Build Strong Triceps with a Bodyweight Pushup Workout

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Triceps Brachii Anatomy and Function

The three heads of the triceps brachii muscle join at the elbow to form the largest muscle of the arm. The lateral and medial heads of the muscle originate near the top of the humerus, while the long head originates at the shoulder. All three heads insert onto the olecranon process of the ulna. The main function of the triceps brachii is extension of the elbow, making it an antagonist of the biceps brachii and brachialis muscles. Because the long head also crosses the shoulder, it is also a minor adductor of the arm. Heavy and high-tension extension movements are useful in recruiting all three heads of the triceps.

Pushup Variations that Work Triceps

Two main pushup variations are useful in training the triceps, the close grip pushup and the one-armed pushup:

  • Close grip pushups – Moving the hands closer to the midline while doing pushups helps to exclude the large pectoral muscles from assisting the movement. To perform the basic variation of this pushup, start with hands directly below the shoulders and keep the elbows tucked against the body as the body is lowered to the floor. Maintain strong shoulders and contract the triceps to rise to the starting position. This pushup variation can be made more difficult by slowing the rise and descent to create more tension, or by moving the hands even closer to the midline to decrease chest involvement.
  • One-armed pushups – The one armed pushup is among the most difficult bodyweight exercises, and is certainly one of the most challenging pushup variations. A proper one-armed pushup is performed with the shoulders parallel to the ground, hand just inside the shoulder, feet slightly wider than shoulder width, balls of the feet on the floor, and with enough depth that the chest nearly touches the ground. Since the working hand is placed just outside the centerline, the triceps are the primary pushers. Mastering one-armed pushups will also train the tension techniques that help express triceps brachii strength.

Build Triceps Strength with Pushups

Long sets of close-grip pushups are excellent for developing strength endurance in the triceps. Performing the push at maximal speed, these pushups can also help develop explosive strength. One-armed pushups provide a high-resistance challenge for the triceps, training maximal strength and teaching full body tension techniques. A few sets of each of these exercises can make for an excellent pushup workout, developing multiple aspects of triceps strength.

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