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Top Barbell Tricep Workout for Strength and Size

May 28, 2024
black and white photo of woman getting ready to perform a bench press exercise

Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash

Focusing on a barbell tricep workout offers several key benefits that can help you build strength and size efficiently. The triceps make up about two-thirds of the upper arm, making them crucial for attaining well-rounded arm development. When you use a barbell for your tricep exercises, you can lift heavier weights compared to using other equipment, enabling greater muscle overload and growth.

Engaging in compound barbell movements like the close-grip bench press or the floor press not only targets the triceps but also activates other muscle groups such as the shoulders and chest. This results in more comprehensive upper body strength. A well-developed tricep muscle is essential for pushing movements and lockout strength, improving performance in various activities including sports and powerlifting.

Statistics show that including compound exercises can increase muscle mass by approximately 2-3% per month when combined with proper nutritional intake and rest1. Additionally, working on the triceps can enhance the stability and health of your elbow and shoulder joints, reducing the risk of injury.

Interestingly, many people tend to focus more on bicep training despite the triceps forming the bulk of the upper arm. Shifting the focus to triceps through barbell workouts can thus provide a more balanced and aesthetic arm appearance.

For additional tips on effective tricep workouts, check out our article on Tricep Dumbbell Workout at Home.

Importance of Strong Triceps

Strong triceps play a crucial role in overall arm strength and functionality. Comprising approximately 60% of the upper arm’s muscle mass, the triceps muscle is essential for achieving well-defined, powerful arms. The triceps consist of three parts: the long head, the lateral head, and the medial head, which together enable the extension of the elbow and contribute to shoulder stability.

One of the key benefits of strong triceps is their role in everyday activities and athletic endeavors. Whether you’re lifting objects, pushing a door, or performing upper-body exercises like bench presses, robust triceps ensure that movements are executed with power and precision. Weak triceps can lead to muscle imbalances and increase the risk of injury during workouts involving complex weight training.

Additionally, improved tricep strength enhances shoulder stability, which is vital for various arm movements. The triceps’ attachment to the shoulder blades means they play a significant role in the rotation and adduction of the arm, as well as in stabilizing the elbow during fine motor activities like writing. This was highlighted in a recent article by TransFit Athens, which emphasized the comprehensive nature of the tricep muscles in both exercise and daily tasks TransFit Athens.

Moreover, having strong triceps supports better performance in sports that require upper-body strength and coordination, such as swimming, tennis, and basketball. By focusing on building tricep strength, you can achieve greater overall arm functionality, contributing to a more balanced and effective fitness regimen.

For those looking to target specific areas of their body further, you might find our Tricep Dumbbell Workout at Home  guide particularly helpful in crafting a comprehensive upper body workout plan.

By dedicating time to tricep exercises, you’re not just working towards aesthetically pleasing arms, but also laying the foundation for stronger, more stable upper body mechanics that serve you well in everyday life.

Anatomy of the Triceps Muscle

The triceps brachii is a large muscle located on the back of the upper arm, opposite the biceps. It is essential for both elbow extension and stabilization of the shoulder joint. The term “triceps” is derived from the Latin for “three-headed,” and this muscle lives up to its name by having three distinct heads: the long head, the lateral head, and the medial head.

  • Long Head: The long head originates from the infraglenoid tubercle of the scapula (shoulder blade). It plays a key role in both shoulder extension and elbow extension, making it crucial for overhead movements.
  • Lateral Head: The lateral head arises from the posterior surface of the humerus (upper arm bone), just above the radial groove. This head is most engaged during heavy lifting and is often the most visible part of the triceps in a well-defined arm.
  • Medial Head: The medial head is situated deeper than the other two heads. It originates from a large portion of the posterior surface of the humerus, below the radial groove. This head is typically active during all forms of elbow extension, providing crucial endurance.

Collectively, the triceps muscle constitutes approximately 60% of the upper arm’s muscle mass, making it essential for achieving arm size and strength. Understanding the anatomy is vital for targeting each head effectively during workouts, which ensures balanced development and avoids muscle imbalances.

For more details on muscle workouts, you can check out our other articles like tricep dumbbell workout at home.


Essential Barbell Tricep Exercises

Photo by Michael DeMoya on Unsplash

Barbell exercises are crucial for building strong and well-defined triceps. Here are five essential exercises to include in your workout routine.

Close-Grip Bench Press

The close-grip bench press is a powerful exercise that targets the triceps, especially the long head. By narrowing your grip on the bar, the triceps take on more of the load compared to the standard bench press. To perform this exercise, lie on a bench, position your hands closer than shoulder-width apart on the bar, and press the weight upwards. Aim for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

Overhead Barbell Triceps Extension

This exercise focuses on the long head of the triceps. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, hold the barbell overhead with a close grip, and slowly lower it behind your head. Extend your arms back to the starting position to complete one rep. Include 3 sets of 10-15 reps in your routine.

Skull Crushers

Also known as lying tricep extensions, skull crushers isolate the triceps effectively. Lie on a bench, hold a barbell with an overhand grip, and lower it towards your forehead by bending your elbows. Extend your arms back to the start point. Perform 3 sets of 8-12 reps for optimal results.

Floor Press

The floor press limits the range of motion, focusing more on the triceps. Lie on the floor with the barbell positioned above your chest. Lower the bar until your arms touch the ground, then press back up. This exercise is great for improving lockout strength. Complete 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

Bench Press

While the bench press is primarily a chest exercise, it also engages the triceps. By not fully locking out your elbows, you can keep tension on the triceps. Perform this with a shoulder-width grip for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

For those interested in further enhancing their workout routine, exploring Dumbbell vs Barbell Bench Press can offer additional insights.

Using these barbell exercises will not only help in building stronger triceps but also contribute to overall upper-body strength. Proper form is crucial to avoiding injury and maximizing muscle growth.

Workout Plan: Barbell Tricep Routine

Strengthening your triceps with a structured barbell workout plan can lead to impressive gains in both size and strength. Below is a sample routine focused on maximizing tricep development with key barbell exercises.


Begin with a light cardio session to get your blood flowing. Follow that with dynamic stretches for your shoulders and arms to prepare your joints and muscles for the workout. Consider doing:

  • Arm circles: 2 sets of 15 reps in each direction
  • Tricep extensions: 2 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Light barbell curls: 1 set of 15 reps

Main Workout

  1. Close-Grip Bench Press
    • Sets: 4
    • Reps: 8-12
    • Rest: 1.5 minutes between sets
    • Focus on keeping your elbows tucked and hands shoulder-width apart to target the triceps effectively.
  2. Floor Press
    • Sets: 3
    • Reps: 6-10
    • Rest: 2 minutes between sets
    • This exercise limits the range of motion, concentrating on the triceps during the lockout phase.
  3. Barbell Skull Crushers
    • Sets: 3
    • Reps: 8-12
    • Rest: 1.5 minutes between sets
    • Lower the bar slowly to just behind your head and extend your arms back up.
  4. Single Arm Landmine Press
    • Sets: 3
    • Reps: 10-15 per arm
    • Rest: 1 minute between sets
    • Perform this exercise with a neutral grip to ease the stress on the elbow and shoulder joints.
  5. Overhead Barbell Tricep Extension
    • Sets: 3
    • Reps: 12-15
    • Rest: 1.5 minutes between sets
    • Keep your elbows close to your head and extend your arms fully.

Cool Down

End with static stretching targeting the triceps, shoulders, and chest. Hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds.

Additional Tips

  • Ensure consistent weight progression. If you find it too easy, increase the weight gradually.
  • Track your progress in a workout journal to monitor improvements over time.
  • For more tricep workout variations, you can refer to Tricep Dumbbell Workout at Home.

For a more detailed guide and demonstration on the exercises, you can visit the Set for Set blog.

Safety Tips and Techniques for Barbell Exercises

black and white photo of a barbell on a gym floor

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

When incorporating barbell exercises into your routine, safety should always be a top priority. Here are some essential tips to help you lift safely:

  1. Ensure Your Area Is Clear of Clutter
    Before starting, make sure your workout space is free from any obstacles. An organized environment prevents trips and falls, which can be particularly dangerous when handling heavy weights.
  2. Double-Check Your Equipment
    Inspect your barbell and weights for any signs of damage, such as rust or worn-out knurling. This can prevent equipment failure mid-lift. Ensure that the barbell sleeves rotate smoothly and that the loadable sleeves are secure.
  3. Use Barbell Collars
    Always use collars to secure weight plates on the barbell. This prevents the plates from sliding off unexpectedly, which could cause injury or damage to your surroundings.
  4. Have a Spotter
    If you’re lifting heavy, especially with exercises like the bench press or squat, always have a spotter. A spotter can assist you if you fail to complete a lift and can provide feedback on your form.
  5. Don’t Lift Too Much Weight
    Know your limits. Gradually increase the weight you lift rather than making large jumps, which can increase the risk of injury. It’s better to make slow, steady progress than to risk hurting yourself.
  6. Use Proper Technique
    Focus on using the correct form for each exercise. Incorrect form can lead to injuries. Consider consulting a personal trainer to ensure you are performing the exercises correctly.

Adhering to these safety tips can prevent injuries and help you get the most out of your barbell workouts. For a comprehensive understanding of safety measures, check out The Complete Guide to Barbell Safety.

For more information on pairing barbell exercises with cardio, visit our page on What Cardio Machine Burns the Most Calories.

How to Track Progress in Your Tricep Workouts

Tracking your progress in tricep workouts is crucial for ensuring continuous improvement. Here are some effective methods to help you stay on course:

  1. Record Training Sessions: Keeping a workout journal or using an app can be incredibly helpful. Document the exercises performed, weight used, sets and reps completed, and rest periods. This allows you to see trends over time and make necessary adjustments.
    • Example Tools: Apps like Strong and JEFIT offer features for detailed workout logging.
  2. Monitor Strength Gains: Periodically test your one-repetition maximum (1RM) to gauge strength improvements. This should be done safely, with proper form and, ideally, a spotter. Tracking the increase in weights over time provides a clear measure of progress.
    • Tip: Aim for a 5-10% increase in your 1RM every few months.
  3. Evaluate Performance Consistency: Look for consistent improvements such as increased reps with the same weight or better form. Note any fluctuations as these can indicate plateaus or the need for a change in routine.
    • Pro Insight: According to Rachel MacPherson, a Certified Personal Trainer, consistent tracking helps in recognizing patterns and making informed adjustments (Verywell Fit).
  4. Assess Physical Feedback: Pay attention to how you feel during and after workouts. Soreness, fatigue, and overall well-being can influence your performance. Keep track of factors like sleep, nutrition, and stress, as these can impact your workout results.
    • Quick Tip: Note down how energized or tired you felt during workouts to identify any potential causes for performance dips.
  5. Progress Photos and Measurements: While not directly indicative of strength, regular photos and arm measurements can visibly show muscle growth and definition. This can be motivational and provide an additional perspective on progress.

For a comprehensive guide on tracking your cardio progress, you might find our Cardio Recovery Rate article useful.

Implementing these tracking methods can help you achieve your tricep workout goals efficiently and effectively. By staying mindful of your progress, you can make informed adjustments that enhance your fitness journey.