To work on Triceps, it is important to know how to work on triceps.

I wanted to slip this article in alongside another recent topic titled: Effective Biceps Workout for Women Who Want Shapely Arms.

Since the upper arm has obviously a front (biceps) and rear (triceps), it only makes sense to address both, so here’s the other side…the rear/triceps.


The upper arm muscles are effectively activated by either flexing/bending the elbow with the biceps…or straightening out/extending the elbow with the triceps.

Both movements depend on controlling the travel of the elbow, that is to say, keeping the elbow from doing that! In other words, the elbow simply bends or straightens. It should not move forward or back.

Now, with training the triceps there are two positions for the elbow: either in the “down” position, or the “up” position. Let’s look at the structure of the upper arm–rear:

The triceps appears as sort of a “horseshoe-shaped” affair on the back of the upper arm. You can see or feel this by extending the arm straight down, then twist it inward tightening the back of the upper arm. you can feel or even see the horseshoe-shaped formation (round part of the horseshoe on top).

This comes from the formation of the medial head (outside of the horseshoe) and the long head (inside of the horseshoe).

To really work the outside medial head, do your exercise with the elbow in the down position. To work the inside long head, do you work with the elbow in the up position.

Here are some exercises to accomplish that:

Triceps Extension:

Using a high cable, grab a small straight bar or cambered bar. Grab the bar with a narrow grip (hands approx one hand width apart). Start with the arm fully extended “down”, elbows pinned against your sides, feet in a split stance: one foot forward, the other back. Next, allow the elbows to bend and the hands to move upward.

Stop at the halfway point. Your elbows should now be bent at 90 degrees, forearms parallel to the ground. Next, return to full extension, then back to halfway point. Repeat for your desired reps.

One tip here: Keep your wrists bent slightly backwards throughout the movement. This will put more demand on the triceps.

Triceps Workout for Women Who Want Shapely Arms_2

Alternative Exercise: Close-Grip Pushup:

Everyone knows how to do a pushup for chest muscles. You can modify that to turn it into a triceps exercise: Get into the regular push-up “Start” position, then bring your hands closer together (one hand width apart). Next bring both hands downward one hand length toward your waist.

This simple change of hand position will move the stress from the chest over to the triceps.

Now for the inside long head:

Seated Overhead Dumbbell Extension:

Sit on a weight bench chair with a short back, holding a moderately light dumbbell on your thigh with one hand on the handle in the “hammer grip” position (dumbbell should be up on end) and the other hand palms-down on the lower dumbbell head. Now lift the dumbbell up and overhead.

You still have one hand on the handle, the other on its under the upper dumbbell head. Bring the handle hand and overlap the palm so both hands now have palms under the upper dumbbell head, arms fully extended upward. This is the “start” position. Keep the elbows forward, not out to the sides.

Now, allow the elbows to bend, lowering the dumbbell past the back of your head toward the back of the neck. Do not allow the elbows to travel, rather just bend……down to the 90 degree point, then reverse back up to full extension. You will feel this on the inside long head of the triceps.

Tip: You must keep the elbows pointing forward and up, using fully erect posture, in order to prevent the dumbbell from scraping the back of your head! Careful movement here folks!

If you utilize these two positions….elbows down and elbows up…you’ll hit the triceps quite effectively and you’ll find that the shape of your upper arms will be most pleasing!

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Pollyanna Hale Health and Lifestyle coaches
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