Happy Elbows, Jacked Arms
Your arms and joints are probably sick and tired of the same two triceps exercises. Try these simple moves for big arms and happier elbows.
Training your triceps at a high level is nonnegotiable if you want to fill out the sleeves of a T-shirt. They’re also a primary contributor in the bench press, overhead press, and any other upper-body press variation you can think of.a
But if you’re hitting them mainly with just cable pushdowns or extensions, you’re missing out. Those are fine, but it’s time to switch things up if your triceps aren’t improving.
Here are seven exercises to build strength and size without wrecking your elbows:
1. Barbell Pin Triceps Extension
Do this staple exercise from pins so your elbows are set in a proper position right from the start. It overloads the triceps in a safer, more efficient manner.
Start each rep from a dead-stop position, resetting and “resting” for a second between each rep. This allows you to train heavily and focus on the concentric/lifting portion of the rep. Adjust the pin height and change the starting position based on what feels best for your elbows.
Generally, do 3-5 sets of 5-10 reps, depending on your goals and the rest of your program.
2. Dumbbell Rolling Triceps Extension
Do this from the ground to limit the range of motion and prevent the dumbbells from going back too far behind the head, a common mistake when doing it on a bench. The “rolling” motion allows you to use a little more weight by safely taking advantage of the momentum.
Almost any rep range would work, but I like moderate to slightly higher reps. The roll allows you to squeeze out a couple of more reps.
Do 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps.
3. Bodyweight Skull Crusher
Use a barbell or suspension trainer for this. Doing skull crushers with your body weight requires tremendous relative strength. It’s tougher than it looks! This exercise will also help you develop core strength and stability in the shoulders.
You can scale this back by adjusting the height of the barbell or the angle of your body. Just take a couple of steps back and make yourself more upright. The more parallel you are with the ground, the more difficult it’ll be.
Do 3-5 sets of 8-10 reps.
4. Dumbbell Crush Press
The crush press is self-explanatory. Take two dumbbells and squeeze them together while pressing them up. This places constant tension on the triceps. Since it’s a narrower press, it’ll be tougher to flare the elbows too much. You can do it from a flat or incline bench.
To really overload the triceps, do 3 sets of 10 reps. As a finisher, pump out 4 sets of 20 reps at the end of your workout.
5. Band Triceps Kickback
Use two resistance bands for this kickback variation. Anchor one to a rack and loop the second through the first band to serve as a handle. This causes the resistance to build slowly and ensures proper range of motion. This exercise creates a unique stretch. Aim for high reps and chase the pump. Don’t be afraid to go to failure. It’s easy on the elbows but still creates a high level of muscular stress.
Do 3-4 sets of 20 reps.
6. Tate Press
The Tate press is a triceps extension that keeps your elbows pointed out instead of rotating inward. Focus on the eccentric or negative phase where you’re bringing the dumbbells in. Get a strong lockout at the top.
Start light on this one to get a feel for it. Do 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.
7. Incline Plate Triceps Extension
Use a weight plate instead of dumbbells to do this extension. It’ll alleviate pressure from the elbows while hitting the back of your arms at a slightly different angle.
Think of this as a more joint-friendly alternative to the skull crusher. A 45-pound plate or less is all you need.
Do 3-4 sets of 15-20 reps.