Resistance Band Tricep Exercises

6 Resistance Band Exercises That Will Turn Your Triceps into a Bulging Three-Headed Monster

April 18, 2021

Resistance band tricep exercises are a fantastic way to train your triceps at home or while on the road. However, even if you have access to a gym or free weight equipment, you should still be incorporating banded tricep exercises into your routine. Bands are extremely versatile and they offer some unique advantages that you can’t get from dumbbells, barbells or cable machines alone, as you are about to learn.

To start, let’s go over the anatomy and function of the tricep, as a greater understanding of this will allow you to fully develop your triceps. 

tricep exercises with resistance bands

TRICEP ANATOMY

Your tricep, more formally known as the tricep brachii, is a three-headed muscle (hence the “tri” which means three and “cep” which means head) located on the posterior side of your upper arm. It spans almost the entire length of your humerus (upper arm bone).

“Heads” simply mean points of origin. So, the tricep is actually one muscle that consists of three parts. Think of it like a three headed monster. 

tricep function and anatomy

The three heads of the tricep brachii are referred to as the long, medial and lateral heads.

The long head’s origin point is the scapula (it is the largest part of your tricep). The medial head, which is overlapped by the long and lateral head, has an origin point at the humerus. And, the lateral head (said to be the strongest head of the three) has an origin point at the humerus too, higher up and on the other side of the medial head. They all span the length of the upper arm’s posterior side until they insert via a common tendon on the ulna (the medial bone of the forearm, which is on the pinky side).

Note: If you want big arms, you need to hone in on the triceps as they make up 60-70% of your upper arm!

TRICEP FUNCTION - WHAT DO THE TRICEPS DO?

The primary movement function of the tricep is extension of the forearm at the elbow joint. They help to stabilize the elbow joint too.

The tricep also plays a role in the extension and adduction of the arm at the shoulder joint (moving your arms behind you and moving your arms towards the middle of your body, respectively).

As such, the triceps are most active in pushing and thrusting movements, as well as well as supporting the weight of your body from your hands when your elbows are flexed.

Now, there are some distinctions to note regarding the functions of each head.

The medial head is active no matter what when extending the forearm (bringing your forearm down back to 0˚). However, your long and lateral head are only active, at least in a significant way, during extension of the elbow when there is resistance. 

What’s more, the long head is different than the other two heads in its functions because it crosses the shoulder joint and attaches to the scapula. With that, it is the area of the tricep that assists in shoulder extension, adduction of the arm, and shoulder joint stability.

FULLY DEVELOPED TRICEPS 

While the average Joe and Jane’s upper arm looks like one slab of meat, fully developed triceps will have a bulge out to the side (this is the prominence of the lateral head), a thick and well-defined inner portion (that horseshoe look caused by the medial head), and a large mass up by the shoulder (where the long head makes itself known).

Fully developed triceps look impressive and very “3D”.

To achieve this, you need to train your triceps effectively.

Tricep Exercises vs Only Doing Compound Pressing Exercises?

While compound exercises like push ups, bench press and shoulder press will get you far, isolation exercises for the triceps will take you much further in the development of your triceps. If this wasn’t the truth, bodybuilders wouldn’t waste their time doing tricep exercises! So, if someone tells you compound exercises are enough, there is some merit in that, but not if you want to really build fully developed triceps. 

Note: Even powerlifters do arm exercises because it helps with their strength. Bench press and other compound lifts don’t often move your triceps (and biceps) through their full range of motion, which is important for strength and hypertrophy. So, if you really want to build big and strong triceps, you need to do tricep specific exercises. Not only will your arms look great in the long run, but tricep exercises will make you stronger in your pushing compound lifts too!

tricep pressdown with bands

HOW TO BEST TARGET YOUR TRICEPS? 

If you only do compound exercises or you do the same few tricep exercises, you will likely find that certain areas (heads) are deficient. The easy fix is to do various tricep exercises that change your arm position and grip, such as overhead extensions, reverse grip pressdowns, dips, and so on. You need variety to target the different heads of the triceps. 

Can you isolate the different heads of the triceps? 

You can’t isolate a specific head of the tricep as any time the elbow is extended, all three heads will be activated. HOWEVER, you can hone in on either the lateral, medial or long head by altering the position of your arms and/or grip position. 

If it sounds complicated, don’t worry, it’s not…

Emphasizing the different heads of the tricep 

Lateral Head: The lateral head of the tricep is worked best with your arms at the sides and using an overhand grip. For example, pressdowns, close-grip bench press, kickbacks, bench dips, diamond push ups.

Long Head: The long head of the tricep is worked best with your arms overhead or out in front of you and neutral grips. For example, overhead extension (all variations), rope pull downs, and skull crushers. 

Medial Head: The medial head of the tricep is worked best with your arms at the side using an underhand grip. For example, reverse grip press down and reverse grip bench press.

Note: Many of these exercises will emphasize not just one head. For example, while skull crushers place emphasis on the long head, they will also target the lateral head too, and the medial head will still be activated. Again, you can’t completely isolate a specific head. 

All in all, if you want to fill out those sleeve, make sure you focus on training variables, which include angles (how you position your body and where the resistance is coming from), grip position (underhand/overhand/neutral), and arm position.

WHY BANDS ARE GREAT FOR TRICEP EXERCISES

We love using bands for tricep exercises because they can be used just like cable machines, barbells, and dumbbells! You can literally mimic the exact same tricep exercises that you do with cable pulleys, dumbbells, and barbells with a 41 inch loop resistance band, as you are about to see. 

We also like resistance bands as the resistance increases as you stretch the band. So, rather than having the movement get easy at the end of its range (when your elbow is near full extension - it’s optimal range) like it does with barbells and dumbbells (due to the strength curve that occurs with free weights), it gets harder.

What’s more, you can alter the amount of resistance with a single resistance band by simply moving away from the anchor point or wrapping the band around your feet or hands more times. The more taut the band is, the harder it will be.

AND, resistance bands force you to use a slow and controlled motion on the eccentric phase (when your muscles are lengthening). Slow eccentric movements are proven to be best for muscle growth and strength.

On top of all that, bands are easy on the joints, easy to learn with, and easy to transport!

Even if you have access to dumbbells and barbells, we highly recommend mixing in resistance band tricep exercises. They really hit the tricep muscle deep and you will feel an amazing contraction when using them. 

resistance bands for triceps

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Note sure? Give these 6 resistance band tricep exercises a go...

6 RESISTANCE BAND TRICEP EXERCISES FOR VERY "3D" ARMS 


1. Kickback | Anchor (0:17​)

2. Overhead Extension (0:35​)
3. Supine Reverse-Close Grip Press (0:52​)
4. Crossbow Extension (1:10​)
5. Crossbody Pressdown (1:21​)
6. Concentration Pressdown (1:34​)

Below you will see pictures of each of the banded tricep exercises in the video above with quick how to’s for reference and the emphasized head so you can see how variance is implemented for full development of the triceps brachii.

1. Single Arm Kickback (anchored)

resistance band tricep kickback

How to do resistance band kickbacks:

  1. Anchor the band to a low point, just above the ground.
  2. Step back from the anchor so the band is taut in the starting position, which is with your feet about hip width apart, knees slightly bent so your hips are shooting back and your back is straight in a bent over position. If you are doing the right arm, let the band come straight towards that side, so your legs and body will be just left to the anchor point.
  3. With your right arm at 90˚, so your forearm is perpendicular with the floor, extend at the elbow so your forearm goes up to parallel with the floor.
  4. When you are in the full extension, try to raise your hand as high as possible without rotating your shoulder. This will allow you to get maximum contraction in your triceps.
  5. Slowly lower your forearm down so it is perpendicular with the floor again, then kick your forearm back and up again. Repeat for 10-15 reps then do the same for the opposite arm.

Tricep Head Emphasized:

Your lateral head will be emphasized the most on this exercise, but as your hand is in a neutral grip, so will your long head.

As this is a single arm exercise, your core and hips will be engaged to maintain stability.

2. Single Arm Overhead Extension 

resistance band tricep extensions

How to do resistance band overhead extensions:

  1. Step on one end of the band with your right foot and grab the other end with your right hand.
  2. Pull the band up with your hand behind you. Your elbow should be pointing up. Stand tall with a neutral spine. This is the starting position.
  3. Extend from the elbow bringing your forearm up so your whole arm is shooting straight overhead. Really squeeze your tricep muscle when in full extension.
  4. Lower your forearm back down slowly and extend up again once your forearm is just past parallel with the floor.
  5. Keep your elbow pinned in place at all times.
  6. Do 10-20 reps, then do the same for the opposite arm.

Tricep Head Emphasized:

Single arm overhead extensions will emphasize the long head, as well as the lateral head if you use an overhand grip.

Your core will also be engaged during single arm extensions to maintain spinal stability since the resistance will be on just one side. 

3. Supine Reverse-Close Grip Press

tricep exercises with workout bands

How to do resistance band reverse grip presses:

  1. Sit on the ground, then wrap the band around your back, around the traps, and grab the loops of the band with an underhand grip.
  2. Lay down on the ground. You can keep your knees bent with your feet flat to the floor if you’d like for more stability.
  3. Keep your elbows close to your side and your hands at lower chest level. This is a close-reverse (underhand) grip.
  4. Press straight up until your arms are extended as much as possible.
  5. Slowly lower your arms back down to your sides and repeat for 10-15 reps.

Tricep Head Emphasized: 

This exercise is going to emphasize the medial head of your tricep.

4. Crossbow Extension

resistance band arm exercises

How to do resistance band crossbow tricep extensions:

  1. Standing tall with your feet hip width apart and spine in a neutral position, grab the band with your left hand on one side and your right hand on the other side. Your left hand will be overhand and your right hand will be underhand.
  2. Bring your left hand up just below your chest and to your side near your ribs. Your left hand will not move, it is securing the band in place to keep it taut.
  3. Bring your right hand up near your right shoulder, your elbow will be bent into full flexion.
  4. Extending at the elbow, bring your right arm up and to the right until it is aligned with your shoulder and parallel with the floor. Really squeeze your triceps at the top.
  5. Slowly lower it back and down to your side.
  6. Repeat for 10-15 reps then do the same on the opposite side.

Tricep Head Emphasized: 

The crossbow tricep extension is an interesting tricep exercise as it involves resistance from across the body rather than from straight above or below. It’s going to target all three heads of your triceps as you have an underhand grip (medial head), your elbows are up and moving laterally (lateral head) and you have movement at the shoulder joint as well (long head). 

5. Crossbody Pressdown (anchored)

banded tricep exercises

How to do crossbody resistance band pressdowns:

  1. Anchor the band overhead (ideally using a pull up bar).
  2. Stand to the side of the band’s anchor point about a foot or so.
  3. Grab the band with your left hand so it is facing in toward your body. Your left hand should be right below your right shoulder.
  4. Press down and to your left so that your left arm is fully extended directly to your side.
  5. Slowly bring the band back to your right side below the shoulder and repeat for 10-15 reps. Then, switch sides.

Tricep Head Emphasized:

Crossbody pressdowns will work your long head as there is shoulder adduction and your lateral head. This is another interesting exercise as it allows for resistance from a different angle.

6. Concentration Pressdowns (anchored)

best tricep exercises at home

How to do resistance band tricep concentration extensions:

  1. Anchor the band high using a pull up bar if you can. The anchor point should allow the band to shoot straight down.
  2. Grab the band with your left hand using an underhand grip. Your body should be to the left of the anchor point.
  3. Get into a kneeling position with your left leg forward, foot flat to the floor and your right leg back on its knee and the ball of the foot.
  4. Place your elbow and lower tricep to your inner thigh. This is a leverage point and your elbow will remain pressed into your leg for the entire exercise.
  5. The starting position looks like your arm is in a curling position.
  6. From here, extend at the elbow until your arm is fully extended. Really squeeze those triceps at full extension.
  7. Slowly let the forearm come back up until your arm is at 90˚ and repeat. Do this for 10-15 reps then switch sides (you will have to completely reposition yourself to the opposite side, including your kneeling position). 

Tricep Head Emphasized:

Resistance band concentration tricep extensions are going to emphasize the medial and long head. However, it is really an all around tricep exercise that will give you amazing contraction throughout all three heads of your tricep. Just focus on maximum contraction and use a slow tempo.

TIPS FOR TRICEP EXERCISES WITH BANDS:

  1. Increase resistance for any exercise by using a heavier band or simply starting with the band more taut. For example, our yellow band can provide anywhere from 10-35lbs of resistance by simply adjusting the tension from the starting position (remember, bands have more tension as they stretch).
  2. Always use a slow tempo on the eccentric phase (flexion of the elbow). However, you can be explosive if you want on the concentric phase (extension of the elbow).
  3. Squeeze the heck out of your tricep when at maximum resistance/contraction (full extensions of the elbow and arm).
  4. Change up your grip position. For example, with overhead extensions, you can use an underhand, overhand or neutral grip. This will allow you to emphasize certain heads of your tricep more.
  5. When creating a resistance band tricep workout, be sure to add variety by changing grip position, angles, and where your arms are positioned (overhead, to your side, etc.). This will allow you to develop your triceps fully. 

resistance band tricep workout

TRICEP WORKOUT WITH BANDS 

Here is an example of a well-rounded tricep workout with bands…

  1. Tricep Pressdown (overhand) - 3 sets x 15 reps
  2. Overhead Tricep Extension (band from foot or anchored low) - 3 sets x 15 reps
  3. Supine Reverse-Close Grip Press - 3 sets x 10-15 reps
  4. Concentration Pressdown - 3 sets x 10 (very slow reps)

When to do Tricep Exercises with Bands?

Do this kind of workout after you do your compound exercises, whether that’s a full body workout or chest/push day. This will allow you to maximize tricep gains and fully develop your triceps.

If you have access to different types of equipment, feel free to mix up the workout with dumbbells, barbells, AND resistance bands. None of these training tools are mutually exclusive.

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resistance bands for triceps

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