If you are looking to refresh your upper-body routine, adding in a few of the best triceps exercises out there are a good way to do so. Not only will these moves make your same-old workout more interesting, but they will also help you get stronger both in and out of the gym.
Your triceps—the muscle along the back of your upper arm, which helps you extend your elbow and straighten your arm—helps you do everything from pushing yourself up off the floor to placing an object on a high shelf, explains Lee Boyce, C.P.T., a strength coach based in Toronto. “The triceps assist with that last lockout strength, that strength to fully extend over the head,” he says.
Triceps strength also plays an important part in your fitness, whether you want to run faster or lift heavier weights while strength training. While it may sound strange that a muscle in your arms can help you run faster, it actually plays a vital role in your sprints, since it helps you kick your arms behind your body to propel you forward faster, he says.
As for strength training, your triceps act as a synergist muscle, meaning that it assists your other pressing muscles, like your shoulders and chest, in pushing movements, Boyce explains.
“When it comes to exercises like a bench press, an overhead press, a push-up, or a dip, those exercises are going to rely on the triceps for a lot of finishing strength,” he says. “Triceps strength can definitely help with the stability and strength of those movements, and then increase the overall force output or power potential that you can have.”
The best triceps exercises, though, are not necessarily the ones that focus only on your triceps. In fact, if you are a beginner exerciser, or are just looking to build general strength, the best way to work your triceps will probably be through combination isolation exercises—single-joint exercises that really hone in on your triceps specifically—and compound movements, or multi-joint exercises that recruit multiple muscle groups (like your shoulders and chest muscles), says Boyce.
“The triceps involvement in compound exercises can help overall strength and force output, which can help someone generally get stronger or more skilled and more technically efficient in all those types of movements,” Boyce says. Adding in some isolation exercises—say, any variation of triceps extensions or triceps kickbacks—are important too, since they can help highlight any weaknesses with your triceps that may be hampering your bigger lifts and work to fix those lagging points.
Ready to refresh your upper-body routine? Check out the triceps exercises below and add a few to your next workout.
Demoing the moves below are Cookie Janee (GIF 1), a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve; Rachel Denis (GIFs 2, 7, 9, and 10), a powerlifter who competes with USA Powerlifting and holds multiple New York State powerlifting records; Amanda Wheeler (GIFS 3, 4, and 6), a certified strength and conditioning specialist and co-founder of Formation Strength, an online women’s training group that serves the LGBTQ community and allies; Crystal Williams (GIF 5), a group fitness instructor and trainer who teaches at residential and commercial gyms across New York City; and Davi Cohen (GIF 8), a powerlifter, farmer, educator, dancer, singer, coach, and youth mentor based in Brooklyn, New York.