Having nice toned and defined arms are something many women want but fail to achieve.
Your arms have two separate main muscle groups that need to be trained equally if you want to get the definition you desire.
The two muscles are your biceps and your triceps. Most have heard about both of those muscles, but do you understand how they work and why you may not be getting the results you desire?
Most women that start lifting weights tend to pick a few exercises for their arms that they are comfortable with and pick a minimal weight to do them with. If you’ve read any of my other articles about picking the correct weight or how to transition from machines to free weights, you may have read that you need to use actual weight to get any results.
Goal of this article: I’m going to teach you 20 effective tricep exercises that you should start doing now to improve your arms and go sleeveless without feeling self-conscious.
Diet and Supplement Tips
Before we dive into the tricep exercises, I wanted to give you a few tips on nutrition and supplementation.
Lets talk about food first.
Learning how to cook and preparing your meals will have the most impact on your progress than anything else. When you start preparing most of your meals and learn to eat lighter portions when you go out to eat, you are going to start making progress within a couple of weeks of starting.
Your macronutrients break down into (3) main categories: Protein, Carbs, and Fats. I’m not going to get into detail about macronutrient breakdowns and how much you should eat since it is above the scope of this article – but I want to give you some tips you can implement today.
Protein is the building block of muscle and is an important part of your diet. There are many protein choices out there, some easier to cook than others.
Of course supplementing with protein is easy and I would highly recommending trying out the MTS Whey.
Some examples of easier to cook proteins:
- Ground beef or burger patties
- Ground turkey
- Ground chicken
These protein sources are hands down the easiest things to cook and you can make almost anything with them. You throw them in a skillet and brown it.
Somewhat easy to cook proteins:
- Steak – Depending on how picky you are for doneness will depend how hard this will be to cook.
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast – Needs to be fully cooked to prevent salmonella and can overcook easily but you get the hang of cooking this quickly.
- Fish – Can be tricky to cook but once you learn temperatures and proper way of checking for doneness, turns into a pretty easy task.
These are going to be staples in your diet. I love fish and I could eat it every day if I had to.
Everyone is afraid of carbs and I sometimes wonder if all of the fuss around carbs is to try to put a bandaid on the real problem – portions and processed foods.
Most carb sources you won’t have to cook such as whole grain breads, cottage cheese, and yogurt. Most healthy carb sources require cooking and they are actually pretty easy to learn; if you want to start cooking but don’t want to start on proteins, try these.
Check out some of these carb sources:
- Oatmeal – Good old-fashioned oatmeal can be made in the microwave; add honey for sweetness and you have a healthy carb source.
- Rice – Many options for boil-in-bag which means throw it in boiling water for 10 minutes and it’s done, or use a rice cooker.
- Vegetables – Most vegetables are mostly fiber for carbs but corn (one of my favorites) has about 123 grams per cup.
- Quinoa – Cooks like rice
- Potatoes – Sweet or regular
Fats are an easy source to overconsume and the best part about nutritious fats are that they add so much flavor to a dish.
Here are some of my favorite sources of nutritious fats:
- Nuts – Peanuts, walnuts, almonds… regular or no salt is best but avoid honey-roasted to save on calories.
- Avocado – These have such a great taste and texture and can be added to anything. Use instead of mayo, use to make food creamy, etc.
- Sour Cream – A little bit will make a huge difference in a meal.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Drizzle over your salad with some sea salt and black pepper instead of using a higher calorie dressing.
- Cheese – Mindful use of cheese adds so much flavor and a is a great source of nutritious fats.
- Eggs – Easy to scramble but harder to make poached and sunny side up. Extremely great choice of fats.
- Fatty Fish – Fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines and herring are an amazing source of Omega 3 fatty acids.
- Full Fat Yogurt – Use plain non flavored yogurt for cooking or try Greek yogurt.
Learning to integrate these into your daily life will increase your health, you will feel so much better than eating fast food all of the time, and cooking is one of the most important skills everybody should learn.
In order for you to become “sleeveless ready” you need to incorporate a healthy diet, weight lifting, and some cardio. Cardio in the gym is something that you do not need to go overboard on, but is an important part of the process.
Activity outside of the gym is what will make the difference between a lean and healthy body compared to a body that everyone envies.
Take time outside of the gym to go for a walk, go swimming, play a sport, ride a bicycle, or take your kids to the park and play with them; the options are unlimited.
Inside the Gym
Cardio inside the gym is going to be short and sweet whether you are following one of my other workouts or if you are new to the gym.
Think of this type of cardio as a warm up. The type of cardio done for your pre-workout will be decided on what you enjoy and if you have any limiting factors such as unable to walk for very long, etc.
This cardio is meant to be short and sweet, with a little bit of a kick in your butt.
I generally do 5-15 minutes of warm up cardio before I lift weights. This will increase your body temperature, get your nervous system ready for training, and it will help improve heart health.
Choose 1 machine to do 5-15 minutes of a moderate HIIT cardio. Don’t burn yourself out before you start but make sure to get your body moving before you lift.
For example: If your regular pace on the treadmill is a 3, do a few HIIT circuits and get up to a 4.5-5.
Once again, the goal here is to get warmed up, moving, and get you breathing faster.
Post-workout cardio can be thought as the fat burning and recovery stage.
You’ve already exhausted your muscles and your nervous system training so take the slow and steady approach here.
Pick a machine you can do and pick an intensity that will push you to keep working, but not so much that you have trouble talking.
In this article, The Effects of Cardio and Muscle Growth, Cutty mentions different reasons why you should incorporate cardio into your workouts.
You will recover faster from your workouts, extend the increased metabolism, and will help your conditioning improve so that you can enjoy life.
Now onto the part of the article that you may have only been looking for.
There are many exercises that will work your triceps either indirectly or directly.
What do I mean indirectly or directly?
When you do a compound lift such as the barbell bench press or dumbbell bench press, you are utilizing multiple muscles including your chest, triceps, and other muscles – hence the word compound.
When you do an isolated lift such as using a machine or a tricep kickback, you are targeting and working just that muscle.
In order to achieve the sexy toned arms you are looking for, you are going to have to incorporate a mixture of both.
Tricep Exercises You Can do at Home
These exercises can be done at home or the gym by using free weights. I will link to the different pieces of equipment as well as link to a video showing how to do the exercise.
Exercises that can be done with no equipment:
- Push ups – Any push up will work your triceps but bringing your hands closer together when doing them will put more resistance on your triceps.
- Dips – Find a suitable and safe area to do dips. Do them between two chairs, in the kitchen on the counters, wherever is a good solid spot you can do them on.
Exercises that can be done with dumbbells:
Dumbbells don’t have to be fancy but they need to be heavy enough. Many pictures I see in other articles show their models using small brightly colored dumbbells like these but in reality they used much heavier weights to achieve that body.
I highly recommend buying a good set of adjustable dumbbells if you want to train at home. There are many great choices and one I recommend is this adjustable dumbbell set. Read about the different choices you can make (I prefer the threaded handles) and if you have any questions, feel free to ask me or get in contact with them – they won’t steer you wrong.
This set will give you the ability to do any of these exercises and comes with a smaller 5′ bar that you could do the exercises below.
- Dumbbell Bench Press – Triceps are a secondary muscle used in this exercise. Do this exercise by holding the dumbbells a little closer to put more emphasis on your triceps.
- Incline Dumbbell Bench Press – These are great for building a toned chest and really hits your triceps hard.
- Decline Dumbbell Bench Press – These seem to really put a lot of emphasis on your triceps; the movement is easy and you can generally use more weight than the other two above.
- Tricep Kickbacks – One of my least favorite moves but when done correctly as a finishing exercise, it is a great addition.
- Dumbbell Shoulder Press – Build sexy shoulders while putting a lot of emphasis on your triceps.
- 1 Arm Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extension – This is a great movement that I recommend you use.
- 2 Arm Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extension – This is the same as the exercise above, just with 2 hands on the dumbbell. Very effective.
- Lying Dumbbell Tricep Extension – These take a minute to get used to but are a great addition to your workout.
Exercises that can be done with a barbell or other type of bar:
- Barbell Bench Press – A great exercise to do before you do other isolation movements with dumbbells.
- Incline Barbell Bench Press – A great variation to the regular barbell bench. I seem to really feel my triceps burn with this exercise.
- Decline Barbell Bench Press – Another great variation. I can use more weight and I really can hit my triceps with this exercise.
- Close Grip Bench Press – A great exercise to do after regular bench press. This puts so much emphasis on your triceps.
- Seated Overhead Press – A great shoulder and tricep exercise.
- Standing French Press – Once you learn this exercise, you’ll be able to target those triceps and see some results.
- Floor Press – Similar to a close grip bench press, the floor press focuses on the part of the press that is tricep dominant.
- Skull Crushers – One of my favorite moves for my triceps.
Tricep Exercises You Can do at the Gym
You can do any exercise above in the gym as well, but unless you have a cable machine you will not be able to do these outside of the gym.
- Cable 1 Arm Tricep Extension – Use the single rope or the single handle for this isolation exercise.
- Tricep Push Downs – There are multiple attachments you can use for tricep push downs. Try them all and learn to rotate them in.
Weight Progression and Rep Scheme
I hinted earlier that you need to be sure to use enough weight when doing these exercises. I wrote an article on picking the right weights here so check it out.
When you progress with your weight, try to add 5lbs to your exercise (or the next increment heavier) every time you go to the gym. Be sure to keep good form and focus on working your triceps.
Since your tricep is a large muscle that makes up about 2/3 of the muscle on your arms, they can’t be worked as frequently as the biceps. With this in mind, we can focus on getting the most out of your training by exercising triceps twice per week.
For compound movements like a dumbbell or barbell bench press, you should stick to an 8-12 rep range. On the other hand, for isolation movements and exercises done on machines, you should try to gun for a 15-20 rep range.
BONUS – Sample Tricep Exercise Routine
Generally you would train triceps the same day you do your pressing or on a day where you’re just doing arms. Add this into your workout and let me know what type of difference it makes in how you feel.
|Sample Tricep Exercise Routine|
|Close Grip Bench Press||4||12|
Training your triceps with effective exercises using the correct weight, good form, and a good rep range will help tone and sculpt your arms. Although you can make progress using any exercises and rep schemes if you stick with it long enough, choosing from these exercises and using the rep ranges I give will be much more effective.
Whether you want to exercise at home or to go a gym to exercise, these tricep exercises will do the trick. Add in some healthy foods that you prepare and you have a recipe for success.
If you need help building a home gym or have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to ask!