The 5 Best Triceps Exercises for Building Mass & Strength

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By Alex
Last updated on

Discover the best triceps exercises for building triceps that fill out XXXL t-shirts! This page discusses the top 5 exercises for triceps training.

As an overview, these my top choices for best triceps exercises:

1.  Close Grip Bench Press
2.  Triceps Dips
3.  Rack Lockouts
4.  Dumbbell Triceps Extension
5.  Barbell Lying Triceps Extension

The rest of this article will provide how-to instructions for each technique, and discuss the benefits of adding these exercises to your program.

1. Close Grip Bench Press

How to Do the Close Grip Bench Press:

Get a flat bench (if your weight bench doesn’t have uprights, you’ll need to put it in a power rack). Place the barbell on the pins and load it up.

Lie on the bench so that your eyes are under the barbell. Plant your feet on the floor. Retract your shoulder blades and arch your back slightly.

Grab the bar with shoulder width grip or slightly narrower grip. Unrack and bring the bar over your chest.

Keep your elbows tucked to your sides throughout the lift.

Lower the barbell until the bar touches your upper abdomen.

Press it back to the starting point. Repeat.

Close Grip Bench Press Benefits:

The close grip bench tops the list of best triceps exercises because it’s the only movement that lets you lift such heavy loads through such a large of a range of motion. Because of this, it is the most effective exercise for progressively overloading the triceps…

…This means it produces the largest muscle and strength gains in the shortest amount of time.

Additionally, the close grip bench press is super easy to set up and to perform. The other compound triceps exercises in this list have either a greater learning curve (triceps dips), or require more time and effort to set up (rack lockouts).

2. Triceps Dips

How to Do Triceps Dips:

Approach your dip station. Grasp the handles with a shoulder width grip. Lift yourself up into the starting position by extending your arms.

To best target the triceps, keep your torso as close to vertical as you can and keep your legs straight.

Dip down by bending your arms until your elbows form a 90° angle.

Press your body up until your arms are straight and you’re back in the starting position. Repeat.

Note: For a greater challenge, you can add weight by using a dip belt.

Benefits of Dips:

This is one of the best triceps exercises, in part, because it’s a closed kinetic chain (CKC) exercise, meaning you move your body in relation to a fixed point (i.e. the dip bar).

This increases the amount of compression force on the joints, which is good for joint stability. It also stimulates the agonist muscle (triceps) as well as the antagonist muscles (rear delts/biceps), simultaneously and non-stop.

In other words, you are “co-contracting” opposing muscles. This means you kill 2 birds with 1 stone by efficiently stimulating the entire upper arm.

Plus, you further improve the joint stability. The better your joint stability, the heavier you can lift. Since you must lift at least your bodyweight on dips, you become strong…FAST.

Once you can do 6+ dips in a row, you can leverage this movement to build lots of muscle.

3. Rack Lockouts

How to Do Rack Lockouts:

Move a flat bench into a power rack.

Adjust the height of the bar catches to the point where the triceps would take over during a regular bench press rep. This is about 2/3 through the positive rep range of motion, when each elbow is at ~110°. Place the barbell on the catches and load it with weights.

Lie on the bench, with the barbell above your eyes. Pinch your shoulder blades together. Plant your feet on the floor behind your knees, and push against the floor to shift your weight onto your butt and shoulder blades, forming an arch in your back.

Press the bar straight up off the catches until you lockout.

Lower it back onto the catches. Let it go dead. Repeat.

Benefits of Rack Lockouts:

Rack lockouts are one of the best triceps exercises because they’re incredibly effective for developing explosive triceps strength.

Of course it can also build more muscular triceps, but it is specifically designed primarily for increasing strength and power. The short range of motion lets lift a ridiculous amount of weight. This stimulates the triceps’ fast-twitch muscle fibers, which is essential for strength training.

Even though you only train your triceps within a limited range of motion, the strength you gain transfers (at least partially) to other exercises with triceps involvement.

You’ll notice the most dramatic strength improvements in the lockout portion of the overhead press, the bench press, and all of their respective variations.

4. Dumbbell Triceps Extensions

How to Do Overhead Triceps Extensions:

Find a seated utility bench and grab a dumbbell. Take a seat and stand the dumbbell up vertically on your dominant thigh. Thrust your knee up to help lift the dumbbell onto your shoulder.

Adjust your grip to hold the dumbbell vertically, in whichever way is comfortable. Get into the starting position by extending your elbows until the dumbbell is overhead.

How to Hold the Dumbbell on Overhead Triceps Extension
Images 1 & 2: Me using two different grip positions on a typical pair of adjustable dumbbells with circular plates. Image 3: Me using my Ironmaster Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbells, which have square plates. Whatever the shape and size of the dumbbell, the idea is to find the most comfortable position for your wrists.

Your elbows should be just short of locking out and rotated/tucked in.

Bend your elbows to lower the dumbbell as far as you can.

Extend your elbow to lift the dumbbell back to the starting point. Repeat.

Dumbbell Triceps Extension Benefits:

This is fun to do and it works like a charm for adding mass to the triceps, especially the long head. Plus it gives you a ridiculous pump!

If you modify this movement by doing isometric holds at various points in the range of motion, it can potentially help do all of these things: correct poor scapular stability, improve scapular retraction, increase shoulder range of motion, and strengthen weak middle and lower trapezius muscles.

5. Barbell Lying Triceps Extension

How to Do Lying Triceps Extensions:

Get a flat bench and a curl bar with the desired amount of weight added. Pick the weight up to chest level. Sit down on the bench and the recline back, keeping the bar against your chest.

Slide your body so that your head is at the edge of the bench. Put your feet up on your bench or plant them on the floor (whichever you prefer).

Press the bar over your chest and move the bar just a few inches back. Rotate your elbows slightly inward. This is the starting position.

Lower the bar by bending your elbows. Move your upper arms back slightly when bar approaches your head, to allow it to pass by. Stop once the bar descends below the back of your head.

Extend your elbows to bring the weight back up, moving your upper arms slightly forward into their original position, so that the bar can clear your head. Finish extending your elbows until return to the starting position. Repeat.

Lying Triceps Extension Benefits:

The lying triceps extension is a great for adding mass to the entire triceps. And like the dumbbell overhead extension, it also puts an emphasis on the long head.

Lying down puts your body in a position that enables a larger range of motion than is possible on any upright triceps extension variations. This means you can stimulate the triceps in a greater number of positions, and for a longer duration, than you can on other isolation triceps exercises.

Lying down is also biomechanically advantageous because it enables you to lift substantially more weight than when seated or standing.

Now that you know the top 5 best triceps exercises, it’s time to put some of them into action so you can start building bigger triceps ASAP!

Alex from King of the Gym
Hey! My name is Alex and I'm the founder and author of King of the Gym. I've been lifting weights seriously since 2005 in high school when I started a home gym in my parents' basement. I started writing about fitness in 2009. Then, in 2014, I got into writing home gym equipment reviews and I haven't looked back. My current home gym is in my own house and it's constantly growing and evolving. My goal is to help you build the home gym of your dreams! Read more about me here.

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