The 6 Best Compound Tricep Exercises (2024) - Lift Vault (2024)

Are you struggling to build your arms? Do you feel like you lack definition, no matter how many upper arm workouts you do?

You might be doing the wrong exercises for your triceps! When it comes to building arm muscles, compound exercises are the way to go. These exercises not only target your triceps but also the surrounding muscle groups to give you well-defined, strong arms.

Read on for the 6 best compound tricep exercises and their benefits. We’ll also discuss how to train your triceps and briefly touch on the anatomy of the triceps muscles.

Table of Contents

  • 1 6 Best Compound Tricep Exercises
    • 1.1 1. Bench dips
    • 1.2 2. Dips
    • 1.3 3. Diamond push-ups
    • 1.4 4. Close-grip bench press
    • 1.5 5. Hex press
    • 1.6 6. JM press
  • 2 Benefits of Compound Tricep Exercises
    • 2.1 Builds muscle mass
    • 2.2 Improves upper body strength
    • 2.3 Can boost your athletic performance
    • 2.4 Increases range of motion
    • 2.5 Improves your posture
    • 2.6 Prevents injuries
    • 2.7 Improves overall health
  • 3 How to Train Triceps
  • 4 Triceps Muscle Anatomy
  • 5 Triceps FAQs
    • 5.1 How often should you train your triceps?
    • 5.2 At what intensity should the triceps be trained?
    • 5.3 What rep range should be used for training triceps?
    • 5.4 What types of exercises train triceps?
    • 5.5 How can I work all three triceps heads?

6 Best Compound Tricep Exercises

  1. Bench dips
  2. Dips
  3. Diamond push-ups
  4. Close grip bench press
  5. Hex press
  6. JM press

1. Bench dips

Benefits of bench dips

Many people consider bench dips isolation exercises since they mainly target the triceps. However, this easy-to-do-at-home exercise can also help you develop your shoulder, pectoral, and core muscles if you do them correctly.

How to perform bench dips

Note: To perform this exercise without placing strain on your shoulders, make sure you rotate the shoulder externally.

  1. Sit on the bench and place your hands next to your sides on the bench. Turn your hands outwards, thumbs facing forward.
  2. Shift forward, off the edge of the bench, with your legs extended. Allow a slight bend in the knees.
  3. Keep a tight core.
  4. Bend your elbows backward, lowering your body slowly.
  5. When you reach as far as you can go or your elbows are at 90 degrees, push back up through your arms to the starting position.

This is one of the easiest triceps compound exercises, but you must have the correct form to prevent injury. Check out this video from ATHLEAN-X for guidance on how to maintain proper form.

Stop Doing Bench Dips Like This!

How to program bench dips

Bench dips only rely on body weight, making it a relatively light exercise. You can do between 20 and 30 reps per set, making sure to remain controlled and perform the movement slowly.

If your upper arms are burning or fatigued, reduce the number of reps to 10 per set.

2. Dips

Benefits of dips

Dips are highly customizable, allowing you to add additional weights by wearing a weighted vest, ankle weights, or a belt with a hanging dumbbell.

The way you perform dips means your triceps, shoulder, and chest muscles are activated, enhancing upper body strength.

How to perform dips

  1. Grab the parallel bars, and either step or jump up so you are supported by your (straight) arms.
  2. Lower your body by bending your elbows and leaning slightly forward. Keep your elbows close to your body.
  3. Keep dipping until your shoulders are lower than your elbows.
  4. Press through your hands to lift your body up, straightening your arms.
  5. Lock your elbow joints at the top.

Optional: You can add weights (e.g. ankle weights, weighted vest, dip belt) to this exercise to increase the intensity. There are also plenty of tricep dip alternatives you can incorporate into your routine.

For a detailed breakdown of how to perform dips and tips on targeting the triceps (and not the chest), watch this video from Dr. Mike Israetel.

Maximize Dip Technique FOR TRICEPS Growth | Targeting The Muscle Series

How to program dips

When using just your body weight, the load is relatively light, which means you can do about 20 – 30 reps per set.

However, when you start adding weights and increasing the load, you will have to do fewer reps, depending on how much weight you add. For a heavy load, do only 5 – 10 reps per set.

3. Diamond push-ups

Benefits of diamond push-ups

Diamond push-ups are excellent compound exercises for triceps. Although this push-up type targets the triceps specifically, it also helps with core stability and works the muscle groups in the lower body.

With the right form, you’ll be working your triceps, pectorals, deltoids, and quads.

Not only is it a beneficial compound exercise, but it is also ideal for at-home workouts.

How to perform diamond push-ups

  1. Start on all fours, with your knees on the floor and toes flexed. Align your hips over your knees.
  2. Place your hands close together and connect your index fingers and thumbs from each hand to form a diamond shape.
  3. Lift your knees off the ground and straighten your legs so that you’re in a push-up position.
  4. Engage your core and squeeze your glutes. Tuck your chin. This is your starting position.
  5. Bend at the elbows, pulling your shoulder blades back and together. Lower to the ground in a controlled motion while breathing in.
  6. Keep lowering until your upper arms are level with your ribs. Hold this position for a second.
  7. Breathe out, straighten your elbows, squeeze your chest, and push yourself up to the starting position.

Scott Herman shows you exactly how to perform a diamond push-up in this video.

How To: Diamond Push-Up

How to program diamond push-ups

As these exercises rely on only your body weight, you can do about 20 – 30 reps per set, depending on your skill level and strength.

This is one of the easiest compound exercises for triceps. You can do it from home, completing about 10 sets per workout session (if it’s the only triceps exercise you’re doing).

4. Close-grip bench press

Benefits of close-grip bench press

This type of bench press not only aids with triceps activation but also carries over into other exercises and sports. It teaches you to tuck your elbows, which is a useful skill for dips and push-ups, too. It can also help football and rugby players to improve their form.

This exercise puts less strain on your shoulders – should you experience strain, you can adjust your grip.

How to perform close-grip bench press

The close-grip bench press is a variation of the barbell bench press with your hands closer together.

  1. Lie back with your upper back, head, and butt on the bench. Keep your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Place your hands on the bar, shoulder-width apart. Your hands should be closer than with a traditional bench press. Pull back your shoulder blades.
  3. Lift the barbell off the rack and lock your elbow joints with the barbell directly above the clavicles. This is the starting position.
  4. Lower the barbell, keeping your elbows close to your body.
  5. Once you lightly touch your torso with the bar, push the bar back up until you can lock your elbow joints once again.

To figure out exactly how “close” a close-grip must be for this bench press, watch this short video from Dr. Jim Stoppani, the Exercise Doctor.

Close-Grip Bench Press Tips by Jim Stoppani

How to program close-grip bench press

The weight you use will determine how many reps you do. For a moderate load, you should do between 10 and 20 reps per set. If you’re more experienced and using a heavier weight, limit it to 5 – 10 reps per set, and allow your arms to recover between sets.

5. Hex press

Benefits of hex press

The hex press is a way to target multiple muscle groups to help you build upper body strength fast. It targets the inner chest muscles and triceps, which can help prevent injury when doing other push exercises or isolation exercises.

How to perform hex press

You’ll need a pair of hexagonal dumbbells (although normal dumbbells can work too) and a bench.

  1. Lie down on the bench with a flat back. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, slightly above your chest.
  2. Push the dumbbells slightly up and together so that the flat sides are touching above your chest. This is the starting position.
  3. Using your inner arms and triceps, push the dumbbells straight up, keeping them touching. Contract your triceps at the top of the move to straighten your arms.
  4. Lower back down, maintaining control.

To see exactly how it is done, watch the video below.

Exercise Index - Hex Press

How to program hex press

Because you are using hexagonal dumbbells, this exercise is considered to have a light to moderate load (depending on dumbbell size). You can do either 20 – 30 reps per set with lighter weights, or increase the load and do 10 – 20 reps per set.

6. JM press

Benefits of JM press

JM Blakley, a powerlifter, created the JM press, so you know this is a great compound tricep exercise that works. This unique exercise helps you to build strength in your triceps, even after your shoulders and back have become fatigued.

Considered by many to be one of the best triceps isolation exercises, it actually targets the muscle groups around the triceps too, helping you boost your bench press performance.

How to perform JM press

  1. Lie flat on the bench with your head below the bar. Tuck your shoulder blades.
  2. Grab the bar with your hands 15 – 18 inches apart and unrack. Hold the bar over your chest with your arms straight.
  3. Lower the bar towards your neck, flaring out your elbows at 45 degrees. Keep your elbows in front of your upper body as you lower, and roll your hands forward, pointing your thumbs to the ceiling.
  4. Lower until your forearms and upper arms touch.
  5. Press or punch up and return to the straight arm position.

Skip to 3:49 in the video below to see a demonstration of how the JM press is done.

The Official JM Press Tutorial

How to program JM press

This exercise is not supposed to use heavy weights as that will place too much strain on your shoulder and elbow joints. You can do anything from 10 – 30 reps per set, depending on your strength level and the weights you use.

Benefits of Compound Tricep Exercises

Incorporating any type of compound exercise into your workout routine is a game changer. These exercises target multiple muscle groups and move different joints at the same time.

Let’s look at the benefits of compound tricep exercises specifically.

Builds muscle mass

If you want to know how to build bigger triceps, compound exercises are the way to go.

Compound tricep exercises work several muscle groups simultaneously, including the chest, shoulders, and upper back. Some exercises, like diamond push-ups, also engage the core.

By performing the above compound exercises regularly, you’ll increase muscle mass across your upper body. Isolation exercises, while popular among fitness enthusiasts, are not as effective in promoting muscle growth overall.

Improves upper body strength

Triceps compound exercises target most of the upper body muscles, which improves the overall strength in this area. This can help with daily tasks, like lifting heavy objects or carrying items.

Can boost your athletic performance

Athletes will benefit from performing compound exercises. Sportsmen and women who use the upper body for their sport, like rugby, football, swimming, and basketball can gain functional strength by doing compound tricep exercises.

Increases range of motion

By working your triceps and upper arm muscles, you’ll improve the range of motion across all the joints in your shoulders and elbows. This can be beneficial for those who struggle with mobility issues or stiffness.

Improves your posture

Having strong triceps and shoulders can help you hold your shoulder blades back and down, improving your posture and strengthening your spine.

Prevents injuries

This benefit is not just limited to compound tricep exercises. All compound exercises can prevent muscle or joint injuries from occurring – more effectively than isolation exercises. By strengthening your muscles, you’re stabilizing your joints which will reduce the risk of injury when partaking in sports or just going about your daily life.

Improves overall health

Compound exercises can promote fat loss and help speed up your metabolism. By increasing your heart rate as more muscle groups are activated, you’re also improving your cardiovascular health.

Strength training can also improve bone health as more blood flows to the area where the muscles are working. It increases bone density and can promote bone growth, potentially reducing your risk of developing osteoporosis.

By keeping fit and working out regularly, you may reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, as you will be much healthier overall.

How to Train Triceps

The number of sets you do will depend on how often you work out in the week, as well as how long it takes for your muscles and joints to recover. You can do 6 – 16 sets, depending on these factors.

You should vary your tricep workout loads, doing heavy, moderate and light load workouts each week. 50% of your sets should be moderate, while the other 50% is divided between light and heavy loads.

Here’s a sample workout schedule:

  • Monday: Hex presses (moderate) 4 sets, 5 – 10 reps
  • Wednesday: Dips (heavy) 3 sets, 10 – 20 reps; Close-grip bench press (moderate) 3 sets, 10 – 20 reps
  • Friday: Bench dips (light) 4 sets, 20 – 30 reps

This sample schedule incorporates 50% moderate load, 25% light load, and 25% heavy load exercises for triceps.

Triceps Muscle Anatomy

The triceps muscle is called the triceps brachii. This muscle has three heads (tri – three; ceps – heads):

  • Long head
  • Medial head
  • Lateral head
The 6 Best Compound Tricep Exercises (2024) - Lift Vault (1)

Triceps brachii muscle. Source: Kenhub

It stretches from the shoulder joint and scapula (shoulder blade) down the humerus, attaching to the ulna at the back of the forearm.

The main function of the triceps brachii is to extend the forearm across the elbow joint. Its secondary function is to pull the arm closer to the body from where it connects at the shoulder joint.

Triceps FAQs

How often should you train your triceps?

How often you train your triceps will depend on how often you work out every week, as well as how long it takes you to recover. Most beginners should do 2 – 4 triceps exercises per week. This can be increased to 16 sessions once you build up your strength. Alternate the compound exercises you do to prevent fatigue of the surrounding muscles.

At what intensity should the triceps be trained?

Most people will benefit from weights in the 30 – 85% one-rep max (1RM) range. What that means is:

  • 30-50%: Focus on high reps (20 – 30) to improve endurance.
  • 60 – 75%: Focus on moderate reps (10 – 20) to build muscle mass
  • 80 – 85%: Focus on low reps (5 – 10) to increase strength.

What rep range should be used for training triceps?

Half of your compound triceps exercises can be performed in the 10 – 20 rep range. Of the remaining 50%, 25% should be in the low rep range (5 – 10) and 25% in the high rep range (20 – 30%).

What types of exercises train triceps?

The triceps are activated by pushing your arms (with weights) away from your body. This can be done using weights or pushing your body weight up.

Although compound exercises that engage multiple muscle groups are the best to train your triceps, you can also make use of isolation exercises for targeted strength training. Bench presses (and variations thereof) are common tricep exercises, as are push-up variations.

How can I work all three triceps heads?

Most compound exercises for the triceps will work all three heads. There are many long head triceps exercises as well as lateral head tricep exercises. Here are some good options to work this entire muscle group:

  • Diamond push-ups
  • Cable tricep push-aways
  • Skull crusher
  • Close-grip floor press or bench press
The 6 Best Compound Tricep Exercises (2024) - Lift Vault (2)

About Kyle Risley

Kyle Risley founded Lift Vault in 2016 to make finding great powerlifting programs easier. Since then, the site has grown to include hundreds of programs for strength, bodybuilding, Olympic weightlifting, and more. He currently lives in Massachusetts and continues to compete in powerlifting.

The 6 Best Compound Tricep Exercises (2024) - Lift Vault (2024)


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