Have you been spending hours in the gym trying to get that horseshoe shape in your triceps? To do it, you need to focus on all three heads: the lateral head, medial head, and long head. The good news is that you don’t need heavy weights, or any weight at all for that matter, to strengthen and define your triceps. There are plenty of bodyweight exercises that are sure to exhaust your arms muscles—as well as call your core and other upper-body muscles in on the action.
Noam Tamir, C.S.C.S., founder of TS Fitness in New York City, narrowed it down to the top 10 bodyweight exercises for your triceps. “These exercises are based on principles to gain power, strength, and muscle tone,” says Tamir. And, as mentioned, many of these moves will work your entire body—but that doesn’t mean they’re any less effective for your triceps: “Doing pressing movements such as pushups has been shown to activate the triceps even more then isolation exercises,” says Tamir.
Add these moves to your total-body workout or use a few of them together as part of a circuit. “Pick 4-5 of the following exercises, and do 3 sets of 12-15 reps of each one,” says Tamir. Just don’t forget to warm up. “Doing some breathing, core, and lower-body warmup exercises before the workout will help,” he says.
1. Plyometric Narrow-Grip Pushups or Modified Narrow-Grip Pushups
In a pushup position with your elbows tight to your sides, lower your body slowly down to the ground for about three seconds and explode up—lifting your hands off the ground and returning back to a narrow-grip pushup position. This exercise requires maximum effort. Make sure to keep those elbows close to your sides and not flaring out.
2. Triceps Bodyweight Extension
Follow the power exercise with two strength-endurance exercises. Use a racked barbell about 3-4′ off the ground. Grip the bar overhand and get into a plank position so your body is straight and your core is engaged. With your elbows in, bend your elbows and duck your head under the bar. Once your head is under the bar, push your body back to the starting the position and straighten your elbows, and repeat.
3. Bench Dips
Sit on a bench, a sturdy chair, or a low table with your legs bent (easier) or legs straight (harder) out in front of you. Starting with your elbows tight to your sides and your hands pointed forward, grip the end of the surface. Slowly lower your body down, bending your elbows straight back until they are bent about 90°. Lower for two seconds then push your body back up, locking out your elbows at the top, and repeat. Make sure to keep your body close and do not to go too deep, this can cause injury to your shoulder.
4. Diamond Pushups
In a pushup position with your hands in a diamond position under your chest and your elbows tight to your sides, lower your body to the ground. On the way up, push into the ground while trying to screw the hands into the floor. Make sure not to flare out the elbows
In a plank position with your forearms under your shoulders, drive your forearms into the ground and push from your triceps to get onto the palms of your hands. Then drop back down to your forearms and repeat
6. Pike Pushup
In a downward dog position with your hips up, flare your elbows out slightly and bend them to lower your head toward the ground. Then push back through your arms by straightening your elbows, and repeat.
7. Press Up
In a cobra position on your stomach and hands with your hips down, drive your hands into the ground and begin to straighten your arms—raising your upper body. Maintain tension in the triceps without straightening completely. Then, return to the starting position by lowering your upper body and repeat.
8. Close-Grip Pushup
Get into pushup position with your hands inside shoulder-width. Keeping your abs braced, lower your body until your chest is just above the floor, then push up. For an advanced workout, use the band for resistance by wrapping it around your back and holding an end in each hand.
9. Bar Dips
Using a dip bar (or two bars that are stable and equal height) place your arms about shoulder-width apart. Start with your elbows straight and your feet off the ground. Slowly lower your body and let your elbows flare straight back. Do not let your feet touch the ground, bend them if you need. Stop when your elbows reach 90°, and then, pushing with your triceps, go back up until the elbows are straight, and repeat.
10. Handstand Pushup
On a straight wall, get into a handstand position with your heels against the wall and your face away from the wall. Keep your arms a little closer then shoulder-width. Slowly bend your elbows with a slight flare, and then drive your hands into the floor, straightening out your elbows. Repeat.