GAIN MUSCLE

8 Best Long Head Triceps Exercises for Bigger Arms

by Steve Theunissen
Updated July 5, 2022

The triceps, when developed completely, look awesome.

Sitting at the back of the upper arm, this horseshoe-shaped three-headed muscle proves two-thirds of the bulk of your arm.

So, if you wanna’ look huge, you better get busy working your tris.

The key to tricep mass is the long head, which sits closest to your body.

In this article, I’ll lay out eight effective exercises to work this part of the muscle.

For the exercises with weights, I’ll provide a home version for those who don’t train at a commercial gym.

You will need a resistance band to do the home version exercises.

There are some exercises that require a cable machine for these triceps extensions.

But there are plenty to do at home if you do not have one.

Triceps Anatomy

The triceps is a single muscle that consists of three parts, known as heads.

These are the long, medial and lateral heads.

The medial and lateral heads originate at the top of the humerus, or upper arm, bone.

The long head, though, has its origin on the scapula, just below the shoulder socket.

All three heads insert at the top of the ulna, which is the largest of the two forearm bones.

The job of the triceps is to extend the elbow.

Because it originates on the scapula, the long head is also minimally involved in overhead arm extension.

It is not possible to completely isolate any of the three heads.

That’s because they all insert at the same place.

So, when you straighten the arm, all three heads are equally activated.

It is possible, though, to put slightly more emphasis on the long head by doing exercises that place your hands above your head.

8 Exercises to Work the Long Head of the Triceps

Overhead Triceps Cable Extension

  1. Set the pulley on a cable machine at shoulder level and place a rope handle attachment on the cable.
  2. Stand about a foot in front of the machine, facing away from it. Hold the rope handle above your head with your arms straight and at a 30-degree angle.
  3. Focus on keeping your elbows in at the sides of your head as you bend the elbows to lower your hands behind your head. Continue until your thumbs touch your ears.
  4. Push through the triceps to return to the start position.

Check out this research and buying guide for the best functional trainers, if you are interested in buying a cable machine at home. 

Home Alternative

  1. Loop a resistance band around a low anchor point.
  2. Stand about a foot in front of the anchor point, facing away from it. Hold the band above your head with your arms straight and at a 30-degree angle.
  3. Focus on keeping your elbows in at the sides of your head as you bend the elbows to lower your hands behind your head. Continue until your thumbs touch your ears.
  4. Push through the triceps to return to the start position.

Skullcrusher

  1. Lie on a flat bench with a pair of dumbbells in your hands. Extend your arms directly above your body, in line with your shoulders.
  2. Keeping the elbows aligned with your shoulders, bend at the elbows to bring the dumbbells down to the sides of your head. Stop when they are at ear level.
  3. Push through the triceps to return to the start position.

Home Alternative

  1. Loop a resistance band around a low anchor point. Place a flat bench about three feet in front of the anchor point.
  2. Lie on the bench and grab the other end of the band. Extend your arms directly above your torso, in line with your shoulders.
  3. Keeping the elbows aligned with your shoulders, bend at the elbows to bring the band down to the sides of your head. Stop when they are at ear level.
  4. Push through the triceps to return to the start position.

Dips

Gym Version

  1. Stand in the middle of a dip bar and grip the bar. Propel your body up to the start position of a dip, with straight arms and your feet off the ground. Keep your body in a line from head to toe. Bend your knees and cross your feet over. 
  2. Bend at the elbows to come down to the bottom dip position. Concentrate on keeping your elbows in line with your shoulders.
  3. Push back to the top position. 

You can do tricep dips at home by setting up a couple of sturdy chairs back to back. Place something heavy on each chair to weigh it down. Alternatively, you can use the angle join of a kitchen or similar bench.

Close Grip Bench Press

  1. Set the appropriate weight on the barbell and then lie on the bench press station bench. 
  2. Reach up to grip the bar with your thumbs about six inches apart.
  3. From a starting position with the bar above your mid-chest, lower the bar to your chest. Do not allow your elbows to flare out to the sides.
  4. Push back to the start position.

Home Alternative

  1. Secure a resistance band to a secure anchor point at shoulder lever.
  2. Stand three feet in front of the anchor point, facing away from it. Grab the other end of the band, holding your hands in front of your chest. Your thumbs should be about six inches apart.
  3. Push your arms out to full extension.
  4. Reverse and repeat.

Triceps Push Up

  1. Set up a bar on a rack at shoulder height. 
  2. Stand three feet back from the bar, facing it. 
  3. With your heels down on the floor, lean forward to grab the bar with straight arms. Your hands should be about ten inches apart. In this start position, your body should be at a 45-degree angle.
  4. Bend the elbows to bring your head down between your hand and under the bar,
  5. Push back to the start position. 

You can make this exercise harder by lowering the height of the bar. Do this exercise at home by grabbing the edge of a desk or bench.

Looking for a mass monster old-school workout from the golden age of bodybuilding? Check out the Dorian Yates workout here.

Single Arm Skull Crusher

  1. Lie on a flat bench with a dumbbell held in your right hand. Hold the weight directly above your body at arm’s length. It should be in line with your shoulder. Place your free hand on the working arm’s elbow to help keep it aligned.
  2. Bend the elbow to lower the dumbbell to the side of your head. Stop at ear level.
  3. Push through the tricep to return to the start position.

The single-arm version of the skull crusher allows you to use your non-working arm to keep the working elbow in place. This makes the exercise stricter, preventing the natural elbow flare that happens when the exercise becomes challenging. 

Perform the home version with the resistance band. Set it up the same way as the band double-arm skullcrusher, but using one arm at a time. You will have to use a lighter band for this exercise.

Triceps Kickback

  1. Stand with a light dumbbell held in your right hand. Lean on a bench or other support sitting at shoulder height with your left hand. Now assume a staggered stance.
  2. Start with the dumbbell arm at your side and the elbow bent at 45-degrees.
  3. Now straighten the arms back to full extension.
  4. Reverse under control and repeat.

Home Alternative

  1. Secure a resistance band to a secure upright at shoulder height.
  2. Stand three feet away from the upright, facing it.
  3. Grab the other end of the band in your right hand and assume a staggered stance.
  4. Start with the dumbbell arm at your side and the elbow bent at 45-degrees.
  5. Now straighten the arms back to full extension.
  6. Reverse under control and repeat.

Diamond Push-Ups

  1. Get down on the floor in a push-up position. Rather than the standard hand distance, however, bring your hands in close together so that the thumbs and index fingers are touching. Your feet should be together and your body in a straight line. 
  2. From the top position of the push-up, lower down until your chest is about four inches from the floor.
  3. Push back to the start position.

Here are some of the exercises to include if you're looking for the best muscle gains workouts.

Triceps Workouts

The eight exercises just described will give you plenty of options for your triceps workouts.

I recommend combining three of them into a nine-set workout.

You should use a wide rep range in order to stimulate both fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fiber.

Here are a couple of sample workouts

Workout A

  • Close Grip Bench Press - 3 sets of 12/10/8 reps
  • Overhead Cable Extension - 3 sets of 15/12/10 reps
  • Single Arm Skullcrusher - 3 sets of 15/12/10 reps

Workout B

  • Dips - 3 x as many reps as possible (AMRAP)
  • Skullcrusher - 3 x 12/10/8
  • Diamond Push Ups - 3 x as many reps as possible

Wrap Up

The long head of the triceps will add mass and shape to your upper arm.

The eight exercises described here will not totally isolate the long head.

They will work all three heads, but the overhead extension on most of the exercises will give an extra stretch to the long head.

Work your triceps twice per week, with at least 48 hours between sessions, for the best results.

by Steve Theunissen

Hi, my name’s Steve Theunissen.
I joined my first gym at age 15 and, five years later, I was managing my own studio.
In 1987, I became the first personal fitness trainer in New Zealand.
Over the past decade, I have built a freelance fitness writing career to share my fitness passion with the world.

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