Most people think that the ticket for bigger arms is to build bigger biceps.

And while that’s true to a point, your triceps actually make up about two thirds of your upper arm mass. Thus, while burnishing your biceps is important (and fun), you’ll never maximize the size of your arms if you neglect or phone in your triceps training.

Another factoid that many people don’t know is that your triceps are actually made up of three sections, and some of these parts have a bigger impact on the appearance of your arms than others.

The section that lies along the inside of your arm and closest to your body—also known as the “long head”—is the largest part of the triceps, and needs to be the focus of your triceps training if you want to turn your “pipe cleaners into pythons,” as the meatheads like to say.

In this article, you’ll learn the best long head tricep exercises for building bigger, stronger arms. 

What Is the Long Head of the Triceps?

The triceps muscle is located on the back of your upper arm and has three heads: the lateral head, the medial head, and the long head.

Here’s what they look like when viewed from behind: 

How do you get a long head tricep

 

The long head of the triceps is the largest of the three triceps heads and thus contributes most to the overall size of your triceps. That’s why if you want to build big arms, it’s wise to include exercises that emphasize the long head in your training.

All three heads of the triceps work together to straighten the elbow, which is why your triceps are heavily involved in all pressing exercises like the bench press, overhead press, and push-up. 

That said, you can emphasize which portion of the triceps you train by changing the position of your upper arm in relation to your torso during various pressing exercises. 

Notice that I said “emphasize” and not “isolate,” because all triceps exercises that emphasize one head of the muscle also involve the others to some degree, too.

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The 8 Best Long Head Tricep Exercises

1. Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press

Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press

The close-grip bench press is one of the best tricep exercises for all 3 heads because it allows you to safely and effectively increase your weights over time (which can be difficult with other exercises, like the skullcrusher). It also trains your chest, shoulders, and biceps, making it an outstanding all-around upper-body exercise.

  1. Lie on a flat bench, pull your shoulder blades together and down, and without lifting your butt or shoulders off the bench, slightly arch your back.
  2. Grip the barbell with a shoulder-width grip or slightly narrower and unrack the barbell so it’s directly above your chest.
  3. Lower the barbell to your lower chest while keeping your elbows tucked at about a 30-degree angle relative to your torso.
  4. When the bar touches your chest, explosively press the bar back to the starting position.

2. JM Press

JM Press

The JM Press is a combination of the close-grip bench press and triceps extension. It isolates the triceps more than the close-grip bench press and trains them through a greater range of motion, which is usually better for muscle growth. 

  1. Lie on a flat bench, pull your shoulder blades together and down, and without lifting your butt or shoulders off the bench, slightly arch your back.
  2. Grip the barbell with a slightly narrower than shoulder-width grip, and unrack the barbell so it’s directly above your chest.
  3. Lower the barbell toward your neck. As you do so, keep your elbows up and in front of your torso, and slightly bend your wrists backward so that your palms face the ceiling.
  4. When your forearms and biceps touch, explosively press the bar back to the starting position.

(Tip: For an in-depth explanation of how to perform the JM press, check out this tutorial from the inventor himself.)

3. Barbell Floor Press

Barbell Floor Press

By limiting the range of motion, the barbell floor press emphasizes your triceps instead of your pecs. This helps you improve your “lockout strength” on pressing exercises and adds mass to your upper arms.

  1. Set the hooks in a squat rack so that the bar is about two-to-three inches lower than it will be when you’re holding it with your arms outstretched.
  2. Lie on the floor in the middle of the squat rack, pull your shoulder blades together and down, and without lifting your butt or shoulders off the floor, slightly arch your back.
  3. Grab the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, take a deep breath, brace your core, and unrack the barbell.
  4. Bring the barbell down toward the middle of your chest until your triceps lie flat on the floor, making sure to keep your elbows tucked at about a 45-degree angle relative to your torso. 
  5. When your triceps are flat on the floor, explosively press the bar back to the starting position.

4. Weighted Dips

Weighted Dips

Dips are often thought of as a chest exercise, but depending on how you do them, they’re also an excellent long head tricep exercise. When you first start doing dips you can make great progress with just your body weight, but as you get stronger, you’ll want to add weight by hanging weights from a dip belt around your waist or by pinching a dumbbell between your thighs. 

  1. If you’re using a dip belt, wrap the chain around your waist, add the desired amount of weight to the chain, and fasten the carabiner.
  2. Grab hold of both handles of a dip bar or dip station, then press yourself up by straightening your arms and gently jumping off the ground so that your arms are straight and supporting your entire body weight. 
  3. Keep your torso upright to put the emphasis on your triceps, bend your knees to keep your feet from touching the ground, and lower your body by bending your elbows until your upper arms are roughly parallel to the floor.
  4. Press hard into the handles to drive your body back up to the starting position.

5. Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension

Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension

The dumbbell overhead triceps extension is one of the best long head tricep dumbbell exercises you can do because it places the arms overhead which fully stretches the long head of the triceps. This is important because research shows that training a muscle in a stretched position may lead to more muscle growth.

  1. Sit up straight on a bench. 
  2. Grip one end of a dumbbell using both palms and lift it overhead so that your arms are straight. Your palms should be flat against the end of the dumbbell, and facing toward the ceiling. 
  3. Lower the weight until it’s behind your head by bending at the elbow, then straighten your arms to return to the starting position.

6. EZ Bar Skull Crusher

EZ Bar Skull Crusher

The skullcrusher is a great exercise for training all parts of the triceps, ensuring you have defined, proportional upper arms.

  1. While lying on a flat bench, hold an EZ Bar above your chest with a shoulder-width grip. 
  2. Bring the bar down to your forehead by bending at the elbow, then reverse the movement to return to the starting position.

(Tip: If you want to increase the range of motion of this exercise, lower the bar behind your head until it’s almost touching the bench.)

7. Cable Triceps Pushdown

Cable Triceps Pushdown

Research shows the cable triceps pushdown is particularly good for emphasizing the long head of the triceps. It also trains the triceps through a full range of motion, which is ideal for muscle growth. 

  1. Set the pulley on a cable machine to slightly above head height, and attach the rope handle.
  2. Stand upright or lean slightly forward (you can adopt a staggered stance if it helps you balance), grab one end of the rope in each hand, and push the rope downward by straightening your elbows. 
  3. Once your arms are straight and at your sides, reverse the motion to return to the starting position.

8. Cable Triceps Kickback

Cable Triceps Kickback

Like the cable triceps pushdown, research shows the cable triceps kickback emphasizes the long head of the triceps.

  1. Set the pulley on a cable machine to the lowest setting and attach a single handle.
  2. While still facing the pulley, grab the handle in one hand and take a large step back so that there is tension in the cable.
  3. Bend at the hips so your upper body is almost parallel to the ground and tuck your elbow into your side. Slightly bend your knees and stagger your stance if it feels more comfortable.
  4. Push the handle straight behind you by straightening your arm, then reverse the movement to return to the starting position.

The Best Long Head Tricep Workout

If you want a great long head tricep workout, you need to . . .

  • Do long head tricep exercises that allow you to handle heavy weights and progressively overload your triceps.
  • Use a variety of rep ranges to ensure you train your triceps with the right amount of volume and intensity.

And that’s exactly what you’ll get in this simple but effective workout:

  • Close-Grip Bench Press: 3 sets of 4-to-6 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Dips (weighted if possible): 3 sets of 6-to-8 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Overhead Triceps Extension: 3 sets of 8-to-10 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Cable Triceps Pushdown: 3 sets of 8-to-10 reps with 2-to-3 min rest

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