6 Best Compound Exercises for Triceps (with Pictures!)

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
November 2, 2022

The triceps brachii is the large muscle at the back of the arm that comprises three heads and functions to extend the arms at the elbow joint. Working out the triceps is beneficial for aesthetic results and crucial for stability, especially for athletes. This can be achieved through the use of compound workouts, which engage multiple muscles at once, and can improve strength, endurance, and hypertrophy.

Compound exercises meant to target the triceps brachii also strengthen several other muscles that are engaged. These exercises include but are not limited to bench dips, diamond push-ups, and hex presses, among others.

Triceps: Anatomy and Function

The triceps brachii is a large muscle on the back side of the arm with a horseshoe shape. It is divided into three sections: the long head, the lateral head, and the medial head.

triceps anatomy

The triceps' primary function is to extend the forearm at the elbow joint. The long head also aids in the adduction and extension of the upper arm at the shoulder joint.

The three muscles of the triceps brachii originate in 3 different landmarks. The long head originates from the infraglenoid tubercle of the scapula, the medial head from the posterior surface of the humerus (inferior to the radial groove), and the lateral head also from the posterior surface of the humerus but superior to the radial groove.

All three heads insert in the olecranon process of the ulna and fascia of the forearm.

Triceps Compound Exercises

1. Bench Dips

The bench dips are a fantastic exercise for building shoulder, chest, and triceps strength. It is a bodyweight exercise that is done with the lower body extended on the ground and the hands grasping at the edge of a bench or other elevated surfaces. This exercise is simple to scale, very adaptable, and helpful to include in a workout routine.

bench dips elevated to floor

To perform this, sit down on a sturdy bench and places the palms on the edge of the bench overlapping the fingers on the edge to grasp it. Put the feet out by extending the legs until the buttock is out in front of the bench. Keep the back straight and the arms and legs extended and this will be the starting position. 

Then lower the body by bending the elbows until a 90-degree angle is formed with the elbows. Briefly pause on this position, then push straight up to return to the starting position in a controlled manner to maximize the workout. Repeat this motion for the desired number of reps to complete a single set. 

2. Parallel Bar Dips

Parallel bar dips are an excellent upper body workout that work multiple muscle groups and uses body weight as resistance. This exercise activates muscles such as the triceps, chest, shoulders, and arm muscles. This exercise is a progression from the traditional tricep bench dips.

parallel bar dips

To perform, stand between the parallel bars and place a hand on each bar. Then bend the knees, lifting the calves so that all the weight of the body will be placed on the arms. The arms are to be kept extended to be at the starting position of the exercise.

Lower the body by bending the elbows up until the elbows are higher than the shoulders. Once lowered, briefly pause and then push the body back up again to the starting position. Repeat until a set is completed. 

3. Diamond Push-ups

A more sophisticated version of the standard push-up is the diamond push-up, also referred to as the triangular or tricep push-up. As the name implies, diamond push-ups involve positioning the hands so that they resemble a diamond.

The muscles must work together to complete a diamond push-up. The triceps brachii is regarded as the primary muscle, and the serratus anterior, deltoids and pectoralis major are regarded as secondary muscles.

diamond push up

The exercise does not really require the individual to form a diamond shape with the hands but to have them close to each other. This is to ensure that the triceps brachii are accentuated during its performance. 

The position is similar to that of a traditional push-up, with the individual assuming a high plank with feet parallel to the hips and hands on the floor beneath the chest. Hands and forefingers are brought together almost directly beneath the chest to form a diamond or triangular shape. Squeezing the thighs and glutes to increase support will help to keep the body tight and straight.

The elbows must be pointing back to the feet as the chest is lowered toward the ground. The body is lowered until the arms are parallel to the ribcage, then paused for a second before beginning the upward movement. Maintaining alignment, the body is propelled upward by pushing the floor away until the elbows are straight.

4. Close Grip Bench Press

The hands on the bar are closer together when performing the close grip bench press as opposed to the standard bench press. The close grip bench press concentrates on the triceps while the standard bench press works the triceps, shoulders, and pectoral muscles with a focus on the chest. If you use a narrow grip to finish the exercise, your attention will be drawn to your elbow extensors rather than your pectoral muscles.

close grip bench press

A close grip bench press is performed by lying on the bench with one's feet flat on the floor. The barbell is held with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. As the weight is slowly lowered, the core is engaged and the shoulder blades are squeezed to stabilize the body.

When the weight reaches the bottom of the movement, it is pressed up in an explosive motion. To emphasize triceps activation, the elbows are kept close to the sides throughout the activity.

5. Flat Bench Press

The flat bench press is an excellent upper-body compound exercise that primarily works the triceps and pectoralis major muscles. Along with those 2 muscles, this exercise also activates the anterior deltoids, traps, and back muscles. This is done with the individual lying on a bench that is positioned horizontally.

barbell bench press

To perform this, lie down on the bench while positioning the head under the barbell that is placed on the rack. Grab the barbell with a neutral grip slightly outside the shoulder-width distance. Keep the hips firmly placed and have a slight arch at the back. Unrack the barbell by extending the arms and moving it forward until the barbell is now above the upper chest area.

Lock the shoulders down and squeeze the shoulder blades together as the individual lowers the barbell down by bending on the elbows until it almost touches the chest. Then push the bar upward again to return to the starting position. Repeat this motion until a single set is completed. 

6. Hex Press

The hex press is a variant of the dumbbell bench press that differs in the equipment used and the manner in which it is performed, requiring that the hex dumbbells remain in contact the entire time. This exercise works the triceps, anterior, and lateral deltoid muscles, as well as the pecs more intensely than the standard dumbbell bench press.

dumbbell hex press

The hex press is done by holding the dumbbells in a neutral grip, lying flat on the bench with the back straight, and then bringing the weights together while lying or resting on the chest.

Maintaining contact between the two weights, raise the weights horizontally to the lifter's shoulders. Repeat the process until the set is complete, pressing the dumbbells back down to your chest to finish a repetition.

Other Muscles Worked in Doing Compound Tricep Exercises

Pectoralis Major

The pectoralis major is a fan-shaped muscle that originates from three points: the clavicle, the sternocostal, and the abdominal region, and inserts into the humerus.

pectoralis major

This muscle is in charge of several actions, including arm adduction, internal rotation, flexion, and extension.

Anterior Deltoid

The anterior deltoid or most known as the front deltoid originates at the lateral third of the clavicle and inserts at the deltoid tuberosity of the humerus.

anterior deltoid

This muscle is responsible for moving the arm forward at the shoulder joint. Multiple activities involve the activation of the anterior deltoids such as reaching for objects, lifting, throwing, and many more daily life activities. 

Lateral Deltoid

The lateral deltoid, also known as the deltoid's outermost part, is a large, flat muscle that runs from just below the collarbone to just above the elbow. It aids in abducting and laterally rotating the arm, allowing it to move laterally away from the body.

lateral deltoid

Many activities involve the lateral deltoid, such as throwing, swinging, reaching, and pushing open doors or objects with both hands while keeping them steady on hinges. When lifting heavy objects overhead, it also helps to stabilize shoulder joint movements.

Biceps

The biceps brachii muscle is located ahead of the brachialis muscle. Its two heads arise from different parts of the upper extremity, with the long head originating from the supraglenoid tubercle and the short head originating from the coracoid process of the scapula.

biceps anatomy

Both heads fuse to form a single muscle belly with a common insertion into the forearm's radial tuberosity and fascia. It is the most powerful forearm supinator and the most powerful elbow flexor in supination.

Trapezius

The trapezius muscle is a large superficial back muscle with a trapezoid shape. Its function is to stabilize and move the scapula, and it is commonly referred to as the traps.

trapezius muscles

It is crucial in lat pulldowns because the middle fibers retract and the lower fibers depress the scapula.

Serratus Anterior

The serratus anterior derives its name from the Latin origin “serrare” which means to saw, which refers to the shape of the muscle and anterior because this muscle is positioned in the front portion of an individual’s body.

serratus anterior

The serratus anterior is responsible for pulling the scapula forward around the thorax so that it allows for the anteversion and protraction of the arm.

Benefits of Compound Exercises for the Triceps

Triceps compound exercises will help in building up muscles, improving flexibility, and reducing the risk of injury by improving stability, especially in certain activities that cause injuries to the elbows such as baseball pitching, golfing, etc. Compound exercises are also known to be able to burn more calories and elevate the heart rate. 

Elevates Heart Rate

 More effectively than isolation exercises, compound exercises increase heart rate. Increased heart rate and cardiovascular fitness from compound exercises improve the heart's pumping capacity. The effects of exercise on the heart and lungs are directly correlated with heart rate.

Compound exercises work more muscle groups, which puts pressure on the heart to pump blood more effectively to supply the working muscles with oxygen.

More Calorie Burned

The body can burn more calories overall during exercises that involve more muscular tissue and therefore require more oxygen. Exercises that engage multiple muscle groups, like diamond push-ups, burn more calories than isolation exercises like triceps extensions because they increase net energy expenditure.

Improves Flexibility

Stretching exercises that are both static and dynamic can increase flexibility. Compound exercises move through a dynamic range, mimicking everyday motions, and lengthen the tissues around them. Reciprocal inhibition is used to achieve this.

Reciprocal inhibition describes how muscles on the side that isn't contracting relax to make room for movement. Repeated use over time, reduces muscle activity, lengthening the muscle and releasing tension.

Increasing Strength

Compound exercises allow for the lifting of heavier weights because they engage multiple muscle groups. Because compound exercises work multiple muscle groups, heavier weights can be lifted. More muscle fibers can be recruited by using heavier weights. Because using a heavier load increases the potential for muscular development and strength, this translates to an increase in overall strength.

Improve Stability

Most compound exercises imitate movements used in daily life. In order to control the output force and carry out an action, it teaches the muscles to move as a single unit. By building up and exercising the muscles that are used to produce movements during daily activities, stability and balance are also improved.

Final Thoughts

Compound exercises give the entire body a workout in a short amount of time, burn more calories, enhance coordination, and build stronger muscles for daily activities. These are just a few advantages of strengthening the triceps with compound exercises.

It is essential to execute compound exercise movements correctly and concentrate on suitable techniques if you want to prevent injuries and get the most out of your exercise program.

References

1. Tiwana MS, Sinkler MA, Bordoni B. Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Triceps Muscle. [Updated 2022 Aug 30]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK536996/

2. Banks K. Tricep Pushdown Alternatives: How to Target the Triceps Brachii.

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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