8 Lateral Head Tricep Exercises To Build Your Arms 2023

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 towards grip technique.

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

Best Lateral Head Tricep Exercises

The keys to maximizing your lateral head tricep workout is 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!

  • Close Grip Bench Press.
  • Diamond Pushups.
  • Skull Crushers.
  • Cable Overhand Extensions.
  • Kickbacks.
  • Seated Dumbbell Overhead Extensions.
  • Low Plank Press Ups.
  • TRX Tricep Extensions.

8 Lateral Head Tricep Exercises 2023

Diamond pushups for intense lateral tricep activation. Photo: Shutterstock

1. Close Grip Bench Press

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 great range of motion at the elbow joint and maximizes the effort of the triceps in relation to the pectoralis muscles. The pecs influence is limited, placing more pressure on the triceps to work to move the weight. Perform the exercise by lowering the bar to the chest and pushing it back up over the chest with the arms straightened.

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

2. Diamond Push-Ups

This variation is performed by changing the hand placement from the thumbs to 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. Perform the exercise by lowering the body to just above the floor and pushing it back up with the arms straightened.

3. EZ Bar Skull Crushers

Once again, here you have the ability to 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. Lie back on the bench with the arms straight and slowly bend the elbows bringing the bar towards the forehead and back over the chest.

4. Triceps Cable Kickback

As one of the unilateral tricep exercises (which has specific training benefits),[2] the Triceps Cable Kickback exercise is done with one arm at a time.

Place the cable handle of an adjustable cable machine to just above the floor and grab the handle with the palm facing down. Depending on which arm is being worked, step the same-side leg back a few feet and lean over towards the machine, resting the opposing elbow on the other knee. 

This should allow you to bend fully over with your back almost parallel to the floor. From this position, pull the cable-like a row until the elbow is at your side, then from here extend the arm, hinging at the elbow, until the arm is straight with your palm facing the ceiling and your hand is by your hip.

5. Cable Extensions

This is one of the best triceps exercises due to its simplicity and moderate elbow pressure. You may use a short bar or a rope attachment to perform this exercise. Use of the short bar can be called overhand grip press-downs.

Place the cable pulley up at least forehead height. Grab the rope with a neutral grip (palms facing each other), or grab the short bar with the palms facing downward (overhand grip). Keeping the upper arms stationary, achieve full elbow extension by pressing the attachment down until your hands are at your lap and then slowly raise the hands back up.

6. Low Plank Press Ups

This is a bodyweight tricep exercise. With the elbows and knees in contact with the ground, press your palms into the floor and extend the arms into a straightened position. You are now in a modified high plank. Slowly rebend the elbows and descend the elbows back to the floor.

7. TRX Tricep Extensions

The TRX system utilizes anchored straps with handles in order to develop strong muscle control and stability by using your own bodyweight 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.

8. Seated Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extension

This is a tricep exercise that allows for a lot of resistance (consider some front deltoid workouts to improve your ability to work overhead). You will need a seat with a back support to perform this exercise. 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.

The thumbs and pointer fingers should wrap around the handle and overlap each other. From a straight arm overhead position, slowly lower the weight down behind the head and force elbow extension to raise it back up overhead.

Importance of Lateral Tricep Head 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 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[3] 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

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 contracts completely.
  • Do not allow elbows to bow out from their starting point as you extend through the movement. 
  • For 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 triceps exercises, just be sure to stick to the few keys we have covered to effectively strengthen the lateral head and maximize your performance.[4] 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?

There are three heads that 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[5] 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.