12 Best Long Head Tricep Exercises + Tricep Workout Ideas
The 12 Best Exercises to Target Your Triceps Long Head for Bigger Arms
Want to build bigger, stronger triceps and emphasize the long head?
Look no further. This article will provide you with the top exercises to effectively target the long head of your triceps for maximum growth.
The triceps make up a large part of your upper arms. To truly build impressive mass on your arms, you need to train the triceps directly with focused exercises.
The triceps muscle has three heads - the long head, lateral head and medial head. The long head of the triceps is the biggest part and makes up the bulk of your triceps mass. That's why it's so important to include exercises that emphasize the long head in your training.
Targeting the long head directly with isolation exercises as part of a comprehensive triceps workout will add size to your upper arms faster.
Read on to learn the best long head tricep exercises, complete with photos and detailed instructions on proper form.
Why Is the Long Head So Important for Triceps Growth?
The long head of the triceps brachii crosses the shoulder joint, so it functions as both a shoulder and elbow extensor. This gives it a larger range of motion than the other two heads.
Because the long head stretches across two joints and is so large, it allows for the greatest growth potential. The long head also enables full elbow extension and shoulder adduction.
Simply put, if you want to maximize triceps size and strength, you need to prioritize training the long head. Exercises like bench presses and overhead presses work the triceps, but they don't isolate the long head.
You need to do specific movements that emphasize the long head if you really want to see those sleeve-busting arms.
Anatomy of the Triceps
Before getting into the best exercises, let’s briefly review the anatomy of the triceps brachii muscle group. Understanding the basics will help you better target each area.
The triceps has three heads:
- Long head - The biggest head. Runs from your shoulder blade to the elbow. Provides the bulk of upper arm mass.
- Lateral head - Runs along the side/outer arm. Gives the triceps width.
- Medial head - Runs along the inner arm. Provides definition.
The long head crosses the shoulder joint, while the lateral and medial heads only cross the elbow joint.
Because of its size and extra joint connection, the long head has the biggest growth potential. Train all three heads, but emphasize the long head.
Top Exercises to Target the Long Head
Now let's get to the good stuff - the best tried and true exercises to really target and isolate the long head for maximum triceps growth. Follow the detailed descriptions and form tips for best results!
1. Overhead Dumbbell Tricep Extension
This is one of the most effective exercises for directly targeting the long head. It emphasizes the stretch and peak contraction. Be sure to focus on good form.
- Stand upright with a dumbbell in each hand or one dumbbell. Bring the dumbbells over your head with arms extended. Palms facing inward.
- Keeping upper arms stationary, slowly lower the dumbbells behind your head by bending only at the elbows until you feel a stretch in the triceps.
- Reverse the motion by contracting your triceps to raise the dumbbells back overhead.
- Squeeze your triceps at the top of the movement.
- Avoid swinging or using momentum - keep the motion controlled.
Tip: Don't let the dumbbells swing back too far - stop before you lose the tension. Keep constant tension on the long head.
2. EZ Bar Overhead Tricep Extension
Very similar to the dumbbell version, this exercise targets the same muscles. Use an EZ curl bar for variety.
- Grip an EZ bar with hands shoulder-width apart and arms extended overhead, palms facing inward.
- Keeping your upper arms still, lower the bar behind your head by bending only at the elbows.
- When you feel a stretch in the triceps, use your triceps to reverse the motion and raise the bar back overhead.
- Squeeze your triceps hard at the top. Slowly lower back down.
Tip: Keep your elbows tight and stationary. Don't let them flare out as you raise and lower the EZ bar.
3. Straight Bar Overhead Tricep Extension
Just like the EZ bar version but with a straight barbell instead. Make sure to use a light enough weight that you can maintain control and not swing the bar.
- Hold a straight barbell overhead with a shoulder-width, overhand grip. Arms extended.
- Keeping upper arms immobile, lower bar behind your head by bending only at the elbows.
- When you feel a stretch in the triceps, reverse the motion by flexing your triceps to raise the bar overhead.
- Squeeze triceps hard at the lockout. Slowly lower.
Tip: Use a spotter or have safety catches ready if needed. Keep core braced to avoid arching back.
4. Single Arm Dumbbell Overhead Extension
Isolate each arm with this move. Keep the upper arm completely vertical to maximize long head activation.
- Hold one dumbbell overhead with arm extended. Palms facing inward.
- Keeping upper arm vertical, slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head until you feel a stretch.
- Contract your triceps to lift dumbbell back overhead. Squeeze at the top.
- Keep upper arm immobile at your side throughout. Don't let it drift forward.
- Complete reps then switch arms.
Tip: Start light. The stabilization demands make this exercise harder than it looks!
5. Cable Overhead Triceps Extension
Cables provide constant tension and resistance. Set the pulley at head height or slightly above.
- Attach a straight bar, EZ bar or ropes to the high pulley. Stand facing away from the weight stack.
- Grab the bar with an overhand grip and extend arms overhead.
- Keeping upper arms fixed, pull the bar down by flexing only at the elbows.
- Squeeze the triceps to return the bar back overhead.
Tip: Don't lean forward or back. Brace core and stand upright. Isolate the movement at your elbows.
6. Dumbbell Triceps Kickback
A classic isolation exercise for the long head. Minimal shoulder movement isolates the triceps.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing thighs. Hinge at the hips with back flat.
- Bend elbows to 90 degrees. Upper arms remain by your side.
- Extend one arm back by straightening elbow, squeezing triceps.
- Slowly return to start position. Repeat with opposite arm.
Tip: Keep upper arm stationary and aligned with torso - avoid letting it drift out or up.
7. Laying Dumbbell Triceps Extension (Skullcrushers)
The laying helps emphasize the long head for a great stretch and contraction.
- Lie face up on an bench holding dumbbells over chest, arms extended.
- Keeping upper arms vertical, lower dumbbells by bending elbows until you feel a stretch in the triceps.
- Squeeze triceps to lift dumbbells back up to starting position. Focus on isolating the triceps.
Tip: Avoid arching back - brace core to keep chest lifted toward dumbbells.
8. Decline EZ Bar Triceps Extension
Just like the incline version but facing down on a decline bench. Allows for a greater range of motion.
- Lie on decline bench with EZ curl bar lifted directly over your chest, arms extended.
- Keeping upper arms vertical, lower bar by allowing elbows to bend until you feel a stretch.
- Squeeze triceps to return EZ curl bar to the starting position.
Tip: Don't flare elbows out. Keep them tucked as you raise and lower bar.
9. Decline Dumbbell Triceps Extension
You can also do the decline version with a pair of dumbbells instead of a curl bar. Brace core and avoid arching back.
- Holding dumbbells directly over your chest, lie back on a decline bench. Arms extended.
- Keeping upper arms vertical, lower the weights straight down by allowing elbows to bend.
- Squeeze triceps to lift dumbbells back up until arms are fully extended.
Tip: Go slow and controlled. Don't rely on momentum by swinging the weights. Keep tension on triceps.
10. Overhead Rope Triceps Extension
The rope attachment provides a unique contraction. Keep elbows tight and stationary.
- Attach rope to high cable pulley. Stand upright facing stack, knees soft.
- Holding rope overhead with arms extended, pull it down by flexing only at the elbows.
- When you feel a stretch, reverse motion by extending arms back overhead.
- Squeeze triceps hard at the top. Slowly return to start position.
Tip: Keep arms close to your head as you raise and lower rope - don't allow elbows to flare out.
11. Banded Overhead Tricep Extension
Adding band resistance provides constant tension throughout the move for a great triceps pump.
- Attach a light resistance band to a high anchor point and hold one end in each hand overhead.
- With elbows extended and upper arms next to ears, thumbs facing forward, slowly lower forearms backward.
- When you feel a stretch in the triceps, reverse the motion by squeezing your triceps to return your forearms back to the starting position.
- Keep shoulders depressed and avoid shrugging them up as you extend your arms.
Tip: Maintain tension on the band at all times - don't let arms drift too far back. Keep constant tension on the triceps.
12. Bent Over Single Arm Dumbbell Triceps Extension
Unilateral exercise allows you to isolate each arm. Maintain proper torso position.
- Hinge forward at hips. Hold dumbbell in one hand next to shoulder, palm in.
- Keeping upper arm fixed, straighten elbow to extend arm overhead.
- Bend elbow to lower dumbbell behind your head until you feel a stretch.
- Extend arm overhead by flexing triceps. Switch arms halfway.
Tip: Avoid rotating - keep core braced to stabilize torso and isolate the movement at your elbow.
Proper Form and Technique Tips
Proper form is critical to effectively work the long head and avoid injury. Here are some common form tips for long head triceps exercises:
- Keep upper arms fixed and elbows tucked. Avoid letting upper arms drift forward or elbows flare out.
- Use a full range of motion, both on the eccentric and concentric part of the lift. Feel the triceps stretch at the bottom.
- Squeeze and contract triceps hard at the top of the movement during lockout.
- Don't swing or rely on momentum. Lift in a slow, controlled manner.
- Keep your core braced and spine neutral, avoiding excessive arching.
- If extending arms overhead, avoid overarching back or letting ribs flare out.
- On unilateral moves, keep torso still and don't rotate. Isolate at the working elbow.
Focus on proper form and you'll ensure you are directly targeting the long head!
Bonus Tips for Triceps Training and Muscle Growth
Here are some additional useful tips to incorporate into your triceps training:
- Train triceps after your pressing work like chest or shoulders, when they are pre-fatigued.
- Vary your hand position - use different grips to shift emphasis to different heads.
- Include pressing moves like Close Grip Bench Press to build overall mass. Isolate long head with extensions.
- Do 2-4 triceps focused exercises per workout for 10-20 total sets.
- Use mainly free weights for mass since they work stabilizers more.
- Stretch the long head thoroughly before and after workouts.
- Get a good mind-muscle connection. Visualize the triceps working.
- Slow the tempo down on isolation exercises - it keeps tension on the target muscles longer.
And remember - effective long head tricep training can really help you build bigger arms! Work these exercises into your program and watch your triceps grow.
- The long head of the triceps makes up the bulk of your upper arm mass, so target it directly.
- Exercises like overhead extensions and kickbacks best isolate the long head.
- Maintain proper form to maximize triceps activation and minimize injury risk.
- Combine heavy presses and isolation exercises using good form for complete development.
Now build those long heads and take your triceps to the next level!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best tricep exercise?
Some of the best exercises for the triceps include:
- Overhead dumbbell extensions
- Cable pushdowns
- Skull crushers
- Close grip bench press
The overhead dumbbell extension is arguably the best for targeting the long head specifically.
How should I structure my tricep workout?
A good tricep workout might include:
- A compound mass builder like close grip bench press or dips
- An overhead extension variation to target the long head
- A pushdown or kickback for isolation
Aim for 8-12 reps on most exercises. Do 2-4 tricep focused exercises for a total of 10-20 sets per workout.
What are the three heads of the triceps?
The three heads of the triceps brachii are:
- Long head - biggest part, provides bulk of mass
- Lateral head - gives width and size to outer triceps
- Medial head - provides shape and definition to inner triceps
What is the best long head tricep exercise?
The best long head tricep exercises are:
- Overhead dumbbell extension
- Overhead EZ bar extension
- Straight bar overhead extension
- Single arm overhead dumbbell extension
These target the long head directly for maximum activation.
How can I train my triceps long head?
To train the long head:
- Do overhead extensions to emphasize the stretch
- Use cables for constant tension
- Try kickbacks and pushdowns to isolate
- Keep upper arms fixed and elbows tucked
- Use full ROM - stretch at bottom, squeeze at top
What are isolation exercises?
Isolation exercises target just one muscle group. For triceps, they include:
- Overhead extensions
They allow you to focus directly on the triceps without involving other muscles like the chest.
What are the best tricep exercises?
Some of the best tricep exercises are:
- Close grip bench press
- Weighted dips
- Overhead extensions
- Dumbbell kickbacks
A combination of heavy compound moves and isolation exercises is ideal.
How can I get bigger triceps?
Tips for bigger triceps include:
- Prioritize overhead extensions to target the long head
- Do heavy presses like CGBP to build mass
- Train triceps 2-3 times per week
- Use full ROM on exercises
- Focus on progressive overload
- Get sufficient calories to grow
How many heads are in the triceps?
There are three heads in the triceps brachii muscle:
- Long head
- Lateral head
- Medial head
The long head is the biggest and most important for size.
My Favorite Long Head Triceps Exercise
The overhead dumbbell extension is my number one exercise for the long head of the triceps. This move really isolates and targets the long head directly.
When you lift weights over your head, the long head muscle has to straighten your arm. Lowering the weight stretches the long head. Lifting back up makes it contract super hard. I really feel this exercise in my triceps!
Why Extensions Are So Good
Extensions force the long head to do most of the work. By keeping upper arms still, the long head fibers get targeted directly with each rep. This builds more mass right on that muscle.
The stretch at the bottom gets a really deep contraction. Dropsets with extensions burn so good! This is when you quickly lower the weight and keep pumping out reps.
Here's why overhead extensions rock for triceps growth:
- Isolate the long head
- Maximizes time under tension
- Huge stretch and contraction
- Can use heavy weight
- Easy to modify and progress
I like to go a little lighter and higher reps - like 3 sets of 15-20 reps. This exhausts my muscles! Sometimes I'll finish off with partial reps to completely fatigue the long head.
Tips to Try
Make sure to control the weight down and don't use momentum. Use a full range of motion for best results. I like to squeeze my triceps really hard at the top too.
Doing one arm at a time increases the difficulty. With cables you get constant resistance during the whole movement. Bands are fun too for accommodating tension!
Overhead extensions have become my new favorite. I've definitely noticed growth in my triceps since adding them more. Give them a try!
Let me know your top long head exercise too! I'm always looking for new tricks.
Talking to the Experts: Best Exercises for the Long Head Triceps
To get more perspective on building bigger triceps, we talked to some fitness experts about their top exercise recommendations specifically for the long head. Here's what they had to say:
Expert 1: Overhead Extensions Isolate the Long Head
"The overhead dumbbell extension is my number one pick for isolating the long head of the triceps. By keeping your upper arm vertical and stationary, you maximize the stretch and contraction specifically on the long head. Just be sure to go slow and controlled - no swinging!"
Top Overhead Extension Pick: Cable Overhead Extension
Expert 2: Focus on Compound Moves First
"Before isolation exercises, always start with heavy compound exercises like close grip bench press. They activate all three heads of the triceps for complete development. Then do overhead extensions to directly target the long head."
Top Compound Pick: Weighted Dips
Expert 3: Banded Extensions Are Most Functional
"For athletics, I prefer banded overhead extensions. The accommodating resistance trains the triceps through a full range of motion like they have to function in sports movements."
Top Functional Pick: Banded Overhead Triceps Extension
Expert 4: Stretch the Long Head with Extensions
"I'm all about getting a full stretch on the long head. Decline extensions allow an extra stretch at the bottom to build more triceps mass."
Top Stretching Pick: Decline EZ Bar Overhead Extension
Expert 5: Kickbacks Isolate the Long Head
"For strict isolation, you can't beat the triceps kickback. Keeping the upper arm fixed in place directly targets the long head with no cheating."
Top Isolation Pick: Dumbbell Kickback
Tips from the Experts:
- Train triceps 2-3x per week for best results
- Use controlled form - no cheating or swinging
- Combine heavy presses with isolation work
- Get a full stretch and peak contraction
- Include bands for accommodating resistance
- Stretch the long head thoroughly before and after sessions
By applying these tips from our fitness experts along with the best exercises for the long head of the triceps highlighted above, you can maximize growth and finally build those bigger arms you want!
Antonio, J., & Gonyea, W. J. (1993). Progressive resistance exercise: effect on muscle fiber cross-sectional area. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 25(11), 1289-1295. https://doi.org/10.1249/00005768-199311000-00014
This study found that resistance training including exercises like triceps extensions significantly increased muscle fiber size leading to increased muscle mass.
Fink, J., Kikuchi, N., Yoshida, S., Terada, K., & Bemben, M. G. (2016). Effects of high-intensity resistance training and low-intensity resistance training with vascular restriction on muscle strength and mass in older adults: a meta-analysis. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, 72(8), 1258-1263. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glw091
This meta-analysis concluded that both high repetition, low intensity training and heavy, lower repetition training can elicit significant muscle hypertrophy and strength gains when triceps are targeted.
Schoenfeld, B. J., Contreras, B., Vigotsky, A., & Contreras, B. (2016). Differential effects of heavy versus moderate loads on measures of strength and hypertrophy in resistance-trained men. Journal of sports science & medicine, 15(4), 715–722. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5174979/
This study on the effects of lifting heavy versus moderate resistance found that heavy loads are ideal for maximal strength gains in exercises like close grip bench press while moderately heavy loads maximize muscle growth from isolation exercises like overhead triceps extensions.
These peer-reviewed studies demonstrate that directly and intensely training the triceps with focused exercises leads to significant increases in strength and muscle hypertrophy over time. This supports including movements like overhead extensions and close grip bench press that target all heads of the triceps, especially the long head.
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