10 Exercises That Target the Triceps


By: , – Jessica Smith, Certified Personal Trainer
3/4/2013 6:00 AM   :  48 comments   :  547,531 Views

Spring is around the corner, which means you'll be bringing your short sleeved and sleeveless tops out of storage in no time. Speaking of baring your arms: Are yours in tip-top shape? If not, you could help build strength and muscle tone in the most common problem area of the arms—the triceps—by adding some additional triceps exercises to your workout plan.

The primary function of the triceps brachii muscle is to extend (straighten) the elbow. It has three heads, or bundles (hence the name triceps), all of which connect at the elbow joint. And while this muscle plays a pretty important function in our daily activities, it also tends to be a body part we’re most motivated to focus on right around tank top season!

Whether you want to build strength or look great in a sleeveless shirt (or both), here are some of my favorite moves for toning up your triceps. The bonus with these is that many of them also target the shoulders, which can give you an even more defined and sculpted look.
Scroll below graphic to see actual workout names and instructions.

#1: Posterior Triceps Press with Band
The movement of this exercise engages the muscles in the back of the shoulder and the back of your arms (triceps). In this position, the triceps kick in to help lift your arm behind your body.

Start standing on a resistance band with right foot and hold onto other end with left hand. Stand closer to the handle you're holding for more resistance; further for less. Bend right knee and take a wide step back with left leg, hinging forward slightly from the hips with a straight back. Keeping the arm straight and palm facing behind you, press your arm back toward your hip. Hold for one count, and then lower. Try for 3 sets of 20 reps with each arm before switching sides.

#2: Overhead Triceps Extension with Band
A variation on a triceps extension (move #3), this exercise uses a band at an overhead angle to challenge the arm without stressing the joint.

Start in a split stance with left foot forward, right leg back, with the end of band under right foot. Stand closer to the handle you're holding for more resistance; further for less. Holding onto the end of band with your right hand, bend the right elbow and lift arm up by ear (band should be behind body). Extend arm up overhead, palm facing away from body, then bend to lower. Try for 3 sets of 15 reps with each arm.

#3: Overhead Triceps Extensions with Dumbbell
Another version of a triceps extension, this single arm overhead extension changes the angle of the arm slightly and is a great move to try when you are ready for heavier weights.

To do it, start standing with feet slightly wider than hips, holding one dumbbell overhead, palm facing away from body. Supporting elbow with opposite hand, bend arm and lower dumbbell in front of head and towards the front of the opposite shoulder. Extend arm back up to complete one rep.

Try up to 3 sets of 12 reps on each arm.

#4: Triceps Dips
Triceps dips are an efficient exercise that doesn’t require any additional equipment to work your arms, so you can do this one anytime, anywhere (even off the edge of the couch, chair, desk, counter or stairs!

To do it, start seated on the edge of a stable surface with hands on the edge just outside of hips. Walk feet slightly out and lift hips (keeping them close to edge). The further your walk the feet away from your hips, the harder this exercise will be. Bend elbows and lower hips toward the floor until arms are bent at about 90 degrees. Extend arms and press body back up to complete one rep. Try up to 3 sets of 15 reps.

#5: Single-Arm Triceps Kickbacks
Triceps kickbacks (or extensions) can be done in numerous angles, but one of my favorite positions for this move is from a quadruped (all fours) posture. Why? It encourages good form by allowing you to keep your back flat and supported during the arm extension so you get a lot more benefit (from challenge to support) from a single move.

To do it, start kneeling with a dumbbell (or end of an anchored resistance band) in one hand. Bend elbow up by side of the ribcage, keeping arm close to the body. Without moving the upper arm, straighten the elbow, reaching weight toward your hip. Return to bent position to complete one rep. Avoid swinging the weight and try to keep elbow in the same position (close to the side of the body) during the entire exercise. Try up to 3 sets of 15 reps on both sides.

#6: Kneeling Triceps Tap
This exercise that is an excellent body weight alternative to some harder moves like triceps push-ups. But don’t let it fool you, if you do enough reps, you’ll really challenge your arms!

Start on all fours and bend elbows to touch the floor just beneath the shoulders, keeping palms pressed flat on the floor. Brace abs in and press away from floor, straightening the elbows to complete one rep. Try up to 3 sets of 20 reps. Too easy? Make it more challenging by bringing knees further away from arms (as if in a modified push-up position).

#7: Bodyweight Triceps Presses
I love this multi-tasking move that not only will target your triceps but your abs too! It’s also a nice equipment-free alternative if dips are too tough for your shoulders or your wrists.

To do it, start seated with knees bent and together, feet flat on the floor. Lean back onto elbows, forearms and hands flat on the floor, and upper body propped up so that shoulders are directly over the elbows. Brace abs in tight and straighten the elbows, pressing back up into full seated position. Bend elbows and lower arms back to floor to complete one rep. If it’s too tough to go all the way back to the ground, simply bend elbows and lower as far back as possible and then press up from there. Try up to 3 sets of 20 reps.

#8: Triceps Skull Crushers
This triceps-targeting move can be done with a dumbbell or a weighted bar, and really adds the extra resistance of gravity with the angle of this extension.

Start lying on back on the floor or a weight bench, with knees bent, feet flat, holding ends of one heavier dumbbell or a bar (keep hands close together if using a bar). Bend elbows and lower weight towards forehead, making sure elbows stay above shoulders as they bend. Extend arms back up to complete one rep. Try up to 3 sets of 15 reps.

#9: Triceps Push-Ups
This push-up variation, common in Pilates and yoga, puts more emphasis on the triceps, though the chest and shoulders are also activated in this movement.

To do it, start in a modified (or full) push-up position with hands placed under shoulders. Keeping spine straight and abs tight bend elbows and lower chest towards floor, keeping elbows close to the ribcage and pointing them back—not to the sides. Press back up to complete one rep. Try for 3 sets of up to 12 reps.

#10: Close Grip Chest Press
Basically an upside down triceps push up, this move can be a great way to build up strength for tougher moves such as push-ups and dips. A closer grip on a weight or bar helps target the triceps more than a traditional (wider grip) chest press.

Start lying on back on the floor or a weight bench, with knees bent, feet flat, holding dumbbells with palms facing away from body. Bend elbows in by sides (arms should touch the sides of your torso as they bend) then press back up. Try up to 3 sets of 15 reps.

How many of these triceps moves are part of your workout plan? What’s your favorite move for toning the triceps?

About the Author
As someone who struggled to lose weight for years, Jessica found that the key to her own 40-pound weight loss was making small, healthy lifestyle changes that led to big, lasting results. Now, as a certified wellcoach, fitness instructor and personal trainer, she has spent the last 15 years helping students and clients reach their goals in New York City, Los Angeles and Miami, and now reaches millions online through her YouTube Channel and home exercise DVD series. Please visit jessicasmithtv.com/shop to learn more about her fun, results driven programs for all levels of exercisers.
All Photos by Vanessa Rogers Photography.

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  • 48
    Someone asked how to save this to favourites - just click on 'More' and the option is in there. (Well, it is on my page!) Good Luck. - 10/2/2015   6:18:17 AM
  • 47
    These are great! I also checked out the Wall Triangle Pushups and did 2 sets. WOW...that was a good triceps and shoulder workout. Since I'm still fighting pain from having frozen shoulder, I think these wall pushups will really help my shoulders! - 10/1/2015   1:00:12 PM
  • 46
    Standing overhead rope pulls on cable weights, forward and reverse. For the triceps and the arms. - 9/3/2015   3:53:06 PM
    If i start now by next spring/summer I'll be absolutely amazing (well, at least my arms will). Thanks. - 8/4/2015   8:56:38 AM
  • 44
    I work out with Jessica five days a week, thanks to You Tube! While I have not done this specific routine, I have done many of these moves...they are some of her favorites. I use a sturdy chair for the "dips" and will do push-ups using a chest high counter (or you can use a wall) on days when my knees aren't happy with me. My bat wings aren't gone, yet they aren't flapping as much as they once were! - 8/4/2015   6:50:23 AM
  • 43
    Flappy arms be gone :) - 4/11/2015   1:22:28 PM
  • 42
    Thanks!! This is perfect for me, I needed to tone up a bit my flabby triceps! :) - 3/12/2015   9:27:22 AM
  • 41
    Looks great! Thanks! Is there a way to add any of these directly to the fitness tracker?

    The link to SAVE an article now is under the "more" tab. I don't know why they did it. Frustrating! - 9/6/2014   4:23:34 AM
  • RIDHA91
    that 10 triceps wonderful to change the body,, goood about-toweightloss.blogspot.com - 8/25/2014   4:46:23 AM
  • AMBER461
    Thanks for posting this. - 5/30/2014   10:04:45 PM
  • AMBER461
    Thanks for posting this. - 5/30/2014   10:04:43 PM
  • AMBER461
    Thanks for posting this. - 5/30/2014   10:04:39 PM
  • AMBER461
    Thanks for posting this. - 5/30/2014   10:04:29 PM
    I've done most of these, especially with dumb bells, over the past few months. Still remember the day I realized I could do multiple tricep dips! However, it should be mentioned that the dreaded "batwings" will not go away just with these exercises. They are just deposits of loose fat, the muscle is underneath them, just like abs. Eating right and cardio are needed too...it always seems to go back to that! - 5/30/2014   2:51:13 PM
  • 34
    These exercises are great and work to target the triceps and should be working fine with the vegan diet that I am on some say I see results my August 2014. - 5/29/2014   3:56:07 PM
  • 33
    I was just looking for the same thing. can we no longer save articles to favorites?

    Well, couldn't find how to save it, so I pinned it to one of my pinterest boards. :) Next best thing. - 5/29/2014   3:18:32 PM
  • 32
    How can I save this in my favorites? I can't find it.. :( - 5/29/2014   11:25:32 AM
  • 31
    Thank you so much! I appreciate that you show this using equipment I don't have to buy! Now maybe I can get rid of my granny arms! - 5/29/2014   10:10:42 AM
  • 30
    Just what I need!!! Thank you so much!! - 5/29/2014   10:02:28 AM
  • 29
    Oh I like these. I'm always wondering what other exercises I can do to hit this area. Duh! - 5/29/2014   10:01:34 AM
    Great information! - 5/29/2014   9:58:31 AM
  • SIOL55
    Thanks for posting this. - 5/29/2014   8:52:56 AM
  • 26
    Great information! Thank you - 5/29/2014   7:41:23 AM
  • 25
    This looks really good Thank you! - 5/29/2014   1:01:43 AM
    Pretty good info... - 12/19/2013   11:23:49 PM
    Just what I needed to see - Project Batwing Removal - Thanks !! :) - 11/27/2013   10:26:03 AM
  • MAXXINE331
    Interesting!!! - 9/16/2013   2:28:53 PM
  • 21
    Operation Batwings commences tonight! Booyah! - 7/25/2013   2:19:21 PM
  • 20
    I do most of these at weight lifting class. my favorite is the dips and I do mine with a 22 lb. weigh plate on my lap. I also love the skull crushers. Cool move. - 4/18/2013   10:45:27 PM
  • 19
    Great series of tricep exercises! Pinned it! - 4/18/2013   2:08:16 AM
  • 18
    how do I save this to my favorites? I dopn't see that option - 4/10/2013   3:50:52 PM
  • 17
    Never did 6 and 7. Good addition to repertoire. - 4/1/2013   8:10:08 PM
  • 16
    do you do all of these or just pick 2 or 3? - 3/31/2013   8:37:01 PM
  • 15
    I need to work these in. I have no arm strength - 3/8/2013   1:50:21 AM
  • 14
    I will be trying some of these - some are out of my ability because of injuries - 3/5/2013   3:36:03 PM
    Due to physical disabilities I can't do any floor exercises but a few of the others look good. - 3/5/2013   11:59:16 AM
    With my bad knee and way to much weight it is "VERY" hard for me to do any floor exercises. Can you change it up a little and still get a good turn out? - 3/5/2013   10:22:15 AM
  • 11
    You've got to log in to save this to favorites (scroll to the bottom and log in to make comments even if you don't mean to make a comment). The scroll up, and you'll have your save option in the left margin. The question is why you have to log in to this section of the site if you're already logged in to every other part. ;) - 3/5/2013   9:51:46 AM
  • 10
    I hate all of them, but I love getting them over with! - 3/4/2013   11:50:37 PM
  • 9
    I love that you can save these in favorites. - 3/4/2013   4:01:29 PM
  • MELK18
    Hello just wanted how many calories are burned in this work out? - 3/4/2013   12:53:19 PM
  • 7
    OH , now I see it, I was going to ask how I can save this, however; after logging in I immediately saw the saved button. This is a keeper.. ty I was just thinking of searching it the other day and am so glad to see it here. :D :))))))) - 3/4/2013   12:39:39 PM
  • 6
    oh wow I AM so pleased, I couldn't find the save button, then I logged in and there it was! I was just making a mental note to research this today.. Okay , here it is it's definetly a keeper. THANKS for the info :D :))) - 3/4/2013   12:38:00 PM
    Gonna get started with these right away -- I've been trying to keep steady with triceps exercises over the winter, but this is motivating me to really kick it up a notch especially with summer around the corner! - 3/4/2013   12:04:09 PM
  • 4
    sorry, but those are not tricep dips. Those are bench dips. Tricep dips put more stress on the triceps and you need dip bars to do them. They are my favorite triceps exercise, and they are also a lot of fun! - 3/4/2013   9:22:50 AM
  • 3
    Looks great. I can't do the floor exercises yet but will save this information. Thanks! - 3/4/2013   9:07:21 AM
  • 2
    Im going to commit to these exercises everyday. - 3/4/2013   8:57:30 AM
  • 1
    Thanks for posting this! Very helpful! - 3/4/2013   7:33:09 AM

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