When I first began my weightlifting journey, one of the first things I learned was how to create a balanced physique by working the various muscle groups in the body. For example, if you’re working a muscle on one side of your arm, you’ll want to spend equal time working a different muscle or muscle group on the opposite side of the arm. Doing this helps to create symmetry in the arms, and the same is true for the various muscle groups throughout the body. Today, let’s explore the importance of strengthening your triceps and look at some of the best tricep exercises.
What are Triceps?
The tricep muscles are located on the back of the upper arms. They are referred to as “tri” because they’re made up of three distinct muscle heads: a middle, side, and long head. The triceps extend or straighten the elbow and help the shoulder muscles to extend the arm. Strong triceps are crucial for fully functional arm mobility. You may be more familiar with your biceps, which are the typical muscles that bodybuilders seem to target to get that classic bump on the inner portion of the arm when the muscles are flexed. Both the biceps and triceps are in the upper arm, but the biceps muscle is at the inner portion of the upper arm, whereas the tricep muscles are located at the outer portion of the arm.
Why Tricep Exercises Are Important as We Age
Arm workouts, in general, are foundational as we age to help maintain upper body strength. When you think about aging and preserving stability, you may initially think of your lower body. But strong muscles, even in the upper body, help to protect our bones, making you less likely to break an arm or wrist if you stumble. For better balance and stability, equal focus should be given to strengthening your upper back, shoulders, and triceps.
The Best Dumbbell Tricep Exercises
Tricep exercises don’t need to be intimidating. In fact, there are excellent no-equipment tricep exercise options to ensure that you’re able to routinely target those muscles whether or not you have equipment on hand. When you’re ready to increase your resistance, it’s time to move forward into the best exercises that you can do with a set of dumbbells.
Start with a set of dumbbells that are an appropriate weight for your level of fitness. The amount of resistance should allow you to perform each exercise with proper form. The best way to avoid injury is to ensure that you’re not attempting to push or pull weight that’s too heavy, forcing you to compromise maintaining proper form.
1. Overhead Triceps Extensions
Overhead tricep extensions are an excellent way to target all three heads of the triceps. Here’s how to perform overhead tricep extensions (note you can perform these sitting down or standing up, and you can use one or two dumbbells.):
- Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and dumbbells held in front of you.
- Raise the dumbbells above your head until your arms are straight.
- Slowly lower the weights back behind your head, being careful not to flare your elbows out too much.
- Once your forearms move beyond parallel to the floor, bring the weight back up to the starting position.
- NOTE: your upper arms should remain in place throughout the movement.
- Perform 10-12 reps.
2. Lying Tricep Extensions
Lying tricep extensions strengthen your triceps, help to sculpt your upper body, and stabilize your shoulder joint. This exercise also increases the strength and range of motion of your shoulders and elbows and improves the flexibility of your arms. Here’s how to perform a lying tricep extension:
- Grab a pair of dumbbells and lie on a flat bench or on a mat on the floor.
- Raise the dumbbells above your head using a neutral grip, palms facing each other.
- Bending at the elbows and keeping your upper arms set, lower the dumbbells until they are about level with your ears.
- Squeeze your triceps and raise the dumbbells back to the starting position.
- Perform 10-12 reps.
3. Close-Grip Dumbbell Press
The close-grip dumbbell press works your entire chest with an emphasis on the triceps. Here’s how to do a close-grip dumbbell press:
- Grab a pair of dumbbells and lie on a flat bench or a mat on the floor.
- With a neutral grip, place and press the dumbbells together.
- Lie flat and hold the weights on your chest.
- Press the dumbbells inward as hard as you can, tucking your upper arms into your sides.
- Push the weights upwards, making sure they’re over your chest until your arms are straight. Do not lock your arms.
- Maintain the tension on your pecs by still pressing the dumbbells together.
- Lower the weights to your chest.
- Perform 10-12 reps.
4. Dumbbell Flys
Dumbbell flys work the shoulders, chest, and triceps. Here’s how to do dumbbell flys:
- Grab a pair of dumbbells and lie on a flat bench or on a mat on the floor
- Put the dumbbells near your armpits
- Press the dumbbells up to arm’s length with palms facing in
- Slowly lower the dumbbells with your arms slightly bent
- Raise the dumbbells back up until your arms are straight in front of you
- Perform 10-12 reps
5. Dumbbell Crush Press
The dumbbell crush press is a good exercise to activate the medial head of the triceps. Here’s how to do a dumbbell crush press:
- Grab a pair of dumbbells and lie on a flat bench or lie on a mat on the floor with your palms facing each other.
- Position the dumbbells over your chest with arms straight and a neutral hammer grip on the handles.
- Keeping the upper arms stationary, lower the weights by allowing the elbows to flex. Only the forearms should move and raise back up to the starting position. Do not lock out your elbows at the top of the movement.
- Return the weights to the starting position.
- Perform 10-12 reps.
Extra Tips For Strong Triceps
Remember that it will take 4 to 6 weeks for you to begin noticing differences in your strength and physique when doing any fitness program and 6 to 8 weeks before changes in your muscles can be visible. Consistency in any program is what’s going to make all the difference for maximum health benefits. Remember that you can modify these exercises depending on your current fitness level and increase the intensity and length of the exercise as you become stronger. Consider adding this tricep workout to any other cardio routine that you’re already doing, and give it the time necessary to experience the healthy changes!
Get the Tools