9 Lateral Head Tricep Exercises For Max Gains

When it comes to building big, muscular arms, a lot of people focus almost exclusively on their biceps. That’s hardly surprising, given that the biceps are probably the most famous muscle in the human body.

However, it’s actually the triceps that make up the majority of your upper arm mass. Because of this, in any quest to build bigger arms, training the triceps should be a priority.

The triceps are located on the back of your arm and makeup about two-thirds of your upper arm mass. They’re so-called because the triceps consist of three sections or heads. All three heads work together, but it’s also possible to emphasize each one by altering the position of your upper arm.

Of the three heads, the lateral or outer head is the most visible. When well-developed, it’s the lateral head that gives the triceps their unique horseshoe shape. For this reason, not only should you spend plenty of time working your triceps, but you should also work on the lateral head to build the most impressive arms possible.

In this article, we’re going to show you the nine best lateral head triceps exercises, so you can build arms you can truly be proud of!

Lateral Head Tricep Exercises

Anatomy of The Triceps

The full name of the triceps is triceps brachii, which means three-headed arm muscle. That’s because the triceps have three individual origin points, which come together to form a single insertion point. These separate origins are what give the triceps their distinct heads.

The three triceps heads are:

  • Long head – the inside of the triceps
  • Lateral head – the outside of the triceps
  • Medial head – between the long and medial heads

All three triceps heads extend your elbow, while the long head also extends your shoulder. While it is impossible to isolate any one head, it IS possible to emphasize each head so they are more active.

9 Lateral Head Triceps Exercises

All triceps exercises work all three heads. That said, the following exercises put a useful emphasis on the lateral or outer head of your triceps. If you want to sculpt horseshoe triceps, these are the exercises to do it.

Triceps pushdowns1. Triceps Pushdowns

Triceps pushdowns are THE classic triceps exercise.

They’re simple, easy to perform, and ideal for drop sets. They’re arguably the most popular triceps exercise on the planet.

Better yet, they’re also an effective way to target your lateral triceps.

  1. To do this exercise, attach a straight, V-shaped, or rope handle to a high pully.
  2. Grab your chosen handle and tuck your upper arms into your sides.
  3. Extend your arms and push your hands down to your legs.
  4. Bend your arms and repeat.

Note: Keep your core braced and torso upright throughout. 

2. Triceps Kickbacks

Triceps kickbacksYou can do triceps kickbacks with a dumbbell or using a low cable machine. However you do it, this is an effective triceps isolation exercise.

  1. To do dumbbell kickbacks, hold a weight in one hand and then lean forward, so your torso is parallel to the floor.
  2. Tuck your upper arm into your side.
  3. Starting with your elbow bent at 90 degrees, extend your arm and push the weight back toward your hip.
  4. Bend your arm and repeat.

Note: The cable version is performed the same way except, instead of the dumbbell, you use a handle attached to a low pulley machine. This variation keeps your triceps under constant tension. 

3. Close Grip Bench Press

Close grip bench press

Close grip bench presses are a compound exercise, which means they involve two or more joints and several muscle groups.

That’s no bad thing because it allows you to lift heavier weights, making this a good strength exercise. As well as working your chest and shoulders, this is a very useful lateral triceps exercise.

  1. Lie on your back on a flat bench. Hold a barbell over your chest using an overhand, shoulder-width grip.
  2. Bend your arms and, with your elbows close to your sides, lower the bar to touch your sternum.
  3. Press it back up again and repeat.

Note: Do this exercise with a spotter to avoid getting stuck under the bar if you are unable to complete a rep. 

Diamond push-ups

4. Diamond Push-Ups

Diamond push-ups are the bodyweight equivalent of close grip bench presses.

You can do this challenging movement anywhere and anytime, which makes it ideal for home exercisers.

  1. Kneel down and place your hands on the floor, so your thumbs and first fingers make a triangle.
  2. With your arms straight, walk your feet back, so your legs and upper body form a line. Brace your abs.
  3. Bend your arms and lower your chest down to touch the back of your hands.
  4. Push yourself back up and repeat.

Note: Make this exercise easier by bending your knees and resting them on the floor. Alternatively, to make this exercise harder, place your feet on a step or box to put more weight on your arms.

5. Parallel Bar Dips

Parallel bar dipsA lot of exercisers view parallel dips as a chest exercise. While dips ARE a good pec builder, they’re also a very effective way to target your triceps as a whole, and especially the lateral triceps head.

  1. To do parallel bar dips, grip the bars with a shoulder-width grip, so your hands are facing inward.
  2. Support your weight on straight arms. Bend your elbows and descend under control until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Take care not to go down too far, as doing so could cause shoulder pain or injuries.
  3. Push yourself back up and repeat.

Note: Make this exercise harder by wearing a weighted vest or using a dipping belt.

6. Bench Dips

Bench dips

If parallel bar dips are too demanding for you right now, try bench dips instead. This alternative involves lifting less weight, and you can do them using nothing but a regular exercise bench, a chair, or even a step.

  1. Sit on your bench and put your hands on either side of your hips, fingers pointing forward. Lift your butt up and forward of your hands.
  2. Bend your arms and lower yourself down until your elbows are bent to 90 degrees.
  3. Push yourself back up and repeat.

Note: The further forward your feet are, the harder this exercise becomes. Take care not to descend too far, as doing so puts a lot of strain on your shoulder joints.

Skull crushers7. Skull Crushers

Done without care, this exercise can live up to its name! But, if you do it right, it’s a safe and effective lateral triceps exercise.

  1. Lie on your back on a flat bench. Hold a barbell over your chest using an overhand, shoulder-width grip.
  2. Keeping your upper arms vertical and stationary, bend your elbows and carefully lower the bar down to your forehead.
  3. Extend your arms and repeat.

Note: You can also do skull crushers using dumbbells which makes them both a little safer and more effective as you can bend your arms further.

8. Close Grip Floor Presses

Close grip floor pressesFloor presses are a lot like bench presses, except you don’t need a bench to do them. Instead, you lie on the floor. This makes floor presses ideal for home exercisers.

  1. Lie on your back on the floor. Use an exercise mat for comfort. Hold a barbell over your chest using an overhand, shoulder-width grip.
  2. Bend your arms and, with your elbows close to your sides, lower the bar until your upper arms touch the floor.
  3. Press it back up again and repeat.

Note: Floor presses can also be performed using dumbbells or kettlebells.

9. Overhead Triceps Extensions

Overhead triceps extension

Also called a French press, overhead triceps extensions require good shoulder flexibility. Providing you’ve got mobile shoulders, this is a useful exercise for your lateral triceps.

  1. Hold a dumbbell by the innermost plates, so your palms are turned upward.
  2. Raise it above your head, so your upper arms are next to your ears. Bend your arms and lower the weight down behind your head.
  3. Lift the weight back up and repeat.

Note: This exercise can also be done using a barbell.

Bottom Line

The biceps are the most well-known muscle in the human body. Ask even a child to show you a muscle, and they’ll probably flex their biceps. It’s the one muscle that almost everyone can identify.

However, while the biceps ARE both famous and essential when it comes to arm training, it would be a mistake to focus on just this muscle. After all, the triceps makeup about two-thirds of your upper arm size and can also add a lot to the shape and appearance of your upper arms.

The triceps are worked every time you do a pressing exercise, including bench presses, overhead presses, and push-ups. However, if you want to sculpt the best arms possible, you need to also dedicate some training time to this critical body part.

Triceps pushdowns are an excellent place to start, but if that’s the only exercise you do for your triceps, your progress will soon stall. Instead, you need to keep your workouts fresh and interesting by using a variety of different triceps exercises.

As the lateral head is so important for the shape of your arm, it makes sense to spend time and energy working this part of your triceps. Use the exercises in this article to carve horseshoe triceps to be proud of.


Patrick Dale is an ex-British Royal Marine and owner and lecturer for a fitness qualifications company. In addition to training prospective personal trainers, Patrick has also authored three fitness and exercise books, dozens of e-books, thousands of articles, and several fitness videos.

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