Don’t be intimidated by its name – the skullcrusher actually has a low danger factor and is a great move for targeting the lateral and long heads of your triceps. Start with a barbell extended above your chest, then bend your elbows, making sure that your triceps stay perpendicular to the floor; stop when the bar is an inch or two from your forehead, then reverse.
Try: Three sets of 10 to 12 reps.
Tip: Get the hang of this motion by first using an unloaded bar.
2. Triceps Pressdown
This move is a staple of nearly every triceps routine for one simple reason: it works. One of its merits is its versatility: a simple handle or hand position change will give you a completely new exercise. The main things to remember as you do this move are to keep your shoulder blades back and your upper arms tight to your sides as you extend from your elbows.
Try: Three sets of 12 reps.
Tip: Here’s a speedy superset idea: Perform 12 reps of overhand straight-bar pressdowns (lateral head emphasis), then follow up immediately with 12 reps of underhand straight-bar pressdowns (medial head emphasis). Rest; repeat twice.
Related:Amplify Your Arms
3. Seated Overhead Barbell Extension
The seated overhead extension can be done with dumbbells or a barbell, but we chose the barbell version for our list because women often shy away from it. Although the same general motion is used as in a skullcrusher (bending the weight behind the head instead of toward the forehead), your core is engaged more with this extension because of the upright position. One minor warning: watch that your elbows don’t flare out too much as you lower the bar.
Try: Two to three sets of 10 to 12 reps.
Tip: Using an EZ-bar (shown here) will help keep your grip narrow to better exert your tris. Also, if you have back problems, sit at a low-backed seat for support.
4. Parallel Dip
We won’t lie: this body-weight move can be tough at first. Do it early in your workout when your muscles are fresh, and try to find an apparatus with narrow bars – your hands should be about shoulder-width apart. Bend your arms to lower your body, then focus on the contraction in your triceps as you straighten your arms to return to the start.
Try: Two sets of 10 to 15 reps. (Or more – we dare you!)
Tip: Don’t lean forward too much; this will focus the effort on your pecs, not your triceps. (Bonus: check out the next slide for an easier – but still effective – version of this move.)
5. Bench or Chair Dip
This move is great for those new to triceps training and can be done off of any sturdy piece of furniture. Hold on to the edge of a bench, with your legs extended and heels touching the ground. Bend your arms until your triceps are parallel to the ground, then extend to return to the start.
Try: Two to three sets of 10 to 15 reps. (But don’t stop there if it’s too easy!)
Tip: Beginners can bend their knees and bring their feet closer to their body. For a real challenge, try placing your heels on another bench in front of you.
6. Incline Triceps Kickback
Changing up regular bilateral kickbacks with an incline bench takes this exercise from same-old, same-old to shiny and new. Make sure that your feet stay planted and, as with regular kickbacks, your upper arms should remain stationary throughout each rep.
Try: Two to three sets of 12 to 15 reps.
Tip: Don’t strain your neck by tucking your chin to your chest, and slowly extend your elbows to move the weights behind you.
7. Triceps Push-Up
Although this exercise still targets your chest and shoulders, bringing your hands closer together helps to hone in on the lateral head of your triceps. Get into a push-up position with your hands less than a foot apart, or place your index fingers and thumbs together on the floor as shown. Bend your arms to lower, and contract your triceps as you rise.
Try: Two to three sets of 12 to 15 reps. (If you can do more, go for it!)
Tip: For an added challenge, perform this move with both hands on a medicine ball.
8. Close-Grip Chest Press
Here’s another pectoral move that does double-duty as a triceps builder. (We sense a theme here!) Keeping your hands narrower than shoulder-width apart and your elbows close to your sides will reinvent this classic chest move as an exercise for your tris.
Try: Three sets of 12 reps.
Tip: The path of your barbell should be straight up and down. Do this move beside a mirror and watch your form during your first couple of reps.