If you want big arms, train your triceps.
It may sound overly simplistic, but it remains true nonetheless. Over sixty-percent of the arm’s musculature is composed of the triceps, so it’s vital that you train them if you’re after jacked arms.
However, it’s important that the triceps are trained the correct way. They are, after all, complicated muscle groups that contain three different heads; the long, the medial, and the lateral.
We’ll be looking at the lateral head today, as it is the most visible of the three and helps give that coveted ‘horseshoe’ appearance that bodybuilders crave so much. It is the only tricep head that is equally visible from the front and the back, so it’s important to go that extra mile to help enhance the appearance of your arms.
Which Exercise Works Best For the Lateral Head?
Whilst it’s impossible to only target the lateral head and no other areas of the tricep, there are a host of exercises you can do to put more emphasis on it.
Both compound and isolation exercises are effective but we recommend combining the two for maximum results. There are certainly benefits from training with isolation exercises as they allow you to hone in on a particular muscle and attack it from different angles. However, it can be difficult to overload with them due to the injury risk.
This is where compound lateral head tricep exercises come in. They allow you to really up the ante on the weight, and seriously overload a muscle group – allowing you to pack on slabs on muscle very quickly. For effective compound exercises with added weight, check out these tricep workouts with dumbbells.
Close Grip Bench Press
Although considered more of a chest exercise than anything else, using a closer grip on the bench press will really take the emphasis off the pecs and inject it into your triceps.
The most striking benefit of this exercise is its potential for progressive overload. By adding a little more weight each week, you’ll soon see results in all three areas of the triceps, especially the lateral head.
One thing we’d strongly recommend is to not let your hands get too close together. If you’re using dumbbells, keep in mind that there should be a little bit of distance between them and they don’t need to be locked together. Doing so can put an immense amount of stress on your wrists, which is a major injury risk.
Weighted Bodyweight Dips
Sticking with the compound lifts theme, weighted bodyweight dips are a tremendous alternative to the more traditional weightlifting exercises out there.
Whilst it’s true that dips are commonplace in chest workouts, they are (like bench presses) very dependant on the triceps to take a large percentage of the load. In this case, the load comes from your bodyweight.
Dips can be done anywhere from designated parallel bar stations to your kitchen countertop. If you’re wondering how to work out your tricep heads at home, this exercise is definitely worth adding to your arsenal.
Getting proficient at dips takes time, however, so don’t beat yourself up if you have trouble doing them. Once you’ve mastered 10-12 reps with bodyweight, however, we recommend adding some weight to help keep you progressing.
Once you start getting prfocient at weighted dips, all three heads of your triceps will start growing fast. See for yourself!
What the curl is to the bicep, the pushdown is to the tricep.
One of the most famous tricep isolation exercises out there, the pushdown is brilliant at targeting the lateral head in particular.
Chances are, you’ve done this exercise before or at least seen it being done in the gym. You can use either a rope, straight bar, or a V-handle for this, but we recommend the rope the most due to the position of your hands and wrists.
As good as this lateral head tricep workout is, the pushdown is not one for progressive overload. It’s very tempting to rack up the weight to maximum, but your chances of tearing your tricep goes up the more weight you put on it.
The pushdown is best suited for light or moderate use, and is fantastic when supersetted with a compound movement such as a dip or a bench press. Drop sets are also a great idea for pushdowns, as they will account for the metabolic stress required for muscle growth.
I Don’t Have Any Weights – How Can I Train My Triceps At Home?
No weights? No problem.
There are still plenty of avenues you can explore to develop your tricep’s lateral head. Bodyweight exercises can be extremely effective at building muscle if you progress them properly and train regularly enough.
Perhaps the most iconic bodyweight exercise ever.
Although they may seem primitive and rudimentary by today’s standards, push ups have been around so long for a reason – they work.
Close Grip ‘Diamond’ Push Ups Put More Load on the Triceps
If you’re looking to get bigger triceps at home, we couldn’t recommend close grip push ups enough.
They’re exactly the same as close grip bench presses, only you’re using your bodyweight as the resistance instead of weights.
They’re fantastic for all of the tricep heads and are ideal for those who struggle with equipment or are unable to go to the gym.
Again, make sure that your wrists aren’t too close together when doing these. If they start to hurt, switch to regular push ups instead for the time being.
There are multitude of different ways to effectively train the lateral head tricep. By using a mix of both compound and isolation exercises, it’s possible to develop this portion of the arm to its highest potential in a relatively short amount of time.
It’s worth mentioning that any weight training program needs to be supplemented with an adequate diet and adequate recovery. You can do these exercises until you’re blue in the face, but without those two factors, your muscles will never grow properly.
Whether you have access to a world-class gym or merely rely on your own bodyweight, the lateral head of the tricep can always be developed at any time or in any place.
Get after it!