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Tricep Express Program: 7 Tricep Exercises at Home With Dumbbells, Barbell and Cables

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The Tricep Express Program will help you do two things: 

  1. It’ll give you the ability to perform more push-ups than ever before
  2. And it’ll force your arms to grow more muscle 

Who doesn’t want either of those benefits?!

As a PT for 20 years, I’ve used this style of approach when helping people pass army fitness tests. Where push-ups are a fundamental element of the entry physical. 

It has helped take people from struggling to do 10 push-ups to being able to do 50 without stopping. 

Those results aren’t freaky over the 12 weeks either! 

You’ll be able to do 50 push-ups without stopping too if you follow this program.

The Tricep Express is a unique program in that it’s designed to be followed alongside your usual workouts. It’s an accessory program. You don’t need to do anything special with it – just throw it in at the beginning or end of your normal workout and enjoy the results.

Need a normal workout plan? Check out our workouts here to find one that suits your level.

Tricep exercises infographic

What’s an accessory program?

An accessory program is one that runs alongside your main workouts. 

There’s a focus on improving a smaller aspect of health and fitness.

In this case, we’re looking at using chest and tricep exercises to improve max push-ups and increase arm size. Those two goals don’t really need a whole program to themselves. You wouldn’t want to neglect the rest of your fitness just to achieve that. 

Getting good at push-ups doesn’t need you to forget all about your legs, back etc.

There’s also the risk of doing too much. If all we focussed on was push-up success, there’s a chance we’d risk injury to shoulders, elbows or wrists. Because there’d be far too much pushing in the program.

Tricep Express Program: Do 50+ push-ups without stopping in 12 weeks

Using these tricep exercises will increase your max push-up numbers and add extra size to your arms in just a few weeks. 

Here are the top three benefits of these exercises…

1. You’ll be able to do more push-ups

With the tricep express workouts, you’ll be able to manage more push-ups without stopping. 

This translates into better, more effective workouts. It’s also useful when it comes to passing physical fitness tests such as the army or police tests.

2. Stronger and bigger arms

The triceps are the biggest muscle in the upper arm. 

With the tricep express exercises, you’ll build bigger, stronger and more powerful arms in a short period of time. You’ll fill out your t-shirts in no time!

3. Tricep exercises to get rid of bingo wings!

Hold your arms out to the side right now.

Wave frantically to an imaginary friend. 

Those wobbly bits under your upper arm are also called bingo wings (imagine calling bingo and waving in a hall!) Ever wanted to get rid of that flab behind your arms? This is the perfect program to do just that.

The only difference between toning your arms and growing your arms is what you eat. Eat more calories to grow bigger arms. Keep your calories lower to tone them!

4. Injury prevention

These exercises will help your elbow health. 

They’ll strengthen your muscles and connective tissues, plus they’ll improve the function and movement of the joint. Great for people who compete in sports such as baseball and basketball where throwing is fundamental.

Check out our 12 week dumbbell workout plan if you like putting a timeframe on your workout programs.

5 Steps to Use the Tricep Express to improve your max push-ups

1. Perform this program twice a week between your regular training 

The purpose of this plan is to build up a lagging body part and boost performance in doing so. It’s not to replace your regular workouts. Here’s a suggested schedule for you to follow…

  • Monday: Normal program
  • Tues: Tricep Express Program
  • Weds: Normal program
  • Thurs: Rest
  • Fri: Normal program
  • Sat: Tricep Express Program
  • Sun: Rest 

Following this pattern means you’ll train 5 days per week. You’ll get your 2 Tricep Express Program workouts in and 3 regular workouts in. 

However, you could always tag this onto the same day as your regular training if time is tight for you.

Everything is covered this way.

2. Each session should last for a maximum of 30 mins

Intensity is key here – we’re working hard. 

You have a maximum of 14 sets to complete across the entire program. That allows for 2 minutes per set, with a little extra. 

A set is unlikely to last longer than 60 seconds, giving you a full 60 seconds to recover between sets. 

Keep to this schedule and it won’t last longer than 30 minutes.

3. Perform 2 sets of each exercise to failure

Your job here is to work to failure. 

Failure in this case is the point where you can’t manage a single additional rep with any sort of quality. It’s going to be fundamental to maximizing your results here.

If you manage a full 15 high-quality reps, it’s time to add weight. 

You never want to get to a point where you’re working purely on endurance. Every exercise in the workout is scalable, so you can add additional weight to increase difficulty.

4. Increase weight each workout (if you can)…

There are no hard and fast rules here. 

So you have to make an informed judgment with the weight increase you make. 

Try to add around 2-5% weight per workout. 

So if you are bench pressing 60kg (132LBS), maybe increase it to 61-63kg (134-139LB). It’s important to stress this is a guideline only though – you may manage more or less of an increase each time.

5. Monitor progress

The only way you know if your program is working is by testing. 

The best way to do this is to perform push-ups to failure on day 1 of the program, then retest at the 4, 8 and 12 week marks. 

If your goal is increased arm size, measure that too.

A person working out

Tricep Express Program: The how-to guide

What’s unique about this program is that it’s not designed to be a stand-alone workout plan. 

It’s an accessory program, designed to complement the workouts you’re already doing in the gym. You should do these exercises 2-4 days per week, ideally with a day off in between each session. 

The purpose here is to maximize the functional movement and efficiency of the triceps. With a view to increasing your maximum number of push-ups, increase your arm size and remove flabby arms.

Note – If you are worried about doing too much pressing across your training, simply increase the amount of upper body pulling you do in your regular training. Make sure this includes both horizontal and vertical planes, so exercises such as pull-ups, bent over rows and face pulls for example. 

Check out our pull-up alternatives or our face pull alternatives for ideas of pulling exercises.

The Tricep Express Program exercises

This is the list of exercises that form the Tricep Express Program. The idea is to run through them in any order, but you have to do them all. 

This is because they target each of the three tricep heads as you can see below…

Best Tricep Exercises

Workout time required: 30 mins max

Sets and reps: Complete 2 sets to failure. If you can manage more than 15 reps, add extra weight to the exercise to make it tougher.

Focus: High-intensity workout on the triceps

Equipment needed:

SMRFT Nüobell 80LB Adjustable Dumbbells

SMRFT Nüobell 80LB Classic
Read our best adjustable dumbbell guide here

These are the dumbbells we recommend for ‘most people’.

We have spent over 50 hours of research and compared over 100 dumbbells. Adjustable dumbbells make sense for most home gyms as they save space.

The Nüobell dumbbells go all the way to 80lbs per hand. This means they are much more versatile than most 50lbs adjustable dumbbells. You can use these for heavy shrugs, squats and bench press etc.

The main reason they are the top pick is because of their shape. They actually feel like real dumbbells and are not awkward to lift like some others.

Note- if you own our top recommended 5 items (barbell, plates, bench, dumbbells and power rack) you’ll be able to do all of these exercises!

You just need some extensions on your power rack, like cables. 

Read our ultimate guide on how to build a home gym to learn more.

Tricep long head exercises

1. Lying tricep extensions (the main exercise as it also targets the medial and lateral head)

Important Note! This is the variation with your arms starting and finishing behind your head. Make a 30-degree angle at your shoulders as you see above.

This is the best tricep exercise is for three reasons… 

  1. When you start with the bar behind your head (a 30-degree angle) you engage the long head tricep muscle
  2. It also engages the lateral and medial head 
  3. It doesn’t put excess strain on your wrists like some other variations

This should be the first exercise you target. Just make sure you warm up before and slowly increase the weight to your working weight. 

If you can do more than 15 good quality reps, add more weight to the bar (or dumbbells).

How to do tricep lying extensions

  • Lie down on your back on a flat bench
  • Lift the barbell (or dumbbells) directly over your shoulders like you’re about to do a bench press.
  • Shift the weight behind your head to make a 30-degree angle at your shoulder
  • Lower the weight behind your head bending your elbows
  • Lift the weight back to the starting position with straight arms
  • Try to keep your elbows in the same position 
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

Note: check out our dumbbell arm workout if you like using the dumbbells and are looking to strengthen your arms.

2. Dumbbell push-ups

There are a couple of reasons I’ve put this exercise into this program… 

  1. It’s incredibly functional, it trains a lot of muscle, can be done anywhere, and is really progressive.
  2. It offers another chance to practice push-ups. The more push-ups you do, the more you’ll be able to do.

So why this version instead of normal push-ups? Easy – there’s an increased time under tension with dumbbell push-ups, which increases muscle growth

If you can do more than 15 good quality reps, balance a weight plate on your back to add additional resistance.

Alternatively, you could use push up bars to increase the range of motion and do an advanced version of the push up. Read all about this in our best push up bars in-depth guide.

While on the topic of push up related accessories – you might also want to have a look at our best push up boards in-depth guide as well. People who like doing push ups find push up bars and boards a valuable addition to their home gyms.

How to do dumbbell push-ups

  • Start the movement by placing dumbbells on the floor, directly underneath your shoulders, running lengthways
  • Hold on to a dumbbell in each hand and slowly lower your body down towards the floor
  • As you do, push your elbows backward
  • When your chest is an inch from the floor, press yourself back up until your arms reach full extension
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

If you want to learn more dumbbell exercises, check out our best dumbbell tricep exercises and lower chest dumbbell exercises.

3. Overhead rope tricep extension (it also targets the medial and lateral head)

Exercises like this don’t usually feature in much of my programming. It’s not because I don’t like them, I just tend to incorporate more compound movements in my workouts. 

That being said, there’s a time and a place for isolation exercises like the overhead rope tricep extension. In this case, I’ve selected it because I find it activates the long head of the triceps better than any other version. 

But it still targets the medial and lateral head too. 

How to do overhead rope tricep extensions

  • Position yourself so you have your back to the cable station
  • With the rope set as high as possible, hold on to it from behind your head
  • Bend forwards, keeping your back straight and pulling the cable down with you
  • With your back locked in place, keep your arms up and bent at the elbow as much as possible 
  • Straighten the arms until they reach full extension 
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

Note: if you’re looking for more compound exercise ideas, be sure to check out our compound dumbbell exercises article.

Tricep lateral (short) head exercises

4. Weighted more upright dips

I like dips because not only do they force great contraction across a lot of muscles, they are fantastic for stretching the chest and shoulders, which helps to offset the pressing elements. Perfect for making the arms grow too!

Important note- when you tilt forward you engage your chest more so reduce the tilt to focus on the triceps. Without a tilt your cause too much strain on your elbows and shoulders.

How to do dips

  • Hop onto a dip bar and tilt forwards slightly 
  • Lower yourself down until your elbows are 90 degrees
  • Hold this position for a second or two
  • Press back up to a straight arm position
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

Note: check out our overhead triceps extension alternatives if you are looking for more exercise ideas to target your triceps.

5. Straight bar tricep pushdown

The straight bar tricep pushdown is the second isolation exercise in this program (the rope tricep extension being the other one). 

This is the vanity element of the program! Because one of the outcomes here is the bigger arms and this helps with it! The straight bar pushdown activates the short head of the triceps, so helps to round out the exercises and muscle activation.

How to do straight bar tricep pushdowns:

  1. Position the straight bar at chest height and face it
  2. Hold the bar with an overhand grip and tuck your elbows into your sides
  3. Keeping the elbows tucked in throughout the movement, press the bar down towards your lap
  4. When the bar makes contact with your body, slowly return it to the starting position, making sure the elbows are tucked in alongside your body throughout
  5. Repeat as many times as necessary

6. Diamond push-ups

The diamond push-up is an exercise that forces increased activation of the triceps. We know that when we bring the palms closer together during a push-up, we activate the triceps more

The diamond push-up is an extreme example of this.

If you can do more than 15 good quality reps, balance a weight plate on your back to add additional resistance.

How to do diamond push-ups

  • Assume the normal push-up position, but place your hands close together, directly below your chest
  • Form a diamond shape by spreading your thumb and index finger apart, then making contact with the thumb and index finger of the opposite hand
  • Slowly lower your body down to your hands
  • Press yourself back up until you reach full extension
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

Tricep medial head exercises

7. Close grip bench press

The close grip bench press is the go-to bench press variation for anyone looking to activate their triceps more. 

Just like the diamond push-ups earlier, the research shows that closer hand position activates the triceps more. There’s no ‘set’ position for your hands here – just go as close as you can whilst maintaining good form.

How to do close grip bench press:

  • Lie under the barbell, with your hands close – just make sure you don’t cause any discomfort and can manage a full range of movement
  • Taking the bar off the rack, position it over your chest
  • Slowly lower the bar to your chest, bending your elbows outwards until you reach a depth around 1 inch from your chest
  • At full depth, pause and push yourself back up to a full extension
  • Repeat as many times as necessary
The Tricep Express Program exercises

Tricep Express Program: Bonus Tips

1. Use a full range of movement with every rep

It’s really important to use a full range of movement with every single rep of these exercises. 

Each and every repetition has to have an intention. 

It doesn’t matter whether it’s the first rep or your last, execute it with the best form you can and the fullest range of movement.

2. Think form over weight

Whilst you should always seek to increase the weight you lift, the most important point here is to keep your form perfect. 

If you cheat with your form on these exercises, you’re going to miss the target muscles we’re aiming for. Only increase the weight when you hit 10+ reps with perfect form.

3. Use all of the exercises in the list

This list has been put together to make sure you activate the tricep muscles from a wide variety of angles. With a range of different muscle stimulation. 

Perform them all, so you don’t miss out on any of the benefits. 

4. Volume, volume, volume

These exercises are designed to force you to work. 
If you want bigger arms and the ability to do more push-ups, you have to work for both. If you could get by on a single set of 10 reps of one tricep exercise, everyone would have great arms and be able to do lots of push-ups!

Tricep Express Program – FAQs

Can I add to these exercises?

I can understand this question, but I want to reassure you – done correctly, this is more than enough exercise volume and variety! Bear in mind with the Tricep Express Program we’re going to failure on each and every set.

You need to be working to your maximum each time. In this program, we’re focussing on the quality of effort and output – not quantity.

If you wanted to add extra volume to the workouts with even more exercises. You could take inspiration from other articles we have, for example… tricep pushdown alternatives

I’m worried about the amount of pressing – what can I do to offset this?

You’re right – there is a lot of pressing here, but the good news is it’s only for two sets per exercise.

To offset this, you can always add additional horizontal pulling sets into your workouts (bent-over rows, face pulls, seated rows etc. Find more ideas in articles such as lat pulldown alternatives, t bar row alternatives, or seated cable row alternatives).

You could also reduce the amount of pressing by dropping a set of any non-Tricep Express Program pressing exercises in your workout. So, if you’re normally doing 3 x 12 cable fly in your workout program, drop that to 2 x 12.

How often should I be testing for progress?

I suggest every 4 weeks and keeping the testing simple. On day 1 of the Tricep Express Program, do a set of push-ups to failure.

Do this before you’ve done any other exercise – you want to make sure you’re fresh, so it’s a fair test.

Do it again at the 4, 8, and 12-week mark. Always make sure it’s when you’re fresh and not part way through a workout.

Is there a time limit on how long you should do the Tricep Express Program?

Technically not, but I would say run with it for 12 weeks, before giving it a 4-week break.

You don’t want the program to get stale, nor do you want to be bored. This isn’t a full program – it’s an accessory program designed to improve your arms and the number of push-ups you can do!

I don’t have time – how can I fit it into my workouts?

Drop a set from every exercise in your main workout. That’ll spare you enough time to add the Tricep Express exercises onto the end of your sessions.

Your physique will still benefit from doing the Tricep Express exercises.

Another way is to remove all chest and shoulder exercises from your main workout. Use the Tricep Express express program as your pressing movements.

If it was me, this is how I’d approach it. This is the most practical way of doing it if you’re time-pressured in my eyes.

If I get to 50 push-ups within 4 or 8 weeks, do I need to carry on for the full 12?

No! That’s up to you – treat it how you like. If you’re using it as a means to an end (i.e. to pass a physical fitness test), once you’ve reached the standard you can use it to maintain the strength required, or if you’re confident you’ll maintain the standard anyway, you can stop doing it.

If you want to get rid of bingo wings then do this until you’re happy with the flappy arms! (You may need to revisit this program a few times over the course of a year.) 

If you’re using it for the muscle gain benefits, go the full 12 weeks. 

You’ll never not benefit from doing more volume when it comes to muscle building. That’s for sure! It’s a fundamental aspect of hypertrophy, so go with it for as long as you need to.

What can I expect from the Tricep Express Program?

In the workouts themselves, expect a massive chest and arm pump! If you do these exercises as I’ve told you to – with good form, maximum intensity and to complete failure, you’ll enjoy some immediate feedback!

Within 2-3 weeks I’d expect you to have added 10 push-ups to your starting number. By 8 weeks, that could be 30+. By the end of the 12 weeks, I’d be amazed if you couldn’t manage 50 push-ups without stopping (assuming you were able to manage at least 5 at the start).

Depending on your diet, your arms could be significantly bigger too! Or if you eat fewer calories you’ll just tone your arms and reduce those bingo wings. Read more about this in our ultimate guide on nutrition for fitness.

A woman doing push ups

Tricep Exercises: The bottom line

The Tricep Express Program has both functional and vanity outcomes. 

This makes it a double win! 

It’s also a great way to achieve a singular goal without compromising on the rest of your fitness. It’s also very easy to do in a home gym. You don’t need any equipment you couldn’t reasonably expect to have at home.

Be sure to check out our guide on how to build a home gym to make sure you’re set up for this. 

You know how the program works, so the next step is simple! 

Perform as many push-ups as you can WITHOUT STOPPING. The number you fail at is your starting number. From there, follow the Tricep Express Program 2 to 4 days per week and retest every 4 weeks. 

Work hard and enjoy the results!

Check out our workout guides here if you’re looking for a workout plan to go along with the Tricep Express Program.

If you need more convincing on why to exercise regularly, our articles on the benefits of exercise and push up benefits will help shed light on those topics.

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Steve Hoyles is a certified personal trainer and gym owner. Since graduating with his Sports Science degree in 2004 he's worked in the fitness industry, helping thousands of people reach their health and fitness goals. His writing has been read by millions of people in over 200 countries as he inspires to help as many people as possible live a healthy lifestyle.

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