Anatomy of the tricep muscles

Biceps may hog the spotlight, but developed biceps are useless without equally developed triceps.

The triceps make up 70% of an arm’s total mass, making it the best muscle for filling shirt sleeves. There are many ways to stretch, contract and tear the tricep, but beginners may boil the muscle group down to simple tricep extensions.

The muscle extends the elbow and brings your arm behind your back. However, the way you perform those tasks targets different portions of the tricep. If you want to make the most out of your tricep workout, each head requires different training methods.

For those beginners, here is some basic information about the triceps, how they work and how to target each part.

Lateral and medial heads

Lateral and medial head exercises have much in common. Both rest on the outer end of the arm — the side facing away from your body — and both extend the elbow.

You need to extend the elbow to target any tricep head, but the lateral and medial heads should be performed in front of your body in some way.

When you bring your arm over your head or behind your back, that shifts focus to the long head. When you perform an elbow extension in front of your body, that movement favors the lateral and medial heads.

This extension can be simple. You can attach an elastic band to a high anchoring point and pull down, or use a cable machine for similar effects.

However, you can also target the triceps through “push” exercises. Bench presses and pushups are chest focused but can easily target triceps when the performer narrows hand placement.

Adjust these exercises further to target the lateral and medial with similar tweaks. Exercises where you extend with your palms turned outward — facing toward your face and the ceiling — will target the medial head. Extensions with the palms inward — toward the floor — will target your lateral head.

Long head

The long head is the largest portion of the tricep. It’s the section connecting the elbow to your back muscles.

As such, the long head is at its best when placed either above your head or behind your back.

Overhead triceps extensions tighten the muscle at its most stretched out, allowing for easy contraction. Pay attention to your form during any long head exercise, as your arm needs to be raised above the chest at least.

A personal favorite exercise is the lying tricep extension.

However, the long head also contracts when pulling the elbow behind the back. Exercise this function by positioning your torso parallel to the ground, rowing your elbow behind the back and extending your arm. Add weight, and you’ve got a tricep kickback.

You can also target this function with a cobra push up. Arch your back upward and place your hands directly in front of you on the floor.

Combine different tricep exercises, and you’ve got a routine that’ll develop your arms in no time.

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