If you are looking to refresh your upper-body routine, adding in a few of the best triceps exercises out there is a good way to do so. Not only will these moves make your same old workout more interesting, but they will also help you get stronger both in and out of the gym.
Triceps exercises are super versatile—you can do them with a bunch of different kinds of equipment (say, a workout with dumbbells or kettlebells, a routine that uses a resistance band, or one that utilizes just your own bodyweight). That means you can get in a great arms workout whether you’re at the gym, doing a fitness class, or right in your own living room. There are tons of possibilities out there for working your triceps and the rest of your arms.
If you feel like your go-to triceps moves are getting kind of dull, and want to shake it up a bit, we have you covered with some of the best triceps exercises below. But before we get into these moves, let’s talk a little bit about your triceps muscles, and why showing them some strength-training attention can be so important.
What is your triceps muscle?
Your triceps is the muscle along the back of your upper arm that helps you extend your elbow and straighten your arm. The “tri” in the triceps comes from the fact that the muscle has three heads or points of origin: the long head, the lateral head, and the medial head.
The primary function of this back-of-the-arm muscle is to extend your elbow. That means it helps you do everything from pushing yourself up off the floor to placing an object on a high shelf, Lee Boyce, CPT, a strength coach based in Toronto, tells SELF. “The triceps assist with that last lockout strength, that strength to fully extend over the head.”
Why is training your triceps important?
Your triceps act as a synergist muscle, meaning that it assists your other pressing muscles, like your shoulders and chest, in pushing movements, Boyce explains. That means during strength training your triceps help your bigger muscles, like your pectoral muscles and deltoids, in exercises like the bench press or chest press, or the shoulder or overhead press.
“When it comes to exercises like a bench press, an overhead press, a push-up, or a dip, those exercises are going to rely on the triceps for a lot of finishing strength,” he says. “Triceps strength can definitely help with the stability and strength of those movements and then increase the overall force output or power potential that you can have.” So if your goal is to lift heavier weights or get stronger, working your triceps is important to get you there.
Triceps strength also plays an important part in your fitness outside of the gym. While it may sound strange that a muscle in your arms can help you run faster, it actually plays a vital role in your sprints, since it helps you kick your arms behind your body to propel you forward faster, Boyce says.
What’s the best way to train your triceps?
The best triceps exercises are not necessarily the ones that focus only on your triceps. In fact, if you are a beginner exerciser or are just looking to build general strength, the best way to work your triceps will probably be through combination of isolation exercises—single-joint exercises that really hone in on your triceps specifically—and compound movements, or multi-joint exercises, that recruit multiple muscle groups (like your shoulders and chest muscles), Boyce says. For instance, you may group your shoulders and triceps together in a shoulder and triceps workout or your chest and triceps in a chest and triceps routine.