Fun fact: the biceps get most of the attention but the triceps are the largest muscles in your upper arm. So it’s well worth targeting them in your workouts, especially as for women. Hormonal changes, particularly during the menopause, can cause bones to weaken, but training your muscles can help boost bone strength to counteract this.
Not sure how to train your triceps? We’ve devised three workouts which cater to different levels of strength and experience. Each workout consists of six moves and none takes longer than 30 minutes. All you will need for these workouts is a set of dumbbells, a barbell and a weights bench. Choose dumbbells that are heavy enough to offer a challenge but allow you to complete all the reps with perfect form. There’s nothing wrong with erring on the light side on your first go, then increasing the weight the next time you attempt the workout.
Form guides for each move are listed below, followed by the beginner, intermediate and advanced workouts. To warm up, practise each move first with very light dumbbells.
Stand side-on to a weights bench, and rest your right knee and hand on it. Keep your back and neck flat, and engage your core. Hold a dumbbell in your left hand with your upper arm close to your body, your elbow bent and forearm hanging down. Focusing on using your triceps, straighten your left arm so your forearm moves back in line with the upper arm. Hold for two seconds, then bend your elbow to lower the weight under control.
While the standard bench press targets your chest, bringing your hands closer together puts more emphasis on your triceps.
Lie back on a bench with your feet flat on the floor and core engaged. Hold a barbell above your chest with your hands shoulder-width apart and arms extended. Lower the bar slowly towards your chest, trying not to flare your elbows out to the sides. Pause at the bottom, then press the bar back to the start position.
Support your body on your hands, and either your toes or your knees. Your shoulders should be over your hands and your arms extended. Brace your core with your body forming a straight line from shoulders to heels (or knees). Bring your hands together so your thumbs and index fingers touch, forming a diamond shape. Bend your elbows to lower, until your chest is just above the floor. Then push back up.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in both hands above your head, with your arms straight. Keeping your upper arms stationary, bend your elbows to lower the dumbbell behind your head until you feel a stretch in your triceps. Slowly lift the dumbbell back to the start, focusing on using your triceps to power the movement.
Single-arm triceps overhead extension
Repeat the above exercise using only one arm. Complete all the specified reps on one side, then switch arms and do the same number of reps. Select a lighter dumbbell and be sure to engage your core because unilateral moves create greater instability.
Rest your hands on the edge of the weight bench and face away from it, with your legs extended and heels on the floor. Without letting your elbows flare out, bend your elbows until they are at 90°, then push back up.
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Beginner Triceps Workout
Complete 10 reps of each move, then take a 45-second rest. Complete another round of 10 reps of each move, then rest for one minute. Finally, do 10 reps of each move, but rest for 30 seconds after each move.
Intermediate Triceps Workout
Take it up a notch with a higher rep range, which will help to improve your muscular endurance, and shorter rest periods. Begin by performing 20 reps of each move, resting for 45 seconds between exercises. In the second round do each move for 10 reps and rest for 30 seconds between exercises; in the third and final round, do five reps, resting for 20 seconds between moves.
Advanced Triceps Workout
To increase the challenge further, move from a circuit format to straight sets and follow a strict tempo to keep your muscles under tension for longer.
Perform 10 reps of the first exercise, rest for 25 seconds, then repeat that pattern two more times for a total of three sets. Increase the final rest period to 45 seconds. Continue using that format for all the other exercises.
Aim to take three seconds on the lowering phase of the exercise, pause for one second, then take three seconds to return to the start position.
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Lucy is an experienced health and fitness journalist, and was formerly health editor for TI Media’s portfolio of women’s titles. Lucy qualified as a level 3 personal trainer with Train Fitness in 2016, and also holds qualifications in pre- and post-natal fitness, as well as in nutrition for exercise.