Triceps Workout for Mass and Shape

by Jason Stallworth

March 12, 2020

If you really want to build huge arms, forget about doing endless sets of curls. Why? Because your triceps make up the most of your arm mass.

Training your triceps can be a little tricky. There are some specific exercises that you need to hit all angles of your triceps. And there are some techniques that will make your workouts more effective at developing your triceps.

In this post, I’m going to give you one of the best triceps workouts for mass that you can do. But it doesn’t stop there. You’ll also learn how to add more shape to your triceps.

Hitting All of the Muscles In Your Triceps

Before we move on to your triceps workout it’s important to understand the anatomy of triceps. Jeff Cavaliere of Athlean-X does a great job of explaining this in the video below.

As explained in the video, your triceps are made up of 3 heads:

  • Lateral head (often referred to as the ‘horseshoe’)
  • Long head
  • Medial head

Any time you’re extending your elbow you’re training all 3 of heads of your triceps. However, there are exercises that will target specific heads more, and that’s what we need to know when we’re choosing our exercises.

In other words, you don’t want to just do a bunch of cable pressdowns or pushdowns for your triceps that primarily work the lateral and long heads. You also want to do other types of triceps exercises that target the inner part of your triceps, the medial head.

In addition, you also want to do exercises that will isolate each triceps head more. You want to make sure that every angle of your triceps get adequate attention. This will ensure that you’re building bigger arms (triceps), all the way around.

4 Triceps Exercises that Hit All Angles and Heads

Triceps - rope pushdowns

Now let’s dive into some specific exercises for your triceps that target all 3 heads. And these are the exercises you’ll be doing for your workout.

You’ll also notice that your grip will be different for some exercises. This helps target those specific areas in your arms even more.

Again, anytime you extend your elbow you’re ultimately working all muscles within your triceps. What we are doing is choosing specific exercises that work more of each particular head.

1 – Rope Pushdowns

This is a great exercise to start with. And as you’ll see when you get to the workout below, you’re doing more sets of this particular exercise.

The reason is that you’re going to use rope pushdowns as a warm-up exercise so your first few sets will be done with light weight. But you will work up to heavier weight; this exercise is a real mass builder.

How To Do Rope Pushdowns

  • Standing straight up, grab the ropes and pull the ropes down
  • Keep your elbows close to your side
  • As you’re pulling the ropes down, bring your arms out (this will allow you to flex your triceps more)
  • Do not lean too far over (in other words, don’t use your body weight)
  • Bring the ropes back up with a controlled motion, feeling the burn

TIP: Now, you can also do pushdowns with the cambered or straight bar instead of ropes. But the reason we’re using ropes is because you can twist your wrists outward at the bottom of the rep, when your arms are fully extended.

That will allow you to really squeeze your triceps giving them a deeper contraction.

2 – Single Cable Pushdowns

The next exercise is single cable pushdowns. It’s essentially the same movement as rope pushdowns but your grip is going to be different (pronated vs the neutral grip you’re using with the ropes).

Single-arm exercises like this help you add more shape and definition to your triceps. When you’re isolating that one arm you’re less prone to use your body or momentum to move the weight.

Here’s a chart on the different grips:

*If muscle definition is your goal right now, check out my Lean Muscle Building Program.

For triceps, you’ll mainly use the pronated and neutral grips.

**Though you can try cable pushdowns with a supinated (reverse grip) to target that inner, medial head. However, the next 2 exercises after this one will hit that area).

How To Do Single Cable Pushdowns

  • Grab the cable with one hand and push down
  • Keep your elbow close to your side
  • Make sure you get a good muscle contraction at the bottom of the rep
  • Do each rep slow and controlled

3 – Reverse Overhead Rope Extensions

It’s time to start using more of the medial head of your triceps. And to do this you’ll go back to the ropes.

Of course, you’re also working the other parts of your triceps too. But this is one of the few exercises that work that inner part of your arms more than other triceps exercises.

If you’ve never done reverse overhead rope extensions it may feel awkward at first. Just follow the steps below and start out with lighter weight to get the movement down.

How To Do Reverse Overhead Rope Extensions

  • With your back turned towards the cable machine, grab the ropes from behind you, over your head
  • Lean forward to where you’re comfortable and the tension is on your triceps
  • Press the ropes out in front of your body by extending your elbows
  • Use the same tip you used for rope pushdowns; twist your wrists outward at the peak of the movement when your arms are extended
  • Make sure you get a good stretch when returning to the starting position

4 – Overhead Dumbbell Extensions

This last triceps exercise will really help you add more shape to your arms. It’s similar in nature to the reverse overhead rope extensions but with dumbbells, especially single-arm, you’re really going to target your triceps even more.

You can do this standing or seated. Or you can alternate the way you do this every other workout.

How To Do Overhead Dumbbell Extensions

  • Use both arms to initially lift the dumbbell over your head
  • With one arm, slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head
  • Make sure your elbow is flared out to the side of your head (your palm will be facing more outward, not facing your head)
  • Focus on forcing your tricep to press the weight back up to the starting position

TIP: Forget about using heavyweights for this exercise. Go lighter and really hone in on making your muscles do the work. You’ll also reduce your risk of shoulder injury.

Workout for Tricpes

triceps - standing overhead dumbbell extensions

You’ve got the exercises for triceps. Now let’s use them in a workout.

Here are some notes about the workout:

  • Rest about 45 seconds between sets
  • After each exercise, stretch your triceps (you can do this by placing your elbow on a surface, such as a machine, and leaning into it)
  • Don’t lift with ego; use lighter weights but make those weights feel heavier with concentrated reps, forcing your triceps to do the work

You’ll also notice some methods that will make your triceps workout more effective. This will help you exhaust your triceps, allowing you to build bigger arms.

You’ll be doing some drop sets and rest-pause sets. These methods are what separates a true muscle-building workout from a mediocre workout.

ExerciseSets x Reps
Rope Pushdowns4 x 10*
Single-cable Pushdowns3 x 12
Reverse Overhead Rope Extensions4 x 10**
Overhead Dumbbell Extension3 x 12

*Drop set: Do a set them immediately reduce the weight by 30% and do another set (done only on the final set)

**Rest-pause set: Do a set, rest 10-15 seconds and do another set using the same weight (done only on the final set)

More Triceps Exercises

Of course, there are many more triceps exercises you can do. Here are some other options:

  • Cable pushdowns (like the ropes but with a cambered or straight bar)
  • Skull crushers
  • Close-grip bench press
  • Dips (and weighted dips)
  • Reverse cable pushdowns

**If you’re looking for a full arm workout, read my post: How to Build Bigger Arms: Full Workout

Grow Bigger and More Defined Triceps

Getting bodybuilder triceps requires gaining mass and adding more shape to your arms. To achieve that, you have to train hard and intense.

But you also have to train smart. And that’s why I gave you this specific workout for triceps. It targets all 3 heads we talked about. And the methods you’re using will make your workouts more intense, exhausting the muscle so that you can grow new muscle.

Try this workout, and feel free to share this post on your social media.

**If you’re serious about building muscle and ready to commit to a full 12-week program, go to my muscle-building shop now.

Excuses Don’t Build Muscle,


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