When it comes to building big arms, the triceps don’t get their just deserts.

For most people, it’s just all about the biceps.

Well, ironically, the biceps constitute much less of your arm size than the larger triceps.

This is why building big triceps is one of the little-known “secrets” to building big arms.

                                 The Anatomy of the Triceps Muscles

The triceps, or more technically, the triceps brachii, is a three-headed muscle on the back of your arm.

Here’s how it looks:

As you can see, when each of the three heads become pronounced, they form the distinctive “horseshoe” shape.

You can also see that the lateral head is the largest of the three and thus is the one that both develops the fastest and most determines the overall look of your triceps.

In short, when people think of “big triceps,” they’re thinking of big lateral heads.

That said, if you want the full, “3-D” look, you want to make sure all three heads are well developed.

Fortunately, that’s pretty simple to do.

                      The Simple Science of Effective Triceps Training

There are a lot of theories out there about how to best train your triceps.

Some people say you have to focus on high-rep training and really feel the burn.

Others say you should be training them several times per week.

Others still say you don’t have to do triceps exercises at all and should focus on compound pushing movements instead like the bench press and overhead press.

Well, I’ve tried all the above and more, and I’ve worked with thousands of people, and here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Most people need to train their triceps directly to get the size and definition they want.

Heavy chest training will build the triceps but it’s rarely enough to build enough size and definition to satisfy.

2. Heavy compound movements are best for adding strength and size.

High-rep sets and cable and machine exercises can be included in your triceps workouts, but they can’t replace heavy free weight movements.

3. One heavy triceps workout per week is generally enough.

A crucial part of your triceps training that you have to get right is volume, or the total amount of reps you do each week.

This is especially important when you’re doing a lot of heavy weightlifting in general because the overarching rule is this

The heavier your reps are, the fewer you can do each week without risking over training.


When your training emphasizes heavy weights (80 to 85%+ of 1RM), optimal volume seems to be about 60 to 70 reps performed every 5 to 7 days.


Alright, now that we have basic training theory under our belts, let’s look at the 5 best triceps exercises.

You don’t need to do fifty types of triceps exercises to build great arms.

In fact, out of the scores and scores of triceps exercises you could do, only a small handful are really necessary.

And they are as follows…

1. Close-Grip Bench Press

If I were to do just one triceps exercise, it would be either the close-grip bench press or weighted dip.

They both emphasize the lateral heads of the triceps and also gives a little boost to your chest development.




2. DipS

There are two types of dips you can do: the bench and upright dip.

I prefer the upright dip because it’s easier to load with weight and involves the shoulders and chest more, but both are good for training the triceps.



3. Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Press

It’s particularly good for targeting the long head of the triceps and allows you to safely press heavy weight and overload the muscles.

4. Lying Triceps Extension (Skullcrusher)

The lying triceps extension is a movement that emphasizes the medial head.

It has been a bodybuilding staple for decades now because it’s simple and effective.




5. Triceps Pushdown

This is the most common triceps exercise that people do and, surprisingly, it’s quite good.

That said, I like to save it for later in my workouts after I’ve done heavier work on the compound movements given in this list.

Progressive Overload is the Key.

Building great triceps is like building any other part of your body.

  • You have to do the right exercises.
  • You have to lift heavy weights.
  • You have to do enough weekly volume.
  • And you have to be patient.

So, train hard, stay consistent, and eat right, and you’ll get the body you want.

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