8 Lateral Head Tricep Exercises To Build Your Arms In 2024

The triceps attach to the shoulder and elbow joints and consist of three versatile triceps heads. The triceps can either work in tandem or independently[1] in elbow extension, and their exercises can be executed under the largest variety of techniques and body positions for a single joint muscle group.

Because of their unique qualities, the triceps have a large variety of options available for exercises, and special attention needs to be paid to grip technique.

For exercises that target the strongest of the tricep heads, let’s explore lateral head tricep exercises.

Best Triceps Lateral Head Exercises

The keys to maximizing your lateral head tricep exercises are in the extension of the elbow and the grip type used to perform the movements. Here are eight of the best exercises to carve out a great outer arm!

Best Lateral Head Tricep Exercises

Lateral Head Tricep Exercises are essential for achieving well-rounded arm development. These exercises primarily target the lateral head of the triceps, helping to create definition and strength in the outer part of your arms. Incorporating variations like Tricep Pushdowns, Skull Crushers, Dips, etc., can help you achieve balanced tricep development and enhance overall upper body strength. Including lateral head tricep exercises in your routine contributes to a more sculpted and toned appearance in your arms while improving your functional strength for various daily activities and sports.

Close Grip Bench Press

Narrowing the grip on the barbell places more emphasis on the lateral tricep head, helping to build definition and size in this specific area. This exercise also enhances overall tricep strength, which is crucial for various upper-body movements. Including the Close Grip Bench Press can lead to well-rounded triceps, improved pressing strength, and a more balanced upper body

In a close-grip bench press, hand placement is the feature technique. Whereas with the regular bench press, your hands can easily be several inches wider than your shoulders, here you will grab the bar at about shoulder width, keeping the elbows tucked by your side at the most an inch or two from the body as the bar is at the low point of the movement.

This style allows for a great range of motion at the elbow joint and maximizes the effort of the triceps concerning the pectoralis muscles. The pecs’ influence is limited, placing more pressure on the triceps to work to move the weight.

The close grip bench press will also fit into a 5-day workout split nicely as an upper body compound lift.

Close Grip Bench Press
Close Grip Bench Press Guide. Photo: Aliaksandr Makatserchyk

How to do:

  1. Lie flat on a bench, grip the barbell close, hands shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lower the bar to your chest.
  3. Push it back up, extending your arms fully.
  4. Maintain control and engage the lateral triceps throughout.


  • Position your hands close together, slightly narrower than shoulder-width, on the barbell. This narrow grip targets the lateral head of the triceps more effectively.
  • Keep your elbows close to your body during the exercise to maximize tricep engagement and minimize stress on the shoulder joints.
  • Lower the barbell to your chest under control, and push it back up explosively. Maintain a stable and firm grip throughout to ensure a safe and effective workout.

Optimal Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

Diamond Push-Ups

This exercise promotes superior tricep development, increases overall upper body strength, and enhances arm definition. Incorporating Diamond Push-Ups into your routine can help you achieve well-rounded tricep muscles and a more sculpted appearance in your arms.

This variation is performed by changing the hand placement from the thumbs to the armpits position used in a regular pushup to almost touching each thumb and pointer finger (diamond shape) under the center of the chest. The diamond hand position tests the triceps similarly to what is seen in the close grip bench press in that the range of motion and the ratio of tricep effort to pec effort both increase.

Additionally, the internal rotation of the upper arm directs the force of the push-up through the outer arm for more targeting of the lateral head of the tricep.

Diamond Push-Ups
Diamond Push-Ups Guide. Photo: Aliaksandr Makatserchyk

How to do:

  1. Start in a standard push-up position with your hands close, forming a diamond shape under your chest.
  2. Lower your body, keeping elbows close, until your chest touches your hands.
  3. Push back up to the starting position, extending your arms fully


  • Form a diamond shape with your hands beneath your chest, fingers touching. Keep your elbows close to your body during the entire movement to maximize tricep engagement.
  • Keep your body straight from head to heels. Engage your core and glutes to prevent sagging or arching, ensuring proper muscle activation.
  • Lower your chest towards your hands with control and push back up explosively. Focus on the triceps’ contraction throughout the exercise, emphasizing the squeeze at the top for optimal results.

Optimal Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

EZ Bar Skull Crushers

Once again, here you can promote internal rotation of the upper arm for more direct lateral head targeting. You’ll want to grab the bar at the inner slopes where the thumbs angle up towards each other.

This exercise isolates and targets the lateral or outer head of the triceps, helping to create definition and size in this specific area. By using the EZ bar, you maintain a comfortable grip, reducing strain on the wrists and allowing for better form. Incorporating Skull Crushers into your routine can lead to improved tricep strength, enhanced arm aesthetics, and a well-rounded upper-body workout.

EZ Bar Skull Crushers
EZ Bar Skull Crushers Guide. Photo: Aliaksandr Makatserchyk

How to do:

  1. Lie on a bench, feet flat on the floor, and hold the EZ bar with a shoulder-width grip.
  2. Extend your arms over your chest, and lower the bar toward your forehead, keeping your elbows stationary.
  3. Lower the bar until the forearms are just past parallel to the floor.
  4. Exhale and push the bar back up, extending your arms without locking your elbows.


  • Keep your elbows stationary throughout the movement, pointing toward the ceiling. This ensures that you target the lateral head of the triceps effectively without straining your elbow joints.
  • Lower the EZ bar smoothly towards your forehead, maintaining control. Avoid lowering it too quickly or bouncing it off your head, as this can lead to injury.
  • Hold the bar with a grip that’s slightly narrower than shoulder-width, allowing for optimal tension on the lateral head of your triceps. This grip provides better stability and control during the exercise, maximizing its effectiveness.

Optimal Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

Triceps Cable Kickback

This isolation exercise specifically targets the lateral head of the triceps, helping to sculpt and define this area for a balanced arm appearance. Cable Kickbacks also engage the core for stability and improve muscle endurance, contributing to overall upper-body strength. Incorporate them into your routine for well-rounded tricep development and enhanced arm aesthetics.

Triceps Cable Kickback
Triceps Cable Kickback Guide. Photo: Aliaksandr Makatserchyk

How to do:

  1. Attach a single-grip handle to the low pulley cable.
  2. Stand facing the cable machine with a slight bend in your knees.
  3. Hold the handle with one hand, keeping your arm close to your side.
  4. Keep your back straight, hinge at the hips, and lean slightly forward.
  5. Fully extend your arm backward, engaging your tricep, while keeping your elbow stationary.
  6. Hold the contraction for a moment.
  7. Slowly return your forearm to the starting position.


  • Maintain a stable and slightly bent-over stance to isolate the lateral tricep head effectively. Keep your upper arm stationary during the movement for optimal engagement.
  • Extend your arm fully while keeping your elbow close to your side, then slowly return to the starting position. This controlled motion ensures maximum muscle activation and minimizes the risk of injury.
  • Use a firm grip on the handle and focus on squeezing your triceps at the peak of the extension for an intense contraction. This mind-muscle connection can help you get the most out of each repetition.

Optimal Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

Cable Extensions

This exercise offers targeted isolation, helping to create definition and size in the lateral head. Incorporating Cable Extensions enhances overall arm aesthetics and improves arm strength. By adjusting the resistance and maintaining proper form, you can effectively sculpt and strengthen this specific tricep muscle for a well-rounded, balanced upper body appearance.

Cable Extensions
Cable Extensions Guide. Photo: Aliaksandr Makatserchyk

How to do:

  1. Stand facing a cable machine with a rope attachment at the high pulley.
  2. Grasp the rope with an overhand grip and step back to create tension.
  3. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and your core engaged.
  4. Start with your hands close to your forehead, elbows bent at 90 degrees.
  5. Extend your arms downward while keeping your upper arms stationary.
  6. Fully straighten your arms and contract your triceps.
  7. Slowly return to the starting position without locking your elbows.


  • Set the cable attachment at chest height to ensure a comfortable and effective range of motion. This prevents excessive strain on your shoulders and maximizes tricep engagement.
  • Maintain a stable stance with your feet shoulder-width apart and engage your core throughout the movement to prevent swaying or using momentum. Focus on isolating the triceps for a more effective workout.
  • Extend your elbows fully at the bottom of the movement and contract the triceps forcefully at the top. A complete range of motion ensures you’re effectively working the lateral head of the triceps for optimal results.

Optimal Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

Low Plank Press Ups

This variation combines the benefits of a low plank with the added challenge of a press-up, providing an efficient way to sculpt and strengthen the lateral tricep muscle. By incorporating Low Plank Press Ups into your routine, you can enhance the definition of your triceps, improve upper body strength, and achieve a more balanced and toned arm appearance.

Low Plank Press Ups
Low Plank Press Ups Guide. Photo: Aliaksandr Makatserchyk

How to do:

  1. Begin in a low plank position with elbows directly under shoulders and forearms on the floor.
  2. Press up onto your hands, one at a time, while maintaining a straight body line.
  3. Return to the starting position by lowering onto your elbows one arm at a time.
  4. Repeat and engage your lateral triceps during the press-ups.


  • Maintain a straight line from head to heels during the exercise. Avoid sagging hips or lifting the hips too high to engage the lateral head of the triceps optimally.
  • Lower your body with control, keeping your elbows close to your sides. Push back up while engaging your triceps, ensuring a smooth and deliberate motion.
  • Focus on your breathing, inhaling as you lower and exhaling as you push back up. Engage your core muscles throughout to stabilize your body and protect your lower back.

Optimal Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 10-15 reps.

TRX Tricep Extensions

This exercise engages the lateral head of the triceps effectively while also challenging your core and stability. The TRX suspension system allows for adjustable resistance and versatility, making it an excellent choice for individuals of various fitness levels. By incorporating TRX Tricep Extensions into your routine, you can achieve stronger, more defined triceps and enhance overall upper body strength and stability.

The TRX system utilizes anchored straps with handles to develop strong muscle control and stability by using your own body weight in a suspension workout.

The TRX Triceps Extension is done exactly like the low plank press-up regarding your arm motion. The difference here is instead of the floor your hands are leaning against the handles of the TRX suspension strap in an inclined angled plank.

TRX Tricep Extensions
TRX Tricep Extensions Guide. Photo: Aliaksandr Makatserchyk

How to do:

  1. Set up the TRX straps to a mid-length position, facing away from the anchor point.
  2. Hold the handles, arms straight, and step forward to create tension in the straps.
  3. Lean forward slightly, keeping your body in a plank position.
  4. Bend your elbows, lowering your chest toward the ground while maintaining a strong core.
  5. Push back up, extending your arms to complete the tricep extension.
  6. Keep your body stable throughout the movement, engaging the lateral head of the triceps.


  • Maintain a straight body position with your feet shoulder-width apart and your body leaning slightly forward. Keep your elbows close to your sides and engage your core to avoid unnecessary strain on your lower back.
  • Focus on a controlled and deliberate extension of your arms while keeping tension on the TRX straps. Avoid rushing through the exercise to maximize muscle engagement and minimize the risk of injury.
  • Lower your body until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle or slightly below, then extend your arms fully. This ensures you’re working the triceps through their full range of motion for optimal results.

Optimal Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

Seated Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extension

This exercise effectively targets the lateral head of the tricep, helping to build size and definition in this specific area. By performing these extensions while seated, you stabilize your body and isolate the triceps, ensuring a focused and controlled movement.

Seated Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extension
Seated Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extension Guide. Photo: Aliaksandr Makatserchyk

How to do:

  1. Raise a dumbbell overhead holding it with the palms and underside of the fingers against the inner surface of the top end of the dumbbell.
  2. The thumbs and pointer fingers should wrap around the handle and overlap each other.
  3. From a straight arm overhead position, slowly lower the weight down behind the head and force elbow extension to raise it back up overhead.


  • Sit upright with back support, ensuring your feet are flat on the floor. Maintain a stable and neutral spine throughout the exercise to avoid unnecessary strain on your lower back.
  • Lower the dumbbell behind your head slowly and with control. Keep your elbows close to your ears, and fully extend your arms at the top. Avoid using momentum or swinging for maximum tricep engagement.
  • Exhale as you push the dumbbell upward, and inhale as you lower it down. Proper breathing not only aids in lifting but also helps stabilize your core and maintain control during the exercise.

Optimal Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

Best Lateral Head Tricep Workout Routine

ExerciseSets x Reps
Close Grip Bench Press3 x 10-12 reps
Diamond Push-Ups3 x 10-15 reps
EZ Bar Skull Crushers3 x 10-12 reps
Triceps Cable Kickback3 x 10-12 reps
Cable Extensions3 x 10-12 reps
Low Plank Press Ups3 x 10-12 reps
TRX Tricep Extensions3 x 10-12 reps
Seated Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extension3 x 10-12 reps

Importance Of Lateral Tricep Heads Exercises

The wonderful value in strengthening the lateral tricep head is in the improvement of your compound exercises such as pushups and the overhead press. This is due to the lateral head’s ability to drive upper body pushing strength as resistance increases and the other tricep heads fatigue.

When targeting the lateral head of the triceps, grip and wrist positioning are crucial. The overhand and neutral grips are the two strongest hand positions for extending the arm at the elbow due to the heavier recruitment of triceps muscle fibers and the ability of the forearm flexors to contract and facilitate the same in the lateral tricep head.

Grip position[2] is especially useful during the aforementioned close grip bench press, as the narrower grip used activates the elbow extensors to their fullest potential.

Other Tips For Lateral Head Tricep Exercise

Other Tips For Lateral Head Tricep Exercise
Follow these tips for better lateral head tricep exercise performances. Photo: bristekjegor/Freepik

It is not enough to simply do the movements if your form and technique are poor. It is important to:

  • Always extend the arms fully to make sure the triceps contract completely.
  • Do not allow elbows to bow out from their starting point as you extend through the movement. 
  • For some lateral head tricep exercises like the TRX extension, the skull crusher, and the overhead dumbbell extension, be sure to use control during the downward movement of the contraction.
  • To accelerate your strength gains, consider working your triceps in a 3-day workout split for higher exercise volume. 


There are an incredible number of exercises and positions from which to structure your triceps routine. You can train the lateral head of the triceps standing up, laying down, in plank positions, in both vertical directions, and even horizontally.

However you decide to perform your lateral head tricep exercises, just be sure to stick to the few keys we have covered to effectively strengthen the lateral head and maximize your performance.[3] Neutral and overhand grips are best for producing the force necessary to utilize desired amounts of resistance. Also, full extension is a must if you want to challenge the muscle to its maximum ability.

Lastly, a stationary upper arm and fixed elbow position are crucial in directing the force of the resistance properly through the outer upper arm. Hitting a home run in all these aspects will boost your triceps development and take your entire strength program to new heights!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between the long and lateral heads of the tricep?

Three heads compose the triceps. The difference between them is positioning. The lateral head runs along the outside of the posterior upper arm while the long head runs down the center of the rear arm more medial to the lateral head.

Is there a best exercise or type of exercise to target the lateral head?

All things equal regarding proper technique, the most effective types of exercises are those that work against gravity and employ a stimulus of instability or constant tension. These would include cable or elastic exercises extending the arms[4] away from the ground and exercises like the TRX extensions.

Why should I care so specifically about the lateral head of the triceps?

Of the three heads, the lateral head of the triceps is crucial for strength in pressing movements. Your strength cannot be at its full potential without great recruitment of the lateral head because it is instrumental in stabilizing and extending the arm at the elbow.

If I usually like to do simple routines when I wake up at home, what do you recommend for some good triceps work?

The low plank press-ups and the diamond pushups fit nicely in any bodyweight morning workout routine.


  1. Hussain, J., Sundaraj, K., Subramaniam, I.D. and Lam, C.K. (2019). Analysis of fatigue in the three heads of the triceps brachii during isometric contractions at various effort levels. Journal of musculoskeletal & neuronal interactions, [online] 19(3), pp.276–285. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6737551/.
  2. Lasse Mausehund, Amelie Werkhausen, Bartsch, J. and Tron Krosshaug (2021). Understanding Bench Press Biomechanics—The Necessity of Measuring Lateral Barbell Forces. PubMed, [online] 36(10), pp.2685–2695. doi:https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000003948.
  3. Naryana Mascarin, Andre, C., Vancini, R. and Andrade, S. (2016). Strength Training Using Elastic Band Improves Muscle Power and Throwing Performance in Young Female… [online] ResearchGate. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/292072512_Strength_Training_Using_Elastic_Band_Improves_Muscle_Power_and_Throwing_Performance_in_Young_Female_Handball_Players.
  4. Andersen, V., Pedersen, H., Marius Steiro Fimland, Matthew Peter Shaw, Erik, T., Stien, N., Kristoffer Toldnes Cumming and Atle Hole Saeterbakken (2020). Acute Effects of Elastic Bands as Resistance or Assistance on EMG, Kinetics, and Kinematics During Deadlift in Resistance-Trained Men. Frontiers in sports and active living, [online] 2. doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fspor.2020.598284.