Top 12 Barbell Tricep Exercises

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: August 28, 2023

If you want to build some serious tricep strength and size, you’re in the right place. Whether you’re a seasoned gym-goer or just starting, these exercises will challenge you and help you reach your fitness goals.

Today, I will show you 12 different barbell tricep exercises that can be done with or without a bench. So, grab your barbell, and let’s get started!

Barbell Tricep Exercises

What Are Barbell Tricep Exercises?

Barbell tricep exercises involve extending the elbows to work the back of the upper arms with the added resistance of a free-weight bar. There are various barbell tricep exercise variations that target specific areas of the tricep muscles.

When using resistance training exercises to target the arms, it’s important to understand the muscle anatomy. The tricep muscle consists of three parts: the long head, medial head, and short head.

Barbell Tricep Exercises Muscles Worked

Muscles Worked By Barbell Tricep Exercises

Each of the three heads of the triceps has a unique role in filling out the muscle. It is imperative to note that the various exercises and movement angles employed can work the heads in distinct ways.

Long Head of Triceps

The long head is the largest of the three tricep muscles. It is located on the inner part of the rear upper arm and originates from the scapula bone near the back of the shoulder. It stabilizes the shoulder joint and is most active during elbow extension with the arm down by the side.

Lateral Head of Triceps

The lateral head of the tricep muscle is located on the outer part of the upper arm, originates from the back of the humerus bone, and is responsible solely for elbow extension as it is not connected to the scapula.

Medial Head of Triceps

The medial head of the tricep originates on the upper humerus bone but lies mainly beneath the long and lateral heads. Its primary function is to extend the elbow, and it is most active when the arm is elevated at or above shoulder level.

Although not as visible, training the medial head adds thickness to the arms and strength in pushing movements.

Best Barbell Tricep Exercises

The barbell can be used with or without a bench to work all three tricep heads and gain size and strength. Here’s a list of exercises to help with your workout routine.

Barbell Tricep Exercises with Bench

Using a bench enhances your range of motion during lying barbell tricep exercises. Additionally, adjustable benches permit targeting different tricep areas by adjusting body angle.

So, let’s look at some of the best barbell tricep exercises you can do with a bench.

1. Close Grip Bench Press

The close grip bench press is an upper-body compound movement that allows you to lift heavier weights. It’s an excellent exercise for developing tricep strength and size.

Compared to a traditional bench press, the narrow grip used in the close grip bench press results in greater elbow flexion. This means your triceps are utilized more than your chest during the exercise.

To perform the close grip bench press, lie on a bench and hold the bar with an overhand grip that’s shoulder-width or slightly narrower. Lower the bar to your chest while keeping your elbows close to your sides, then push the bar away from your chest by extending your arms.

Barbell Tricep Exercises Close Grip Bench Press

2. JM Press

The JM press exercise was named after JM Blakely, a well-known powerlifter who made it popular. It’s a great exercise for building power as it’s essentially a hybrid between a close-grip bench press and a lying tricep extension. 

To perform the JM press, lie on a bench and grab a barbell with an overhand grip. Lower the bar towards your chin while keeping your elbows up at approximately 45 degrees to the midline of your body. Once your forearm touches your bicep, extend your arms straight up towards the ceiling.

Barbell Tricep Exercises JM Press

3. Barbell Skull Crusher

The skull crusher, also known as the barbell lying tricep extension, is a popular exercise specifically targeting the triceps muscles. This is an isolation movement that places emphasis on the elbow joint, unlike the previous two exercises.

To perform this exercise, lie down on a bench with your feet flat on the ground and your head towards the end of the bench. Take hold of the barbell with an overhand grip and place your hands slightly closer than shoulder-width apart.

Straighten your arms to lift the barbell directly over your chest. Gradually lower the barbell towards the top of your head by bending your elbows. Throughout the movement, keep your upper arms still.

When the barbell is just above your head, pause for a moment before raising it back up to the starting position.

Barbell Tricep Exercises Skull Crusher

4. Incline Skull Crusher

Performing skull crushers on an incline bench is an easy way to increase activation of the medial tricep head because it creates a larger angle between your body and upper arm.

Start with your feet on the floor and lean back on the bench like a typical skull crusher exercise. Then scoot up the backrest so the bar doesn’t hit the top of the bench when you lower it.

Now raise the bar straight over your chest and lower the weight by bending at the elbows until the bar reaches the top of your head. Then, extend your arms back to the starting position.

5. Decline Skull Crusher

The decline skull crusher is an effective but often neglected tricep exercise. Its downward body angle can be particularly beneficial for targeting the long head of the muscle.

To perform this exercise, start by positioning yourself on the bench in your usual manner. However, on most decline benches, your feet will be off the ground, so you may require assistance in positioning the bar.

Once you’re in position, grasp the bar with your arms straight and gradually lower the weight by bending at the elbows. Ensure that the bar passes beyond your forehead before extending your arms back to the initial position.

Barbell Tricep Exercises Without Bench

If you don’t have a bench, that’s okay because you can do several barbell tricep exercises without one. These following exercises involve lying on the floor, standing, or using a landmine apparatus.

6. Floor Press

The floor press is a popular strength training exercise that works your chest and triceps in the upper half of the bench press range of motion. So it’s excellent for building tricep strength and improving your lock out on pressing movements.

To perform the exercise, lie flat on your back on the floor with your knees bent and feet firmly on the ground. Hold a barbell with an overhand grip, and slowly lower the weight until your upper arms touch the floor, then press the weight back up to the starting position.

Barbell Tricep Exercises Floor Press

7. Landmine Close Grip Press

A landmine apparatus is a pivoting anchor that attaches to one end of a barbell, turning into a lever. The landmine press is often used as an upper chest and shoulder exercise, but the narrow grip is also perfect for targeting your triceps.

To perform the landmine press for the triceps, grab the end of the barbell between both hands and hold it in front of your chest with arms bent. From here, extend your arms and press the bar out and up before lowering it back to the starting position.

Related: 9 Best Landmine Shoulder Exercises

Barbell Tricep Exercises Landmine Press

8. Barbell French Press

The overhead barbell tricep extension, also called a French press, is superb for working the triceps in the stretched position.

To perform the exercise, you need to stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a barbell with an overhand grip. Then, you lift the barbell above your head and slowly lower it down behind your head while keeping your elbows stationary.

Finally, you extend your arms back to the starting position and repeat the movement for the desired reps. It’s advisable to use a much lighter weight with this exercise to avoid elbow injury.

Barbell Tricep Exercises French Press

9. Single Arm Landmine Tricep Extension

The landmine apparatus can also be used to perform a lying tricep extension with one arm at a time. This exercise replicates the skull crusher movement, but you don’t need a bench.

To do the landmine tricep extension, begin by lying on the floor perpendicular to the end of the barbell. Grab the sleeve end of the barbell with an overhand grip and extend your arm straight in front of your chest.

Now lower the end of the barbell toward the side of your head by bending at the elbow and keeping your upper arm stationary. Extend your arm to raise the barbell back to the starting position.

10. Barbell Kickbacks

The tricep kickback exercise is typically done using dumbbells or cables. However, you can also perform it using a barbell held behind your back.

To do barbell kickbacks, hold a barbell behind your thighs with an overhand grip and hands shoulder-width apart. Bend forward with slightly bent knees until your back is almost parallel to the floor.

Your upper arms should be in line with or slightly behind your back, and your elbows should be bent so that your forearms point down towards the floor. Push the bar back and up while keeping your upper arms still to extend your arms.

Finally, lower the bar back to the starting position and repeat the desired number of reps.

11. Landmine Tricep Kickbacks

Once again, you can also use the landmine to perform a variation of the tricep kickback exercise. To perform landmine kickbacks, you must stand with your side facing the end of the barbell.

Grasp the end of the sleeve with an overhand grip and arm straight by your side. Then, bend forward with your knees slightly bent until your back is nearly parallel to the floor.

Your upper arm should align with your back, and your elbow should be bent so your forearm points toward the floor. Push the bar back and up while keeping your upper arm still to extend your arm.

Finally, lower the bar back to the starting position and repeat the desired number of reps before switching to the other arm.

12. Bodyweight Tricep Extension

The bodyweight tricep extension is an excellent exercise to add a final touch to your arm workout. You’ll need a barbell fixed on a rack at waist to chest height to do this exercise. 

To start, grab the bar with an overhand grip and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lean forward until your chest is parallel to the ground and your arms are fully outstretched. 

Next, bend your elbows and lower your body towards the ground while keeping your elbows close to your head. When your elbows form a 90-degree angle, push yourself back up to the starting position by extending your arms fully. 

This exercise effectively targets your triceps and can be modified based on your strength level. The lower the bar, the more resistance you will feel and the more challenging the exercise becomes.

Barbell Tricep Workout

If you have a home gym with limited equipment or want to save time while still giving your triceps a great workout, try this barbell tricep routine.

I’ve created an example workout using the exercises discussed in this article, which also includes alternative exercises if you don’t have a bench. Give it a try and see how it works for you!

Barbell Tricep Workout Example

  • Close Grip Bench or Floor Press – 3 sets, 5-10 reps
  • Barbell Skull Crusher or Landmine Tricep Extension – 3 sets, 8-12 reps
  • Barbell French Press – 3 sets 8-12 reps
  • Bodyweight Tricep Extension – 3 sets, as many reps as possible

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More Exercises & Workouts

The barbell tricep exercises in this article are an efficient way to build upper arm size and strength. But an ideal tricep workout should include various forms of resistance such as dumbbells, cables, or machines.

So here are some additional resources I know will help you design your ultimate tricep workout routine.

Complete List of Push Day Exercises

Top 9 Barbell Bicep Exercises for Big Arms

Cable Arm Exercises for Biceps & Triceps

13 Best Skull Crusher Alternatives

Barbell Chest Exercises With or Without Bench

With the information provided, you have a strong foundation for developing larger and stronger triceps. If you found this article helpful, you may also find these additional resources valuable.

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By |August 28, 2023|Workouts|Comments Off on Best Barbell Tricep Exercises With Example Workout
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