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The triceps brachii, located at the back of the upper arm, features three heads. All three of these heads work together to fulfill the muscle's primary purpose: extension of the elbow. The lateral head of the muscle, located at the outer side of the humerus, forms a desirable вЂњhorseshoeвЂќ shape when developed. Almost all triceps exercises target the lateral head in some way, but certain exercises are more effective than others.
A 2011 study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise reviewed eight of the most popular triceps exercises and found the triangle pushup to be the most effective. This exercise, done like a regular pushup but with your fingers placed close together in a triangle shape right under your chest, targets the lateral and long head equally and more effectively than other exercises. If a full triangle pushup is too challenging, place your knees on the floor for extra support.
Kickbacks are slightly less effective than triangle pushups, but almost equally activate the long and lateral heads of the triceps. To do the move, hold a dumbbell in each hand and hinge forward from your hips about 45 degrees. Lock the upper arms against the sides of your torso and bend and extend the elbow to вЂњkickвЂќ the dumbbells back.
You can perform dips off parallel bars or off the edge of a bench or chair. Place your hands on the apparatus of choice, if on a bench have the fingers face your feet, and lower your body up and down by bending the elbows. Dips are almost as effective as triangle pushups in targeting the triceps and put slightly more focus on the lateral head.
Closed-Grip Bench Press
Although the closed-grip bench press is not the most effective triceps exercise when compared to triangle pushups, kickbacks, lying and overhead extensions and pushdowns, it does provide more activation of the lateral head than several of the other options. To do a closed-grip bench press, lie face-up on a workout bench holding a barbell with an overhand grip. Place your hands about shoulder-width or slightly wider apart and extend the barbell above your chest. Bend your elbows to lower the weight to your chest, keeping your elbows from flaring to the sides. Return to start to complete one repetition.
Considerations and Strategy
Pushdowns using a rope or bar and lying barbell extensions, sometimes called skull crushers, are less effective at targeting the entire triceps muscle, and emphasize the long head of the muscle more than the lateral head. Although overhead triceps extensions ranked fourth in the ACE-sponsored study, they also accentuate the long head of the muscle. If you do at least one set of each triangle pushups, kickbacks, dips and closed grip bench presses twice per week, you will adequately target the lateral head of the triceps. Aim for eight to 12 repetitions in each of these sets, using a weight that makes it hard to do the last one or two reps with good form. Execute and additional set or two of each exercise at your workouts to experience slightly greater results. Leave at least 48 hours between triceps workouts so the muscle repairs and recovers to grow bigger and gain strength.