Learning how the triceps brachii muscles function helps you to improve your results because you’ll be able to select exercises that provide the best triceps stimulation. Many movements, however, require benches, free weights, and cables, which aren’t exactly the most convenient training tools if you work out at home.
Today’s bodyweight tricep extension, on the other hand, requires absolutely no equipment and yet is still remarkably effective for building muscle. All you need is a spare 5 minutes and good tolerance for triceps lactic acid.
This article shows you how to do a plank to tricep extension with the proper form and then explains how you can modify the movement to make it easier or more challenging.
Related: Best bodyweight tricep exercises
Plank to triceps extension exercise details
- Also Known As: Tricep plank extension
- Main Muscles: Triceps
- Exercise Type: Strength
- Exercise Mechanics: Isolation
- Difficulty Level: Intermediate
- Equipment Needed: None
How to do a plank tricep extension exercise
- Get into a push-up position on the floor with your hands spaced roughly shoulder-width apart.
- Move your arms forward so that they’re in front of your shoulders rather than directly underneath them.
- Tighten your core, tuck your elbows in, and then lower your body to the ground.
- Keep going until your forearms touch the floor. Only your elbows should bend.
- Push yourself back up by pressing through your hands so that your forearms come off the ground.
- Flex your triceps forcefully as your elbows reach full extension.
- Perform 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps.
Plank to triceps extension variations
Performing a plank with a triceps extension is a great way to isolate your triceps because it takes your chest and shoulders more or less out of the movement. Your core, of course, still gets a good workout. But your abs are only contracting isometrically; your triceps are still the prime movers.
If you want to add variety to your workout routine, then give these triceps plank extension exercises a try.
You can also do tricep extensions on rings if you’re looking for a similar bodyweight exercise, but one which provides a more extensive range of motion.
Kneeling plank to tricep extension
If you lack the strength to do a full body plank tricep extension, then you can decrease the difficulty by performing the exercise in a kneeling position.
You’ll want to use a mat for this one because your knees will be in direct, forceful contact with the ground when you do kneeling triceps extensions on the floor.
Start by kneeling on your mat and placing your hands out in front of your shoulders. After that, tighten your core and tuck your elbows in so that you can keep the focus of the exercise on your triceps.
Begin the rep by lowering your forearms to the ground by way of bending your elbows. Once your forearms make contact with the floor, press into the ground with your hands in order to push your body back up. Squeeze your triceps and lock your elbows out to complete the rep.
You can make the kneeling plank to tricep extension harder by lifting your feet off the floor and leaning further forward. While not as hard as the regular version, this feet-off-the-floor variation will increase the percentage of your body weight that you have to use as resistance.
Tricep extension plank (arm crossed)
Performing a tricep extension plank where your arms are crossed over adds variety to your calisthenics routine while making the regular plank tricep extension a bit easier.
The reason this version is easier is that the range of motion is smaller, and your chest is more involved, which ultimately means that your triceps have to do less work.
Start off by getting into a push-up position. Then, move your hands inward so that they’re overlapping—one of your hands should be in front of the other, and your elbows should be flared out.
From there, you lower your forearms to the floor and then push yourself back up by pressing your hands and forearms into the ground (as if you were trying to push a bar away from your chest during a bench press).
While crossing your arms during plank tricep extensions decreases the difficulty and thus makes the exercise more accessible, this modification increases your risk of getting a shoulder impingement because it places your deltoids into what is essentially maximum internal rotation.
For this reason, most people are best off sticking with the kneeling or full-body plank to triceps extension.
Side plank with tricep extension
If you want to train your triceps and obliques simultaneously, then the side plank to triceps extension is the exercise for you.
You’ll need a dumbbell for this drill and ideally an exercise mat as well because you’ll be putting most of your body weight onto one forearm. If you don’t have a mat but still want to train your tris, then you could always do wall tricep pushes instead.
Begin by grabbing a relatively light dumbbell and then getting into the side plank position: Lie on your side and then elevate your torso on your forearm. Hold your torso in place via a strong oblique and abdominal isometric contraction.
Start the rep by lowering the dumbbell in front of your body and then lifting it back up by flexing your triceps. Repeat this 8-12 times. Then switch sides so that you’re facing the other way and lifting the weight with your other arm.
Since the side plank with tricep extension exercise requires less triceps exertion than the standard plank to tricep extension, it’s better to perform the side plank version later on in your workout.
How to make plank tricep extensions harder
Performing kneeling plank tricep extensions is the easiest way to decrease the difficulty of the exercise, but how about making the movement more challenging?
The first modification that you can make is to bring your arms closer toward your body. This increases the range of motion at the elbow joint and makes your triceps work harder as a result.
You can also use a hollow body position where your back is slightly rounded as this will help you to lean into the movement more, which in turn increases the percentage of your body weight that’s used for resistance.
Similarly, you can elevate your legs on a step-up platform, plyo box, or even your sofa (if you’re training at home). Like the hollow body modification, elevating your legs places more tension on your triceps by forcing them to lift a higher percentage of your body weight.
Additionally and more simply, you can slow down your reps to increase the time under tension.
You can, of course, combine all these modifications to turn the plank triceps extension into a highly challenging exercise that mimics the kind of resistance level that compound presses would provide.
The plank to triceps extension is an effective exercise for finishing off your triceps at the end of a workout.
Yet, by making some of the above modifications and just generally accumulating plenty of training volume via the performance of high reps, the plank tricep extension also becomes a great primary exercise for your triceps, especially if you don’t have access to free weights or cables.
Work your way up to multiple sets of 15-20 reps before making any modifications. Single joint exercises like the plank to triceps extension can put a lot of torque through your joints, so it’s often best to stick to high reps.