How to Train All 3 Heads of Triceps w/ Weights

November 16, 2015 by VAHVA Fitness

Big bulky triceps are one of the major reasons behind thick and powerful looking arms. In this article we will go through the best triceps exercises you can do with weights.

Triceps consists of 3 heads: a medial, a lateral and a long head. The medial and lateral heads are nicely worked with all pressing exercises, but the long head which gives the tricep the horseshoe look, requires specific training. 

The workout below is mostly done with weights, because we already have a bodyweight workout for triceps.

Both the bodyweight workout above and this workout using weights are almost equally effective for increasing the size and strength of your triceps.

Your body doesn't care where the resistance is coming from, as long as there is enough resistance to make your body grow. 

It's recommended to do all the exercises with the best range of motion you humanly can. This way, the exercises will transfer very well to sports, calisthenics and other bodyweight exercises. 

The biggest difference is that with weights it's easier to emphasize the long head of triceps, which is difficult to do with just your bodyweight.  

Watch our video for further illustration purposes:

Tricep Exercises for All Three Heads of Triceps

Narrow-Grip Bench Press

close grip bench pressing
close grip bench press

Using a narrow grip with bench press takes away from the pectoralis major muscles, but puts more resistance on triceps. Unless you want to train the bench press for powerlifting competition, I'd recommend not arching your lower back. 

Narrow grip bench press is one of the best exercises to begin your tricep workout, because it's a big compound movement which not only trains the triceps, but also the shoulders and pecs.

Weighted Dips

tricep dip

Weighted dips is another big compound movement that puts the triceps under heavy stress. The narrower the grip, the more it will target your triceps. 

Most people avoid full range of motion, because they fear they will hurt their shoulders. The opposite is true: if you take a smart approach to dips and begin with light resistance, the full ROM dips are your best friend.

The full range of motion will nicely stretch your shoulders and triceps. Unless you go too far, the added mobility will only keep your shoulders healthier and stronger. 

You don't have to add weight if you don't want to. If normal dips are too difficult, then try bench dips (leg supported dips) instead. If you want to make dips super hard, then try dips on gymnastic rings


skullcrusher exercise
skullcrushers exercise

Skullcrushers are credited for being one of the best tricep isolation exercises you can do to really push the triceps grow in size and strength. 

Keep a slight angle with your arms pointing backwards to keep the tension in your triceps the entire duration of the repetition. Start from straight arms and lower until you feel a nice stretch in triceps. 

Begin cautiously with light weights, because a great deal of lifters experience severe elbow pain with skullcrushers. The reason behind the pain is often imbalances in the arms and lack of tendon strength in the elbows. 

Tricep Pushdown

tricep pushdowns
tricep pushdown

Tricep pushdown is a very basic bodybuilding exercise for adding muscle mass to your triceps. It's easy to do, it's gentle for your elbows and the resistance is very easy to adjust. 

A superb exercise for burning out and exhausting your triceps in the end of your tricep workout.

Tricep Exercises for the Long Head of Triceps

Tricep Kickback

tricep pushdowns
tricep pushdown

Tricep kickback is an effective way to train the long head of triceps. Bent your body over and then just extend the arm behind your back.

Your tricep is worked the most when the arm is completely extended and locked in the end of the repetition. The longer you can hold the arm straight with every rep, the more your long head of triceps will get work done.

Behind the Back Raise / Barbell Kickback

behind the back raise
behind the back raises

This is a superior exercise to any other exercise for the long head of triceps. The narrower the grip, the more it will work your triceps. In this exercise you keep your arms straight the entire duration of a repetition. 

The long head of triceps is worked the most when the arms are straight and your shoulders are maximally externally rotated. You will maximally externally rotate your shoulders when you use a supinated grip your palms facing forward. 

barbell kickback

This exercise is tough and likely you need to start with an empty bar or even with a plain gymnastic stick. 

The long head of triceps is put under lots of stress, which will make your triceps cramp like never before.

I learned this exercise on my own, but later I noticed Larry Scott (Bodybuilder champion from 50s) recommended this exercise. He instead stole the exercise from a fellow bodybuilder. 

Tricep Workout Programming

These workouts are so demanding that it's recommended to do them as a workout of their own. You can also integrate these tricep workouts into your split routines.

Beginner Tricep Workout

Dips or Narrow-grip Bench Press: 4 x 5-10 reps. 

Skullcrushers or Tricep Pushdowns: 3 x 9-15 reps.

Tricep Kickbacks: 2 x 10 reps.

Take 1-2 minutes of rest between sets. 

Intermediate Tricep Workout

Dips or Narrow-grip Bench Press: 4 x 5-10 reps. 

Skullcrushers: 3 x 9-15 reps.

Tricep Pushdowns: 2 x 10-20 reps.

Behind the Back Raise: 3 x 7-10 reps. 

Tricep Kickbacks: 2 x 10 reps.

Take 1-2 minutes of rest between sets. 

Advanced Tricep Workout

Narrow-grip Bench Press: 4 x 5-10 reps. 

Weighted Dips: 4 x 5-10 reps.

Skullcrushers: 3 x 9-15 reps.

Tricep Pushdowns: 2 x 10-20 reps.

Behind the Back Raise: 3 x 7-10 reps. 

Tricep Kickbacks: 2 x 10 reps.

Take 1-2 minutes of rest between sets. 

If these workouts don't add size and strength to your triceps, nothing will. At the end of your tricep workout your arms should feel exhausted.

The point of these workouts is to command your triceps to grow for aesthetic and strength purposes. Do them regularly and they should do the job.

Train hard, stay safe.

samuli jyrkinen

About the author 

Samuli Jyrkinen

Samuli is the ninja behind the scenes (photography, videography, websites, program platforms and more). He has been training religiously for over a decade and has a firm grasp of physical and mental fitness. You will find our story here.

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