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One of the best ways to increase your arm size is to strengthen your triceps. After all, these muscles form about 60% of your arm’s total size.
As the name of the muscle suggests, it’s split into three smaller muscles: the long head, the lateral head, and the medial head. The long head is the largest, although the lateral head will add a look of size to your arms.
You’ll find it hard to isolate either of the three muscles because they work together. However, with some adjustments and the right movements, you’ll be able to put more focus on your lateral head.
Let’s take a look at some of the best lateral head tricep exercises you can do for size.
What is the Tricep Lateral Head?
Before we dive into the exercises, let’s analyze the tricep lateral head first.
As we’ve already mentioned, the tricep muscle consists of three smaller muscles:
- The long head
- The lateral head
- The medial head
The lateral head of the tricep is the outermost part of the tricep muscle. Together with the long head, it forms the horseshoe structure at the back of your arm, and they connect at the elbow.
Together with the long head, the lateral head adds the most size to your arms. It makes them look wider and more developed. However, isolating the lateral head is not an easy task. It’s almost impossible to do so, so you’ll have to do exercises that target both the long and the lateral head, or all the three heads – with a bit more focus on the lateral head.
The main role of the lateral head is to work in the conjunction with the medial head and the long head in order to move your elbows and your arms. So it’s vital to develop all of them, not just the lateral head.
What are the Best Lateral Head Tricep Exercises?
So let’s take a look at the best exercises for the lateral head of the tricep.
1. Diamond Push-Ups
Diamond push-ups can be tough, especially if you’re a beginner. But when done properly, they’re perhaps the best exercise for developing your lateral head.
Research suggests that diamond push-ups are far more effective than wide-grip push-ups for activating both your tricep muscles as well as your chest. So if you’re using your body weight to build your muscles or just want some more variety in your tricep workouts, make sure you do diamond push-ups.
Here’s how you do them.
- With a narrow grip, place yourself in the push-up position. Make sure your hands form a diamond shape as you put them together
- Keep your abs tightened, your back and legs straight, and your head facing forwards
- Then, start performing your diamond push-ups. It’s important to lower all the way down and come right back up as you do the movement
- Pause at the bottom for larger tricep lateral head activation
- Repeat as many times as you can handle
Note: If you can’t do regular diamond push-ups yet, you can do them on your knees for starters.
2. Tricep Extensions with Rope Attachment
This next exercise is a classic when it comes to building the tricep muscles. However, we’re going to do a slight twist in our version.
In order to target the lateral head a bit more, you’ll want your arms to come outwards a bit more. This means slightly altering your grip and facing it inwards more than you would do with standard tricep extensions.
This is something this video explains nicely (skip to 5:20).
As Jeff explains in this video, the key is to rotate your arms inwards a bit more to target the lateral head of the tricep more. You’ll want to apply this tip to the tricep extension we’re about to take a look at. So with that in mind, here’s who to do it.
- Attach the rope attachment to the cable machine
- Grab the rope with the arms at your sides, and with your grip facing inwards slightly
- Then, start doing the extensions. Keep your arms at your sides and focus on moving from your elbow rather than moving your entire arm. This way, only your lower part of your arm should be moving
- To hit the lateral head more, bring the ropes wider apart rather than just backward and repeat
3. Bodyweight Dips (or Bench Dips)
If you can handle bodyweight dips, it’s one of the best movements you can do for your triceps. But you can also perform bench dips if you’re unable to do the regular dips.
Dips are incredibly effective for building your triceps if you do them in the right position. You’ll want your body to face straight downwards instead of your body leaning forwards. This way, you’ll target your tricep muscles more.
If you do bench dips, you have to keep in mind that they’re not the most ergonomically friendly for your shoulders. That’s why you should stick your palms outwards on the bench, which will be much friendlier for your shoulders.
Here’s how to do bodyweight dips for tricep targeting.
- Using a dipping station, bring your body upwards as you grip the bars
- Make sure your arms are straight at the top of the movement and your chest is straight
- You’ll want to keep your body straight and strong, without bending or moving forwards and backward
- Pause at the top and do it slowly for more tricep activation
If you do bench dips, here’s how to do it properly (watch the video if you don’t want to develop shoulder problems with this movement and do it correctly.)
4. Skull Crushers
Now, this exercise has an interesting name. We also call it lying tricep extensions, and it’s one of the best exercises for targeting your triceps.
Sure, you’ll also target the other two heads of your tricep. But we’ve already said that it’s hard to isolate the lateral head, so why not do the best exercises to develop well-rounded triceps?
Once you master the form, this can be THE exercise for building your tricep muscles, because you can load it up and do it with the EZ bar. Here’s how you can do it.
- Lying on the bench, grab the EZ bar and put your hands right above your head
- Then, you’ll want to move your lower part of your arms backwards, but keep your elbow in place. This will put the focus on the tricep muscles
- Bring the bar behind your head and bring it back to the initial position. You’ll notice that most of the work will be done when you bring the bar back to the top
Note: If you’ve recently dislocated your shoulder or you have shoulder problems, you might want to be wary of this exercise. Warm-up your shoulder vigorously before you attempt this movement and keep it relatively light.
5. Close-Grip Bench Press
This exercise is quite similar to the normal bench presses, only with a closer grip. This will shift more focus on your triceps and also help you target your chest to a degree.
The key here is to do the exercise properly. Again, this movement will target your entire tricep muscle, and the closer you put your arms, the more you’ll work your lateral head. The big advantage of this move is that you can add more weight as you become experienced.
- Lying on the bench, have the barbell loaded and ready to lift just like you would with normal bench presses
- Then, grab the bar with a closer grip (about shoulder-width or even narrower) – the narrower the grip, the more challenging it will be
- Move the bar upwards and bring it back down fully
6. Tricep Kickbacks
Lastly, an exercise you can do with dumbbells. It’s a great exercise for isolating your tricep muscles. And an even bigger advantage is that you can put a bit more focus on your lateral head here, too.
All you need to do is bring your arms slightly outwards as you “kick back” in order to target the lateral head more.
- With one leg and one arm on the bench, grab a dumbbell with your other hand and keep your other leg straight on the ground
- Then, bending forwards but with your back straight, bring your elbow up so that the arm is parallel to your body
- Start kicking back with your arm to start doing the exercise
- Keep your elbow intact and only move your lower portion of the arm until it reaches the level of your body
Improving the look of your tricep will make your arms look bigger, and it will improve the overall aesthetic of your arms. Triceps also play an active role in moving and stabilizing your elbows, so having strong tricep muscles is quite important.
Once again, it’s important to master the form before you progress. Some exercises might feel tough at the start, such as diamond push-ups or dips, but don’t get discouraged!