise in the fitness study. The triceps in this position is not as strong as when placed below the shoulders, but it is stronger than when the extension is along the horizontal plane. It also has the advantage of engaging all three heads when you include heavier weights. To do this exercise, position one dumbbell over your head by placing you hands under the dumbbell plate and wrapping your thumbs under the bar in a heart-shaped grip. With your elbows overhead, slowly lower your forearms behind your upper arms until the dumbbell brushes the back of your neck. Raise the dumbbell back to the initial position and repeat.
4 Close-Grip Bench Press
Maximum contraction of the triceps occurs when the lower arm is flexed at 90 degrees from the elbow. One of the exercises that best maximizes the benefits of this position is the close-grip bench press. This workout has the added benefit of engaging the triceps’ long head, also known as the lazy head, which contracts fully only when there is both a lot of weight and maximum contraction. To execute this exercise, lie on a bench and grasp the barbell with a shoulder-width grip. Slowly drop the barbell to your chest while keeping your elbows close you your body. Push back until your arms are straight.
3 The Dip
The strength of the triceps varies depending on its position relative to the shoulder. In his book “Optimal Muscle Training,” Ken Kinakin explains that the triceps is stronger when it is below the shoulder. For this reason, he recommends the dip as one of the best possible triceps workouts—as long as your shoulders are healthy enough for the task. To perform the dip, sit on a chair or bench. Place your hands on the bench: slightly under your hips. Lift up onto your hands and bring your hips forward. Bend your elbows and lower your hips toward the floor until you feel a slight stretch in your shoulders. Push back up; stop before your elbows lock; and repeat exercise.
2 Dumbbell Kick Back
The triceps is a complex muscle composed of three components: the lateral, medial and long heads. The medial head, the triceps’ workhorse, is involved in every triceps extension or contraction. The lateral and long heads require weight and particular contractions for them to get involved in an exercise. The dumbbell kickback cajoles all three heads into action by loading the triceps at its weakest position. To execute this exercise, pick up a dumbbell and rest your left knee on top of a bench. Lean over the bench and place your left hand on it for support. Pick up a dumbbell with your right hand and place your upper arm by your side, parallel to the floor, with your lower arm at 90 degrees to the floor. Extend your arm straight back, return to the original position and repeat. Change sides and repeat exercise.
1 Triangle Pushups
The most efficient triceps exercise may also be one of the simplest, according to a study by exercise scientists from the University of Wisconsin. When using electrodes to test the muscle activity of 15 women performing eight popular triceps exercises, they found that triangle pushups elicited the highest average muscle activity. This exercise has the added benefit of not requiring any equipment. Simply place yourself in a pushup position, but align your hands under your chest. Create a triangular space between your hands by touching the tips of your index fingers to each other and your thumbs to each other. Slowly lower your chest to your hands and then push back the initial position.