Ready or not, warmer weather is on the way. Making snow angels and bundling up was fun, but it'll soon be time to trade in scarves and Snuggies for tank tops and maxi dresses. If you're feeling less than confident about going sleeveless and showing off extra skin, it could be time to rev up your arm-training routine. After all, you don't want your arms continuing to wave long after you've stopped.
When it comes to arm training, women, like men, tend to focus on the biceps. Curls are great, but it's important to target the triceps as well. After all, the triceps occupies two-thirds of the upper arm. Anatomically, this muscle comprises three heads, thus the "tri" in triceps. The lateral, medial, and long head of the triceps can all be targeted with different movements and slight variations in grip. Slow, intentional movements and a strong mind-muscle connection help to ensure you're activating and growing each head of the tri-ad.
Additionally, it's easy to neglect the muscles you can't see, or train them at the end of your workout, when reserves are low. As a result, the triceps often don't receive the attention they need. Instead, consider training this significant muscle at the beginning of your session. Better yet, add in an another triceps day during the week to better focus on bringing up that area of the arm and seeing results more quickly.
In addition to boosting your physique, strong triceps play a major role in push exercises, such as the bench press and bodyweight push-ups. So let's get after it and craft some gorgeous arms you'll be proud of and feel confident showing off!
Sexy, Shapely Arm Workout
Perform 3-5 sets of 12-15 reps of each of the following exercises. Rest no more than 30 seconds between sets and exercises. Instead of waking up early to slog through fasted cardio, add some fast-paced plyometric movements to your workout. High knees, skipping rope, box jumps, or pop squats in between sets will hasten your body into the fat-burning zone for fast results.
Bonus: If you're really looking to add more size and shape to this muscle group, consider adding in a second triceps training day, increasing the weight used, and lowering the rep range to 8-12.
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Standing Dumbbell Triceps Extension
Target the long head of your triceps with this movement. These can be done with a dumbbell, or you can easily substitute am EZ bar, cable machine, or two separate dumbbells to hit a slightly different angle.
- Seated or standing, grasp a dumbbell with both hands and raise it above your head while keeping your elbows close to your head.
- Slowly lower behind your head, bringing your elbows to a 90-degree angle.
- Pause at the bottom of the movement to maintain tension on the muscle.
- Extend your elbows to press the weight back overhead.
This simple yet effective movement engages more of the lateral and long head muscle fibers of the triceps than any other exercise. I like to position myself on an incline bench to prevent any swing and further isolate the triceps. Envision your arms literally pinned to the sides of your body to best target all three heads with this move.
- Holding a dumbbell in each hand, bend forward slightly at your waist, keeping your back straight and your chest up. Fully extend both arms at once.
- Focus on squeezing the triceps at the top of the movement.
- Slowly return the weights to starting position.
This triceps classic targets the long and lateral heads. You can easily adjust the angle to target the muscle differently. For example, you can perform skullcrushers on an incline or decline bench, or use a preacher-curl bar to change hand grip. Regardless, keep your elbows tight to your head to keep focus on the triceps.
- Lie flat on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand, arms fully extended.
- Slowly lower the weights until your elbows form 90-degree angles.
- Press the weights back overhead to full extension.
Dip your way to greatness with this exercise targeting the lateral head. This movement can be modified to make it less or more challenging—by adding a weight plate, for instance. This is a great move to use for supersets, since you may already be using the bench for another move.
To add difficulty, straighten your legs in front of you or add a weight plate or dumbbell to your lap.
- Place a bench behind your back. With the bench perpendicular to your body, and while looking away from it, hold on to the bench on its edge with your hands fully extended, separated at shoulder width. Your legs will be extended forward, bent at the waist and perpendicular to your torso.
- Slowly lower your body as you inhale by bending at the elbows until you lower yourself far enough to where there is an angle slightly smaller than 90 degrees between the upper arm and the forearm.
- Using your triceps to bring your torso up again, lift yourself back to the starting position.
Cable rope extensions work the lateral and medial head. I've strategically placed them at this point in the workout. With a simple attachment swap, this makes for an easy transition to your next exercise, the reverse-grip cable push-down. I like to move quickly in the gym!
- Attach a straight or angled bar to a high pulley and grab with an overhand grip (palms facing down) at shoulder width.
- Standing upright with your torso straight and a very small inclination forward, bring your upper arms close to your body and perpendicular to the floor. Your forearms should be pointing up toward the pulley as they hold the bar.
- Using your triceps, bring the bar down until it touches the front of your thighs and your arms are fully extended perpendicular to the floor. Your upper arms should always remain stationary next to your torso, and only the forearms should move.
- After a second hold at the contracted position, bring the bar slowly up to the starting point.
Reverse-Grip Cable Push-down
Focus on the medial head with push-downs. They're a great alternative to a basic straight-bar pull-down.
- Start by setting a bar attachment (straight or EZ) on a high pulley machine.
- Facing the bar attachment, grab it with the palms facing up (supinated grip) at shoulder width. Lower the bar by using your lats until your arms are fully extended by your sides.
- Slowly elevate the bar attachment up as you inhale so it is aligned with your chest. Only your forearms should move, and your elbows/upper arms should be stationary by your sides at all times.
- Begin to lower the cable bar back down to the original starting position while exhaling and contracting the triceps hard.
This movement is a great finisher and requires nothing more than body weight to hit your chest and medial and lateral heads.
- Lie on the floor face down and place your hands closer than shoulder width for a close hand position. Make sure that you are holding your torso up at arms' length.
- Lower yourself until your chest almost touches the floor as you inhale.
- Using your triceps and some of your pectoral muscles, press your upper body back up to the starting position and squeeze your chest.