Who doesn’t want strong, defined triceps, the muscles in the back of your upper arm? A number of exercises will help you achieve that goal, but push-ups stand out because they work so many muscle groups in addition to your triceps. Therefore, you get more return on your training time when you do compound exercises as opposed to a multitude of isolation exercises, like triceps kickbacks.
Not that you shouldn’t include some isolation exercises in your routine, especially when you’re working small muscles, like the triceps, but make sure 70% of the exercises you do are compound movements. Doing so will make your workouts more time expedient too!
The Power of Push-Ups
Push-ups, along with triceps dips, are two of the best compound exercises for working the triceps muscles. A standard push-up works your triceps, but your muscles will quickly adapt to doing a conventional one. Of course, you can increase the volume of push-ups to add progressive overload, but, at some point, you need to shake things up to spur growth and maximize strength gains.
If you’re ready for a new triceps challenge, here are two push-up variations that will work your triceps in a way they aren’t accustomed too. Be prepared! These variations are harder. So, make sure you’re comfortable with basic push-ups and can do at least 15 with good form. Let’s look at the two push-up variations that will help jumpstart triceps growth.
Diamond push-ups are one of the toughest push-up variations you can add to your training routine. Conventional push-ups work your triceps, but your pectorals do most of the work. When you do diamond push-ups, placing your hand’s close shifts the focus away from the chest and toward the shoulders and triceps. The close hand proximity also creates more of a balance challenge, so the stabilizing muscles in your core get more of a workout too.
How to do a Diamond Push-Up:
- Get down on a mat on all fours.
- Place your hands in close proximity at chest level so that your thumbs and index fingers form a diamond shape against the floor.
- In this position, lower your chest until it almost touches the floor. Pause briefly.
- Push yourself back up in a slow, controlled manner to the starting position.
- Complete 6- 8 repetitions and do 2 sets.
Diamond push-ups are challenging even for people who have mastered standard push-ups. Start by doing only a few on your toes with good form. Then, drop your knees to the ground to finish up the set. Using this method, you’ll gradually build up enough strength to do a full set of diamond push-ups. Be careful not to let your elbows flare when you lower your body toward the floor. It’s a mistake many people make and it places stress on your shoulders. Diamond push-ups are one of the most challenging variations but is guaranteed to jumpstart triceps growth and introduce a new push-up challenge!
Triceps Medicine Ball Presses
Another challenging variation that hits your triceps hard is the medicine ball press. Be prepared! It’s a toughie and one you should tackle after you’re more advanced. All you need is a medicine ball to do this exercise.
How to Do a Triceps Medicine Ball Press:
- Place a medicine ball on a mat.
- Kneel down and place your hands on each side of a medicine ball and extend your legs behind you.
- Place your feet so that your body is fully extended behind you and your body is in a straight line from head to toe. Tighten your core.
- Lower your body toward the floor with your body in alignment, no raising or sagging of the hips.
- Come back up in a slow, controlled manner.
Since this is a hard move to do with good form, save it for after you’ve built up a baseline level of strength and can do diamond push-ups successfully. It’s easy to let your elbows flare with this push-up variation and, as mentioned, this places added stress on your shoulders. It’s not a good variation if you have a history of shoulder pain or injury.
The size of the medicine ball you use affects how hard triceps medicine ball presses are. The smaller the ball, the more challenging the exercise. Therefore, start with a large ball. Some people use a medicine ball with handles they can grab to make the exercise easier and safer.
How to Make These Exercises Harder
These push-up variations are challenging for most people, but if you’re a superstar and find them too easy, there’s a way to make them harder. Elevate your feet on a bench or stool around 12 inches in height. To make them easier, drop down on to your knees once you feel yourself starting to fatigue. Don’t try to push through if you’re not up to it yet. Doing so will cause you to use bad form.
The Bottom Line
Now you have even more challenging push-up variations to jump-start your push-up training and work your triceps harder. Do a variety of push-up variations to keep your triceps and upper body strong and encourage muscle growth. It’s easy to neglect the triceps muscles because you don’t see them when you look in the mirror. However, people see them from behind.
Plus, you need strong triceps to balance our biceps. Muscle imbalances increase the risk of injury. So, get to work on those triceps! Push-ups are a basic exercise for your triceps and upper body that can be modified to make them easier or harder. Take advantage of the most effective bodyweight exercise for building upper body strength, the push-up, but don’t be afraid to try push-up variations too.
- American Council on Exercise. “Medicine Ball Push-ups”
- J Phys Ther Sci. 2016 Feb; 28(2): 446–449. Published online 2016 Feb 29. doi: 10.1589/jpts.28.446.
- J Athl Train. 2015 Nov; 50(11): 1126–1132. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-50.9.09.
- Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness. Volume 15, Issue 1, June 2017, Pages 37-42.
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