When it comes to strong arms, biceps get most of the attention. That’s a shame because the often-forgotten triceps make up about two-thirds of the real estate of your arms.
It’s only fitting that if you want arms that fill out your shirtsleeves (or at least don’t jiggle when you do the YMCA), you have to train your triceps.
The recipe for stronger triceps is simple and only requires four ingredients:
1. A pressing exercise with heavier weight and lower reps
2. A pressing exercise with lighter weight and higher reps
3. An extension exercise with the elbows tucked
4. An extension exercise with the elbows flared
If you include each of these movements in your workout routine on a regular basis, you’ll sculpt stronger arms than all the biceps-curl warriors who neglect their triceps.
Here are our favorite exercises for each of these four categories:
1. Dumbbell Floor Press
The dumbbell floor press gets the nod for our heavy pressing exercise because you can do it at virtually any gym and it’s easier to master than the barbell bench press. Plus, by lying on the floor, you shift the focus of the movement from your chest to your triceps.
Sets and Reps: 4–5 sets of 5–8 reps with a moderate-to-heavy weight
2. Close-Grip Push-Up
For our lighter pressing exercise, we chose the close-grip push-up because of its versatility and lack of equipment. Simply take the classic push-up, bring your hands in closer and — boom — you’ve got yourself a challenging triceps exercise.
Exercisers of any strength level can use this move. If you’re a beginner, elevate your hands on a bench or chair to make it easier. If you’re stronger than average and want a progression, try looping a band over your back or elevating your feet to increase the range of motion.
Sets and Reps: 3–4 sets of 8–12 reps with body weight
3. Band Push-Downs
The main function of the triceps is to extend the elbow, so multiple extension exercises are warranted to build stronger triceps. Heavy extensions can quickly cause achy elbows, however, so extensions are best done with lighter weights, higher reps and special attention to the squeeze at the end of each rep.
Band push-downs work nicely for the elbows-tucked extension movement because you can alter the resistance by moving your hands up or down the band. Loop the band around a chin-up bar or over a doorway, and you’re good to go.
Sets and Reps: 2–3 sets of 12–15 reps with a light resistance band
4. Dumbbell Tate Presses
Named after the legendary powerlifter and strength expert Dave Tate, the Tate press is our exercise of choice for an elbows-flared extension. Lifting weights with the elbows flared can be risky for your wrists, elbows and shoulders, but by using light dumbbells and a controlled motion, you can work your triceps plenty hard without beating yourself up.
If this exercise feels awkward, try doing it on an incline bench and pressing the dumbbells together as you lift up and down.
Sets and Reps: 2–3 sets of 12–15 reps with a light weight