Popular fitness culture has made working out the chest and biceps one of the priorities when one steps into a gym, especially if your training includes using weights. But the triceps, those massive assist muscles that are crucial to exercising the pecs and guns, often suffer because of the chest and biceps bias. The triceps are not just there for aesthetic appeal, and they work very hard to support your other lifts.
The most common triceps exercises that’s thrown in at the end of a push day are overhead extensions, cable pushdowns, and skullcrushers. But it is as important to get creative with your triceps as it is with any other muscle group. In fact, more so, since they help in three major movements as well: straightening of the elbow, pulling the arm backward and pulling the arm closer to the body. Functionally, this would translate into actions like throwing a ball, or even pushing your body off the bed. Weak, or even tight, triceps would mean an overload on your upper back and shoulders which can lead to injuries. So while the overhead extensions and bench dips are great tricep exercises, these are muscles that can be stubborn to grow. With that in mind, here are five exercises that you need to do ensure that your triceps are always being challenged.
Airbench overhead extension pullovers: The triceps make up for two-thirds of your arm, so it is important to activate them on arms day before you think of doing even your first bicep curl. The airbench, or wall-squat overhead extension, is an exercise I came across in an article titledMuscle of the Month: Triceps, on fitness website Spears Strong. The wall-squat itself is an excellent isometric exercise. And by interlacing your fingers in a palms-out position, and raising them overhead until you hit the wall and bring them back in front of you again, is an excellent activator for your triceps. Keep the elbows extended and feel the triceps fire up.
Incline bench skullcrusher with a twist: A familiar move but with a literal twist, for which you will use dumbbells instead of a small bar. The slight tweak to this skullcrusher is that while you bring back the wrists behind you in a hammer grip, you twist it out on the way up to end the rep with a pushdown grip. The incline bench places you at the perfect angle to go slightly heavy on this exercise, compared to the flat bench.
Tall torso tricep dips: These dips are not to be done on the bench, but specifically on the dip machine. Tricep dips are a fantastic overall pushing bodyweight exercise, and difficult enough for you to initially not worry about overloading. If you lean forward while doing a dip, there is more chest activation so make sure you are standing tall when you do this specifically for triceps. Lower your body until 90 degrees, which is a safe position for the shoulders, and push back up for the ultimate triceps burn.
Tricep kickbacks: The triceps also have a longhead and a shorthead muscle and this exercise is specifically for the latter. The kickback is such a favourite because it can be done with one arm in a one-arm single row position; it can be done in a standing position by bending forward with a neutral back; and it can be done while sitting on a bench. The kickback will burn that shorthead, and pointing your palms upwards at the end of each rep will intensify that for a great pump. This is a must-have exercise in your triceps selection.
Tiger push ups: While the diamond push up is a great triceps oriented exercise, this version is almost like a reverse push up. You start with your forearms and palms resting on the floor and push up into the starting position. This position could be on your knees, in a plank position, or in a pike position depending on your fitness levels. Starting with your forearms low means you begin from one isometric position and push into another isometric position, using your triceps strength. This is a difficult version of the push up, more so than it looks in the video below. For better understanding, think this as doing an inverted overhead triceps extension, but using the floor instead of the bar.
Pulasta Dhar is a football commentator and writer.