An expert shares the two exercises you need to build bigger triceps

There's no push-ups or tricep dips, but you will need some dumbbells and a resistance band

Man doing tricep dips on a park bench
(Image credit: Getty)

Want to build definition in your arms? Then you need to make tricep exercises a priority – after all, they make up 60 to 70% of your total arm. But, what are the best tricep exercises to get bigger arms? Elite fitness expert, Jeff Cavaliere, has answered that exact question.

Our triceps have three different heads – long head, lateral head and medial head – with the long head, you guessed it, being the biggest, so you definitely want to target it. “If you’re looking to build your triceps you’ve got to take a more scientific approach to how to do it and, for me, you’ve got to start with that long head, because it makes up two thirds of your overall tricep, which makes up two thirds of your overall arm,” says Cavaliere.

For these two exercises Cavaliere uses a curl barbell, a weight bench and a cable machine, but you can do them at home with a pair of dumbbells and a resistance band. Similar to the only two ab exercises for building a six-pack Cavaliere shared, the focus on these exercises is the movement to make sure you target the long head of your triceps. The first exercise is a superset. Here’s what you’ve got: 

Overhead tricep extension into narrow chest press: Although you can perform an overhead tricep extension seated or standing, lying on a weight bench will allow you to create a longer movement as you’ll be able to lower the dumbbells further behind you. The further you can lower the weight, the more you’ll target the long head of your tricep. Here’s how you do it:

  • Lie flat on your back on a weight bench and hold two dumbbells with your arms straight above your eyes, make sure your palms are facing inwards.
  • Bending at the elbows, lower the dumbbells behind your head, until you feel a stretch down the back of your arm, then bring back to starting position. Complete as many reps as possible.
  • Then go straight into a close grip dumbbell press, so instead of having your hands out wide, like you would with a chest press, keep your hands close together. Again, do this to failure.

muscular and lean person doing triceps dips on parallel bars outside

(Image credit: iStock)

Rocking tricep push down: Tricep push downs are normally performed with a cable machine, like Cavaliere is doing in his video. But you could do this with loop resistance bands that come with a door attachment, or a long pull up band, so that you can perform it at home. The move is pretty much similar to a tricep push down, with a couple of key differences. Here's how you do it with a resistance band:

  • First, you need to attach you resistance band to something high up, if you have looped resistance bands with an attachment, attach them to you door, if you have a pull up band, loop it around your stairs' banister.
  • Take a few steps backwards then place one foot in front and the other behind you, so you have a staggered stance.
  • Holding the band in both hands, tuck your elbows in to your sides and make sure there's a 90 degree bend in your arm and elbow.
  • Pulling the band, extend the arms down, but instead of stopping when your arms are straight, lean onto your back foot and bring your hands slightly behind you, opening up the chest.
  • Return to starting position and aim for three sets of 10 to 12 reps.

Bringing your arms further behind you will work the long head of your triceps more, as to target them you need to bring them behind your body, like you did with the first exercise.

Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.