Targeting Specific Tricep Heads?


I need some advice about working triceps. Currently I work my chest and triceps twice a week. One of those workouts is 6 sets on the machine chest press for chest and tris, 2-3 on the machine butterfly press to isolate chest, and then 4-5 sets of straight bar tricep pushdowns/pulldowns. The second workout each week I do is similar movements but with free weights - 6 sets dumbell bench press, 2-3 flyes to isolate chest, and 4-5 sets of dumbell floor press to isolate the triceps a bit.

I have concerns that I would be better off doing different tricep isolation exercises, since some sites I have seen say that tricep pushdowns & dumbell floor presses work primarily the lateral and medial heads of the triceps, which I have also seen are the heads of the triceps worked in primarily in the chest press/dumbell bench press - therefore meaning that maybe I should be doing isolation exercises for the long head rather than the lateral and medial heads already worked by my pressing exercises? I have however, confusingly, seen another sight stating that straight bar tricep pulldowns actually primarily target the long head, in which case I’m probably worried about a non-issue.

Any advice or clarity would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Unless people are already pointing out that while your triceps are huge but the heads seem unbalanced I don’t think you need to care. So my advice is don’t care, follow a proven plan and get more muscular.

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Some people do overhead tricep extensions to hit the long head. Or straight bar tricep pushdowns with an underhand grip to feel the long head more.

Next time you do Pushdowns, adjust your grip to underhand, or turn around facing away from the pulley and do some Extensions overhead.

If you feel something you never felt, like the back of your arm blowin’ up in a new and exciting way, you’ll know you were missing out. If that’s the case, add in some long head action.


Main thing is rotating a few moves that you can get good stretch and go hard with over the long term and not piss off elbows. These are great to throw in the mix…

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Some rules to understand:

  • if your shoulder is flexed (I.e. arms above your head) you’re going to load the long head preferentially
  • if your shoulder is passively extended/neutral (hanging by your side) you will load all heads relatively equally
  • if your shoulder is actively extended (I.e. held by your side) like in a kick-back, you will load lateral and medial heads preferentially because the long head is actively insufficient (over-short)
  • if your shoulder is flexing whilst your elbow is extending you will load the long head quasi-isometrically, through its mid range, and thus also bias lateral and medial heads

As Paul Carter, Kassem Hansen and Joe Bennet do, you can simplify this as mid-range, end-range and inner-range bias

  • Pushdowns target mid-to-inner-range triceps
  • Kick-backs target inner-range triceps
  • Skullcrushers target mid-to-end-range triceps
  • Overhead extensions target end-range triceps
  • Pressing targets mid-range triceps

Rather than worrying about isolating heads (which you can’t really do), aim to cover all three contractile ranges in your training


The answer will be the same as last time you asked this question.

@kd13 gave you the answer to this question then, what changes have you implemented since that thread?




I added more tricep work as I was told that I was doing bicep than tricep work and it didn’t make much sense, and started doing a greater variety of tricep exercises - but after experimenting for a bit I found a site saying the pushdowns targeted the long head which I was advisd to focus on more, so I drifted back to my original routine (which already had pushdowns in it) before seeing another site with information to the contrary. Hence this post trying to get some clarification.

Please don’t speak to me like I’m 4 years old, no need to get all high and mighty on this.

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