The Best 5 Bodyweight Exercises to Strengthen Your Triceps

l-sits

If you’ve ever gone to a gym with the purpose of strengthening your triceps muscles, you’ve probably focused mainly on machine-based exercises—pull downs, extensions, assisted dips, among others.

In fact, many people think the only way to get strong, sculpted triceps is to work with machines—and maybe free weights if they’re feeling extra creative.

But what the average gym-goer doesn’t realize is that some of the very best exercises to work your triceps require only your own bodyweight—and maybe a couple of bars at most.

Here are 5 of the best bodyweight exercises ever to get strong, defined triceps muscles:

1. Diamond push ups

Although even regular push ups will strengthen your triceps, diamond push ups really take triceps activation to the next level. If you’re used to doing your push ups with your elbows splayed out, you’ll notice a huge difference in how much your triceps need to work with diamond push ups.

How to do them:

Start in a push up position with your hands forming a diamond shape, fingers touching or almost touching. While keeping your elbows as close to your side as possible, lower yourself down until you’re about 2-3 inches above the ground. Make sure to breathe and keep everything tight (abs, glutes, thigh muscles). Raise back up to the starting position and repeat.

Still feel too easy to you? Step your diamond push ups up a level by putting your feet on higher and higher surfaces for elevated diamond push ups.

Beginner modification:

One way to make this exercise easier is to simply add more space between your hands: the closer your hands are together, the harder the push ups will be. If that’s still too tough, lower to your knees and do diamond push ups in a half push up position.

2. Dips

Hands down, dips are one of the best triceps exercises of all time since they focus almost solely on your triceps muscles. Do enough dips and you’re guaranteed to get stronger, more defined triceps than ever before. As a bonus, dips are an incredibly functional exercise.

How to do them:

Grip your dip bar with both hands, straighten your arms and cross your legs to keep them off the floor. While keeping your chest up and shoulders back, lower down so that your elbows are parallel to the floor or slightly further. Raise yourself back to the starting position—that’s one rep.

Tip: to make this exercise harder, try doing plyo dips, dips using rings, or for the ultimate triceps exercise, try muscle ups.

Beginner modification:

Grip your dip bar with straight arms and place your feet on an elevated surface so that your legs are straight and parallel to the floor. Keep your chest up and shoulders back, then lower down so that your arms form a 90 degree angle (or just lower as far as you can). Raise yourself back to the starting position.

Note: If this is still too hard, try bending your knees instead of keeping your legs straight.

3. Pull ups

Unlike chin ups, which use mainly your biceps (among other muscles) to pull yourself up toward the bar, pull ups require quite a bit of triceps activation in order to do them successfully. And while the majority of people will get a fantastic triceps workout doing normal or even modified pull ups, putting your hands even closer together will cause even greater triceps activation.

How to do them:

Hang from a pull up bar with your elbows slightly bent and shoulders pulled down, palms facing away from you. Keeping your chest up and your shoulders back, squeeze your glutes and slightly cross your feet. Pull yourself up so that your chin rests over the bar, then lower down and repeat.

Check out this article for pull up variations for beginners.

4. Handstand push ups

Handstand push ups require a tremendous amount of triceps strength just to be able to even attempt them. Master even the beginner version of these and your triceps will be loads stronger than any average gym-goer.

How to do them:

Face a wall in a standing position. Kick your feet up so you’re in a handstand position against the wall. Squeeze your abs, glutes and thigh muscles, then lower yourself toward the ground as far as possible (a full handstand push up includes your head touching or nearly touching the ground). Push back up and repeat.

Beginner modification:

Set your feet on an elevated surface with your hands on the floor so that you’re bent over in a 90 degree position. Lower yourself toward the ground as far as possible, keeping the 90 degree angle. Push back up and repeat.

5. L-sits

Though L-sits are considered mainly a core exercise, they’re also a fantastic for strengthening your triceps. Just try holding an L-sit for even 5 seconds at a time, and feel your triceps burn!

Oh, and although you can do L-sits on the ground, it’s easier to start on a set of parallettes or on a dip bar.

How to do them:

With the parallette bars on either side of you, grip them with both hands and lift yourself off the ground in a tucked position, making sure to keep everything tight. If this is a struggle for you, continue to work on this position until you can hold it for 10-15 seconds at the least. Next, try and extend one leg at a time, holding the position for about 5 seconds. The full L-sit requires you to extend both legs, keeping them as straight as possible.

Note: Though they may look simple, L-sits are a pretty advanced exercise, so if you try them and can’t do them quite yet, don’t get discouraged. If you want a really fantastic tutorial on progressions to doing an L-sit, check out this article by the ever so talented Gold Medal Bodies.

Happy triceps training!

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