We all know about the dumbbell overhead triceps extension or performing close-grip barbell presses to increase the emphasis placed on our triceps, but what about the more advanced tricep exercises to surpass any triceps muscle building plateaus?
There are actually several tricep exercises that I have become quite fond of and they have truly increased the size of this muscle group significantly.
I state that they’re advanced because most of them put you in an uncomfortable position that requires a little experience to perform them properly. As a trainer, I’d recommend at least 6 months lifting experience because you should have developed better form and execution of basic movements by this point.
Note: Muscle building plateaus are when you keep training a muscle region but nothing seems to work anymore, which is like hitting a wall that you need to break through to start developing muscle again.
Let’s take a look at the anatomy of our triceps to get a better idea of how everything pans out, and then push on to the advanced tricep exercises.
Anatomy of the Triceps Brachii
The triceps brachii is the largest muscle on the upper arm located on the backside (posterior). There are three distinct muscle heads, thus the reason for the “Tri-“ in its name. The muscle heads are:
- Long Head
- Lateral Head
- Medial Head
This muscle allows your arms to have the ability to extend and retract the forearm. Your biceps help with this as well. When your triceps are contracted, your forearm naturally extends away from your elbow, and when your triceps relax the forearm is able to retract. This muscle also plays a vital role with the shoulder joint as well.
Your shoulders have the highest range of motion out of all the joints within your body, which allows it to move and rotate a numerous directions.
This ability to freely move, for the most part, is what makes it the most unstable joint as well.
The chances of injuring your shoulders are basically pretty high. However, your triceps help stabilize this joint, which means stronger triceps allow you to have better shoulder and chest training days.
Have you ever failed your chest pressing exercises with your pecs feeling unused? That’s because your triceps are weak and failed early preventing you from getting a good chest workout in.
Let’s take a look at some triceps pumping exercises to implement into your next arm training day.
#1: Decline Dumbbell Skull Crushers (Dumbbell Extensions)
Dumbbell skull crushers are pretty effective at targeting your triceps muscle, but performing them at a downward slant may be even more beneficial for you. The lying down position that causes this slant has an ability to make the contraction against your triceps deeper.
You also have better control of the movement once you get your form down properly. For more info on this exercise I covered it in more depth on STACK.
Here are the steps to perform them correctly:
- Set both dumbbells at the end of the decline bench where your shoulders will land.
- Lace your feet within the foam rollers to prevent sliding.
- Once lying down, grasp a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip (facing in).
- Bring the dumbbells up to your hips and press them away from your body fully extending your elbows. (leave a slight bend in them) This is starting point.
- Keeping upper arms stationary and elbows in; begin to breathe in as you lower the dumbbells simultaneously towards your head until your thumbs are at your ears.
- Contract the elbows and naturally breathe out as you extend your forearms forward.
- Repeat movements until desired volume has been completed for the decline dumbbell skull crushers.
Note: You can use an EZ-Bar as well. The same concept applies.
#2: Reverse Grip Tricep Bench Press
Close-grip bench press is okay for your triceps, but the reverse grip movement places a lot more emphasis on your triceps. Now, I’m not talking about a wide grip while performing this exercise.
That targets your upper chest. I’m talking about elbows tucked close to your sides and the bar stays around your nipples while going both up and down on the press. Here are the steps for the reverse triceps bench press:
- Lie down on the flat bench and get it regular benching position. (you shouldn’t be doing these if you don’t know flat bench positioning)
- Place your palms shoulder width apart with a pronated grip (palms facing away).
- Press the bar off the rack and slowly lower it down to rest on your lower chest. Reverse your grip from pronated to supinated (palms facing towards you).
- Maintaining your shoulder width grip; tuck your elbows close to your body and press up by contracting your triceps muscles.
- Lower the bar straight back down to around your nipples and repeat reverse grip triceps bench press until desired volume has been reached.
#3: Weighted Tricep Dips
Okay, so this isn’t a “unique” triceps exercise, but it’s advanced and honestly not performed enough. Dips come in a couple of variants targeting your chest or triceps.
Shoulders get a pretty good training as well with either variant. In order to get better emphasis on your triceps; slightly bring your hands and inch or two back further than being exactly at your sides while on the bar.
In order to create resistance, you need a weight belt that has a chain attached allowing you to safely place weight plates on. Here are the steps to performing weighted triceps dips:
- Place the weight belt on with desired load and stand in the middle of the two bars.
- Grasp the bars and lift yourself off the ground.
- Position hands back just enough to not be exactly at your sides.
- Try to keep your upper body as straight as possible while performing the contraction and relaxation of your triceps.
- Lower your body down ensuring your feet don’t touch the floor while inhaling.
- Exhale and contract your triceps to push your body back up.
- Repeat the triceps dips for the desired amount of volume.
Note: You can hold a dumbbell between your feet for the extra resistance, but this could cause an accident.
#4: Close-Grip EZ-Bar Press
Okay, so close-grip barbell presses are pretty decent for your triceps training, but using an EZ-Bar makes takes the exercise to another level. This is by far one of the best exercises you can perform for triceps training, and it has a lot to do with the curve found on the bar.
A great tip to consider is to imagine trying to bring your hands in while pressing. The benefit of doing this little trick is to increase triceps contractions. Here are the steps to performing close-grip EZ-Bar presses:
- Stand with your back to the flat bench holding the EZ-Bar at your hips or wherever your arms naturally fall to.
- Slowly walk back and lie down on the flat bench bringing the bar to the lower portion of your chest.
- Place your hands close together around the area of the curve on the EZ-Bar, and keep your elbows in close together.
- Press the weight from your body straight up. This is your starting point.
- Inhale as you lower the weight to your lower chest, and then exhale to press the weight back up.
- Repeat close-grip EZ-Bar presses for the desired volume chosen.
#5: Overhead Cable Rope Tricep Extensions
This is by far my favorite advanced tricep exercise to perform. Using the cable machine for tricep training is amazing especially when your workout switches between free weights and cable movements on the same day.
When performing the exercise don’t simply do the vertical extension as if you had a dumbbell. Instead, you want to swing your hands out each time you pull the rope. Watch the short clip of me performing them below to have a better idea of what I’m talking about.
Stretch in Between Sets of Triceps Exercises
The best thing to do for your muscle is stretching them out while you perform a triceps exercises, which especially applies to you arm based workouts. Static stretching helps increase the flexibility of your joints and allows your blood to start pumping nutrients to muscles for better training.
Use moderately-heavy loads for the 6-8 reps, and moderate loads for each of the 8-10 reps exercises to obtain the best results.