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5 Best Triceps Exercises To Build Muscle Mass

By Marc Perry / July 27, 2017

You probably know that your triceps muscle is the large muscle on the back of the upper arm.

What you might not know is that the triceps is actually the largest muscle in your arm: it has three points of attachment since it is longer than the biceps, which has only two. So, working your triceps will contribute substantially to making your arms looks more muscled and toned.

Check out what our expert contributors recommend as the best way to train these important muscles to make your arms look strong.

Best Triceps Exercise #1: Lying Triceps Extension

Hands down, my favorite triceps exercise is the Lying Triceps Extension, also known as Skull Crushers, or French Press. I love this exercise because you get an amazing stretch on the triceps and great contraction at the top. It’s like a biceps curl for your triceps. The key difference in the way I do this exercise is my elbows are pointed at a 45-60 degree angle from the ceiling – they are not pointed toward the ceiling as most people do this exercise. I also don’t take the weight to my forehead on the way down, but to the top of my head. Using this form constantly keeps the entire triceps muscle stimulated, including the long, short, and medial heads of the triceps (which is comprised of three muscles). You can use an EZ bar, or a barbell, but be careful with your wrists. This is an amazing muscle builder if you are eating enough calories and protein.

Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT

Best Triceps Exercise #2: Close-Grip Push-Ups

I really like triceps push-ups. This exercise comes with the added benefits of strengthening your core, chest, and shoulder girdle. There are a number of triceps exercises that I don’t love because they compromise the integrity of the shoulder joint, which is the most mobile and therefore usually the most unstable joint in the body. A triceps pushup, however, encourages strength and stability in the shoulder girdle while also strengthening the chest and triceps.

Kristin Rooke

Best Triceps Exercise #3: Close-Grip Chest Press

I prefer close-hand chest press for triceps strength and overall size. By keeping your elbows close to your body while performing the movement, you target your triceps ideally. Another favorite if the person doesn’t have any issues with the movement are weighted dips. I also feel that if you’re targeting your triceps you should include a movement that helps extend both the shoulder and elbow joint to effectively target the long head of the triceps.

John Levya, CSCS, CPT

Best Triceps Exercise #4: Overhead Triceps Extension

One arm overhead triceps extension – either sit or stand (with an athletic stance) with dumbbell in hand in a vertical position over your head. Bend elbow, lowering the dumbbell behind your head towards the neck. Extend elbow until your arm is almost fully extended. Complete 10-12 repetitions and perform 3 sets.

Kwesi Peters, CSCS, CPT

Best Triceps Exercise #5: Weighted Dips

The triceps aren’t really an isolated system, so I wouldn’t say a cable pressdown, for example, is the best choice. Functionally, the triceps work in concert with other muscle groups as they do during a bench or overhead press – the weighted dip includes a component of this by incorporating chest & shoulders into the movement. If you’re new to dips, start with no weight at first. As soon as you can get 10 with your body weight alone, find a chained belt and strap on a 10 lb plate. If you really want to isolate the triceps or if you have shoulder problems that limit your ability to perform dips, then skull crushers would be my next pick. There are two main variations of skull crusher: one in which the bar is brought down to your head, and another where the bar is brought behind the head. If you’re new to skull crushers lower the bar behind your head because if you don’t properly gauge the distance between the bar and your head, you could end up with a broken nose.

William Lagakos, Ph.D.


  • Laura says:

    All great exercises that I include regularly. I am especially a fan of skull crushers. Small note about the following statement, "for the ladies, this can help strengthen your arms without adding excess muscle." For 99.9% of natural (no substance abuse) women, no exercise will result in excess muscle mass regardless of reps, weight etc. To suggest otherwise, promotes women's misconceptions that 1) to be a strong women is undesirable and 2) to be a woman lifting weights is challenging because you have to be concerned with building excess muscle mass... that it is best to play it safe and stick to the treadmill. I feel individuals should participate in activities that amplify both their physiological and psychological well being, which includes resistance exercise. It is important that those with an understanding of and passion for exercise physiology drive a shift in the field's vernacular such that health and wellness are esteemed values and false fears are entirely removed from the discussion. Women, lift weights, lift heavy, have fun!

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      Thanks, Laura. I agree. I changed that sentence. I'm actually going to write a post about how BuiltLean is not for most women, only those who are not afraid of challenging their bodies with lifting weights. Excited to write it.

      • Laura says:

        I appreciate the change Marc! Every little bit helps. Your website is an awesome resource and one of the few whose articles are based on scientific literature versus the latest workout or nutrition fad. Thank you for your efforts!

    • LauriB says:

      Well said girlfriend! I too was one that struggled for years with those misconceptions. Stuck with the light "womens" dumbells and such. Now at 40, I've finally totally gotten over all that and lift the heaviest weights I can (I am currently doing most exercises for the whole body "Built Lean style" with 25 and 30lb dumbells). I feel and look better than I ever have and receive a multitude of compliments on my physique from males and females alike. They all want to know "my secret". I tell them to lift weights and lift the heaviest you can. I've actually cut down on the cardio to make more time to fit in the 2-3x's per week full body weight sessions circuit style as Marc recommends. I really only do HIIT cardio for 30mins 1-2xs per week now. And I always tell them to go to Built Lean for honest excellent info!

      • Laura says:

        Rock on LauriB! Your a great example of how proper resistance training and dedication can result in success!

      • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

        @LauriB - Amen to that! Thanks for the comment.

  • Brett says:

    Well said. Too often do I see women spending way too long running on a treadmill and not doing any resistance training. And they wonder why they never change.

  • Anthony Huber says:

    When it comes to maximizing muscle-ups, rope climbs, pull-ups, and snatches, stronger biceps will allow one to handle more weight on our compound upper back exercises.

  • mahdi says:

    thanks so much respective Marc ! I appreciate the change Marc! Every little bit helps. Your website is an awesome resource and one of the few whose articles are based on scientific literature versus the latest workout or nutrition fad. Thank you for your efforts! i will never forgot your help it is in your blood to help the people health and also it is in our blood to appreciate you .

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      Thanks, Madhi. I appreciate the kind words!