5 Most Effective Long Head Triceps Exercises: Triceps Training Guide
- 5 Most Effective Long Head Triceps Exercises: Triceps Training Guide
- What is the Triceps Muscle
- Which Exercises Target All 3 Tricep Heads?
- How to work the Long Head of the Tricep
- Most Effective Long Head Tricep Exercises
- Bodyweight Tricep Exercises
If you want to build bigger arms, you might already be working on your biceps but what about those “tris”? The triceps are a larger muscle group than the biceps and make up about two-thirds of the upper-arm.
This means they have more potential to grow and definitely should be prioritized for building bigger, stronger arms.
Building the triceps muscle to its maximal extent requires you not only knowing the best triceps exercises but also the triceps muscle anatomy and function so you can best understand which exercises target which triceps head.
Most Effective Long Head Triceps Exercises
- Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extension
- Triceps Kickbacks
- Diamond Push Ups
- Cable Triceps Pushdown
- Close-grip Bench Press
What is the Triceps Muscle
The triceps brachii, popularly known as the triceps, is a muscle which is present at the back of your humerus, the long bone of your upper arm. The reason why it’s called the tricep is because it’s made up of 3 muscle heads and these include:
The Medial Head – present in the middle of the back surface of the upper arm, it helps stabilize your elbow and fills out your upper arm for a proportional look.
The medial head is best targeted when your arms are at the sides and with an underhand (reverse) grip eg. reverse-grip tricep pushdowns.
The Lateral Head – it is located on the outer region of your arm when standing naturally and is one part of the tricep which gives the horseshoe shape.
When sufficiently developed, the lateral head gives roundness to your upper arm and gives them a shapely look.
The lateral head is best worked when your arms are at the sides and with an overhand grip eg. pushdowns, bench dips, etc.
The Long Head – the largest of all three tricep heads, it is located on the inner region of your upper arm and is responsible for giving them a muscular, meatier look.
The long head is best hit when performing overhead tricep exercises eg. overhead extensions, skullcrushers, etc.
The main function of the tricep is to extend the elbow joint and also act as an antagonist muscle of the biceps and brachialis. The triceps stabilize the shoulders by making sure the head of the humerus is in its correct position in the shoulder joint.
Which Exercises Target All 3 Tricep Heads?
While you can’t exactly isolate one tricep muscle, one thing to know is that the lateral and medial tricep heads are worked by most pressing movements. It is the long head that requires specific training.
The long head is best hit when performing overhead tricep exercises. Exercises such as the Incline Dumbbell Triceps Kickbacks are a great isolation exercise that effectively target the long-head.
Dumbbell Overhead extensions and Skullcrushers are excellent alternatives too.
The lateral head of the tricep is best activated with exercises where your arms are positioned at the sides, closer to the body and with an overhand grip; these include Tricep Pushdowns and Close-grip Bench Press.
The medial head is best targeted when your arms are at the sides and with an underhand (reverse) grip.
The tricep rope pushdown can be done by spreading your arms as wide as possible to target the medial head.
You can also alter the tricep pushdown by doing it with a reverse-grip to target the medial head.
How to work the Long Head of the Tricep
Here, we’ll discuss some of the training techniques and strategies you can employ to specifically train the long head of your triceps. This by no means is an end all list and you should be open to other pieces of advice too.
Separate Training Day for Triceps
Anyone who has trained their triceps knows how worked up they can get after heavy pushing and pressing movements for chest and shoulders.
Usually on, say chest day, you tend to do tricep exercises as finishers and this can be great for building meatier triceps but you may already be tired from your main movements.
But you might want to consider restructuring your workout plan so you can have an additional day for training arms which includes your triceps.
This way your triceps won’t be too fatigued and you’ll be able to hit them with more energy and intensity.
Focus on Long-head Tricep Exercises
Make sure to include a compound, multi-joint movement for hitting the long head of the tricep. The close grip bench press is a fantastic way to do this as you can load up the tricep with a heavy weight you can do for 6-8 reps.
Any tricep exercise that you do with your arms overhead will work the long head. Just keep your arms tucked in tight as you complete the movements for better muscle activation.
Overhead tricep exercises such as Tricep Overhead Extension done with dumbbells or an EZ-bar are a great choice. It can also be done with a rope attached to a lower cable.
Make sure to hit the long-head with exercises that target it at different angles and at different intensities.
So, if you do Cable Overhead Tricep Extension as your first long-head exercise for sets of 8-10, don’t just stop there and target them again with Single-arm Dumbbell Overhead Extensions.
Training your muscles this way at different angles and intensities is a good strategy for better overall gains.
Increase Tricep Training Frequency
Training your triceps two times a week is a great way to add more stimulus for greater tricep growth. Having 2-3 day between your triceps training is plenty for your triceps to recover.
But a wrong way to go about it would be having continues days of tricep work i.e. Monday – Chest, Tuesday – Shoulders, Wednesday – Arms.
This doesn’t provide sufficient rest for your triceps as they’ll get hammered after the 2nd day itself as both chest and shoulder exercises involve elbow extension which means your triceps are getting worked.
So make sure to keep sufficient rest for them in between your training by keeping a 2-3 day rest period.
Most Effective Long Head Tricep Exercises
Lying Dumbbell Tricep Extension
The dumbbell lying tricep extension is a great tricep exercise that targets the long head and can be placed at the beginning of your tricep routine.
You can also try it with a unilateral training style where you are using only one arm at a time. This helps you with lifting a heavier weight and also assists you for those last crucial reps.
How To Do Lying Tricep Extension
- Grab a pair of dumbbells and take a seat on a flat bench.
- Lie back down and raise the dumbbells overhead in a neutral grip.
- By keeping your upper arms still, bend at the elbows and lower the dumbbells until they are close to your ears.
- Raise the dumbbells back to the top by extending your forearms.
The tricep kickback is an excellent exercise that targets the long head of the tricep by putting it in a state of maximum contraction and hence achieving a greater contraction.
To do tricep kickbacks, start off with a lighter weight for a warm up and then use a moderately challenging weight as per your ability and experience.
Make sure you don’t use a heavy dumbbell as this exercise is not about lifting heavy but more about feeling the muscle contraction.
How To Do Tricep Kickbacks
This applies to the dumbbell version of the exercise but you can also apply it to the cable machine version as well.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and keep your knees slightly bent.
- By engaging your core and keeping a straight spine, hinge forward at the hips.
- Bring your torso forward and position it at a 45 degree angle.
- Make sure your arms are close to the body and your neck is relaxed
- Breathe in, engage your triceps and straighten your elbows
- Only move your forearm by extending your elbow while your upper arm remains still.
- Pause at that position for 2-3 secs, breathe out and return to starting position
Diamond Push Ups
The dumbbell lateral or side raise is the quintessential side deltoid exercise and is performed by lifting a pair of dumbbells away from the body.
The lateral raises are fantastic for not only working the front (anterior) and side (lateral) delts but also the trapezius muscles (traps) in the upper back.
It is a perfect isolation exercise for your shoulders and when done with the correct technique and full range of motion, greatly enhances shoulder muscle growth.
For lateral raises, make sure you pick a light weight which you can do for 10-15 repetitions as this will allow you to maintain correct form throughout the exercise.
Remember, this is an isolation exercise for your shoulders and not meant for testing strength.
How To Perform Dumbbell Lateral Raise
- Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand with your feet shoulder width apart
- Hold the dumbbells individually at the side of your legs.
- Raise your arms by keeping a slight bend in the elbow.
- Make sure your hands are raised above your elbows in external rotation (imagine making a wing shape)
- Hold the top position for 2-3 seconds and slowly lower the weights in a slow negative for another 2-3 seconds
- Breathe in when you are lifting and breathe out when lowering the weights
Cable Tricep Pushdown
The cable tricep pushdown (also known as a pulldown) is a beginner friendly tricep exercise that is performed with the help of a cable machine.
Using a rope instead of a straight bar targets more of the long-head of the tricep while still focusing on the lateral head.
Make sure to choose a moderate to slightly heavy weight for this exercise which you can do for around 10-15 reps.
How To Do Cable Tricep Pushdown
- Attach a rope to a cable pulley and stand with your feet hip-width apart with a slight bend in the knees.
- Grab the rope with a neutral grip and keep your elbows tucked in.
- Pull the rope down by fully extending your elbow and keeping your upper-arm still.
- Squeeze your tricep and hold it for 2-3 secs to feel maximum contraction.
- Slowly release and come back to the starting position in a controlled manner.
Close-grip Bench Press
The close-grip bench press is not only an excellent variation to the classic bench press, but is a fantastic exercise you can do to overload your triceps as that’s the primary muscle being trained in this movement.
The close or narrow grip forces your elbows to be closer to your sides which puts more emphasis on the tricep and your shoulders are also in a safer position.
Make sure that there is a spotter spotting you if you’re lighting heavy and always perform the exercise with proper technique.
How To Do Close-grip Bench Press
- Set yourself up in a conventional bench press setup by lying down on a flat bench.
- Grab the barbell but this time make sure your hands are slightly closer than usual.
- Make sure to use your judgement and use a comfortable narrower grip to avoid injuries.
- Brace your core, arch your back, detach the barbell from the bench.
- Lower the weight towards your chest (remember full range of motion) and push it back up top.
Bodyweight Tricep Exercises
If you are looking for no-equipment, bodyweight tricep exercises which you can do at home but also at the gym then the below mentioned exercises are a great addition to your workout plan.
Narrow/Close Grip Pushup
What: Similar to the classic pushup except your hands are inside shoulder width. This narrower grip emphasizes the triceps more than the chest.
How: Get into a standard pushup position and bring your hands inward within shoulder width.
Lower yourself in a controlled fashion and push yourself up by engaging more of your triceps.
What: In this pushup position, your hands will be in contact with each other to form a diamond shape, right under your chest and your elbows slightly wider than usual.
How: In the above position, with a tight core and lower body, lower yourself till you touch the ground and push yourself up by exerting force through your hands.
Make sure your elbows aren’t too flared out.
What: In this exercise, you’ll be in a plank position, resting on your forearms and your triceps will be the main movers to lift you up.
How: While in a plank position, try to extend your arms by driving force through your forearms and pushing via the triceps. Do this to get into a standard pushup position with your palms facing downward.
What: It is a push up variation where you are in a “downward dog” position which also stretches your back, hamstrings and calves.
How: Start in a standard pushup position and raise your hips and lower your head to bring your torso closer to your legs.
With your elbows slightly out, bend them till your head almost touches the floor.
Push yourself back through your arms by straightening the elbows,