If you’re looking to pack size onto your triceps and maximize the development of your upper arms. Building up the lateral head of the triceps is an important step in the process, and these lateral head triceps exercises will help you.
Triceps brachii, or simply triceps, are a three-headed muscle opposite of the biceps and are responsible for 2/3 of upper arm mass. Big triceps make the arms look big, which is contrary to the popularity of big biceps, which are smaller in comparison. So, it’s essential to focus on and work on different tricep head muscles for maximum gains.
In this article, I will discuss what the lateral head of the tricep is, how to target it, the triceps muscle, how stronger lateral head of tricep contributes to greater performance, and give you the best lateral head tricep exercises.
How To Build The Lateral Head Tricep
There is a wide range of lateral head triceps exercises to help you increase the size of your arms and strengthen your bench press, overhead press, dips, and other pressing movements.
The two types of Lateral head triceps exercises are compound movements and isolation movements.
Compound triceps exercises involve extension at the elbow and movement at the shoulder. These include close-grip bench presses and dips.
Isolation triceps exercises involve just extension at the elbow with no other joint movement, such as Dumbbell Lying Triceps Extension, dumbbell kickbacks.
Although every triceps exercise hits all three heads to some degree, certain ones are better than others at stressing the different heads because of the biomechanics involved. When using lateral head triceps exercises, form is important.
How The Lateral Head Tricep Contributes To Performance
The bench press relies on the lateral head of the triceps to achieve the last phase of the exercise. This means that a strong lateral head will contribute to a strong bench press.
Overhead movements such as the jerk, push press, and overhead press require lateral head tricep strength as well. Again, mostly in the lockout phase.
So while the lateral head rarely acts as a prime mover in compound exercises, if it’s weak, then you likely won’t be able to achieve full range of motion in movements that require an extension of the elbow.
Lateral Head Of The Triceps Function
The lateral head’s main job is to perform elbow extension (meaning straightening your arm from a flexed position). However, the lateral head only becomes active to a significant degree when the triceps push against resistance.
In fact, the lateral head is the strongest of the three. This is because it consists of a higher ratio of fast-twitch type muscle fibers, which allow it to contract forcefully under resistance.
All in all, anytime you extend your elbow against resistance, your lateral head is activated and helping to power the movement. This means any tricep exercise (elbow extension exercise) you do in the gym or at home will activate the muscle fibers of the lateral head.
Triceps Muscles (Triceps Anatomy)
The triceps is a large muscle on the back of the arm. It consists of 3 parts, the medial, lateral, and long head. It begins just below the socket of the shoulder blade and at two distinct areas of the humerus.
The lateral head of the triceps is found on the outer side of the humerus. This is the horseshoe shape that shows on the upper part of the back of your arm.
The medial head of the triceps is found in the middle of the back portion of the upper arm. Originating from the humerus and finishing at the elbow, it lays opposite the long head.
The long head of the triceps is the largest part of your triceps and is found running down the back of your arm. The long head is different from the medial and lateral heads, as it crosses the shoulder joint and assists in shoulder extension.
12 Best Lateral Head Triceps Exercises
All triceps exercises involve your triceps’ lateral head, but some are better than others for emphasizing this muscle. Here are 12 of the best exercises for your lateral triceps.
1. Diamond Push Ups
Diamond push-ups, also known as triangle push-ups, are a more advanced variation of the classic push-up. Practice diamond push-ups by bringing your hands too close together to form a diamond or triangle shape below your chest.
If you’re looking for a good bodyweight movement to train and work your tricep lateral head, then diamond push-ups are it.
This is a unique movement because it does a great job of developing the lateral (outermost) tricep head.
- Get on the floor with your hands together under your chest. Position your index fingers and thumbs, so they’re touching, forming a diamond shape.
- Now extend your arms, so that your body is elevated and forms a straight line from your head to your feet.
- Lower your chest towards your hands, ensuring you don’t flare your elbows out to the sides and keeping your back flat.
- Stop just before your chest touches the floor, then push back up to the starting position.
- Keep your body straight and rigid.
- To make the diamond push-up easier, do it on your knees.
2. Bench Dip with Elevated Legs
The bench dip exercise is one of the most basic and best workouts for building the triceps and bigger arms. The feet-elevated bench dip is one of the popular tricep bodyweight exercises for building the triceps, chest, and shoulders.
Bench Dip are a bodyweight exercise that can be done anywhere, which make it a good at home or on the road lateral head tricep exercise.
Secondary: Anterior Deltoid, Pectoralis Major, Latissimus Dorsi, Pectoralis Minor, Rhomboids
- Place your hands on the side of a flat bench so that your body is perpendicular to the bench when you place your feet out in front of you.
- Sit on one bench and place your feet on the edge of the other bench so that your legs are suspended between the two.
- Your arms should be fully extended with your palms on the bench.
- Bend your elbows to lower your body down until your elbows reach 90 degrees.
- Now extend your arms to lift your body back to the starting position, flexing your triceps hard at the top.
- Really squeeze the triceps at the top of the movement to get the most out of this exercise.
- Do not dip down too low as it places unnecessary strain on the shoulder joints.
3. Cable One Arm Reverse Grip Triceps Push Down
The cable one-arm reverse-grip tricep push-down is an isolation exercise that builds muscle and strength in all three tricep heads. Now, push-downs are excellent regardless of the variation used, but the reverse grip may allow you to emphasize more of the outer tricep head.
While you can perform this movement using a reverse grip, the tricep push down allows you to activate the lateral head to a greater extent.
Secondary: Deltoid, forearm.
- Stand near the cable apparatus and grasp the single-grip attachment, with an underhand grip.
- Keeping your elbows at your body’s sides, press the weight downward, while exhaling throughout the movement. If desired, you may self-spot with your free hand.
- Slowly allow the weight to rise until your forearms are parallel to the ground, inhaling throughout the negative motion.
- Repeat steps 3-4 for as many sets as are desired.
- Your elbow must remain fixed during the set. Keep your upper arm as still as possible, only allowing your forearm to move.
- Squeeze the tricep hard at the top of the exercise to get that extra pump!
- Keep the rep timing slow and controlled.
4. Close-Grip Bench Press
The close-grip bench press is a variation of the bench press in which the emphasis is placed on the lateral head of the triceps. This position focuses on building strength and size of the triceps and chest muscles.
The close grip bench press is a superior movement when talking about exercises that will pack mass onto your triceps.
Primary: Triceps, pectoralis major.
Secondary: Anterior deltoid.
- Lie flat on a bench-press bench with your feet flat on the floor. With your hands shoulder-width apart, grasp the barbell with an overhand grip.
- Unrack the bar and slowly lower it to your lower chest, keeping your elbows as close to your sides as possible.
- At the bottom of the movement, your elbows should be a little lower than your shoulders.
- Press the bar back up to the starting position.
- Using anything closer than a shoulder-width grip increase triceps involvement, but can increase stress on the wrists.
- Inhale slowly as you lower the bar to your chest, and exhale during the push upward.
- Perform the exercise using a slow and controlled movement.
5. Triceps Pushdown
Triceps Pushdown is the most popular tricep exercise by isolating the lateral head of the tricep and focusing on elbow extension alone.
The cable provides a uniform resistance throughout the movement, unlike barbell or dumbbell exercises where the resistance varies during the lift.
Using the straight bar, a pronated grip (palms down) emphasizes the lateral head of the triceps, whereas a supinated grip (palms up) focuses effort on the long head. An angled V-shaped bar switches the hands into a neutral grip (thumbs up), equally targeting all three triceps heads.
Secondary: Deltoid and forearm.
- Stand facing a high-pulley cable with a short straight bar attached to it. Slight bend your knees and feet should be about shoulder-width apart.
- Grasp the Short bar with a pronated grip (palm down) and hold the bar at chest level with your elbows tight against your sides.
- Keeping your elbows stationary, straighten your arms until they are fully extended.
- Pause at full arm extension, flex your triceps, and slowly return the bar to the starting position.
- You can do this exercise with a rope or EZ bar attachment.
- Standing upright with the spine straight is the standard position.
6. Lying Triceps Extension
The lying tricep extension (aka skull crusher) is one of the best tricep-building exercises. Barbell skull crushers are a single joint exercise that allows you to focus on the lateral head of the tricep.
A wide grip emphasizes the long head, whereas a narrow grip targets the lateral head of the tricep.
Secondary: Chest, deltoid, forearm.
- Lie on a flat bench with your feet on the floor.
- Hold a barbell at full arm extension over your chest.
- Keeping your upper arms stationary, slowly lower your lower arms to bring the bar down to your forehead, then push it back up.
- Do not lock your elbows out, and repeat for desired reps.
- Keep the movement in your shoulders to a minimum. Most of the movement should be in your elbows.
- This exercise should be done slowly and carefully under good control.
7. Dumbbell Kick Back
The tricep dumbbell kickback is a versatile and effective exercise that targets the triceps muscles. The dumbbell kickback is an isolation exercise that greatly activates the lateral head of the triceps.
This means that unlike other exercises such as the push-up or bench press, the tricep kickback specifically targets the triceps muscle.
Secondary: Rear deltoid, latissimus dorsi.
- Place your right knee and palm on a flat bench so that your torso is parallel with the floor.
- Hold a dumbbell in the left hand and keeping the left foot flat on the floor, press your left arm tight against your side with the upper arms parallel to the floor.
- Extend at the elbow until your arm is straight back and fully extended.
- Flex the triceps hard for a second, then return to the starting position.
- Complete all reps on the left arm and then repeat on the right arm.
- Keep your body as still as possible, move only your forearms.
- Keep control of the weight as you slowly lower down the dumbbells back to the starting position.
8. Parallel Bar Triceps Dip
Parallel Bar Triceps Dips are one of the most effective compound movements for the upper body pushing muscles – the chest and triceps especially.
When performed on a narrow parallel bar with elbows back and your torso upright, the dip becomes one of the best exercises for building triceps mass.
If you want to work on your pecs, shoulders, and lateral head at the same time, then the tricep dip is the best exercise for you.
Secondary: Anterior Deltoid, Pectoralis Major, Latissimus Dorsi, Pectoralis Minor, Rhomboids.
- Grasp the dip bars with your arms extended and locked. Keep your body as vertical as possible to keep the emphasis on the triceps and away from the chest.
- Keep your elbows as close to your sides as possible as you bend them to lower your body down until your upper arms are about parallel to the floor.
- Press your hands forcefully into the bars to extend your arms and raise your body back up.
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
- Do not lock out your elbows at the top of the movement.
- To focus effort on the triceps, keep your body upright and elbows tucked in.
9. Dumbbell Squeeze Press
The dumbbell squeeze press is one of the most effective chest pressing exercises you can perform to induce functional hypertrophy in the inner body, particularly the inner pectorals.
During this Lateral head triceps exercises, the dumbbells are kept in contact with each other at all times, and you’re actively squeezing them inward (against each other) as hard as possible.
Primary: Lower pectoralis major.
Secondary: Anterior deltoid, triceps.
- Take the dumbbells in your hands and lay down on the bench.
- Place the dumbbells together side by side and lift them up over your chest.
- Lower them down together by touching each other, then push the dumbbells back up.
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
- Breathe out on the way up.
- Maintain more tension through the pecs by not locking out the elbows entirely.
10. One-Arm Dumbbell Lying Triceps Extension
The One-arm lying dumbbell tricep extension is one of the best unilateral tricep exercises for lateral head that you can do because it stretches the muscle and allows for a full range of motion during the movement.
It’s a fantastic exercise for overall tricep development and can be performed in a variety of ways, One-arm lying dumbbell tricep extension is one of them.
Secondary: Deltoid, Forearm.
- Lie on a flat bench and hold a dumbbell in your right hand with an overhand grip. Extend your arm so that the dumbbell is straight up from your right shoulder.
- Without moving your upper arm, bend at the elbow to bring the dumbbell down to the side of your head.
- Exhale as you extend your elbow and push the dumbbell back up to the starting position.
- Complete as many reps as desired, then repeat with the left arm.
- Only move your forearms, not your upper arm.
- Do not lock out your elbow at the top of the movement.
11. Incline Reverse-grip bench press
The reverse grip incline barbell press is a compound lateral head tricep exercise.
An Incline bench barbell press with a reverse grip actually shifts the most focus to the upper pecs and tricep. Start out light and make sure your thumbs are hooked around the bar for safety.
Primary: Upper Pectoralis [major and minor].
- Lying on a flat bench, grasp the bar with a supinated (reverse) grip, hands shoulder-width apart, and thumbs around the bar.
- With your elbows tucked in close to your sides, slowly lower the bar down to your lower pecs.
- Press the bar back up to the start position in a slight backward arc without letting your elbows flare out.
- Don’t lock out your elbows at the top of the rep; keep a bend in your arms, maintaining control of the weight at all times.
- Hold a neutral spine throughout the movement to prevent injury.
- Perform press in a controlled manner.
- Exhale on pushing movement, and inhale when returning to the starting position.
- Contract the chest muscles at the top of the movement.
12. Dumbbell Tate Press
The dumbbell Tate press is a variation of the dumbbell tricep extension and an exercise used to build stronger triceps. The dumbbell Tate press is an advanced lateral head tricep exercise that moves the muscle differently, but still targets and builds the tricep muscle.
For bodybuilders, the Tate press will offer a unique range of motion to target the triceps. This will help in building a complete pair of horseshoe triceps.
Secondary: Posterior Deltoid, Latissimus Dorsi, Middle and Lower Trapezius, Rhomboids.
- Lie down on a flat bench and your feet firmly planted on the floor at the other end.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand so your palms are faced towards your feet.
- Engage your abs in and keeping your back on the bench, raise the weights to the center of your chest.
- Without moving elbows, slowly raise your arms up and down by contracting your triceps. Repeat for as many reps and sets as desired.
- Using a slow eccentric (lowering portion) of the exercise can help to improve tension and mind muscle connection.
- Don’t lock out at the top of the movement to protect your elbows.
- Use slow and controlled motions.
Lateral Head Triceps Strategies for Bigger Arms
1. Prioritize the Lateral Head Tricep:
If you want to prioritize your lateral head tricep in your workout, it will be essential to include different exercises like kickbacks or overhand-grip press downs in your routine.
To start, it can be extremely helpful to train your triceps after a rest day. With this strategy, you will need to arrange your training split to fit a new routine, but by taking a rest day before you work your triceps, you can prepare your body to work hard at the gym.
2. Start Your Triceps Routine with a Multi-Joint Movement
Multijoint exercises, also known as compound exercises, are performed at best when your energy levels are high, which will usually be at the beginning of your workout routine.
It will have two sets of joints working, such as a close-grip bench press where the shoulder and elbow joints are moving together.
3. Include Multiple Lateral Head Exercises in Your Routine
If you are trying to focus on your lateral head tricep, then it can be helpful to incorporate multiple exercises into your routine that targets this muscle especially.
Remember to mix it up and utilize exercises that differ from one another, to make sure you are taking the proper steps to achieve your fitness goals.
4. Try new lateral head movements
Avoid a mundane, boring routine—have fun with your workouts, try new things, and make your training sessions even more energizing and beneficial to your body.
To successfully work towards strengthening, stabilizing, and bulking up your lateral head tricep, it will take persistence, motivation, and resilience.
5. Use Various Exercises and Equipment
It can be beneficial to implement different types of exercises and equipment into your workouts.
To make sure your workout is productive and never boring, mix things up or try something new.
Best equipment to use for the triceps are dumbbells, cable machine, barbell, kettlebells, and resistance bands.
6. Improve Form
While doing lateral head tricep exercises, having the proper form will be crucial.
By keeping your elbows tucked to the side and staying in control of your movements, you will be able to maintain the perfect form during your workouts.
7. Allow Time For Rest and Recovery
With intense training, you are breaking down your muscles so that they can grow even stronger.
But this can only happen if you allow your body adequate time to rest afterward.
Lateral Head Bicep Exercises Training Tips
Training Volume (Sets and Reps)
Of course, the number of sets and reps will be determined based on your fitness journey, but here is a great starting point:
- Beginners: ~10 sets per week.
- Intermediate: ~15 sets per week.
- Advanced: ~20 sets per week.
When a certain amount of volume stops being effective and your progress stalls, you can add sets to increase volume and use that as a driver of renewed progress.
The best rep ranges and loads to work with.
- 6-8 reps with heavy load
- 8-15 reps with moderate load
- 15-20+ with light load
The load should bring your to or near failure within the given rep ranges to be effective.
Lateral Head Triceps Exercises Workout Samples
Lateral Head Triceps Workout Plan #1:
- Diamond Push-Ups: 4 sets of 8-10 reps.
- Triceps Push down: 4 sets of 8-10 reps.
- Dumbbell Kick Back: 3 sets of 15-20 reps.
Lateral Head Triceps Workout Plan #2:
- Bench Dip with Elevated Legs : 4 sets of 8-12 reps.
- Close-Grip Bench Press: 4 sets of 8-12 reps.
- Incline Reverse-grip bench press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
- One-Arm Dumbbell Lying Triceps Extension: 3 sets of 10-15 reps.
Lateral Head Triceps Workout Plan #3:
- Lying Triceps Extension: 4 sets of 6-8 reps.
- Cable one arm reverse grip triceps push down: 4 sets of 8-12 reps.
- Parallel Bar Triceps Dip: 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
- Dumbbell Squeeze Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
Well-developed triceps will add a lot to the size and shape of your arms, and that goes double for the lateral triceps. Don’t neglect this part of your arms – hit it hard with the best lateral triceps exercises.
You can’t completely isolate any one tricep head, but you can emphasize a single head with certain exercises, arm positions, grip positions, and you should be doing this if you want the best possible development of your triceps.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions for the lateral head tricep exercises:
Do skull crushers work the lateral head?
Yes, skull crusher, focus on the lateral head of the tricep. Skull crusher exclusively target the lateral head tricep by elbow extension (meaning straightening your arm from a flexed position) and flexion.
What exercise works the lateral head of the tricep?
Whenever you engage in exercises in which you extend your elbow against resistance, your lateral head will be activated. Few Best Lateral Head Triceps Exercises are as under:
- Bench Dip
- Triceps Push down
- Lying Triceps Extension
- Dumbbell Kick Back
- Parallel Bar Triceps Dip
How do you hit the lateral tricep head?
To activate the lateral head of the triceps, focus on exercises that extend the elbow. That means dips, kickbacks, and overhand-grip press-downs are all good choices for targeting the lateral head.
1 — American Council on Exercise: ACE Study Identifies Best Triceps Exercises (source)
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