Triceps-- the area on the back of the arm that nobody wants to have jiggling when they wave. While there are many exercises that specifically work the tricep muscle, the triceps are also toned when you engage your chest and shoulder muscles.
Muscle Anatomy and Function
The primary functions of the tricep muscles are to extend the elbow and straighten your arm. The secondary function is fulfilled only by the long head part of the muscle, which brings the arm down towards the body. The triceps share this function with the latissimus dorsi.
The tricep muscle group, also called the triceps brachii, is a three-headed muscle that connects the humerus and scapula to the ulna, which is the larger bone in your forearm. The three heads of the triceps brachii are:
· The lateral head: This head is located on the outward-facing side of the humerus bone. It is most responsible for the horseshoe shape of the triceps.
· The medial head: This head is located towards the midline of the body and originates along the middle of the humerus bone.
· The long head: This head is the largest of the three heads and runs along the bottom side of the humerus bone. It originates on the shoulder blade, slightly below the shoulder joint.
The following exercises isolate and target the triceps. Some of the exercises require a weighted bar or free weights. Most of the exercises are done in sets of three, each set being 8-12 repetitions. To ensure that you are using the correct weight, it’s important to note that your first two sets should not be a complete struggle. You want to feel the burn, but you should only feel a struggle with your last few repetitions.
Reverse Grip Tricep Extension
This exercise uses a weighted bar to work the triceps.
- Hold the bar with your hands placed in an under-grip position, closer than shoulder-width apart.
- Lie on a bench or on a mat with your feet planted firmly on the floor. Extend your arms straight up off the floor, above your head so they are perpendicular to your body. Keeping your abdominals in tight, move your arms back slightly so the bar is positioned above the back of your head. This is your starting position.
- Bend your elbows, lowering the weight until it is just behind your head. As you do this, keep your elbows tucked in tight toward your forehead.
- Slowly raise the weight back to the starting position to complete one repetition.
- Repeat two to three sets of eight repetitions, taking a 30-second to one-minute rest between sets.
Tricep dips are a challenging exercise that also works your quadriceps, core, and shoulders.
- Using a weight bench or a sturdy chair, sit at the edge of the seat, gripping the front edge with your palms at your sides. Keep your feet flat on the floor.
- Keeping your elbows tucked close to your waist, slowly lift off the chair by pressing down through your palms. Lower your body by bending the elbows back, keeping your hips close to the bench or chair. You can lower down as far as you can support your body weight.
- Slowly lift back up until your arms are straightened to complete one repetition.
- Complete three sets of 8-10 repetitions, resting between each set.
Holding your elbow up during this exercise isolates the tricep muscle, which provides a challenging workout.
- Hold a free weight in your left hand and stagger your stance with the right leg forward.
- Place your right hand above your right knee for support, and lean forward keeping your back straight and holding your abdominals in tight.
- Point your left elbow as high as you can towards the ceiling while leaving the weight hanging by your side. This is your starting position.
- Slowly extend your lower left arm as much as you can, keeping your elbow stationary. Your upper arm and elbow should not move during the exercise, but you will be trying to extend your lower arm upward until it’s in line with your upper arm.
- Hold the extension for five seconds, and then lower your lower arm back to its starting position.
- Repeat eight repetitions to complete one set, and complete three sets with 20-second rests in between.
Two-Arm Overhead Extensions
- Hold a free weight with both hands as you stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, keeping your knees slightly bent. Be sure to keep your abdominals in tight.
- Raise the weight completely overhead until your arms are extended and your palms are facing the ceiling. This is your starting position.
- Bend your elbows and lower the weight down behind your head, keeping your elbows pointed upward and tucked in close to your head.
- Press the weight back up to your starting position to complete one repetition.
- Perform two to three sets of ten repetitions, resting between each set.
The following two variations of push-ups target the triceps. Push-ups are a great exercise that can be done anywhere without the use of equipment. Push-ups also work your core, chest, and back. To decrease the intensity of the push-ups, they can be done with your knees on the floor. Remember to keep your back straight and your abdominals in tight during your push-ups.
Close Grip Push-ups
- Get onto the floor in a push-up position with your hands placed directly under your shoulders. This is your starting position.
- Keeping your elbows tucked close to your sides, slowly lower yourself by bending your elbows — keeping your back flat — until you are hovering just above the floor. Then extend your arms and return to your starting position.
- Complete two sets of ten push-ups. You can work up to three sets as you get more comfortable with this exercise.
- In a push-up position, place your hands together with your fingers spread apart and the index finger and thumb of each hand touching, forming a triangle.
- Lower your body, bending the elbows out to the side, until your chest is close to the floor.
- Extend your arms back to your starting position.
- Complete one to two sets of eight repetitions.
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