Tricep pull-ups are no small matter. They require you to heave your entire body mass up above a bar using your triceps, among other muscles. But before you take on the muscle-building activity, you must be sure to maintain the proper pull-up form and try out different variations of the pull-up.
Before performing pull-ups to work the triceps, make sure you use the correct form.
Anatomy of the Triceps
The triceps brachii is the only muscle located along the back humerus. It's a three-headed muscle that helps slow elbow bending and, more important, performs extension of the elbow. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs, the triceps is the muscle that mostly determines the size of the upper arm.
Its key function is to extend the elbow, though it's also helpful for bringing the upper arm down from a raised position. To contract the tricep muscles, the upper arm should be positioned behind the torso as the elbow straightens.
Perform a Proper Pull-Up
In order for pull-ups to be effective and work the essential arm muscles, they need to be done properly. The American Council on Exercise recommends setting your shoulder blades in the correct position. While gripping the bar and before doing the pull-up, you should straighten your arms and pull your shoulder blades back and pinch them together. Keep this position as you pull yourself upward using your arm and back muscles.
Maintaining the proper form is fundamental, as failing to do so can be detrimental to the body. According to Mayo Clinic, using poor form can overload certain muscles and cause overuse injury. It may help to seek advice from a personal trainer when performing pull-ups for the first time.
The American Council on Exercise recommends pull-up exercises that should be part of your strength-training routine. Each exercise should be performed in two to four sets with about eight to 12 repetitions. Tricep pull-ups include:
Move 1: Assisted Pull-Up
- Put a super band around the pull-up handles and place your feet or knees into the bottom of the loop.
- Do a regular pull-up, while allowing the band to assist you in maintaining the proper form.
This exercise helps maintain the correct movement until you've built enough strength to perform a pull-up yourself.
Move 2: Eccentric Chin-Ups
- Bring your chin above the bar with a jumping start, step or band.
- Gradually lower yourself down until your arms are fully extended.
You can alter the difficulty of this exercise by varying the time it takes on the downward movement. The slower the movement, the more challenging.
Move 3: Straight-Arm Pull-Downs
As the name suggests, this exercise is a pull-down rather than a pull-up, though it will help you build the muscles necessary for a pull-up.
- Place the hands shoulder-width apart on the lat pull-down bar of a cable machine.
- Step back and hinge forward at the hips. You can bend the knees slightly.
- With the arms straight, engage the lats, muscles located around the lower back, and press the bar downward toward the thighs. This exercise helps improve trunk stability necessary for performing a pull-up.
Other Tricep-Building Exercises
There are several exercises you can do to build muscle in the triceps such as pull-ups, dumbbell workouts and press downs. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recommends:
Move 1: Standing Dumbbell Triceps Curl
- Standing straight, grip a dumbbell in both hands and raise it above your head until the arms are fully extended.
- Lower the dumbbell behind your head until the forearms and biceps make contact.
Make sure to keep your body straight and your head forward.
Move 2: Standing Triceps Press-Down
- Standing straight, grip the bar with palms facing forward and forearms and biceps touching each other.
- Press down on the bar until your arms are extended. Keep the body rigid as you do this movement.