The best triceps exercises have a few things in common. They strengthen your upper arms, work some other related muscles too—and simply just make your regular old workout a little more interesting.
Triceps exercises are also super versatile: You can do them with a bunch of different kinds of equipment, including dumbbells, kettlebells, a barbell, resistance bands, cable machines, and even your own body weight. That means you can get in a great arms workout whether you’re at the gym, taking a fitness class, or in your living room.
If you feel like your go-to moves are getting kind of dull—or maybe you’re not even specifically hitting that muscle in the first place—we have you covered with some of the best triceps exercises out there and some intel on why they’re so important to slot into your workout routine.
What are your triceps muscles?
Your triceps (formally known as the triceps brachii) is the muscle along the back of your upper arm that helps you extend your elbow and straighten your arm. The “tri” in the triceps comes from the fact that it has three heads or points of origin: the long head, the lateral head, and the medial head.
The primary function of this back-of-the-arm muscle is elbow extension—which means it helps you do everything from pushing yourself up off the floor to placing an object on a high shelf, Lee Boyce, CPT, a strength coach based in Toronto, tells SELF. “The triceps assist with that last lockout strength, that strength to fully extend [your arm] over the head.”
Why is training your triceps important?
Your triceps act as a synergist muscle, meaning that it assists your other pressing muscles in pushing movements, Boyce explains. During strength training, your triceps help your bigger muscles, like your pecs and deltoids, complete compound exercises—moves like the bench press, overhead press, or push-up—which work multiple groups.
“Those exercises are going to rely on the triceps for a lot of finishing strength,” Boyce 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.” So if your goal is to lift heavier weights or get stronger, working your triceps is important to get you there.