Exercises for the Lateral Head of the Triceps

Exercises for the Lateral Head of the Triceps

When it comes to getting big upper arms, most guys focus on getting a peak on their biceps.  What they fail to realize is that the biceps peak is largely a matter of genetics. The real key to huge upper arms lies at the back – with the triceps. More specifically, it’s the lateral head of the triceps that builds width, and therefore, size in the muscle.

In this article, I’ll describe the 6 best exercises to zoom in on the lateral head of your triceps.

Focusing on the Lateral Triceps Head

Your triceps are the muscle group at the top of the upper arm (humerus). It is opposite to the biceps. As the name suggests, this is a three-headed muscle. Those three heads are the long head, the medial head, and the lateral head. Together, well-developed triceps form a horseshoe shape, with the lateral head being the upper meaty part of the horseshoe closest to the biceps. 

All three of the heads have different points of origin but converge to insert on the elbow joint. Because of that, it is impossible to totally isolate any of the three heads. It is possible, though, preferentially to work the different heads. 

Of the three triceps heads, the lateral head is unique because it can be seen from both the front and the side. 

The Best Lateral Head Exercises

Diamond Push-Ups

Get down on all fours in the top push-up position so that your toes and palms are touching the floor. Your feet should be together and your hands close together so that your thumbs and first fingers are touching to form the shape of a diamond. From a fully extended arm position, lower your body down to the floor. Focus on keeping your body in a straight line and your elbows in at your sides. 

On this version of the push-up, you only go down about half as far as you would on a standard push-up. When you reach this halfway down position, push through the triceps to return to the start position. 

Triceps Pressdowns

Set the pulley on a single cable pushdown machine at its highest level and place a rope handle attachment on the cable end. Stand in front of the machine, about two feet back, and grab the rope handle in both hands. The starting position has your elbows on at your sides and your hands in line with your mid-chest. 

Now push your hands down to full arms extension, forcefully contracting the triceps in the bottom position. Reverse and repeat. 

Be sure not to swing your upper body to bring momentum into the action. You want the only action to be the extension up and down through the elbow joint.

Skull Crushers

Grab a pair of dumbbells and lie on a flat bench with your arms outstretched above your chest in a neutral position. Plant your feet firmly on the floor and lower your hands toward your forehead. Bring the dumbbells down to the sides of your head to full extension. Without allowing your elbows to flare out, push back to the start position, stopping just short of lockout to maintain constant tension on the long head of the triceps. 

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EZ Curl Bar French Press

Sit on a bench with a loaded EZ curl bar resting on your lap. Grab the EZ curl on the first angle of the bar and lift it up to full arm extension above your head. Keeping your elbows in at your sides, lower the bar behind your head to full elbows bend. Push through the triceps to return to the start position.

Overhead Press

Though it is primarily an exercise for the front deltoids, the overhead press also provides a good workout for your lateral triceps head. To perform this exercise, position a loaded Olympic barbell on a squat rack at shoulder level. Unrack the bar, holding it at shoulder level with a slightly wider than shoulder-width overhand grip. From a position with the bar resting across your clavicles and front deltoids, push it directly overhead to full extension. Lower under control and repeat.

Cable Kickbacks

Set the pulley on a single cable pulley machine at the level of your hip. Now stand facing the machine, about the feet away from it. Grab the cable with your right hand in an overhand grip. Bend at the hips to bring your torso down to a 45-degree angle.

The start position should have your elbow in at your side and elbow bent at 45-degrees. Now extend the arm back to full extension. Reverse and repeat.

Be sure to keep the elbow in at your side and do not swing with your upper body. The only movement should be the extension of the elbow. 

Barbell JM Press

Load an Olympic barbell on a bench press bench and lie on the bench with your feet firmly planted on the floor. Take hold of the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder grip width. Lift the bar off the rack and hold it at full arm extension. Bring your elbows in at the side of your body as you lower the bar to your neck. Push back to the start position, powering through your triceps to do so.

Putting It All Together

You now have 7 great lateral triceps heads focused moves to add to your tricep training toolbox. Rather than using them all in the same workout (that would definitely be overkill), you should just use one or two of them every workout, along with an exercise for the long head. You should do 3-4 et of each exercise with a pyramid rep scheme. Start with 15 reps on your first set, then drop by 2 reps on each set as you increase the weight slightly. 

To ensure maximum recovery and growth potential, you should train your triceps once every 5 days. 

This article was last updated on November 3, 2021 .

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Categorized as Exercise

By Steve Theunissen

Steve is a former gym owner, personal trainer, and 20-year veteran of the fitness writing industry. Steve has written for websites such as Hardcore Muscle, Fitness, Carblite, and Men's Health and has been a fitness expert columnist for 2 international magazines.