Tricep workouts – Variations, Technique, Safety Tips

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Muscular man doing bench triceps dips during outdoor cross training workout.

Triceps are the largest muscle group in the arms, making up 60% of the upper arm. For more toned and defined arms, here are some of the best tricep workouts.

A tricep workout is one of the best arm workouts to make your arms look toned and more defined!

Having strong triceps is key for people who want to train other muscle groups or perform movements that require elbow extension.

Anatomy of triceps

The triceps brachii [1]National Library of Medicine: Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Triceps Muscle, commonly known as triceps, is a large, thick muscle group located on the upper arms.  It consists of three heads—a long head, a lateral head, and a medial head.

The main function of the triceps brachii is to extend the forearm at the elbow joint. Besides this, the triceps also stabilize the shoulder joint and help in doing fine movements like writing.

As you work out on your triceps, their strength and stability, along with that of your elbows and shoulders, will also increase. This eventually increases flexibility, movement, and range of motion of the arm.

7 best tricep workouts to build muscles

If you are wondering how to get bigger triceps muscles, given below are some of the best triceps exercises for you. Some of these exercises can be easily done without having to hit the gym. 

1. Triceps Push Down

Muscles Worked: Tricep brachii, latissimus dorsi, obliques, pectorals, trapezius.

Benefits: Tones your arms and works muscles throughout your upper body.

How to do

  • Stand tall and face the cable machine with your feet placed nearly shoulder-width apart.
  • Grip the handle of the machine with your palms facing down. 
  • Keep the spine straight and core engaged. 
  • Keep your elbows at around 45 degrees but locked in place.
  • Inhale. While bending at the elbows, push the handle down until your arms are fully extended while exhaling. 
  • Hold for a few seconds, inhale and bring the arms back to the starting position. 

Summary: If you work out in the gym, triceps push-down is one of the simplest tricep workouts to consider. According to the ACE study [2]American Council on Exercise: ACE-sponsored Research: Best Triceps Exercises, the triceps kickback is one of the most efficient triceps exercises, with a muscle activation rate of about 88%.

2. Triceps kickback

Muscles Worked: Tricep brachii.

Benefits: Enhances flexibility and stability in arms and shoulders.

 How to do

  • Hold a light dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing each other. 
  • Lean forward with slightly bent knees.
  • Maintain a straight spine and tight core while hinging forward at the waist. Your head should be in line with your spine.
  • Tuck your chin in slightly.
  • With this form and dumbbells at 90 degrees, extend your arms backward.
  • Return them to the starting position.

Summary: Tricep kickbacks are a great way to tone your triceps brachii muscles. To get bigger muscles in no time, add this exercise to your at-home tricep workouts. For tricep workouts at the gym, you can rely on cable triceps kickback. 

3. Dumbbell overhead triceps extensions

Muscles Worked: Tricep brachii.

Benefits: Targets the long head and builds tricep strength and size.

How to do

  • Stand tall with your knees slightly bent and your spine straight. 
  • Grab a dumbbell with both your hands, palms facing inwards and fingers interlocked.
  • Take it at the back of your head in a central position such that your arms are bent at 90 degrees.
  • Keeping core tight, inhale and drive the weight up while exhaling. Extend your arms straight.
  • Pause for a few seconds on the top and bring it back to the starting position.

Summary: The overhead triceps extensions are one of the easiest and most effective triceps workouts with dumbbells. The triceps extension primarily targets the long head of the triceps. 

4. Single-arm low cable triceps extension

Muscles Worked: Tricep brachii, latissimus dorsi, anconeus, chest, deltoid.

Benefits: Targets the medial head and builds stronger arms. 

How to do

  • Grab a single handle of the low pulley machine with your left arm. Get into a staggered stance with the pulley handle behind your head.
  • Use your right hand to hold your moving arm in place.
  • Keeping the elbow close to your ears, straighten your left arm, holding the pulley. 
  • Inhale and bring it down behind you in a semi-circular motion behind your head until your forearm touches your biceps.
  • Go back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.
  • Perform the movement on the right arm.

Summary: The single-arm low cable triceps extension is a single-joint isolation exercise that is performed by attaching a single-grip handle to a pulley cable. It is similar to the cable overhead triceps extension. However, it uses a low-pulley machine. 

5. Tricep Dips

Muscles Worked: Triceps, pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, deltoids, rhomboids.

Benefits: One of the best tricep exercises to increase muscular power.

How to do

  • Place your hands on the edge of the bench such that they are shoulder-width apart and your thumbs face each other. 
  • Extend your arms and feet and balance on your heels. 
  • Keeping back straight and core engaged, inhale, and slowly lower yourself until your arms are at 90 degrees. Exhale as you do so.
  • Pause for a few seconds and raise yourself up while exhaling. Make sure not to arch your back. Lock your elbows fully while doing so.

Summary: Bench dips are one of the most effective dips exercises that you need to add to your weekly triceps workouts. This tricep dip exercise involves a bench and your body weight to develop stronger triceps. Once you start making progress, you can add a light dumbbell between your thighs for more efficacy. 

6. Close-Grip Bench Press

Muscles Worked: Tricep, anterior deltoid, chest, shoulders, and bicep muscles.

Benefits: Encourages hypertrophy or muscle growth in the arms.

 How to do

  • Lie on a flat bench with your shoulder blades resting on it.
  • Hold the barbell with a narrow grip and bring it down to your lower chest until your elbows are close to your body. 
  • When the barbell touches your chest, press it up to the original position to complete a rep.

Summary: Although the close-grip bench press is regarded as a chest exercise, it effectively trains your triceps, biceps, and shoulders if done rightly. 

7. Straight Bar Dips

Muscles Worked: Tricep brachii, latissimus dorsi, pectoralis major, anterior deltoids.

Benefits: Strengthens the muscles of the triceps, chest, and shoulders. 

How to do

  • Grip a straight bar with an overhand grip.
  • With your core engaged, raise your body above the bar until your arms are fully extended.
  • Lower your body down until your lower chest touches the bar. Do not let your feet touch the ground. 
  • Press up with your arms and back to the starting position.

Summary: Straight bar dips tend to target the triceps while emphasizing the chest muscles.  This tricep exercise is one of the most effective tricep workouts for men.

Common mistakes when doing triceps exercises

Make the most of your tricep workouts by avoiding the below-mentioned common mistakes while exercising:

Flaring the elbows and rushing

While performing tricep exercises, make sure your elbows are locked in place to ensure your triceps are fully engaged during the exercise. 

Also, make sure you start with a slow tempo to reap the maximum benefits.

Not engaging the core during overhead extensions

During overhead lifts, you need to ensure your body is in a stable form. An engaged core will allow you to do so by offering the desired stability. 

Arching the lower back

While executing a triceps workout that requires you to lift a weight, most people arch their back. To prevent such scenarios, rely on lighter weights that can be comfortably used to train your tricep muscles.

Safety tips to follow

Strong triceps are essential for training other muscle groups [3]Journal of Clinical Medicine Research: Functions of the Triceps Brachii in Humans: A Review.  To perform your tricep workouts safely and effectively, we recommend following these safety measures:

  1. Warm up before every workout session to prevent the risks of injuries or muscle strains.
  2. Do not do more than 3 sets of isolation exercises, such as overhead triceps extension.
  3. Rest for a minute or two in between the sets for muscle recovery.
  4. Start with a lighter weight and slow tempo. Once you progress in strength and stamina, you can add more weight.
  5. Mix up different exercises for a single workout routine for maximum benefits and to keep your sessions interesting. 
  6. Always keep your elbows locked in place during triceps exercises. 
  7. If you are a beginner, exercise in the presence of a professional trainer. 


A series of tricep workouts, if done rightly under the supervision of a certified personal trainer, will help you get stronger, toned, and taut upper arms. Pick a few of your favorite tricep exercises while switching up your routine and perform them consistently to get the desired results.


1 National Library of Medicine: Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Triceps Muscle
2 American Council on Exercise: ACE-sponsored Research: Best Triceps Exercises
3 Journal of Clinical Medicine Research: Functions of the Triceps Brachii in Humans: A Review

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