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Best Triceps Exercises for Big Arms & Stronger (Bench) Press

Learn the best triceps exercises & how to do them to grow your triceps for bigger arms and stronger bench press & press. We love these triceps exercises: lying triceps extension, rolling dumbbell extension, triceps push down, banded triceps push down, and the dip.

Triceps Functions

These exercises train the triceps brachii muscle. This muscle has three heads (“tri”=3; “ceps”=head). The triceps muscle has 2 primary functions: elbow extension & shoulder extension.

Elbow extension is straightening out your elbow from a flexed or bent position.

Shoulder extension can be tricky to remember. If you know the normal anatomical position, where a person is standing with forearms supinated (thumbs our and palms facing forward), remember that in this position the shoulders are extended. Shoulder flexion is actually raising the arm at the shoulder (so raising the arm straight out in front of you and them up, like in the top position of a press). Shoulder flexion is returning the arm to a lowered position in line with the torso.

We perform the exercises with these functions in mind, including a shoulder extension movement whereas some favor and argue for only including the elbow extension function.

Best Triceps Exercises

Lying Triceps Extension

This is the go-to that you know and love. Some people call these skull crushers, but we perform them so the bar moves safely superior to the head and also moves below the head (closer to the ground).

Use an EZ-curl bar is you have one. If not, a straight bar may be used.

Begin with the bar above your shoulder. Begin by bending or flexing your elbows, then finish by flexing your shoulders. It’s the reverse on the way up: extend your shoulders, then extend your elbows.

Ensure you start with your shoulders at the edge of the bench. The bar will hit the bench if you start too low on the bench.

Rolling Dumbbell Extension

These are performed very similarly to the lying triceps extensions, but you use dumbbells.

You start in the same position on the bench with straight arms over your shoulders. You lower with elbow flexion, then shoulder flexion, and raise with shoulder extension, then elbow extension.

One difference is that the grip will be neutral, so the length of the dumbbells will be parallel to the length of your body.

Though many do not have access to these if they train at home, and if they do they may need to take bigger weight jumps, adjustable dumbbells and dumbbell fractional plates make smaller jumps and dumbbells for the home gym warrior cheaper and more convenient than ever before.

Triceps Push Down

This requires a pulley system. Luckily, many pulley attachments have been manufactured for power racks, so you can add those to your home gym set up.

Use a flat handle and start with the handle high so you feel a stretch on your triceps.

Extend your shoulders first, then straighten your elbows. Ensure your elbows are fully extended in the bottom.

To raise the handle and the weights, bend your elbows, then flex your shoulders near the top.

Banded Triceps Push Down

This allows a triceps hypertrophy movement without dumbbells, and EZ curl bar, or a pulley system.

Loop a band around the pull-up bar. You can increase the difficulty by choosing a thicker band and grabbing the band at a higher point.

Perform like you would perform the triceps push down, but push your hands out to the side in the bottom.

Dip

This is a great compound exercise in its own right, and some people treat the dip as a primary upper body pressing exercise. It’s harder to incrementally load the dip, and some people cannot perform them or struggle with shoulder pain. It’s still a great exercise.

Many power racks have a dip attachment. If the handles are angled out, you can adjust the grip width for comfort.

As you lower yourself, lean your torso over (it becomes more horizontal).

In the bottom, your shoulder should be lower than your elbow.

Programming these Exercises

First Four Exercises

The first four exercises target the triceps muscles with the goal of hypertrophy (growing the muscle size). Sets striving to grow muscle tend to be at the 6-15 rep range, performed closer to failure (RPE 8-10).

To increase the stress of these exercises, you may start at the lower end of the range (e.g. 3×8) and when the lifter can no longer perform the movement 3 sets of 8, reduce the weight and increase the reps to 10 or 12 to increase the tonnage.

Oppositely, you may start at a higher rep range (3×15), add weight, and as the lifter cannot perform the prescribed reps, peel back reps (15 to 14…to 10 to 9 to 8).

How you prescribe these partly depends on the lifter’s goals and advancement, so at the beginning of a block  or conjugate program, when volume is high, you might program 3 or 4 sets of 12-15 reps. As the intensity goes up and volume goes down across the board (accumulation to transmutation or intensification to realization) volume gets peeled back for these accessory lifts as well, with the intensity increasing concomitantly.

Typically, you’ll see these at 2-5 sets for 6-15 reps.

Programming Dips

Dips, as a compound exercise, train more muscle mass and can be performed to improve strength, not simply increase muscle size, and some even perform dips for muscular endurance.

Because of the varied purposes dips are trained, you may see dips performed for 20+ reps for muscular endurance to weighting them with a dip belt and working up to a 1RM.

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