The Best Exercises for Triceps

Recently I was looking at old fitness publications and I came across a study that was done with ACE and the University of Wisconsin – LaCrosse. The study was lead by John P. Porcari, Ph.D. and Carl Foster, Ph.D., two big names in the fitness industry. I actually met both of them when I attended a conference at UWLAX a few years ago. Very, very smart guys who have so many degrees split between them it’s not even funny. Anytime I see UWLAX, John Pocari, and Carl Foster listed in a study, I listen.

This particular study was on the most effective and efficient triceps exercises to strengthen that pesky muscle. Eight popular exercises were tested:

Triceps Kickbacks

Overhead Triceps Extensions

Bar Push-Downs

Rope Push-Downs

Closed-Grip Bench Press

Lying Barbell Triceps Extensions


Triangle Push-Ups

Looking at the list, I immediately thought rope push-downs, dips and triangle push-ups. For me those have always been my go-to where I see the most results and feel the biggest burn while doing the exercise. I actually have my cardiac patients do modified triangle push-ups against a wall. You still feel a burn even with that modification.

Which ones do you think were the most effective? The top three most effective and efficient triceps exercises are:

Triangle Push-Ups

Triceps Kick-Backs


According to the researchers, body weight exercises are more effective since you aren’t using momentum in swinging a weight up and down. My beloved rope push downs? One of the least effective. (Click HERE for the full article if you are interested). Humph!

I recently have been attending Barre class on a more regular basis. My triceps (and other muscles) have been D-E-A-D after each class.

What have we been doing? Reclined dips with small isometric moves is one of the most killer moves. Yowza! Another crazy good move? Going through Chaturanga Dandasana multiple times. All body weight exercises that leave you shaking and quaking. One thing you learn from Barre – if it’s not shaking, it’s not working! Let me tell you…I had shakes on top of shakes!

I think the take away message from this research is that you don’t need all the bells and whistles or fancy moves to get an effective workout. Body weight exercises are quite effective. Will it get you into a physique or bodybuilding competition? Probably not. But for the average person looking to tone and tighten up the triceps, these type of exercises will work. I’m still going to do the other exercises. I think variety is key. Plus, I like how the large head of the triceps muscle “pops” out when I’m doing rope push-downs. πŸ˜‰

What is your favorite triceps exercise?

19 comments on “The Best Exercises for Triceps

  1. I love dips so I was hoping to see them on that top three list! Interesting info. I so agree about body weight exercises. Pretty much all I do b/c I hate going into the gym to lift so everything is home-based.
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  2. Wait, rope push-downs aren’t as effective?? Boo! Those are my go-to tricep exercises. I guess that explains things. It would also explain why I don’t like triangle push-ups. I totally agree about body weight exercises. I have totally come around in my thinking. I used to be all about lifting heavier weights but it’s so true – body weight exercises ARE effective.
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  3. Tricep kickbacks and dips are my go-to arm moves! No thanks on the triangle push ups! As much as I love a good push up I hate them that much more. I’ve been dying to try a barre class. They opened one near me but its crazy expensive! Are they worth it?

  4. This is proof that not having time to get to the gym is not an excuse! Some of the best moves can be done with little to no equipment and in your own home πŸ™‚
    When I hear “barre class” I immediately think LEGS! But its great to hear about the class’s benefits to other muscle groups! I’ve been dying to try a class..

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