5 Most Effective Exercises For Building Your Triceps

Brad Borland
Written By: Brad Borland
June 25th, 2015
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Categories: Articles Training
70.3K Reads
5 Most Effective Exercises For Building Your Triceps
Take your triceps to the next level with these 5 triceps exercises that come with unique twists for maximum growth. Plus, there's a triceps routine you can try right away!

Let’s face it. When others ask you to strike a pose, it’s the biceps that gets all the attention.

But that little voice in your head reminds you that the triceps make up the majority of upper arm mass. What’s the use in having massive, peaked biceps without well-developed, muscular triceps to support them?

Below are 5 of the most effective exercises for building your triceps to bigger proportions. 5 tried and true mass builders guaranteed to pack on the muscle without the guesswork.

Yes, you have heard of a few of these before, but let’s also take each one and add a little twist regarding how you can add it to your current training program in a unique way.

1. Parallel Bar Dip

It doesn’t get more basic and brutal than the parallel bar dip. Manipulating your own bodyweight is a true display of control, power, and growth potential. What’s the use in using a ton of weight on triceps cable press-downs if you can’t perform a single dip? And since it’s a multi-joint, compound movement, you will recruit more muscle fibers - especially when you add weight with a dip belt.

5 Most Effective Exercises for Growing Your Triceps - Dips

The Twist: 21-style. You’ve heard of 21s for biceps curls, but why not apply the same intensity technique to dips? Take an upright position on the dip bars, lower your body with your elbows close to your sides and perform 7 reps in the lower half portion of the range of motion.

Next, perform 7 reps in the upper half portion and then, finally, perform 7 more reps with a full range of motion. If it proves too difficult at first, go with 5 reps for each phase or whatever you can attempt to start with.

2. Close-Grip Incline Bench Press

Another multi-joint staple to include in any highly effective triceps program is the close-grip bench press. Enabling you to use more weight than single-joint moves, this exercise lets you nail those triceps into submission without relying on cables or specific handles. A word of advice: Most individuals use too narrow of a grip. Try placing your hands approximately shoulder width apart on the bar and as you lower the weight try keeping your elbows by your sides.

5 Most Effective Exercises For Building Your Triceps - Close Grip Bench

The Twist: To make this move even more effective, perform the exercise on a decline bench. Think about it. Which position enables you to contract the triceps more: with your arms straight out in front of you or slightly lowered toward your body? The declined angle brings your arms down closer to your beltline for a better triceps contraction and more muscle involvement.

3. Diamond Push-Up

The diamond push-up, or close-hand position triceps push-up, is an underrated upper arm builder. Maybe those doubters are just doing it wrong. Using a pair of parallel handles or just the floor, place your hands close together with your forefinger and thumbs touching. Lower your body with your elbows travelling by your sides. Keeping your body in a rigid straight line, push yourself up for a hard triceps contraction.

5 Most Effective Exercises for Building Triceps - Diamond Push Ups

The Twist: If you're ready to level-up your diamond push-up game, try performing them with your feet elevated. The angle will apply more weight to your triceps.

If you’re up for even more of a challenge, try placing your hands on a small medicine ball to add an instability factor. Now you are putting your triceps through triple duty all while never utilizing a single weight.

4. Triceps Rack Press

A little known gem of an exercise is the triceps rack press. Much like diamond push-ups, it requires no additional weight and is fully adaptable to individual strength levels. Simply adjust a Smith machine bar or squat rack bar at waist level. Facing the floor, grip the bar as if you were about to perform an inverted lying French press. Keeping a straight posture, lower your body with the bar going toward your forehead. Press back up to the starting position.

5 Most Effective Exercises For Building Your Triceps - Rack Press

The Twist: After performing this exercise for some time you will find yourself getting rather proficient. Now it’s time to up the intensity. Start with the bar at knee level and perform reps as normal. Next, immediately raise the bar one notch or level and proceed with more reps.

Keep raising the bar a level every time you reach muscular failure. Each higher level will allow you to perform more reps due to the easier angle. The result will be one giant set of triceps-building intensity.

5. Lying French Press

The lying French press (or nosebreaker, skullcrusher, or other nicknames given) is nothing new to you, but one that bears mentioning for the simple fact that your form may need a quick check-up. Traditional description dictates that while lying down on your back flat on the bench and holding a barbell over your chest, you will bend at the elbows and lower the bar toward your forehead (hence the slang terms). Then, you will reverse direction of the bar and press the bar back to the starting position.

5 Most Effective Exercises For Building Your Triceps - skullcrushers

The Twist: You can instantly increase the intensity of this exercise one of two ways. First, to further isolate the triceps start the French press with your elbows back so the bar starts over your forehead. This will immediately put tension on your triceps. Lower the bar in an arch so it ends over and behind your head. Press the bar in reverse motion back to the angled position.

The second way to increase tension is to start the press with your arms completely parallel with the floor out over your head and lower the bar toward the ground for an intense stretch. Return the weight to the parallel positon for reps.

2 Effective Programs for Building your Triceps

Try each program once per week. For example, program A on Monday and program B on Thursday.

Program A

Exercise Sets Reps
Lying French Press (elbows back) 3 12-15
Parallel Bar Dip (21s style) 3 21
Feet-Elevated Diamond Push-Up 2-3 AMRAP

Program B

Exercise Sets Reps
Medicine Ball Triceps Push-Up 3 AMRAP
Decline Bench Close-Grip Bench Press 3-4 8-12
Triceps Rack Press Ladder 2-3 rounds


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