Everyone loves the look of strong, sculpted arms. But excess fat in your upper arms can cover up all that beautiful muscle. While you can't spot reduce, you can commit to a consistent cardio and strength-training regimen while reducing your caloric intake, says Stephanie Thielen, ACE-certified personal trainer.
To get started with the strength-training part of that equation, incorporate these eight triceps-targeting exercises into your workout routine or do three sets of 15 reps for all of them for one seriously arm-sculpting workout. All you need is a pair of dumbbells, a chair and a few feet of free space.
1. Overhead Triceps Extension
- Holding a dumbbell in each hand, bring them behind the back of your head, palms facing the base of the skull and elbows high above your head.
- Raise the weights until arms are straight (hands together at the top), and then lower back down.
- Keep your neck and spine aligned, maintain a strong core without arching your back.
This exercise targets your shoulders, triceps, forearms and biceps — all muscles you'll need to strengthen for rockin' arms.
2. Triceps Kickback
- Stand with feet hip-distance apart and knees bent.
- Tilt your torso 45 degrees forward, keeping your spine long.
- Hold a weight in each hand bend at the elbows to bring your hands toward the shoulders in front of you.
- Straighten your arms back behind you, keeping your shoulders elbows locked in place.
- Lower back to the start with control.
Kickbacks are one of the most effective exercises for your triceps (stay tuned for two others on this list), according to research commissioned by the American Council on Exercise (ACE). When done properly, they'll shape and sculpt your arms.
3. Triceps Dip
- Squat down and place your palms on a chair or bench with the fingers pointing toward the edge.
- With feet hip-distance apart and ankles right below or slightly out in front of the knees (a harder variation), begin to dip the body down and up, keeping your butt above the ground.
- Try to keep the elbows going straight back (in line with the shoulders and wrists) as opposed to opening out to the sides.
This is one of the other exercises ACE highlighted in their research on which exercises are the most effective at targeting your triceps.
4. Modified Push-Up
- Lie on your stomach on the floor. Bring your hands under your shoulders and bend at the knees to bring your feet off the floor.
- Without letting the hips sag — keep the core engaged — press yourself up until your arms are fully extended.
- Keeping your knees on the ground and body in a line, lower your body until you're about nose distance from the ground, then push back up.
Modified push-ups engage and strengthen the triceps while boosting the muscles at the front of the deltoids (upper arm).
5. Lying Triceps Extensions
- Lie on the floor with your legs extended. Keep your upper back pressing into the floor and your shoulder blades down.
- With a weight in each hand (or a single, heavier weight in both hands), bring your hands together straight above your chest.
- Keeping the elbows pointed straight up toward the ceiling, bend the arms and bring the hands toward the face.
- Then extend the arms back up.
You can do this variation of regular triceps extensions when your arms are fatigued, since they give your postural muscles a bit of a break.
6. Side Plank Triceps Extension
- Start in a side plank on your forearm, with your legs stacked on top of one another. Drop to your knees for a modification.
- With a weight in your top hand, raise the arm straight up toward the ceiling with the palm facing forward. Bend at the elbow and bring the weight.toward your head.
- Straighten your arm, always keeping the elbow fixed.
"Engage the core to keep the hips lifted, and push away from the bottom arm, keeping space between the ear and the shoulder," says Thielen.
7. Triangle Push-Up
- Start in a high plank position on your knees with your hands turned in toward each other, forefingers and thumbs touching and forming the shape of a triangle (or diamond).
- Position your hands so that your chest is directly on top of your hands.
- Bending at the elbows, lower your body in a straight line until your chest touches your hands.
- Push back up to the starting position.
This is the third exercise in this workout recommended by ACE for toning your triceps. If the knee version is too easy, lift up onto your feet.
8. Elevated Biceps Curl
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and raise your arms to shoulder height, forming a T shape, palms facing up.
- Keeping the elbows lifted in line with the shoulders, curl your arms so your forearms are perpendicular to the floor — that's one repetition.
Although "arm jiggle" is often found on the triceps, strengthening your biceps will also give your arms a lean look. Elevated biceps curls warm up your shoulders and strengthen your biceps. You might just also feel it in your triceps.