Why use bodyweight exercises for triceps?
Bodyweight exercises are a cheap and effective way to build muscle and get stronger. They involve a lot of coordination in movement, build great body awareness, and can be scaled using leverage or complexity to ensure you’re always getting a great workout.
There are a few specific benefits you should keep in mind that make bodyweight tricep exercises particularly valuable and worth your time.
Convenience and easy access
Anyone can perform some form of bodyweight triceps exercise even without gym access. After all, the push up and its many variations is the classic bodyweight tricep exercise – and you don’t need a single piece of equipment to do that.
This makes bodyweight training – for the triceps in particular – easy and accessible. You can use incline variations of many movements to make them easier or add a decline over time to make the exercise more challenging and build bigger arms.
Train the entire body
Most bodyweight training involves moving the whole body together – either by engaging the core, stabilizing the body, or just being difficult to coordinate. This coordination and strengthening of the entire body together is a great way to build total athleticism and body awareness.
The proper development of these movements is a great way to improve upper arm strength – as well as other factors. Bodyweight tricep exercises also build most of the mass in your upper arms (more than the bicep). This upper body strength specifically targets hinging the elbow joint and controlling the shoulders – a great way to reduce injuries.
How bodyweight exercises improve weight training
Bodyweight tricep exercises like dips, push-ups, pike presses, and more all involve training other muscles as well. They’re compound exercises that develop pushing strength, of which the triceps are just one contributor.
This makes most tricep calisthenics exercises great for total upper body development. Alternatively, some exercises like the body weight skull-crusher are great isolation exercises that isolate the triceps.
These all carry over to other exercises, too – like bench press, overhead press, and even handstand exercises (from the pike press).
How to train the triceps muscles: important anatomy
The triceps are an elbow extensor that also attaches to the shoulder through the long head. This is one of the 3 ‘heads’ of the tricep that make up the whole, and it means that good tricep training also requires thinking about the shoulder.
The triceps are all about extending the elbow – which is both something you can use as part of a larger ‘pushing’ exercise like a dip or by itself in an elbow-hinge (like the bodyweight skull-crusher).
What matters is that you need to reduce shoulder movement to get the best tricep training – one joint needs to stay static while the other moves for the best training effect.
You also need to practice elbow extension with an externally rotated shoulder at least sometimes. This helps improve the function of the long head of the tricep which is both important for maximizing tricep muscle gains, and also for better long-term shoulder health.
The 7 best bodyweight triceps exercises
The best body weight exercises emphasize the eccentric (as you slowly bend your elbows) and the concentric (when extending the elbow joint) phases. Bodyweight exercises like the bench dip, for example, combine this focus with easy scaling for all experience levels and building mobility.
This kind of universal benefit
The regular push-up is a humble but ever-present tricep exercise with bodyweight because it can be performed anywhere and develops most of the upper body. It’s an exercise for the triceps, but also the chest, shoulders, and core.
Make sure you keep your legs straight and core tight to get the most out of a push-up. You can put your palms flat on a raised surface to make it easier, or raise your feet to make it harder. You can also adjust the push-up position to make it easier (with knees bent) or hander (with diamond-shaped hands in your push-up position).
Pike push up
While it’s called a push-up, the pike pushup (or pike press) is a half-handstand starting position to build triceps (as well as the shoulders and upper back). It’s a great way to advance your training and build strong triceps without equipment – making the movement harder with leverage and your own body weight.
You don’t have to use a wall to support yourself. You can lift your hips into a higher position – like a downward dog position with your hands shoulder-width apart – to perform an easier variation. This still engages the scapular muscle group and trains towards a handstand push-up (eventually!).
This is one of the best ways to progress your push-up into entire body strength and produces massive tricep strength gains.
The ring push-up is an even better alternative to the regular push-up where it involves more dynamic stability – but also more challenge. Keep your elbows tucked throughout, hands shoulder-width apart, and try to touch your wrists together at the top.
You can get into a deeper bottom position, strengthening the chest and shoulders more, while the top position with locked and externally rotated arms is perfect for tricep and upper back development. You can also train with elevated legs to make the exercise more challenging and build stronger chest and tricep muscles.
You need gymnastic rings, but they’re a great investment for building bodyweight strength. Having access to this exercise is great for elbow joint health and gives you access to the best bodyweight exercises.
Diamond push-ups are a very narrow ‘grip’ variation of the push-up that forces you to use more elbow flexion and extension, and less shoulder hinging. This means all the tricep work and very little else – making them an effective but difficult push-up variation.
You’ll get tons of extra tricep gains from this exercise, but it can be difficult for beginners. Try using the incline diamond push-up variation to get more value without the same difficulty and strength demands!
Dips are the best bodyweight pushing exercise – if you can do them. They expand on all the benefits of the push-up and ring push-up with more range, more weight, and a better combination of chest muscles, shoulders, and triceps.
The dip does require a good setup with either dip bars or parallel bars. Alternatively, you can perform ‘bench dips’ with your palms flat on a raised surface behind you. These are easier. but still, build strong tricep muscles.
The bench dip is a shorter range of motion and you can practice with knees bent for an easier time – or elevated legs for more challenge. Slowly push upwards and try to focus on control and range of motion – bend your elbows and try to use the bench dip to stretch out the chest.
Dips are a logical next step for anyone who is getting really good at any variation of push-up and will offer a ton of value for your time and energy.
Body weight skull-crushers
This is one of the few bodyweight tricep exercises to directly isolate the triceps and build strength in just that muscle. It reduces the role of other muscles to emphasize strong triceps – and can be performed with that external rotation position we mentioned before.
Just like other exercises – like the push-up – you can incline your body to put more weight into the feet and less into the hands. This produces an easier option for beginners, for using this exercise later in a workout, or just as a way to keep adding reps as you get more tired.
A perfect ‘finisher’ exercise to build more muscle mass.
Plank position walk-up
This is a very simple but effective dynamic bodyweight triceps exercise that trains the triceps and shoulders, along with the upper back and core. It’s an entire body movement that is another great finisher for the triceps – especially since it uses the forearm plank position and develops the pushup ‘straight line’ position, building core muscles and shoulder stability.
You simply use a plank starting position and lower yourself from straight arms to your forearms on each arm, then reverse the movement. This involves some one-armed tricep loading, which is a great alternative to constantly using two-arm movements – and really helps the shoulders, too.
As above, this is a great final exercise to pump the triceps and support more tricep muscle growth and upper arm strength. It’s best when combined with the other exercises above to make sure you’re starting the plank walk-up under fatigue to get the best benefits!
- Bodyweight Tricep Exercises
- Isometric Tricep Exercises
- Lateral Head Tricep Exercises
- Medial Head Tricep Exercises
- Tricep Pushdown Alternatives
- TRX Tricep Exercises
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