If you want to add variety to your workouts and speed up your results, then these unique tricep exercises will definitely help. This list of unusual exercises contains movements that work all three tricep heads, so you’ll be sure to find exercises that train and develop your triceps from every angle.
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The top 7 most unique tricep exercises
Here are the top 7 most unique tricep exercises that you can perform to shock your tris into new growth.
1. Cable crossover tricep extension
The cable crossover tricep extension is actually more like a pushdown. However, the crossover extension is unique in a few different ways.
First off, you grab the left side of the cable machine with your right hand and the right side of the cable with your left hand.
Second, when you perform the exercise correctly—by putting your shoulders into extension—it creates a much stronger tricep contraction than traditional pushdowns.
This is because the exercise trains your triceps in their shortened anatomical position. In this regard, the movement feels similar to kickbacks because of the potent peak contraction.
- Move the pulleys on a cable crossover station to the highest position and remove any attachments.
- Grab the end of the left cable with your right arm.
- Grab the end of the right cable with your left arm.
- Take a step away from the machine and move your shoulders and upper arms slightly behind your body.
- Flex your triceps to push the ends of the cable down toward the floor. Keep pushing until your elbows are locked out.
- Hold the peak contraction for a second.
- Release the contraction in a controlled manner and repeat for 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps.
2. Decline cable tricep extension
If you want a change from regular skull crushers and tricep extensions, then the decline cable tricep extension is a great exercise to include in your unique tricep workouts.
Unlike standard skull crushers, decline extensions challenge your triceps with constant cable tension and are definitely easier on your elbows. Because of the constant tension, your triceps don’t get a chance to rest until the set is over, which naturally results in a stronger muscle pump.
You can customize the decline cable extension with a variety of attachments. I like using the curved cable bar to keep the pressure off my wrists, but you can use any attachment that a) gives you a great workout and b) doesn’t hurt your elbows/wrists.
- Wheel an adjustable bench over to a cable machine.
- Set the backrest of the bench to a decline angle.
- Connect your desired attachment to the low pulley on the cable station.
- Lie back on the bench and grab the attachment with an overhand grip.
- Flex your triceps forcefully to press the attachment toward the ceiling. Keep going until your elbows reach complete extension.
- Squeeze your triceps at the top of the rep and then slowly lower the bar behind your head for a full triceps stretch.
- Repeat for 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps.
3. Drag pushdown
If you’ve been doing regular pushdowns for years and fancy a change, then I’m confident that you’ll like the drag pushdown.
And if you want to know why the drag pushdown is so effective, it’s because it puts your shoulders into slight extension, which results in a stronger triceps peak contraction (specifically in the long head of the triceps).
- Connect a triceps rope to a high pulley.
- Grab the ends of the rope.
- Move your upper arms and shoulders slightly behind your torso.
- Then, pull the rope as close to your chest as possible.
- While keeping the rope really close to your body, flex your triceps to push it down to the ground.
- Spread the ends of the rope to intensify the peak contraction.
- Once your elbows reach full extension, release the contraction in a controlled manner and slowly allow the rope to move back up, keeping it close to your body as you do so.
- Perform 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps in total.
4. Kneeling tricep pushdown
There are two main use cases for this relatively unique tricep exercise.
The first is for tall lifters who can’t get a satisfactory range of motion during standing pushdowns.
The second is for those who want to improve their core strength while simultaneously working their triceps.
Admittedly, if maximum triceps hypertrophy is your main goal, then the kneeling pushdown might not be the best exercise because if your triceps are really strong, then your core strength might limit your ability to overload your triceps. That’s not what you want on a triceps pushdown.
Still, if you want to add extra core training to your routine, then kneeling exercises like this are an excellent way to do just that.
- Connect your attachment of choice to a high pulley and grab it with a firm grip.
- Kneel on the floor (a high-kneeling position = greater core activation).
- Tighten your core and move your shoulders back so that they’re in line with your upper body.
- Flex your triceps forcefully to push the attachment in a downward direction. Keep going until your arms are completely straight.
- Hold the peak contraction for a moment and then slowly lower the attachment back up.
- Repeat for 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps.
5. Plate skull crushers
Plate skull crushers are definitely one of the more unusual tricep exercises on this list.
But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t an effective exercise.
I like to use plate skull crushers as a finishing exercise whereby I do skull crushers to failure and then immediately move into close grip bench presses to really burn out my triceps.
For best results, just make sure to bring the plate behind your head rather than directly to your face. This will protect your elbows and give the long head of your triceps a much deeper stretch.
- Grab a weight plate and lie back on a bench.
- Press the plate up so that your arms are straight.
- Bend your elbows to lower the weight plate behind your head. Keep going until you feel a deep stretch in your triceps.
- Reverse the motion by flexing your triceps until your elbows reach full extension.
- Perform 3-5 sets of 12-30 reps in total.
6. Rolling tricep extension
The rolling extension is a quirky tricep exercise that you can perform to strengthen your triceps tendon and overload the long head of your triceps.
Rolling extensions can be quite elbow-intensive for some lifters, but they’re definitely a mass builder for the triceps if there ever was one.
- Grab a pair of dumbbells and lie on a flat bench.
- Press the weight up so that your elbows are locked out.
- Lower the weights down to your front delts by bending your elbows.
- As the dumbbells approach your shoulders, move your shoulders back. This will stretch the long head of your triceps.
- Reverse the movement by moving your shoulders forward and flexing your triceps until your elbows reach full extension.
- Repeat for 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps.
7. Smith machine skull crushers
Smith machine skull crushers are one of those unique triceps exercises that you rarely see performed in the gym. I think that this is because people think that the Smith machine forces your body into using a predetermined bar path, which is completely true.
However, the fixed range of motion is the main advantage of a Smith machine.
So, providing that the Smith machine skull crusher doesn’t hurt your elbows, it’s a great, unique tricep exercise that enables you to focus on the working muscle rather than on balancing the weight.
- Wheel a bench over to the Smith machine and add some weight onto the bar.
- Lie back on the bench and grab the bar with an overhand grip just inside shoulder width.
- Tuck your elbows in, and then lower the Smith bar behind your head. Descend until you feel a strong stretch in your triceps.
- Flex your triceps to move the bar back up. Keep going until your elbows are locked out.
- Repeat for 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps.
Conclusion: Should you include these unique triceps exercises in your workout?
If you want to enjoy a truly unique triceps workout, then I highly recommend including at least one of these quirky exercises in your routine.
You can, of course, do as many exercises as you like, but you’ll likely want to pick your favorites so that you don’t overtrain your triceps.
Out of all the unique tricep exercises, my favorites are the cable crossover tricep extension and the decline cable extension because both movements provide constant tension and are really easy on your elbows when you use good form.