There are many excellent tricep workouts for women to tone their arms and build muscle. However, the ideal workout for you depends on your goals, training experience, and equipment availability.
So, before getting into the actual tricep-toning routines, we're going to take a look at the best tricep exercises for women so that you can pick and choose different movements in order to create your own custom workouts.
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The 9 best tricep exercises for women
Here are the 9 best triceps exercises for women to tone their arms and improve their upper body definition. You'll learn the benefits and drawbacks of each movement as well as how to perform every exercise with the optimal tricep-toning technique.
1. Tricep pushdown
The tricep pushdown is the most popular tricep exercise in existence. You can do a pressdown in just about any gym, and it's a really elbow-friendly exercise.
Also, by their very nature, tricep pushdowns provide a seemingly endless amount of training variety because you can modify your grip and use different attachments to emphasize certain regions of your triceps.
While changing your hand position or switching attachments may well work your triceps in a slightly different way, these small adjustments don't make much difference to your actual results.
As such, you should pick the attachment that you find the most comfortable to use and that gives you the best contraction in your triceps. For many women, this tends to be the rope attachment because you can "split" the ends of the rope to intensify the peak contraction at the end of each rep.
- Connect your desired attachment to the top of a cable station.
- Grab the attachment and then take a step away from the machine.
- Bring your shoulders back so that they're in line with your torso.
- Flex your triceps to push the attachment down toward the ground. Keep going until your elbows are locked out.
- Hold the peak contraction for a second and then slowly let the rope travel back up.
- Repeat for 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps.
2. Dumbbell overhead extension
Out of all the triceps exercises for women with dumbbells that you can perform, the overhead extension is perhaps the best of the lot. This is because by lowering the weight behind your head, you're putting the long head of your triceps under a really deep eccentric muscle stretch.
The long head is located on the inside of your upper arm, and developing this crucial muscle can give your triceps a toned rather than flabby appearance.
For maximum muscle symmetry, you'll want to do this exercise with two separate dumbbells. However, this will mean using less total resistance, so if you really want to build muscle, then you can also do the movement with one dumbbell to maximally overload your triceps.
You can also do a full triceps workout with dumbbells if that's the only equipment you have. Dumbbells are extremely versatile.
- Cup both of your hands around one end of a dumbbell.
- Press the weight over your head.
- Tuck your elbows in and look straight ahead.
- Bend your elbows to lower the dumbbell behind your head.
- Go as low as you comfortably can, and then flex your triceps to extend your elbows—keep going until they're fully locked out.
- Perform 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps.
3. Tricep kickback
The dumbbell kickback is one of the best tricep toning exercises that you can do because it forces you to focus on squeezing your triceps as hard as possible.
Even if you have strong arms, you'll need to use light weights for kickbacks because the exercise naturally puts your triceps in a weak position in which they can't produce much force.
The only point of a kickback is to get the strongest possible peak contraction in your triceps.
If that means using a 1 lb dumbbell, then so be it.
While kickbacks are obviously a great tricep exercise for women to tone their arms, anyone can perform kickbacks and get good results as well. Just because a particular exercise forces you to lift lighter weights than usual doesn't mean that it's ineffective.
- Grab a pair of light dumbbells with a neutral grip.
- Bend over at your waist while keeping your back flat.
- Bring your shoulders back so that they're in line with your torso.
- Kick the dumbbells back by flexing your triceps forcefully.
- Squeeze your triceps as hard as you possibly can when your elbows reach full extension.
- Release the contraction in a controlled manner and repeat for 3-5 sets of 10-25 reps.
4. Tricep dips
The bench dip is a very popular tricep exercise for women because you can do it virtually anywhere; all you need is a stable surface and a spare 5 minutes.
You can use a chair, your bed, the sofa, or even a weight bench if you have one.
Dips are especially effective for toning your triceps because they really make the backs of your arms burn, which can help to create muscle definition if you keep your training up.
If you can already do loads of tricep dips, then you can also elevate your legs to make the exercise harder. You can make the movement yet more difficult by getting someone to put weights on your outstretched legs, which is a great idea if you actually want to build triceps mass rather than just tone up.
- Sit on the floor with your back against a bench or chair.
- Put your hands on the edge of the seat and extend your legs out in front of you.
- Ensure that your back is straight and that your core is tight.
- Bend your elbows to lower your body down to the ground.
- Keep going until you feel a good stretch in your triceps (likely when your elbows form a 90-degree angle).
- Press your hands into the seat and flex your triceps to push yourself back up.
- Squeeze your triceps at the top of the rep and repeat for 3-5 sets of 10-30 reps (or challenge yourself by doing as many reps as you can!)
5. Diamond push-up
Diamond push-ups make a great addition to any female tricep workout because they are an excellent test of both your tricep strength and your pressing power.
In terms of muscle activation, a diamond push-up is like a close grip bench press but without a barbell; it trains your triceps, primarily, and, to a lesser extent, your shoulders and chest.
Diamond push-ups are also highly challenging, so don't feel disheartened if you can't even do one rep initially. You can always do pushdowns and extensions to build up the triceps strength that you need to perform harder, tricep-taxing exercises.
Alternatively, you can do diamond push-ups on your knees to reduce the percentage of your body weight that’s used as resistance.
- Kneel on the floor and put your hands together so that they form a diamond-like shape.
- Extend your legs all the way back so that your knees are locked out.
- Tighten your abs and make sure that your back is straight—don't let your hips sag!
- Lower your body to the ground by "breaking" at your elbows. Keep going until your chest touches the floor.
- Press your hands into the floor to push yourself back up.
- Once your arms are completely extended, lower yourself down for your next rep.
- Do 3-5 sets in total.
6. Lying tricep extension
Out of all the women's tricep exercises available, the lying dumbbell extension is one of the best—for a variety of reasons.
First, by lying on a bench, you don't have to put as much effort into stabilizing your core, meaning that you can better focus on training your triceps.
Second, lying dumbbell extensions work the long head of your triceps, which is the biggest of the three tricep heads. This is important because if you can build and tone the long head of your triceps, then the entirety of your upper arms will also look more defined and muscular.
Furthermore, lying extensions are also pretty easy on your elbows if you perform them correctly. Specifically, you want to bring your shoulders into the movement by lowering the weights behind your head rather than directly to your face.
This form modification is doubly beneficial because it protects your elbows and puts your triceps under a much deeper eccentric stretch.
- Grab a pair of weights with a neutral grip and lie back on a bench.
- Press the dumbbells up so that they're directly over your face.
- Move your shoulders back slightly so that the weights are now over the very top of your head.
- Bend your elbows to lower the dumbbells behind your head. Descend until you feel an intense stretch in your triceps.
- Flex your triceps to lift the weights back up. Keep going until your elbows are locked out.
- Perform 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps.
7. Close grip bench press
All good tricep workouts for women should include some kind of compound press so that you can really target the fast-twitch muscle fibers in your triceps.
The close grip bench press is the best choice in this regard because it strengthens all of your pushing muscles while keeping the vast majority of the tension on your triceps.
You can also perform a close grip bench press with dumbbells (as opposed to a barbell) if you want to ensure that both of your triceps get the same amount of stimulation.
On the other hand, you'll be able to lift more weight if you use a barbell, and the barbell version will have better carryover to your bench press if that's an exercise that you do.
- Load some weight onto a bar and lie back on the bench.
- Pull your shoulder blades back and stick your chest out.
- Grab the bar just inside shoulder width and unrack it.
- Tuck your elbows in and then lower the bar to your chest.
- Press the weight back up by flexing your triceps and pushing your hands into the bar.
- Keep lifting until your elbows are completely locked out.
- Repeat for 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps.
8. Resistance band tricep extension
Doing your tricep workouts with resistance bands is highly convenient because you can use bands pretty much anywhere, which means that there's basically no excuse equipment-wise for skipping workouts.
The band extension is especially easy to perform because you just stand in the middle of the band and then lower the handles behind your head. Or, if you're using a single band that doesn't have handles, you just stand on one end and lower the other end behind your head to stretch your triceps.
The band extension is also a unique exercise in that it becomes harder towards the end of the rep. So you'll really have to flex your triceps to lock your elbows out.
- Stand in the middle of your resistance band and then press the handles over your head.
- With your arms completely straight, bend your elbows to lower the band handles behind your head.
- Go as deep as you comfortably can. You should feel a strong stretch in the backs of your arms.
- Reverse the motion by flexing your triceps. Keep going until your elbows reach complete extension.
- Repeat for 3-5 sets of 10-30 reps.
9. Skull crusher to close grip bench press
The skull crusher to close grip bench press makes an excellent addition to any muscle-building female triceps workout because it combines two proven exercises into one tricep-taxing superset.
Basically, you do skull crushers until your triceps reach failure or until they only have 1-2 reps in the tank. Then, you immediately transition to close grip bench presses, where you rep out until your triceps are thoroughly fatigued.
- Grab a pair of dumbbells or a bar and lie back on a bench.
- Press the weight up, and then perform a tricep extension by lowering the weight behind your head.
- Once you feel a deep stretch in your triceps, lift the weight back up, and keep going until your elbows are locked out.
- Repeat until failure or until you have 1-2 reps left in the tank.
- Immediately perform close grip bench presses. Go until you can't do any more reps.
- This is one set. Do 2-3 sets in total.
The 3 best tricep workouts for women to build muscle
Here are the best tricep workouts for women to strengthen their arms and tone their triceps—at the gym and at home.
Women's tricep workout 1: Strength gain
Strength and muscle development are far from polar opposites. But that granted, maximizing strength development and the growth of lean muscle mass both require slightly different approaches.
So if you want to increase your pressing power or build a solid foundation of triceps strength, this is the workout routine for you.
Although it's definitely a low rep routine, this tricep workout for women still utilizes multiple rep ranges to target a wide variety of tricep muscle fibers, which will help to promote both strength gain and muscle growth.
1: Close grip bench press — 3-5 sets of 6-8 reps
2: Dumbbell overhead extension — 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps
3: Tricep pushdown — 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps
Women's triceps workout 2: Toning
Toning a muscle means building muscle mass and lowering your body fat to make the muscle look more defined. So whenever someone says, build muscle, they don't always mean get massive; you can have toned triceps as well.
This toning workout contains various triceps exercises for women that train the triceps from every angle.
Dumbbell extensions maximally stretch the triceps, kickbacks maximally contract the triceps, and pushdowns work your triceps in the middle of their range of motion—when they're neither maximally contracted nor maximally stretched.
1: Lying dumbbell extension — 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps
2: Tricep pushdown — 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps
3: Tricep kickback — 3-5 sets of 15-30 reps
Workout routine 3: Triceps workout at home for women
If you want to know how to build your triceps at home, then be sure to follow this routine. This female tricep workout contains two bodyweight movements and a band exercise, meaning that it requires very little equipment.
You can definitely substitute band extensions for dumbbell extensions if you'd like. I just used band extensions since resistance bands are more affordable than dumbbells.
Also, if you're not strong enough to do "proper" push-ups, then you can do them on your knees instead. Just make sure to use a relatively narrow hand position and keep your elbows tucked in to keep the focus on your triceps.
1: Close-grip or diamond push-ups — 3-5 sets (as many reps as you can)
2: Tricep dips — 3-5 sets (as many reps as you can)
3: Resistance band overhead extension — 3-4 sets of 20-40 reps
How to tone your triceps
Learn how to tone your triceps so that you can develop sculpted arms. Getting more tricep definition means lowering your body fat to make your muscles more visible. But sometimes, you may already have a relatively low body fat level and just be lacking muscle mass.
Use a full range of motion
In order to get toned triceps, you need to have enough muscle mass to make your definition noticeable. This means that you should aim to develop all three heads of your triceps, which you can do by performing a variety of different exercises.
However, in order to make your effort worthwhile, you need to train your triceps with the proper form. Let me explain.
Say you're doing a tricep extension. Many people would avoid locking their elbows out to "keep tension on the muscle" or because locking out is "bad."
What these people rarely realize is that elbow extension—locking your elbows out—is the primary function of your triceps. So for the best results, you definitely want to achieve full elbow extension and squeeze your triceps at the top of every extension and pushdown rep that you perform.
Improve your mind-muscle connection
During isolation exercises, the mind-muscle connection is everything.
The goal of isolation exercises is to put the maximum amount of tension on the target muscle, which, in our case, is the triceps.
This is why it's so important to visualize your triceps stretching and contracting under the strain of the weight. When you can picture your triceps working in your head, they're more likely to be getting more tension in reality, which results in a better workout and faster gains.
So many people swing the weights around with whatever muscle will contract in the moment, which completely robs their triceps of tension. Instead, you want to use a sensible amount of resistance and perform the exercise using your triceps exclusively.
It's fine to allow a moderate amount of shoulder movement during some exercises to increase the stretch in your triceps, but your triceps should still be doing the heavy lifting.
Train your triceps frequently
Don't get me wrong, you can get great results from training your triceps once per week, and it's not like training your tris twice as frequently gets you twice the gains. However, most women will experience faster results by working their triceps 2-3 times per week.
When you work your triceps more frequently, you're giving them more regular stimulation, which encourages them to keep developing throughout the week.
Also, when you do more workouts, you can do fewer sets per session (because you'll be doing more total sets per week), which makes training seem like less of a chore.
Related: Chest and tricep workout for women
Conclusion: What is the best tricep workout for women?
Although there is no single "best tricep workout for women," there are a few things that every female tricep workout should include.
Since virtually every lady wants to tone her triceps, you need to include exercises for all three heads of the triceps. The lateral and medial heads are trained during every tricep exercise because they only function to extend the elbow.
The long head, however, acts on the shoulder joint as well. So in order to train this important head optimally, you need to do some kind of tricep extension where your arms are behind your head. In practice, this means performing either a lying tricep extension or an overhead extension.
Feel free to follow one of my workouts and modify them as you see fit (useful if you want to get started right away). Alternatively, you can check out the various tricep exercises for women that I explained above if you want to create your own custom routine.
- Hosie, R. (2017, July 19). 6 reasons why women should lift weights. The Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/why-women-should-lift-weights-6-reasons-exercise-fitness-confidence-strength-fat-loss-a7829436.html
- Zielinski, C. (2019, December 16). Frequency of workout, not type, has most impact on women’s strength. The Sydney Morning Herald. https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/health-and-wellness/frequency-of-workout-not-type-has-most-impact-on-women-s-strength-20191216-p53ke7.html