Following on from Part 1 of Work Your Triceps where we looked at rope pushdown’s, dip machine dip and drills, we will now look at the rest of the best exercises for this muscle group.

4. Lying extension

Sometimes known by the rather scary name of ‘Skullcrushers’, this exercise is a barbell exercise which, unlike press movements, minimises chest contribution. It works all parts of the triceps but particularly the long head.


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How to perform

– Lie on a flat bench and hold a barbell at arms length with knuckles pointing rearward palms upward using a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip. Your arms should be vertical.

– Slowly bend at the elbow Minimising the change in position of the upper arms – until the bar is over your forehead, then pull it back to the start position.

– Slowly lower the weight not only to gain maximum exercise benefits but also to ensure that you retain total control of the movement.

This is a potentially dangerous exercise if less than perfect control is maintained.

As an option, a narrower grip shifts the focus towards the lateral head. I prefer to use an EZ-bar rather than a straight bar, as I find the angled grip more comfortable, easier to maintain control of and also helps share the work among all triceps heads.

5. Cable Crossdown

One of the few cable exercises for triceps that works each side individually, this is a variant of an exercise known as a dumbbell kickback. I prefer the cable variant, as it’s easier to focus specifically on the triceps.

The greater stability helps get a full range of movement and the smaller increments available on the cable machine help with gradual progression.

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How to perform

– Stand facing away from the machine, weight equally spread on both feet. Pull the cable to your left, down with your right hand so the handle is over the left part of your chest, your right upper arm vertical and elbow against your side. This is the start position.

– From here, pull the cable sharply downwards until the elbow almost locks out, then return slowly to the start position. Keeping the elbow tucked in and the upper arm still throughout ensures maximum effort from the triceps and no shoulder contribution.

– All other body parts should remain locked in place, movement should only come from the elbow. Reverse position to work other arm.

6. Dumbbell overhead extension

This exercise uses a single dumbbell supported behind the head in both hands, forming a very close grip, leading to particular focus on the lateral head of the triceps.

There is a variation using just one hand but this can induce unwanted swaying of the body and suppressing this motion takes away some of the effort away from the triceps.

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How to perform

– Sit on a flat bench. A bench with the back vertical is not ideal as the highest part of the bench can interfere with the movement of the dumbbell. To get the dumbbell into the start position lift it from your lap to rest it on top of your chest to one side and then lift it overhead.

– Then move your hands into the correct position – do this by cradling the upper bell as shown. Lift the dumbbell to arms’ length to attain the start position, then slowly lower the dumbbell centrally behind the head, allowing the elbows to flare a little. Return more quickly to start position.

Tricep workout numbers

I select 3 of these exercises to perform as part of my arm workout once or twice per week – the other body parts worked in the same session are biceps and forearms.

I perform 3 sets of each of the exercises, with a target of 10 reps per set, plus there’s a single initial warm up set. This is a single set of 10 reps of whichever exercise I am going to perform completed with half the weight I intend to start with on that exercise.

After the warm up, I start on the 3 exercises I have selected. I have 1 min between each set and take a min between each exercise. Once I’ve finished all the triceps exercises, I move on to biceps and forearms.

Keep adding more

My weight for the first set on any exercise (not the warm up) is the weight I last used for that exercise where I achieved the 10 reps – I always write down my key workout stats so I can find the starting weight easily next time.

If I achieve 10 reps in a set, then I move the weight up by one increment for the next set. If I fail to achieve 10, then I’ll note the number I failed on and perform the next set with the same weight, trying to get closer to the 10. In this situation, I will also drop to a lighter weight just to complete the set, remembering of course where I failed as that’s the target to beat next set.

This all works out to a total of 100 reps for the triceps including the warm up (10 + (3 x 3 x 10), which takes me about 15 minutes. Then with biceps and forearms work and 5min of static stretching at the end this workout takes about 50 minutes.

Connect with Expert Chris Zaremba

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