10 Best Bodyweight Triceps Exercises to Develop Your Arms

Do you think you can build serious size on your upper arms without weights?

You can if you understand how to use your body in space to work against gravity. Training the triceps, which make up the bulk of your upper arms, is an ideal form of bodyweight training. Your body doesn’t know the difference between a barbell and gravity providing the resistance. In this article, you’ll discover the 10 best bodyweight triceps exercises to work all areas of the triceps muscle.

Meet Your Triceps

The triceps is comprised of three muscle heads or distinct parts. They are located on the back of the upper arm. It is the opposing muscle to the biceps. Its muscle attachment points are at the base of the shoulder and elbow. The three heads of the triceps are:

  • Lateral head
  • Long head
  • Medial head

The three heads of the triceps all serve to extend your elbow. One of them, the long head, moves the deltoid muscle and brings the upper arm back and inwards. However, the triceps has the basic job of straightening your arm and supinating your wrist.

Training the Triceps

Your triceps is about three times larger than the biceps. Yet most people spend most of their training effort on building their biceps. When your arms are hanging at your sides, as they are 99% of the time, it is the development of your triceps that will give you that impressive size that most guys are after.

For truly impressive triceps, all three heads need to be worked. When fully developed, every one of the three separate heads needs to be clearly visible. When they are, they will form a horseshoe-shaped muscle above the elbow.

Even though there are exercises that are able to target each of the heads of the triceps, you can’t totally work any of them in isolation. By examining the function of each of the heads, though, you will be able to choose exercises to develop that particular part of the muscle. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The long head extends the shoulder. To train it, you should do movements where your hands are positioned above your head.
  • The medial head is hit by vertical pressing moves such as triceps pushdowns and bodyweight dips.
  • The lateral head requires pressing exercises with your thumbs about six inches apart.

4 Beginner Bodyweight Triceps Exercises

Exercise #1: Reverse Close Grip Push-Up

This is a great exercise for building mass in the middle part of the triceps. It is a variation of the traditional push-up that requires you to reverse your hand position and bring your hands in closer, thus transferring the focus from the pectorals to the triceps. It may take a little getting used to, but persevere – this is a fantastic triceps developer.

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Medial Triceps Head
  • Secondary: Lateral Triceps Head

Execution method:

  • Set yourself on the ground, face down with your hands about 10 inches apart (Note: In this exercise, your hands are much closer together than in a traditional push-up). Keep your feet together. While maintaining a neutral spine, straighten your arms to lift up to the top push-up position. Tighten your core and keep your butt in line with your torso. Keep your eyes looking directly ahead.
  • Reverse the position of your hands to have your palms facing each other. At the same time move the hands about six inches back towards your stomach.
  • Now perform a push-up, lowering your body to the point that your nose is nearly touching the floor. Make sure that you keep your elbows in at your sides throughout this movement.

Exercise #2: Bench Dips

For this exercise, you will need a low bench or the edge of a couch. This is a great movement to develop the long head of the triceps and will quickly boost the power of your upper arms.

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Long Head of Triceps
  • Secondary: Forearms

Execution method:

  • Position yourself in front of a low bench or chair, facing away with your hands behind you resting on the bench. Your hands should be about 6 inches apart and your legs extended in front of you so that your body forms a straight line.
  • From this position, bend at the elbows to lower your core area towards the floor. From a bottom position, power back up, focusing on your triceps to do the work.
  • Make sure that your hips and legs remain neutral throughout the movement. You should also consciously keep your elbows in, rather than allowing them to drift out. Imagine that there is a basketball behind you between your arms and you have to squeeze in to keep it in place.

Exercise #3: Triceps Extension

This exercise is a variation of the standard push-up. If you find the movement too difficult, perform a modified version on your knees.

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Long Head of Triceps
  • Secondary: Deltoids

Execution method:

  • Get into a push-up position. Place your hands approximately 10 inches apart and higher than in a normal push-up position. The tips of your fingers should be slightly past your forehead. Place your hands facing directly ahead in a palms down position.
  • Maintaining a straight body line with your feet together, lower yourself until your forearms touch the floor. Push back up to the start position.
  • Focus on pushing up with the triceps, keeping the elbows in at all times.

Exercise #4: Close Grip Push-Up

This push-up variation places more focus on the triceps the closer the hands come together. Start with them about six inches apart and then come closer as you get stronger

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Medial Head of Triceps
  • Secondary: Pectorals

Execution method:

  • Lie on the floor as if you were about to do a standard push-up. Your feet should be together and your hands under your shoulders. Rather than assuming a normal hand distance, bring them in so that your thumbs are just six inches apart. Maintain a straight torso with a neutral spine.
  • Tighten your core and look directly ahead, not allowing your head to drop down. Now lift up to fully extended arm position. Without allowing your elbows to flare out, lower down to bring your nose down between your thumbs.
  • When your nose touches the floor, push through the triceps to lift up to the start point.

3 Intermediate Bodyweight Triceps Exercises

Exercise #5: Side Lying Triceps Extension

This bodyweight exercise places a lot of emphasis on the hard to get at medial head of the triceps, while also giving a good warm-up to the forearm muscles. Make sure that you don’t 'kip' at your core to help you up – it needs to be all triceps on this one.

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Medial Triceps Head
  • Secondary: Forearm Extensors

Execution method:

  • Lie on your left side with your legs extended and one foot on top of the other.
  • Cross your left arm over your upper thigh to keep it out of the way. Your right arm should be on the floor, palm down in line with your chest. The palm should be as close to the body as possible.
  • Keeping your head parallel to the floor, push through your palm to lift your upper body off the floor. The power for the lift will be coming wholly from the triceps.
  • Be sure not to rest at the bottom of each rep. Keep the tension on the triceps at all times.

Exercise #6: Atomic Push-Up

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Medial Triceps Head
  • Secondary: Lateral Triceps Head

Execution method:

  • Lie on the floor as if you were about to do a standard push-up. Put your feet up on a chair. Move your hands in so that your thumbs are about eight inches apart. Move your hands a little further forward than you would if doing a standard push-up. They should be at the level of your forehead.
  • While maintaining a straight back and neutral spine, lower down to bring your forearms to the floor. Do not allow your elbows to flare out.
  • Push back to the start position, focusing on pushing through your triceps.

Exercise #7: Diamond Dive Bomber

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Long Head of Triceps
  • Secondary: Medial Head of Triceps

Execution method:

  • Lie on the floor in a normal push-up position. Spread your legs apart and bring your hands in so that they are about six inches apart. Spread your fingers apart. Lift your hips as high as you can. Lower your head and bring your feet forward so that your body forms an upside down "V" formation.
  • While keeping your elbows from flaring out, lower your body down in an arcing movement towards the floor. Brush the floor with your chest and then follow through to come up to a fully extended arm position. In this position, your back will be arched and you will be looking up toward the ceiling.
  • Reverse the motion to bring your head back down between your hands and back to the start position.

3 Advanced Bodyweight Triceps Exercises

Exercise #8: Dips

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Medial Head of Triceps
  • Secondary: Pectorals

Execution method:

  • Stand in front of a dip bar. Place your hands on the grips and lift yourself up into position so that your arms are fully extended and your torso is straight up and down. Cross your feet over. Contract your abs to stabilize the body.
  • Keeping your elbows from flaring out, and your body upright, lower down to fully bend the elbows. Try to go straight down rather than leaning forward.
  • From the bottom position, focus on pushing through the triceps to push back to the start position. Remember to keep your elbows in as close to your body throughout.

Exercise #9: Modified L-Sit

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Medial Head of Triceps
  • Secondary: Abdominals

Execution method:

  • Sit on the floor facing a wall or other upright structure. Place your hands on the floor at your sides. Your legs should be straight out in front of you.
  • Tense your thighs and lock out your knees. Place your feet against the wall or upright about six inches from the ground. Now push down with your triceps as you contract your abdominals. Bring the hips off the ground, so that you are holding an ‘L’ sit position with your legs and butt off the ground.
  • Hold this position for as long as you can. Work up to doing sets of 30 seconds in length.

Exercise #10: Triceps Push Back

This is an overhead triceps movement that places emphasis on the long head of the triceps. You will need to have a low bench that is pushed hard up against a wall for this movement. You should also be barefoot.

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Long Triceps Head
  • Secondary: Forearm Extensors

Execution method:

  • Grip your hands on the top of the table and position your body back with your feet together and about five feet from the table. The further you back away from the table the harder the exercise will be.
  • Keeping your elbows in, lower your forehead to the table.
  • Push back to the starting position, using triceps power all the way. Remember to breathe in through the nose as you go down and out through the mouth as you push back up.

Conclusion

There is no need to risk injury by throwing heavy weight around in order to build titanic triceps. You now have the 10 best bodyweight triceps exercises in your training arsenal. Use them to add mass and shape to the backs of your upper arms and you’ll be able to build a pair of horseshoe triceps to impress!

Image credits: musclesused.com

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