Triceps are a smaller muscle group and so tire much quicker and can’t lift the same kind of weight your chest and shoulders can, so it can be easy to ignore them.  But do so at your peril!  Your triceps are a really important muscle – they are necessary for every pushing movement and, where your arms are in close to your body, pulling movements as well.  Don’t expect to improve your other upper body muscles without paying some attention to your triceps.

There are 3 heads to your triceps – long, lateral and medial.  Try to hit all 3 heads during your training to ensure your muscle is balanced and most effective.

Close-grip Bench Press

The close grip really engages your triceps in this exercise.  You will need a bench to lay on.  Hold the bar shoulder width apart and raise it above you, in line with your chest.  Lower the bar down, bringing your elbows into your waist, the bar will remain in line with your chest.  Return the bar to the starting position.  The key to this exercise is control – move the bar slowly and don’t ‘drop’ the weight as this will not engage your muscles.

Repeat the exercise for 3 sets, 12 reps per set.


There are a number of variations to dips both in terms of equipment that can be used and the techniques you can use.

The most basic dip is used with a bench or chair.  Stand with your back to the bench and rest the backs of your hands on the edge of the bench, wiht your hands shoulder width apart.  Stretch your legs out in front of you – the further they are from the bench, the harder the exercise.  Bend your arms at the elbow until your upper arms are parallel with the bench.  Return to the starting position but don’t lock your elbows out, keep them soft.  If you are not able to complete the exercise with straight legs you can bend them so your feet are closer to the bench.

Another variation is to use paralette/parallel bars.  This exercise is much harder than the option above as you are using your full body weight.  Lift yourself using the bars so your arms are straight and your body is straight.  Do not lean forward, if you do you will move the emphasis away from the triceps and more onto the chest and shoulders.  You will need to bend your knees so your feet don’t hit the ground on each rep.  Crosssing your ankles might make them a bit more comfortable.  Your body position will not change throughout this exercise – all you will do is bend your arms until your shoulder joints are just below their elbows.  Push back up so you return to the starting position.  Don’t lock your elbows out – keep a slight bend in them.

Repeat the exercise for 3 sets, 12 reps per set.


This exercise is one that you really want to start with a light weight, just because the bar will be hovering over your head and you don’t want to realise at that point that you can’t get the bar back to the start point!

You will need a bench for this exercise and can have it in 2 positions – incline and flat.  Each position will utilise different heads so give them both a go.  You ideally want to be using an EZ bar for this as the shape is much easier on your wrists.  If you don’t have an EZ bar a straight bar can also be used.

Hold the bar with a narrow grip.  Extend your arms upwards so your arms are straight but your elbows are soft (not locked out).  Keeping your forearms in the upright position, slowly bend your elbows and lower the bar until it is just above your forehead.  Straighten out your arms and return to the starting position.

Repeat the exercise for 3 sets, 12 reps per set.

Overhead Tricep Extension

This is a rare exercise as it really engages the long head of your triceps – the head that is most neglected.

Sit on the edge of a bench or chair and hold a dumbbell above your head – you want to hold the weight at one end with both hands.  Engage your core and ensure your upper arms stay upright.  Bend your elbows and lower the weight down your back keeping your shoulders down.  Return the dumbbell to the starting position.

Repeat the exercise for 3 sets, 12 reps per set.

Press Ups

It’s an oldy but a goody and can be done anywhere.  The regular press up works your chest, abs and triceps but make sure you’re doing them right.  The key is to keep your body rigid and not ‘worm’ your way down.  There will be a real temptation to drop your hips so they hit the floor before your chest.

Set up is a standard press up position – laid flat on the floor on your tummy with your toes curled under and your hands under your shoulders.  Push up with your arms from this position, keeping the rigid ‘plank’ position, until arms are straight bit don’t lock out elbows.  Return to starting position maintaining your body position and keeping the weight in your arms (don’t lay on the floor as you return to the floor).

Repeat for 3 sets, 10-12 reps each set.

If you have not done push ups before you may well be unable to do the full press up straight away.  A way of scaling the exercise is to put your knees on the floor.  Starting on all fours, lower body to the ground, still making sure the core stays tight, and be explosive in your arms as you return to the start.  Once you are comfortable with that try moving your knees a little further back so that your body and upper legs are straight and your legs bent upwards at the knee.

Diamond Press Ups

Unlike the standard press up, the diamond press up really isolates your triceps.  The exercise is just as with the normal press up but in the starting position your hands should be placed directly underneath you, your first fingers and thumbs forming a diamond shape.

Repeat for 3 sets, 10-12 reps per set.