The triceps tend to be one of those spots people point out where they want to lose fat.  People will randomly come up to me and ask me “How do I lose this?” pointing to their triceps while wiggling their arm.  My typical response is “you’re shaking relaxed muscle tissue, not necessarily fat. Look I can do it too” as I proceed to wiggle my relaxed muscle as well. Read more about triceps extension exercise.

Now sometimes that gives the person a little a-ha moment, other times it takes a little more convincing.  But either way, no amount of triceps exercises is going to get rid of that “marinara arm” as one of my clients puts it.  Fat loss is systemic, and spot reduction just doesn’t happen.

In order to train the triceps, you need to understand its structure and function as you want to hit all three heads of the muscle.  That’s not to say all three won’t contract doing all exercises, but some emphasize one head over another.  See, the triceps is made up of three muscles in your upper arm, hence the “tri” part.  There’s a lateral head, which gives your muscle that horseshoe shape, that originates at the top of the humerus, the medial head which originates slightly lower than the lateral head, and then finally the long head of the triceps, which starts at the shoulder blade.  All 3 however insert at the ulna, specifically the olecranon process.


Based on that info, you can gather that it performs elbow extension, meaning it will straighten the arm out.  Not only can you train your triceps using strictly isolation exercises, but also exercises that incorporate other muscle groups as well where the triceps end up secondary.  Let’s translate that into exercises you can use. If you are also interested in working triceps, here is how to work your tricep.

Multi-Joint Exercises:

These exercises are going to be more beneficial to training your triceps as they engage larger muscle groups in addition to your triceps, so more weight is going to be used.  This pushes your triceps to work harder than if you solely did isolation exercises.


There are all sorts of push-up variations you can try that will get your triceps to activate.  Most notably, a diamond pushup will target the triceps more so than a standard push-up.


Neutral Grip Bench Presses

If you’re lucky enough to be in a gym that has a Swiss bar, then you can try this option.  If not, benching with dumbbells with a neutral grip is a great substitution.


Close Grip Bench Press

This turns the bench press which is typically a chest exercise into a predominantly triceps exercise by simply altering the hand placement.


Isolation Exercises:

Dips- These get a bad image because most people do dips on a bench.  This does put your shoulders in a precarious position as the arm and shoulder blade have nowhere to go.  What you end up with is the head of the humerus coming forward, which can cause some problems down the road, namely impingement problems.  Parallel bars work really well for this exercise as there is less strain on the shoulders being that your hands are at your sides.


Tate Press

If you’ve read my article on arm workouts for women, I included this isolation exercise as it is a variation on other dumbbell extension exercises.



Rope pushdowns are probably the typical triceps exercise you see at the gym near the cable stack.



Training the triceps requires using a mix of compound and isolation exercises as you can load them differently and use different rep ranges.  What you want to do is stimulate them with enough resistance to cause change.  Because if you’re solely relying on light weights and lots of reps, yea you may feel a burn at some point, but you’re not really working them to their full potential.

Training your triceps requires using intensities and rep ranges that work on strength, hypertrophy & endurance.  Alter your intensity (weight/resistance) and reps accordingly.  Your triceps make up the majority of your arm, thus the importance to train them specifically as well as in compound exercises. Adding these different exercises to your workout will help your triceps to grow bigger and stronger. Stronger triceps mean a stronger upper body, which can only help you in life.

If you are interested in this article, you might be interested into reading more about working out.

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