The fitness fever is all over and scrolling through Instagram watching passionate people build up is simply amazing. Having beautifully sculpted arms will make a short dressy top look even more gorgeous and sexy. And that is the power of fitness, it makes you look confident and feel healthy and happy. Training harder and longer can turn out to be good but this tactic could only work to a certain extent after which your results might actually start to diminish. The trick to building up well and right is to dedicate your workouts towards particular areas of improvement to see good results. This requires understanding the areas of problem and shifting your focus and resources towards building up the same. One such area of interest should be your triceps. The triceps, unlike common knowledge, isn’t just one but a combination of three heads that need individual attention. Here are the best exercises that provide individual attention to the three heads of your triceps to improve.
Understand The Triceps
Best Triceps Exercise for Lateral Head
1. Tricep Pushdown
- Have a handle attached to a high-pulley cable and grasp it with your hands.
- Bend your knees slightly and lean forward at the waist and make sure your elbows are positioned close to your sides. Your forearms should be parallel to the floor.
- Look straight and ensure your back stays flat and your abs feel tight.
- Now flex your triceps and do not move your elbows during this process. Press the bar towards the floor and extend your arms completely.
- Hold in the position for about a second before you relax back to your starting position.
2. Close Grip Bench Press
- Lie down on a bench or you can also step holding a barbell. Make sure your hands are shoulder width apart.
- Start by bending your elbows and hovering the barbell slightly above the rib cage.
- While pressing the weight make sure the effort is on the triceps area.
- Relax and repeat the steps.
Best Triceps Exercise for Medial Head
1. Rope Pushdown
- Hold the rope with your hands near the knotted end and ensure your elbow is bent at 90 degrees and placed near the torso when you start with the exercise.
- Start by extending your arms and taking your hands down towards the floor one at a time.
- Spread the rope to either side so as to contract the triceps muscles.
- Bring them back to the starting position and repeat.
- By using an underhand grip for normal triceps push down you can ensure the medial head is trained. (Debatable point)
- Lie down face up with your back flat on the bench and place your feet firmly on the ground. Hold the EZ bar with a narrow grip and extend it to arm’s length.
- Ensure your upper arms are placed rigid and bend your elbows slightly and bring the bar towards your forehead.
- Stop slightly close to your forehead and use your tricep to move back to the starting position.
Best Triceps Exercise Long Head
1. Incline Dumbbell Triceps Kickbacks
When it come to isolation exercise for triceps long head Incline Dumbbell Triceps Kickback is most effective one. This exercise specifically targets the log head of triceps. According to EMG study by Boehren’s and Buskies this is the best long head activating exercise.
- Start by lying on the incline bench with your chest facing the bench.
- Take dumbbells on your hands and lock your upper arm close to lats.
- Move your lower arms back till they are parallel with the body, fully flex at your elbows and hold this position for 1-2 seconds.
- Slowly come back to the starting state.
2. Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension:
- Start by holding the dumbbell in one hand. Make sure you are seated in the position or for the standing variation keep your feet shoulder width apart. Now extend your arm with this dumbbell over your head.
- Make sure your upper arm is close to your head with your elbow in and the position should be perpendicular to the floor. Slowly lower the resistance in a circular motion slightly behind your head and move till your forearm touches your biceps. Your forearm should be doing all the work while your upper arm must be stationary.
- Go back to the starting position.
3. Barbell Kickback
- Start by standing straight with your feet shoulder width apart. Grab the barbell with your arms facing forward.
- Engaging the abdominals to sit back slightly into a squat extend your arms to move upwards.
- Ensure your arm is straight at all times of the exercise.
- Come back to the starting position and repeat the same.
Best Triceps Exercises Based on Overall EMG (Electromyography)
In this section we are going to discuss about various research studies and their observations.
Best Compound Exercises for Triceps
In 2011 Saeterbakken and his colleagues compared the EMG data of barbell press, smith machine press and dumbbell bench press. They found that barbell press, smith machine press produced more triceps activity than dumbbell bench press.
In 2013 Saeterbakken & Fimland conducted a similar comparison study between barbell and dumbbell shoulder press, they found that barbell shoulder press produced greater triceps muscle activity than dumbbell shoulder press
Barnett compared the triceps muscle activation between barbell bench press and shoulder press. He found that the barbell bench press produced more triceps activation than shoulder press.
Best Body Weight Exercises for Triceps
EMG activity of long head, lateral head and medial head of triceps muscle during bebch dips (arms behind), bar dips and push-ups:
|From Boeckh-Behrens & Buskies 2000|
By observing the EMG data we can conclude that-
- Best body weight exercises for lateral and medial heads: Bench dips and bar dips
- Best body weight exercises for long head: Bar dips and push-ups
- In a similar study conducted in University of Wisconsin found that diamond push-ups produced superior triceps muscle activity than dips
Best Triceps Exercises EMG
- John Porcari and Brittany Boehler conducted a research study to determine efficacy of the six common gym triceps exercises and two body weight triceps exercise. For the analysis they recruited 15 females, ages 20 to 24. On the first day they determined their 1 RM and on the second day electromyographic (EMG) analysis is done with 70% of one rep max.
|Kickbacks||87 ± 26.58|
|87 ± 19.87|
|76 ± 16.09|
|Rope Triceps |
|74 ± 22.64|
|Triceps Bar |
|67 ± 20.48|
|Skull Crushers||62 ± 16.25|
|Close Grip |
|62 ± 15.88|
- EMG activity comparison between 7 exercises:
Here I am including another comparison data obtained from Boeckh-Behrens & Buskies 2000.
In this data EMG activity of triceps medial head, triceps lateral head and triceps long head are compared during cable pushdowns, skull crushers, shoulder width neck press, dumbbell kickbacks, overhead single arm dumbbell extension, incline bench dumbbell kickbacks and seated Ez bar triceps extensions
|(Data from Boeckh-Behrens & Buskies 2000)|
An interesting observation from this analysis is that Lying Ez bar Extension targets lateral head while Seated Ez Bar Extension give more emphasis towards long head.
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Harold Camaya is a blogger who loves to write in different verticals. Presently she is writing for houseofpain.com. Her hobbies are traveling and reading.