Triceps Exercises: Most effective for each head.

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Triceps Exercises: Most effective for each head.

Considering that the tricep takes up approximately 2/3rds of your arm, it’d be wise to make sure it gets plenty of stimulation in the gym. After all, I haven’t met someone who does not want to have a set of big arms. Unfortunately, most people don’t know the fact above and mercilessly hammer away at their biceps in hopes of increasing arm size. There’s nothing wrong with that, but its equally (if not more) important to make sure that the tricep gets punished in the gym. With that said, triceps exercises (just like those for any other body part) aren’t created equal and there are certain winners that should be staples in your journey to developing a nice set of triceps. Since we have a decent amount to cover in this article, let’s get right to the point.

If you asked most knowledgeable trainees which triceps exercises serve as the foundation for building them up to the best of your ability, the list would most likely be made up of (in no particular order of effectiveness – as they all have their quirks):

1) Close Grip Bench Press

2) Skullcrushers

3) Dips

4) Overhead Extensions

Not only do these 4 exercises cover all the bases in regards to hitting all 3 of the heads the muscle group contains, but they allow you to move a great amount of weight and stress the triceps most efficiently. They really have no rivals. As a matter of fact, if you were to do these exercises and no others ever again, your triceps would be more than set (if you, of course, ate right also!). However, we know that everybody is different. Not everybody is going to enjoy doing a particular exercise, feel it the way they can others, be flexible enough to do a certain exercise, or be able to even do it based on an injury, etc. Putting these factors into play, there’s plenty of other exercises that can be done, even if we’re excluding the many variations you can make of the ones above (dumbbell/cable/single-handed/barbell/etc.).

Fortunately, with this variety in triceps exercises also comes the ability to shift focus on a particular head of the triceps muscle. Many people find themselves lagging on a particular triceps head and wish to do exercises that place more emphasis on that head during their triceps training sessions. Whether it’d be the lateral head (one that stands out when you’re standing on the side), the medial head (med = medium/middle head), or the long head (the meat of the tricep – closest to body), each one has been shown to have a particular set of triceps exercises that help give it that extra boost to get it up to speed with the others over time. Keep in mind that when you’re training, irregardless of body part, you have to make sure that you are constantly progressing on the weights in order to get the most out of your training (Progressive Overload). You can do the best of exercises for a particular muscle group, but if you’re not improving each week you’re not stressing your body enough to adopt and grow!

The following are taken from Target Bodybuilding, by Per A. Tesch, who as the title may suggest, examined (among other things) which heads are most battered by which variations of triceps exercises. There are 20 triceps exercises/variations that were tested, and they are ranked on a rating scale of 1 or 2 asterisks (2 placing more emphasis on that particular head, naturally). ¬†There are plenty of exercises that can hit 2 of the 3 heads maximally, or even all 3. Let’s dive straight into the findings (get ready to scroll a little).

Skullcrushers with EZ bar:

Lateral Head: *

Long Head: **

Medial Head: *

Skullcrushers with EZ bar on decline bench

Lateral Head: **

Long Head: **

Medial Head: **

Supine triceps extension with dumbbell and neutral grip

Lateral Head: **

Long Head: *

Medial Head: *

Overhead triceps extensions with dumbbell and neutral grip

Lateral Head: **

Long Head: **

Medial Head: **

Overhead triceps extensions with dumbbell and rotation

Lateral Head: **

Long Head: **

Medial Head: **

Overhead triceps extensions with reverse grip

Lateral Head: *

Long Head: **

Medial Head: *

Standing Skullcrush with straight bar

Lateral Head: **

Long Head: *

Medial Head: **

Triceps pushdown with straight bar and narrow grip

Lateral Head: **

Long Head: **

Medial Head: *

Triceps pushdown with rope

Lateral Head: **

Long Head: **

Medial Head: **

Triceps pushdown with angled bar (v-bar)

Lateral Head: **

Long Head: **

Medial Head: **

One-arm triceps pushdown

Lateral Head: **

Long Head: *

Medial Head: **

One-arm triceps pushdown with reverse grip

Lateral Head: **

Long Head: **

Medial Head: **

Bench press with narrow grip (close-grip bench press)

Lateral Head: **

Long Head: *

Medial Head: **

Parallel bar dip with neutral grip

Lateral Head: **

Long Head: **

Medial Head: **

Bench dip

Lateral Head: **

Long Head: **

Medial Head: **

Pullover with EZ bar and narrow grip

Lateral Head: *

Long Head: **

Medial Head: *

Military press with straight bar, behind neck

Lateral Head: **

Long Head: nil

Medial Head: **

Standing dumbbell press

Lateral Head: *

Long Head: nil

Medial Head: *

As you can see, the different variations of triceps exercises place varying levels of stress on each of the three heads. If you’re just trying to put on mass on your triceps, I’d recommend sticking to the most effective exercises (and their variations) outlined at the start of the article. However, if you’re now fixated on giving your triceps a certain look (assuming you’ve achieved a certain level of size through training already), this is a very good piece of information to know. Since how you go about using these triceps exercises is also very integral to your success, check out How Many Reps to Build Muscle, where we dive into the different rep-range ideologies and focus on the root of what you should be aiming for when training any body part.

Even those who are now working on putting on size can come back to this in the future if necessary, it is really an invaluable piece of information for any serious trainee. So get those triceps exercises rocking based on your specific goals and don’t forget to use the Mind Muscle Connection to enhance your training. For more advice on overall arm growth, check out How to Get Bigger Arms and the article on Hand Grip For Arms, which explains how grip plays a role in prioritizing certain heads as well. For the bicep version of this article, check out Biceps Exercises. Good luck!










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