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The best beginner tricep workout and exercises

These beginner tricep workouts will build a solid foundation of muscle mass and triceps strength.
Written By  James Jackson
Last Updated on 2nd May 2022
A man demonstrating the best beginner tricep workout for building muscle

If you want to discover the best triceps exercises for beginners to build muscle, then you’re in the right place. You’ll learn the benefits and drawbacks of numerous beginner tricep exercises as well as how to perform them with the correct technique.

The best triceps exercises for beginners

Here are the best tricep exercises for beginners to build muscle and gain strength.

1. Close grip bench press

A man performing a close grip bench press

The close grip bench press is a mass-building powerhouse. Out of all the exercises in this list, it enables you to lift the heaviest amount of weight, which means that it lets you overload your triceps with tons of growth-provoking tension. [1]

Since the triceps brachii is a very fast-twitch muscle, the close grip bench press is the best exercise to open your workout with; you may as well perform it when your triceps are at their strongest.

Although you can make great gains by performing a variety of rep ranges, the close grip bench press is best suited to low rep lifting because it’s a multi-joint exercise. If you were to do high reps on this compound movement, then you might find yourself getting out of breath before your triceps are thoroughly stimulated.

  1. Put some weight onto a barbell and then lie back on the bench.
  2. Grab the bar just inside shoulder width and unrack it.
  3. Tuck your elbows in slightly and then lower the barbell toward your chest.
  4. Keep going until the bar almost touches your chest.
  5. Press the weight back up by forcefully pushing your hands into the bar and extending your elbows.
  6. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 5-10 reps.

2. Dumbbell skull crusher

A man showing how to do dumbbell skull crushers with the proper form

Although barbell exercises are great for beginners, they can often lead to muscular imbalances. This is where dumbbells come in handy.

By working each of your triceps independently, you’re more likely to develop proportional arms, which—in addition to improving your upper body symmetry—will actually help you to keep the bar straight during your compound presses.

The trick to getting the most from this beginner tricep exercise is to lower the weights behind your head rather than directly to your face or forehead. This way, you’ll be putting the long head of your triceps under a strong eccentric stretch, which will ultimately lead to greater muscle growth.

  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells and lie back on a weight bench.
  2. Press the weights up so that they’re directly over your face.
  3. Lower the weights behind your head by bending your elbows and allowing a moderate amount of backward shoulder movement.
  4. Descend until you feel an intense stretch in your triceps.
  5. Reverse the motion by extending your elbows.
  6. Squeeze your triceps at the top of the rep and repeat for 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps.

3. Diamond push-ups

A man doing diamond push ups

Don’t be fooled by the lack of external resistance; diamond push-ups are one of the most challenging bodyweight movements that you can do for your triceps.

By using a close hand position, you naturally take your chest muscles out of the movement to a large extent. This means that your triceps have to do the majority of the work, which also means that they get to benefit from the majority of the mass-building tension.

If diamond push-ups put too much pressure on your wrists for them to be comfortable, then you can get virtually identical results by doing a close grip push-up instead. In this exercise, your hands are further apart and are facing forward rather than angled at each other.

  1. Kneel on the floor and place your hands out in front of you.
  2. Put your fingers and thumbs next to each other so that you form a diamond shape with both of your hands.
  3. Extend your legs backward and tighten your core.
  4. Bend your elbows to lower yourself down to the ground. Descend until your chest touches the floor.
  5. Press your hands into the ground to push your body back up. Keep going until your elbows reach full extension.
  6. Perform 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps.

4. Bench dips

A man doing bench dips

If diamond push-ups are too difficult for you, then be sure to give bench dips a try instead. Commonly performed on a weight bench, you can actually do tricep dips with many different implements, including chairs, sofas, and the side of your bed.

Bench dips make a great addition to any chest and tricep workout for novices because they really make the triceps burn, which lets beginners know that the exercise is working as it should.

Specifically, you’ll feel the backs of your arms burning when you perform tricep dips intensely. Just be sure that you don’t lower your body too far down; otherwise, you could strain your shoulders.

Once your elbows are at a 90-degree angle (or even slightly above), you know that you’ve gone deep enough to maximally stimulate your triceps.

  1. Sit facing away from a weight bench, chair, or the edge of your bed/sofa.
  2. Grab the edge of the surface with your hands and fingers, and then extend your legs out in front of you.
  3. While keeping your back straight, lower your hips toward the ground by “breaking” at your elbows.
  4. Descend in a controlled manner until you feel a stretch in your triceps.
  5. Come back up by pressing your hands into the surface and extending your elbows.
  6. Repeat the motion for 3-5 sets of 8-30 reps.

5. Cable overhead extension

A man doing a standing overhead cable rope tricep extension

The cable overhead extension is one of those elbow safe tricep exercises that anybody can get great results from. Cables challenge your triceps with constant tension, which makes it easier to get a muscle pump, which, in turn, lets you know that the exercise is working.

Unlike other beginner tricep exercises, the cable overhead extension is highly customizable. You can do the movement with a straight bar attachment, v-bar attachment, and, my personal favorite, a tricep rope.

I recommend using the rope because it places the least amount of strain on your wrists and also enables you to “split” the rope at the end of the rep to intensify the peak contraction.

  1. Connect a rope attachment to a low pulley.
  2. Grab the rope and then face away from the cable station.
  3. Lower the rope behind your head until you feel an intense stretch in your triceps.
  4. Flex your triceps forcefully to lift the attachment back up.
  5. Keep going until your elbows are completely locked out.
  6. Perform 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps in total.

6. Tricep pushdown

A man doing a cable rope pushdown exercise for his triceps

The cable pushdown is a timeless weight training exercise that makes an excellent addition to any beginner tricep workout. Compatible with a variety of attachments, the pushdown completely isolates your triceps and is typically very elbow-friendly.

The straight bar attachment will enable you to overload your triceps with the most amount of weight, but it’ll also force your wrists into a pronated (overhand) position, which could be uncomfortable.

You’ll need to use a bit less weight if you opt for the rope attachment. However, your wrists will be in a much more comfortable position, and you’ll also be able to achieve a stronger muscle contraction.

  1. Connect your attachment of choice to a high pulley.
  2. Grab the attachment and pull it down.
  3. Tuck your elbows into your sides and tighten your core.
  4. Flex your triceps while keeping your shoulders still.
  5. Keep going until your elbows are locked out.
  6. Release the contraction in a controlled manner and keep going until your forearms make firm contact with your biceps.
  7. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps.

7. Tricep kickback

A man doing tricep kickbacks

A kickback, which you can perform with cables, bands, or dumbbells, is commonly thought of as a tricep exercise for beginners rather than for advanced lifters or bodybuilders. [2]

And while the kickback is certainly beginner-friendly (it’s really easy on the elbows), it’s an exercise that you can keep in your routine for the rest of your training career.

Just be warned that you will need to lift light on this exercise. There’s no shame in using 2 lb dumbbells when it comes to tricep kickbacks because it’s all about feeling a massive peak contraction.

  1. Grab a pair of light dumbbells, and then bend over at your waist.
  2. Bring your shoulders up so that they’re level with your torso.
  3. While keeping your shoulders stationary, flex your triceps forcefully until your elbows reach full extension.
  4. Squeeze your triceps hard at the top of the rep and hold the contraction for a second.
  5. Slowly release the contraction and lower the dumbbells until you start to lose tension from your triceps.
  6. Then, perform your next rep. Do 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps in total.

Tricep workouts for beginners to build muscle

These tricep workouts for beginners, while very similar, each cater to slightly different goals. The strength routine utilizes lower reps so that you can maximize your explosive power development.

On the other hand, the muscle growth workout has more training volume so that you can absolutely maximize your triceps hypertrophy. Strength, while still catered for, is a secondary focus in this routine.

If you don’t have access to traditional gym equipment, then you can also learn ​​how to work out your triceps at home.

Beginner tricep workout 1: Strength

A man doing some beginner tricep exercises

This beginner triceps workout starts with low rep explosive lifting to target the many fast-twitch muscle fibers in your triceps. Make sure to rest at least 3 minutes between sets of close grip bench press so that you can attack your next sets with maximum intensity.

You’ll be using a barbell for the overhead extension so that you can train the long head of your triceps with heavy weights. Try and keep the bar as straight as possible so that your triceps receive roughly equal amounts of stimulation.

High rep bench dips will finish off your triceps after a hard and heavy session. It’s a basic workout, but this beginner routine is ideal for novice lifters, and you can even pair it with a novice bicep workout in a superset fashion to save time.

1: Close grip bench press — 3-4 sets of 4-7 reps

2: Barbell overhead extension — 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps

3: Bench dips — 2-3 sets to failure

Beginner tricep workout 2: Muscle growth

A weight lifter demonstrating some tricep exercises for beginners to build muscle

If you want to get strong but are also training for mass, then this beginner tricep workout is the routine to go with. This novice tricep workout utilizes a trio of training tools—barbells, dumbbells, cables—and 3 different rep ranges to absolutely maximize your results.

Rest at least 3 minutes between sets of close grip bench press if you can and around 2 minutes between sets of extensions and pushdowns (or until you feel sufficiently recovered).

1: Close grip bench press — 4-5 sets of 6-8 reps

2: Lying dumbbell tricep extension — 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps

3: Rope pushdown — 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps

The verdict: Which beginner tricep exercises are the most effective?

A man demonstrating some good tricep workouts for beginners

Strength development and muscle growth are not polar opposites; if your triceps are getting stronger, then it’s likely that they’re getting bigger as well.

Therefore, you should choose the beginner tricep workout that you find the most enjoyable because, as the saying goes, the best program is the one that you can stick to.

Of course, there are many excellent tricep exercises for beginners, so feel free to make your own routine by combining 2-4 tricep exercises in a workout.

References

  1. Leal, D. (2020, November 20). How to Perform the Close Grip Bench Press. Verywell Fit. https://www.verywellfit.com/close-grip-bench-press-4686827
  2. Cronkleton, E. (2019, May 28). How to Do Tricep Kickbacks. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/tricep-kickbacks
James Jackson
James Jackson is a personal trainer who uses his expertise in strength and conditioning to create helpful workout tutorials that show fitness enthusiasts how to build muscle while staying safe in the gym. He draws on the latest sports science data as well as tried and tested training techniques to get the best results for his clients without them having to live in the gym.
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