5 Best Triceps Exercises You’ve Never Heard Of
Have you ever heard this before: Hey, show me your triceps? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Our triceps get little love in the physique world. Our selfies carry plenty of biceps, abs and chest shots with little attention given to those lonely little triceps muscles hidden away behind our upper arms. Those poor little guys.
For one reason or another, your triceps lag your biceps development despite the apparent real estate the backs of your arms can build upon. Since your triceps (tri meaning three) possess three heads versus biceps (bi meaning two) only having two it goes without saying that there should be a size difference.
Look at it this way – fully developed triceps help more than just the numbers on the tape measure. They provide real world strength and function regarding their involvement in all pressing exercises. Furthermore, they assist in many exercises requiring stability and indirect strength. Without real triceps strength your physique not only looks out of whack but will also function out of whack as well.
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So we’ve established you need more triceps – size, strength, function, the whole gambit. But you may be in a position in which you’ve tried all of the tricks in the training handbook. You’ve filled your proverbial plate with hefty portions of lying barbell extensions, close-grip bench presses and, of course, any and all cable work. But you’re perched on that plateau like a cat in a flood. What to do?
Below are five triceps exercises you may have never heard of. Five out-of-the-box moves guaranteed to kick you off that plateau and get you growing again. Try them, work them and maybe next time someone asks you to flex, roll up those sleeves and give them something they least expect.
5 Best Triceps Exercises – You’ve Likely Never Performed
#1 – Incline close-grip bench press
You must know by now that to beef up your triceps you need to utilize the big, compound, multi-joint exercises that enable you to use the most amount of weight to overload the targeted area. Close-grip bench presses accomplish this big time. You probably even include these in your current program, but you might either experience too much chest strain and not enough stress on your triceps or your shoulders take over.
You want to keep the big exercises in your program and don’t want to rely too much on isolated cable work. You need to keep them but make them work better.
By adding an incline component to the close-grip bench press you circumvent a few of these setbacks. One, you put the shoulder joint into a stronger position to make the exercise safer on that area. Two, you increase the range of motion and third, you actually make the exercise harder at the inclined angle.
You may not be able to use the same amount of weight as with the flat bench version but the stress will be new to your triceps. This small adjustment may just be what your triceps need to start growing again. Note: Take a shoulder-width grip on the bar as a narrower grip could aggravate your wrists.
#2 – Triceps rack press
Too many lifters scoff and turn up their noses at bodyweight training. Too light, not enough weight to really make any improvements they say. This type of training isn’t just for grade school anymore. I’ve seen plenty of big benchers struggle to get through a set of push-ups and strong dead lifters and rowers fail to get even a single rep of pull-ups.
There are too many benefits of bodyweight training to get through here but the ability to manipulate your own body through several planes of motion is a true test of real-world strength and control. The overall message here is to not knock it until you try it. Your triceps are the perfect guinea pigs for this type of training.
The triceps rack press is the perfect challenge for your triceps without the unnecessary elbow joint strain that lying extensions may cause. Set-up a bar on the squat rack or Smith machine approximately hip level. Facing the bar grasp it with an overhand grip out in front of your body. Keeping your body in a straight line from your shoulders to your feet and step back until you are in somewhat of a push-up position.
With your arms straight, bend at your elbows lowering your forehead toward the bar as if you were doing a lying extension. Pause at the bottom and then reverse the direction and squeeze your triceps at the top position.
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#3 – Suspension trainer triceps press
Yes, another bodyweight style exercise sure to challenge more than just your triceps. Not enough can be said about the advantages of suspension trainers such as the TRX Trainer. They provide, or should I say reduce your stability during any exercise so that the targeted area will have to work double-duty during the movement.
At first, this may seem like a disadvantage but think about it – placing more stress on your triceps without actually adding more weight is unique to say the least. Many supportive muscles will have to pitch in as well in order to stabilize and properly execute the exercise.
As with the triceps rack press assume a downward facing position with the suspension trainer handles in each hand. With your feet behind you and your body forming a straight line, make sure you are keeping your midsection tight throughout the exercise. Bend only at the elbows as you lower your body toward the floor.
Your hands and handles should pass alongside your head giving your triceps a wicked stretch. Once at the bottom, reverse the direction and slowly extend your arms straight again actively contracting your triceps. Be sure to perform this movement slowly and under the strictest control.
#4 – Incline one-arm hammer extension
Any comprehensive triceps program needs to include several angles of attack. They can be overloaded with multi-joint exercises as well as specific moves that mainly stretch and contract. Think of overhead extensions and press-downs, respectively. Including an isolation exercise or two can be highly beneficial for several reasons.
Unilateral (single limb) exercises can help decrease any strength imbalances evening out your arms and isolation moves can also get you more “in touch” with your triceps by specifically targeting that area and creating that lactic acid build-up pushing it further than with multi-joint exercises alone.
One-arm triceps exercises are ideal just for those objectives and the one-arm hammer triceps extension is the perfect remedy. Position yourself on an incline bench set around 30 or so degrees. Lie back with a dumbbell in one hand and extend it straight up overhead with your palm facing in.
Bending only at the elbow lower the weight back and behind you alongside your head. You should feel an intense stretch in your triceps as you lower the dumbbell slowly. Extend all the way back with as much range of motion as possible before returning to the top. Additionally, angle your upper arm slightly back so you keep constant tension on the muscle group.
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#5 – Med ball elevated triceps push-up
We’ve already established that instability training is advantageous to your training outcomes. Recruiting the most amounts of muscle fibers per exercise isn’t only effective but extremely efficient, especially for those short on time.
Normally, big compound exercises are best for instability training techniques but that doesn’t mean that your triceps can’t benefit too. Med ball elevated triceps push-ups include several factors to make this simple move one of the more challenging in your potential arsenal.
Start by cupping your hands around a small medicine ball – the size of a volley ball. Make sure you have a firm grip without risk of slipping. Next, place your feet on a low bench and assume a push-up position. You should be in an angled plank-like alignment. Lower your body slowly by bending at your elbows and keeping them close to your sides as you descend.
Stop just before your chest touches the med ball. Reverse the direction paying close attention to balancing on the med ball and, again, keeping your elbows by your sides. Come up and lock your triceps into the contracted position squeezing hard for a count. Repeat for reps.
The Unheard of Triceps Workout
- Suspension trainer triceps press 3 x 10-12
- Incline close-grip bench press 4 x 6-8
- Incline one-arm hammer extension 3 x 10-12 or med ball elevated triceps push-up 3 x as many as possible