The Best Tricep Exercises for Ultimate Muscle Growth

Lexi Lutz
Reading Time: 9 minutes
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Between overhead tricep exercises and tricep pushdowns and so many others, there are plenty of fun and effective ways to target those tricep muscles and really isolate muscle growth.

In this post, I’ll teach you why isolation is key when targeting these elusive muscles!

Understanding Tricep Isolation and its Importance in Upper Body Strength

diagram of human muscles with the triceps highlighted

As a personal trainer and bodybuilder, I remind my clients all the time that the journey to stronger upper arms isn’t complete without tricep isolation. These exercises specifically target different muscle groups for optimal muscle hypertrophy.

Your triceps have three heads: the long head, lateral head, and medial head. Research shows strong triceps are crucial for almost every upper body movement – think push-ups or bench press. They even help when training other muscles, which is exactly the kind of efficiency we’re looking for.

You may be wondering why we isolate these little fellas during workouts? It’s all about building upper body strength.

The Muscle Groups at Play

Isolating your triceps means focusing on one particular muscle group at a time during an exercise routine. It helps maximize muscle activity while promoting growth in each section of your ‘tris’. So yes ladies (and gents), this is how you get those sculpted arms that you get to show off and rock in those summery tank tops.

Muscle Hypertrophy 101

A fancy term I like to throw around with my clients is muscle hypertrophy. Sounds cool and science-y right? But what does it mean exactly?

In layman’s terms, hypertrophy refers to the increase in size of skeletal muscles through growth of its component cells…basically, getting your muscles to grow.

So when we talk about tricep isolation, we’re really focusing on growing each part of the muscle for that balanced and well-defined look.

Making it Work

Don’t forget about those three heads we talked about earlier. Each one reacts differently to various exercises. So it’s essential to include a variety of moves in your workout routine, ensuring all three get the attention they need.

For these tricep exercises: go light with the weight and high with the reps. 3 sets of 8-12 reps. You can (and should) increase the weight overtime. But slow and steady wins the race.

Overhead Tricep Extensions

woman performing overhead tricep extensions with a dumbbell

The art of sculpting your upper arms lies in mastering the triceps extension (one of my favorites!).

Warming Up Before Tricep Extensions

To prepare your muscles for intense activities like these, a proper warm-up is key. As an experienced personal trainer, I can assure you that the quality of your warm-up will determine the success of your workout.

Your warm-up should be dynamic – that means full-body movements to raise heart rate and body temperature. Think jumping jacks or quick marching on spot. Hop on the treadmill for 5-10 minutes. Whatever gets you excited to get our heart pumping.

Apart from prepping you up physically, warming up also helps mentally prime you for what’s ahead.

Picking the Right Weight

Muscle activity maximizes when we start with lighter weights instead of going heavy straight away. My advice? Choose a weight where you feel challenged but not strained – if your form breaks down during those last few reps then it’s time to go lighter. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in one day; neither will our dreamy triceps. Progressive overload is a magical thing.

Nailing Your Starting Position

This is crucial. Start by standing tall with feet shoulder-width apart while holding dumbbells (or a single dumbbell held firmly by both hands) over head fully extended above. This initial stance allows us to isolate and emphasize the long head muscle activity in our triceps during extensions which makes them even more effective.

Keep Those Elbows Stationary
  • Bend elbows lowering dumbbell behind head as far as comfortably possible.
  • Pause at the bottom and then return to start position, squeezing your triceps at top of movement.

A common mistake is moving elbows during exercise which actually takes focus off our precious triceps. So remember, keeping those elbows stationary will ensure maximum muscle activity for every rep you sweat out.

Tricep Pushdowns

woman performing tricep pushdowns on a cable machine at the gym

Onto your next tricep secret weapon: the tricep pushdown.

This powerhouse move works wonders on your upper body strength by emphasizing the lateral head of your triceps muscle. When done right, it gives you those strong and defined arms we all aim for.

The Role of Tricep Pushdowns in Building Upper Body Strength

Think about how often you use your triceps daily—lifting groceries or pushing a door open—they’re crucial. So giving them a good workout is not just vanity—it’s practicality.

Your palms facing down grip onto the cable machine handle attachments as if they owe you money—that’s where our exercise begins. Make sure to keep your elbows stationary at all times during this movement; think glued to your sides kind-of-stationary.

Pull down using only forearm strength until fully extended but never locking out those elbows—we don’t want any injuries! Again, go light with the weight at first. You can always go heavier. But if it’s muscle growth you want, aim for lighter weight higher reps. 8-12 reps for 3 sets.

To really fire up those muscles make sure there’s resistance on the cables throughout every stage. Even more of a reason to go with a lighter weight. Trust me, if you keep up the resistance your triceps will be on fire quicker than you expect.

Triceps Kickbacks

woman doing tricep kickbacks with a dumbbell

Kickbacks are fantastic because they engage all three heads of your triceps muscles: the long head, lateral head, and medial head. This means more muscle activity across your entire upper arm.

Finding Your Starting Position

Stand tall with feet hip-width apart and hold dumbbells in each hand at waist level. Elbows glued (and I mean glued) to your sides, and very slightly in front of you.

Bend over slightly from the hips while keeping your back straight – no slouching here folks. Next, bend your elbows so that they’re creating a 90-degree angle (like you’re about to start running).

Maintaining Stationary Elbows

This is where things can get tricky but stick with me. While doing kickbacks, it’s crucial to keep those elbows stationary.

Your forearm should be doing all the moving as if hinging from that elbow point.

If this sounds difficult, don’t worry I gotcha covered. Start out using lighter weights until you’ve mastered keeping those elbows steady throughout each rep – safety first!

Safety Tips and Common Mistakes to Avoid During Tricep Exercises

woman stretching her triceps

When it comes to triceps exercises, the key is not just about doing more reps but performing them safely.

Without proper form during your exercises, you’re setting yourself up for possible injuries. That can sideline your fitness journey faster than skipping leg day.

The Proper Grip Matters in Tricep Workouts

Your hand placement plays an important role in isolating the triceps muscle during exercises. Your hands should always be at least hip width apart to avoid overuse in muscles we don’t want to isolate. This small tweak helps target the right muscles while minimizing strain on your wrists.

Avoid Arching Your Back

Try to keep your back as straight as you can when doing these tricep exercises. And always engage your core!

Maintaining a neutral spine with abs engaged reduces pressure on lower back areas which might otherwise be vulnerable due to incorrect posture.

Keep Your Elbows in Check

In exercises like triceps extensions or overhead triceps work, it’s tempting to let your elbows flail out. Resist the urge. Keep them tucked in and stationary. To maximize muscle recruitment and minimize joint stress, maintain your movements steady and controlled.

Really focus on the position your muscles are in and picture them individually as you workout. Visualizing your movements can boost the effectiveness of your workouts and help you achieve better results.

Go Isolate Those Triceps!

Now you’re armed with the knowledge and technique to conquer your tricep exercises. You’ve discovered the importance of tricep isolation for upper body strength, learned how to perform triceps extensions correctly, mastered tricep pushdowns and overhead movements.

You understand how kickbacks can enhance all three heads of your muscles. Safety precautions? Check! Common mistakes? Consider them avoided!

Patience is key in this journey towards muscle growth. Consistency will be your best ally here.

Start today – not tomorrow, next week or when it’s convenient – but right now! Embrace these workouts as part of a healthy lifestyle that champions physical strength and mental resilience.

FAQs in Relation to Tricep Exercises

What is the overall best tricep exercise?

Diamond push-ups are generally regarded as one of the most effective exercises for hitting all three heads of your triceps.

How do you hit all 3 muscles in your tricep?

To work all three heads of your triceps, incorporate a mix of overhead extensions, kickbacks, and diamond push-ups into your routine.

How do you work out your triceps?

You can target your triceps through isolation exercises like dips, pushdowns, extensions, and kickbacks. Remember to maintain proper form.

What are the EZ bar exercises for triceps?

EZ bar exercises that benefit the triceps include close grip bench presses and skull crushers. Both offer intense workouts for this muscle group.

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