Long Head Tricep Exercises

8 Long Head Tricep Exercises for Massive Arms

Sitting at the back of your upper arm, your triceps are the key to huge arms and upper body pushing power. They make up two-thirds of the girth of your arms and are responsible for upper arm bulk when your arms are at your sides. Every pushing exercise, from the bench press to the overhead press, relies on the triceps to complete the movement.

The largest of the three sections of the triceps is the long head, closest to your torso. By doing targeted exercises for this head, you’re able to get bigger and stronger upper arms faster. This article lays out the eight best exercises for long head of the triceps, along with two sample workouts so you can maximize your gains and sculpt a powerful, well-defined physique.

Triceps Anatomy

The triceps brachii is a three-headed muscle that sits at the back of the upper arm. The three tricep heads are the: 

  • Long head (closest to the torso)
  • Medial Head (middle portion)
  • Lateral Head (outer part of the arm)

The triceps brachii muscle is the antagonist to the biceps. This means that it relaxes when the biceps contract, and when it contracts, the biceps relaxes. The primary function of the triceps is to extend the elbow and increase its angle from a bent to a straight position. 

The medial and lateral heads originate on the back of the upper arm bone (humerus). The triceps long head originates on the scapula (shoulder blade), immediately under the shoulder socket. 

All three triceps heads converge and become one on the Olecranon process of the Ulna (the larger of the two forearm bones). 

The long head’s unique origin means it can do more than the other two. Being attached to the shoulder blade, it participates when you pull your arms downwards. In contrast, the function of the medial and lateral heads is limited to elbow extension. The long head also participates in elbow extension (straightening of the arm). 

Does Hand Position Affect Triceps Activation?

There is a common belief that your hand position affects the area of the triceps you work. This is a false belief.  

The action at the elbow’s hinge joint is not affected by either a palms up or palms down hand position. The elbow’s movement remains consistent, and all three triceps heads are involved in the movement, debunking the notion of selective emphasis based on hand positions.

Why Focus on the Long Head of the Triceps?

Here are three compelling reasons to include long-head targeted exercises in your triceps workout:

Increased Muscle Growth

The triceps comprise two-thirds of your upper arm mass, and the long head is the largest of the three. When your arm is hanging at your side, which it does most of the time, it is the long head that really fills out your t-shirt sleeve. So if you’re after bigger triceps, focusing on working the long head makes sense.

Greater Pressing Strength

When you press anything away from your body, you need to extend your elbows. The primary muscle involved in elbow extension is the triceps. Because the elbow is a hinge joint and given the fact that all three triceps heads are inserted at the elbow, you are working all three heads when you press a weight. 

Given that the long head is the largest of the three, you will have an overflow effect on every pressing exercise you do by doing targeted work for that head. That means that doing targeted long head triceps exercises will improve everything from your bench to your overhead press. 

Enhanced Shoulder Stability

The long head of the triceps has its origin under the shoulder socket. Unlike the other two heads, it stabilizes the shoulder joint. So, when you target the long head, you’re also making your shoulder joint more functional and less prone to injury.

8 Essential Long Head Tricep Exercises

The eight following exercises start with compound moves that involve the pectorals and deltoids. However, the main activation of the triceps is through the long head. I recommend going heavy with the first of these long head exercises - close grip bench-using a range of between 6 and 12 reps. 

Close Grip Bench Press

The close grip bench is a modification of the standard bench press that switches the primary emphasis from the pecs to the triceps. Specifically, it targets the long head. The key difference is that your elbows remain tucked at your sides, and your hands are closer together than in a standard bench press. 

How To Do It:

  1. Load the appropriate weight on a bench press bench and lie on the bench. Your knees should be bent at a right angle with your feet firmly planted on the floor. Maintain a natural back arch, with your hips and shoulder blades contacting the bench.
  2. Reach your arms up to take an overhand grip on the bar a little closer than shoulder-width apart. Lift the bar of the stand and bring it over your mid-chest. Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  3. Bring the bar down to your chest, focusing on keeping your elbows tucked into your torso.
  4. Continue down until the bar touches your t-shirt just below the nipple line, then press straight back up. As you push up, imagine that you’re snapping the bar by externally rotating your shoulders. This will maximally activate the long head of the triceps. 

JM Press

The JM Press is a relatively unknown press variant that combines the skull crusher and the close grip press. This exercise is best done with a lighter load and higher reps. 

How To Do it:

  1. Load the appropriate weight on a bench press bench and lie on the bench. Your knees should be bent at a right angle with your feet firmly planted on the floor. Maintain a natural back arch, with your hips and shoulder blades contacting the bench.
  2. Reach your arms up to take an overhand grip on the bar slightly closer than shoulder-width apart. Lift the bar of the stand and bring it over your throat. Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  3. Lower the bar by bending the elbows and allowing them to come up as if you were doing a skull crusher. Make sure that you are controlling the descent and squeezing the triceps
  4. Bring the bar down to your throat, stopping a couple of inches before touching it. 
  5. Press the bar directly back to the start position, keeping your elbows in at the side (no flaring). 


The dip can be performed to emphasize either the chest or the triceps. To hit the tris, and especially the long head, do them with a forward lean as follows:

How To Do It:

  1. Stand in the middle of a dip bar apparatus and place your hands on the sides of the bar.
  2. Propel yourself up to an extended arm position (elbows locked) with your knees bent and feet crossed over.
  3. Lean forward so that your torso is angled at about 30 degrees. Extend your chest and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  4. Keeping your elbows in at your sides, lower to full elbow bend.
  5. Push through your triceps to return to the start position.

[Related: 5 Reasons You Should Be Doing Dips]

Diamond Push-Ups

Diamond push-ups switch the emphasis from the pectorals to the triceps. By bringing your hands together and preventing your elbows from flaring out, you make the triceps’ long head do most of the pressing movement.

How To Do It:

  1. Get down on the floor and assume the top push-up position, but with your hands close together so that the thumbs and first fingers are touching. This will create a diamond shape.
  2. Bend the elbows to lower to the floor. Concentrate on keeping your in at your sides. 
  3. Lower until your chin is about an inch from the floor and then push through the triceps to return to the start position. 

Note: The close grip makes this a far more challenging version than the standard push-up. Some people may also experience wrist pain resulting from the tightness of the grip. 

Tricep Pushdowns (Rope)

The triceps pushdown is probably the most commonly performed triceps exercise in gyms worldwide. There’s a reason for that: it is an extremely effective, user-friendly, progressive way to target the triceps. This long head tricep exercise will work all three triceps heads, but about 60% of the pressing power comes from the long head.  

Using a rope handle on the triceps pushdown allows you to pull the handles apart in the bottom position, more effectively engaging the outer triceps head. 

How To Do It:

  1. Select the appropriate weight on a cable triceps pushdown machine, then put a rope handle on the cable attachment. Set the height of the handle to chest height.
  2. Stand about two feet in front of the machine, facing it. Place your hands at the ends of the rope handle. 
  3. Keeping your elbows in at your sides, press down as you extend your elbows to full extension. Pull the rope handles apart to fully activate the long head of your triceps.
  4. Return to the start position, controlling the resistance throughout. 

Dumbbell Triceps Kickbacks

The dumbbell triceps kickback involves shoulder stabilization as well as elbow extension, making it a smart move for those wanting to prioritize the long head. It is one of the few exercises that activates both functions of the long head during the same movement. 

How To Do It:

  1. Take hold of a relatively light dumbbell and stand alongside a bench with the weight in your outer hand. 
  2. Place your inner knee on the bench and bend over to assume a 45-degree angle with your torso. Lean on the bench with your inner arm for support.
  3. In the starting position, your working arm should be pinned at your side and bent at 90-degrees. Maintain a neutral spine and stagger your legs for support.
  4. Extend your arm to full extension behind you. The only movement should be through the elbow joint. Squeeze the triceps in the end position.
  5. Lower to the start position.

[Related: Best Dumbbell Tricep Exercises For Growth]

Overhead Triceps Extension

The cable overhead triceps extension is another exercise that combines shoulder stability with elbow extension. It is the best exercise you can do to stretch the long head of the triceps as it involves shoulder elevation. Using rope handles also allows you to pull apart at the end position. 

How To Do It:

  1. Set the pulley on a cable machine to its top position and put a rope handle on the cable attachment.
  2. Stand facing away from the machine and grab the ends of the handle. Step forward so you are two paces away from the machine.
  3. Assume a starting position with your elbows in at the sides of your head and bent so that your hands are just above your head.
  4. Extend the elbows to straighten your arms. In the end position, pull the rope handle ends apart to fully engage the long head of the triceps.
  5. Return to the start position, controlling the backward pull of the resistance. 

Straight Arm Pulldowns

The straight arm pulldown, also known as ‘swimmers’, is considered more of a latissimus dorsi exercise than a triceps one. However, it also does a great job of activating the long head of the triceps. The main action is shoulder extension, which, as you know, is one of the two functions of the long head.

How To Do It:

  1. Set the appropriate weight on a cable pulley machine and set the pulley at the level of your head. Place a short straight bar on the cable attachment.
  2. Stand about three feet away from the machine, facing it. Reach up to grab the handles. This should put your torso at a 45-degree angle. Now bend your knees slightly to assume a quarter squat position.
  3. Without bending your elbows, pull your arms down until your hands touch your thighs. Squeeze your triceps in this bottom position.

Two Triceps Workouts

Now that you’ve got an arsenal of super-effective exercises to target the long head of your triceps, let’s talk about how to incorporate them into your training program. I recommend training your triceps twice per week, with around 72 hours recovery between workouts. 

An example would be working your triceps on Monday and Thursday, or Tuesday and Saturday. I also recommend working your triceps and biceps together. These muscles are naturally paired as antagonists. Working them together ensures even development and produces an awesome upper arm pump.

The sweet spot for sets when working the triceps is 10-12. In the following workouts, those sets are each composed of four exercises. 

Longhead Tricep Workout A

Exercise Sets Reps
Close Grip Bench Press 4 12/10/8/6
Dips 3 12/12/12
Rope Push-downs 3 12/12/12
Diamond Push-ups 2 Failure


Note: Failure means continuing until you cannot do another rep with proper form

Longhead Tricep Workout B

Exercise Sets Reps
JM Press 4 15/15/12/12
Straight Arm Pressdowns 3 12/12/12
O/head Triceps Extension 3 12/10/8
Triceps Kickbacks 2 12/12 

FAQs: Long Head Triceps Exercises

Q: What exercises hit all three triceps heads?

A: Any triceps exercise that involves elbow extension will work all three triceps heads. The top three moves to work your entire triceps are the close grip bench press, the triceps pushdown, and dips. 

Q: Are dumbbells good for working the triceps?

A: Yes, dumbbells are an effective tool for working the triceps. They allow you to work one arm at a time and to get a greater extension on some exercises than you can with barbells. Some effective dumbbell exercises are lying triceps extensions, single-arm seated overhead tricep extension, and triceps kickbacks. 

Q: What is the best bodyweight triceps exercise?

A: The best bodyweight triceps exercise is the diamond, or triangle, push-up. This push-up version forces you to keep your elbows in at your sides. This makes your triceps, especially the long head, do more of the work. To perform this exercise, get down in a push-up position and put your hands together so the thumbs and forefingers are touching.

Q: Are dips more for triceps or chest?

A: There are two ways to do dips, with each one emphasizing different muscles. For the tricep dip, you should maintain more of an upright position, with your elbows in at your sides. To change the emphasis to your chest, lean forward so your torso is at about a 30-degree angle. You should also allow your elbows to flare out to the sides. 

Q: What is the best grip for triceps?

A: It makes no difference to the triceps biomechanics of an exercise whether you use an overhand or an underhand grip. The elbow extension is unchanged. However, an overhand grip is more natural and is, therefore, the better option. Most people will also be able to use more weight with an overhand grip.


Few body parts are as impressive when fully developed as the horseshoe-shaped triceps. By incorporating exercises targeted for the long head, you will ensure that the outer sweep of the muscle is fully developed, adding to arm size and strength.

Be sure to balance out your triceps training with exercises that target the long head of your biceps.