Triceps are the secret to huge upper arm muscles. They make up about ⅔ of the muscle mass in your arm so there’s no way you’ll pump your arms up to their max without targeting your triceps. Luckily, there are plenty of arm workouts that activate your triceps.
Resistance bands add tension to the entire move and make these already effective tricep exercises even more productive. Whether you’re trying to make your triceps routine more challenging or developing a home workout program without additional equipment, resistance bands are an essential piece of gear.
Read on to find out how important the triceps muscles are for arm mass and ten of the most effective resistance band exercises to get your triceps into peak condition.
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Basic Anatomy of the Triceps Muscle
The long head of the triceps is on the outside of your arm and the lateral head is on the inside. Both of these almost entirely cover the medial head. Still, building strength in all three heads of the triceps is the best way to build upper arm mass.
Much like the biceps brachii, the tricep consists of heads that have different purposes. The tricep is composed of long, medial, and lateral heads. All three heads run basically the length of your humerus bone.
Function of the Triceps Muscle
Stabilizing and moving the elbow is the most important function of the triceps. As the elbow moves, the triceps kick into action. But which head of the triceps depends on shoulder elevation.
If your shoulder is neutral, the long head of the triceps is primarily stabilizing your elbow and activated by elbow flexion. When your arm is raised and your shoulder is at a 90 – 180° angle, though, your medial triceps is in play. The lateral head is activated more toward the maximum extension of the shoulder joint.
To simplify that explanation, exercises where your arms are at your side, like a triceps kickback, will target the long head of the triceps while exercises with your arms raised will target the medial and lateral triceps. To target your lateral triceps, you’ll want to have your arms completely raised.
How to Target Triceps Head for Muscle Mass
If you want to get really big arms, you have to target all three heads of your triceps muscle. If you’re looking at the outside of your arm, the lateral and long head of the triceps is most visible. The medial head pops out when you flex and it also provides tons of strength for upper arm movements.
Some muscleheads just want to concentrate on biceps curls, but if you want to make the most of your time at the gym, you should do have a well-balanced routine with a variety of exercises. Many people combine their triceps exercises with some chest and biceps exercises for a more complete upper body gym day.
Helpful Hint: If you want the perfect upper arm workout routine, check out our Bodybuilding 101 Fitplan!
Do Resistance Bands Work?
Resistance bands add tension to exercises, but not only at key moments. Bands are used to keep key muscle groups under constant tension, which makes them work harder and increases hypertrophy and muscle growth.
Normal non-isometric exercises generally consist of an eccentric and a concentric contraction. In a concentric contraction, muscles shorten to move weight. Think of the first part of a biceps curl where the dumbbell moves closer to the body.
An eccentric contraction is when muscles lengthen to handle weight like they do in the second half of a biceps curl. Studies show that eccentric contractions build more muscle, but many exercises just don’t put enough pressure on muscles during the eccentric phase to get maximum gains.
Resistance bands can be added to almost any exercise to put your muscles to the test during that crucial eccentric contraction. You can increase the effectiveness of strength training exercises that already use kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells, or free weights, or you can use resistance bands to wear out your muscles with bodyweight exercises alone.
Kinds of Resistance Bands
There are a few styles of resistance bands that serve a variety of purposes. Depending on your strength level, fitness goals, and what exercises you’re performing, different bands might be more convenient. Here are some of the most common ones:
Loop Bands:Bands that have no end are called loop bands. You can wear them around your legs or you can wrap them around a bar or your upper body to create tension. The only disadvantage to loop bands is that they generally don’t have handles.
Therapy Bands: These are lengths of elastic material that don’t connect and don’t have handles. This makes them more versatile in one sense because you can tie multiple bands together. Lifters who want to build their grip strength often prefer this type of band.
Tube Bands:Tube bands are usually longer than other kinds. They are generally round rather than flat and they don’t connect, but they do have handles at either end. For many arms exercises, including the ones that target the triceps, tube bands are the most convenient choice.
Mini Bands:Also called fit loop bands, mini bands are basically the same as therapy bands except they connect to form a circle. They aren’t quite the same as loop bands because they’re much smaller in circumference.
Figure 8 Bands:As the name implies, this resistance band is in the shape of a figure 8. It usually isn’t anything more than two handles connected by a short length of tube. Since they aren’t as long as normal tube bands, they are often well-suited to upper body and arm exercises.
Lateral Resistance Bands:Mostly reserved for side-to-side movements in the lower body, these resistance bands have two velcro rings that attach to the ankle or a vertical bar.
Helpful Hint: To see resistance bands at work in a home workout, try our Strong from Home Fitplan!
10 Exercises to Build the Best Triceps Workout
If you want to build tons of muscle mass in your upper arm and have tons of functional strength, alternate these resistance band workouts in your routine throughout the week and change them up from week to week as well. When you’re organizing your routine, do the most important exercise first to achieve your fitness goals more quickly.
1. Banded Bench Press
This classic exercise is a great way to target both the triceps and pectoral muscles. Make sure you have a buddy or a personal trainer who can work as a spotter, especially when you use a resistance band.
How To Do a Banded Bench Press:
Wrap a loop band around one end of the barbell well behind the weight plate. Then, run the other side of the band underneath the bench and wrap it around the other side of the barbell.
Lie down underneath the bar so your head is just past the bar. Grip the bar with your hands about shoulder-width apart. Brace your core and lift the bar off the rack and hold it over your chest, then push it up until your arms are fully extended. Slowly lower it to complete one rep.
2. Resistance Band Tricep Kickbacks
You can make this simple exercise a bit more challenging by using a more resistant band or adding weight to your arms.
How To Do Band Tricep Kickbacks:
Find a vertical pole and wrap a tube band around it. Take a handle in each hand and then stand back from the pole until the band is taut. Spread your feet about hip-width apart, bend your knees slightly, and then hinge at the hip to bend forward a bit.
Your arms should be at your sides and elbows bent to almost a 90-degree angle. Pull the band handles with both hands until your arms are straight and slightly behind you, then return slowly to the starting position.
Helpful Hint: Our Busy Body Fitplan has tons more great arm exercises!
3. Triceps Pushdowns
You can use a door anchor to include this move in a home workout or you can fix a resistance band to a pull-up bar if you want to do it at the gym. Target different heads of the tricep by alternating between an overhand and underhand grip.
How to Do Triceps Pushdowns:
Fix your resistance band to the chosen anchor point so that either both handles or the remaining loop hang down in front of you. Take the loop or the handles with both hands and tuck your shoulders against your sides. If you want, you can get in the forward lunge position.
Pull back on the resistance band until your arms are straight and slightly behind you and then return to the starting position to complete one rep.
4. Banded Triceps Push-Up
A traditional pull-up will work your triceps as well as your biceps, delts, and pecs. If you want to target your triceps specifically, all you need to do is take a narrower hand stance.
How to Do Banded Tricep Push-Ups:
Before you get into the push-up position, wrap a loop band around both hands once and then pass it over your head so that it crosses your upper back and shoulder blades. Get into the push-up position with the band on your palms.
Your hands should be just less than shoulder-width apart and your elbows at your sides. Engage your core and lower yourself to the ground until your torso is lower than your elbows and then move back up to the starting position.
5. Tricep Extensions
This exercise has your arms lifted above your head similar to an overhead extension for maximum medial and lateral head targeting.
How to Do Banded Tricep Extensions:
Take an end of a resistance band in each hand and let the center drop to the floor. Step on the center of the band with both feet, then step forward with one foot into a lunge stance. The band should be mostly behind you.
Put your hands over your shoulder so your elbows are out in front of you. Then, lift your hands until your arms are fully extended and slowly lower them back down to your shoulders.
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Here’s a great exercise to fill up gaps in a HIIT routine or to use for warm-ups and cooldowns. You’ll also get some chest and shoulder activation with this move.
How to Do Pull-Aparts:
Grip the resistance band in your hands at shoulder-height. Keep your arms parallel to the ground but make sure your elbows aren’t locked. Move your hands apart and stretch the resistance band until your arms are straight out to your sides and then move back to the starting position.
7. Banded Tricep Dips
Another bodyweight exercise that works great during a routine or for a warm-up, banded dips will help build your triceps and core muscles.
How to Do Banded Tricep Dips:
Find a bench or couch that’s not too high. Take a loop resistance band and stretch it around your right and left hand, then pass it over your head so that one end is on your neck and another is on your lower back. Your hands should still have a grip on the band.
To get into the starting position, place your palms on the bench and then move your torso off the bench, supporting its weight with your feet on the ground. You should be suspended a bit off the ground. Lower yourself toward the ground and then lift yourself back up again to complete one rep.
8. Banded Chin-Ups
Chin-ups isolate your biceps and triceps more than pull-ups do. Using a resistance band can help increase your pull-up count by building strength in your arms.
How to Do Banded Chin-Ups:
Find a resistance band made specifically for pull-ups. Attach it to the horizontal bar so that a loop is hanging down. Step into the loop with one foot, then grab onto the bar with an underhand grip for balance and bring your other foot up.
Cross one foot over the other and you’re in the starting position. Engage your shoulder blades and pull yourself up until your chin clears the bar, then slowly lower back down to the starting position.
9. Lateral Extensions
Another overhead exercise that requires nothing but an anchor point is the lateral extension. It’s ideal if you ever want to sneak in a quick workout at the office on your lunch break.
How to Do Lateral Extensions:
Attach your resistance band to an anchor point that’s above or directly over your head, then take both sides of the band and walk until the band is taut. Turn your back to the anchor point and raise your arms so that your elbows are bent.
Straighten your arms out by pulling the band out to either side of you, then slowly raise back to the starting position.
10. Banded Pullover
Optimal for cooling down after a long gym session, the banded pullover will keep your triceps moving to prevent stiffness later on.
How to Do a Banded Pullover:
Secure the resistance band to an anchor point that’s low to the ground and then lie down in front of it with your knees bent like you’re about to do a sit-up. Raise your arms and take the resistance band in both hands, then pull it down as far as you can get it. Slowly return it to the starting position.
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Manny lifters focus too much on their biceps when they want to build muscle mass in their arms, but the triceps actually make up a much larger percentage of the muscle in your upper arm. Resistance bands can help give your triceps a greater workout for more gains and functional strength.
Try out a few of the 10 banded tricep exercises in this guide and you’ll see what we mean.
(Note: Want our elite trainers to help you target and strengthen your muscles? Start your Fitplan free trial today!)