Training the triceps is one of the most enjoyable body parts to train. The pump instantly adds an inch to your arms, making you feel like you’ve added slabs of muscle instantly. One exercise to achieve this is the triceps push-up. But how do you modify the push-up to hit the triceps better?
To do push-ups for triceps, narrow your hand placement, increasing triceps activation compared to regular push-ups.
Are there other ways to do a triceps push-up to make it more intense?
Table of Contents
- Regular vs. Triceps Push-Ups: How To Modify Push-Ups For Triceps
- How To Perform The Triceps Push-Up
- Triceps Push-Up Benefits
- Triceps Push-Up Variations For Beginners
- Advanced Triceps Push-Up Variations
- Are Push-Ups Enough For Triceps?
Regular vs. Triceps Push-Ups: How To Modify Push-Ups For Triceps
Narrow Your Hands
It’s commonly acknowledged placing your hands wider targets your chest, while narrow hand placement targets your triceps. Research shows placing your hands 20-30% narrower than shoulder width increases triceps activation compared to wider hand placements .
I prefer a hand placement with my thumbs under my shoulders. This is the most comfortable for my wrists and allows me to keep my elbows close to my ribs. When I place my hands narrower, my wrists take a beating which isn’t good for long-term muscle growth.
Elevate Your Feet
This is the simplest method to target your triceps when doing push-ups is to elevate your feet. This is called a decline push-up. Doing this increases the intensity of the exercise, increasing the forces generated greater than a regular triceps push-up .
This is because your triceps are forced to support more weight as more of your body is placed over your arms. Generating higher forces means greater mechanical tension on the triceps, a key muscle growth mechanism .
How To Perform The Triceps Push-Up
The guidelines I’m providing here apply to all triceps push-up variations.
- Get into the push-up position on your hands and toes, creating a straight line from your heels to your head. Place your thumbs under your shoulders for the narrow hand placement.
- Maintain your body position while lowering your chest to the floor. Stop when your chest is slightly above the floor.
- Push to the starting position with your arms extended.
Triceps Push-Up Benefits
Easier On The Shoulders
Wide hand placement push-ups are horrible for shoulder health, in my experience. I avoid this exercise for myself and my athletes. I recommend you do the same. Having a narrower hand placement also allows you to produce more force since your joints are stacked on top of each other. Force can be effectively transferred from the floor through to the shoulders.
Pack Mass On Your Arms
Why else would you be doing triceps push-ups if you weren’t trying to build bigger triceps? You’re essentially doing a close grip bench press but with your bodyweight instead of a barbell. And I rate the close grip bench press as one of the best triceps exercises.
If you need to add load, use a resistance band or load a plate on your back. Do this while elevating your feet, and you have a triceps lateral head destroyer.
No Equipment Needed
The triceps push-up is ultra-versatile. You don’t need any equipment making it an excellent bodyweight triceps exercise you can do at home. I use this often in my garage gym to hit my arms.
Triceps Push-Up Variations For Beginners
Wall Triceps Push-Ups
If you are severely undertrained, the wall triceps push-up is where you can start. The further your feet are away from the fall, the harder the exercise. The inherent issue with the wall triceps push-up is your hand placement.
If you have your feet further away from the wall, it’s near impossible to keep your elbows close as your wrists need to extend too far. Regardless, here’s how to do it:
- Facing a wall, place your hands in line with your shoulders. Lean toward the wall keeping a straight line from your feet to your head.
- Once your chest gets close to the wall, or your palms start to come off the wall, stop and extend your arms, pushing to the start position.
Incline Triceps Push-Ups
The incline triceps push-up is a better compromise than the wall push-up, in my experience, because the surface isn’t vertical. Using a tall box or bench allows your hands to be flat, and you can maintain the correct push-up form. Here’s how to do it:
- Setup in a push-up position with your feet on the floor and hands on a bench. I prefer having the bottom of my palms against the edge to improve stability.
- Lower your chest to the bench keeping your elbows close to your ribs and a straight line from your feet to your head. Once your chest is close to touching the bench, extend your arms, pushing to the starting position.
Kneeling Triceps Push-Ups
The kneeling triceps push-up is not an exercise I prescribe, and prefer to use the incline triceps push-up. The kneeling push-up doesn’t transfer well to performing a regular triceps push-up. But here’s how to do it:
- Setup in a push-up position on your knees with thumbs under your shoulders. Make sure there’s a straight line from your knees to your head.
- Lower your chest to the floor keeping your elbows close to your ribs. Once your chest is close to touching the floor, extend your arms, pushing to the starting position.
Advanced Triceps Push-Up Variations
Bodyweight Triceps Push-Up Extensions
If you have niggly elbows, avoid this triceps push-up variation. But if you’re healthy, this is a way to perform triceps extensions without equipment. Here’s how to do it:
- Setup in the push-up position with your hands in front of your shoulders to allow your elbow to be at 90 degrees when at the bottom of the movement.
- Lower your elbows to the floor so your forearm lays flat. Push through the hands to extend the arms.
The diamond push-up places more stress on the triceps with a narrower hand position. However, you may find wrist discomfort doing this variation. If so, avoid it and stick to the regular triceps push-ups. If your wrists are healthy, use this to spice up your workout. Here’s how to do it:
- Setup in the push-up position with your hands in the diamond shape as the video shows above. Lower your chest to the floor and extend your arms to the starting position.
Staggered Triceps Push-Ups
This was one of the first triceps push-up variations I learned and still enjoy. Staggering your hands makes it harder for your triceps to push as your hands are either above or below your shoulders. Here’s how to do it:
- Setup in your push-up position with your hands staggered ahead and behind your shoulders as the video above shows.
- Lower your chest to the floor and push to extend your arms to the starting position.
Medicine Ball Triceps Push-Ups
The medicine ball triceps push-up is like the diamond triceps push-up but without the wrist discomfort and added stability component. Here’s how to do it:
- Place your hands on a firm medicine ball and setup in the push-up position. Lower your chest to the ball while keeping your elbows close. Push to extend your arms to the starting position.
Are Push-Ups Enough For Triceps?
While push-ups are an excellent exercise for the triceps, they are not enough to maximize triceps growth. There are three triceps heads that are not activated in unison when performing various exercises  and are heavily influenced by shoulder position .
- Long head – arms straight down (0° angle of the shoulders). This would involve exercises such as the triceps pushdown.
- Lateral head – arms directly overhead (180° angle of the shoulders). This would involve exercises such as the overhead triceps extension.
- Medial head – arms directly in front and the overhead position (90-180° angle of the shoulders). This would involve exercises such as the overhead triceps extension or the close grip bench press.
However, it’s not all about muscle activation data. Training muscles and long muscle lengths is superior to shorter muscle lengths, as evidenced by the overhead triceps extension . Training in a stretched triceps position led to a 1.4-1.5 x greater muscle growth in the lateral and long head of the triceps.
Using a range of exercises, including ones that stretch the triceps under load, will maximize triceps growth, meaning you need more than the push-up.
Doing push-ups for triceps requires the slight modification of narrowing your hands. I prefer having my thumbs under my shoulders as it’s the most comfortable wrist and elbow position. Triceps push-ups are incredibly versatile as they don’t need any equipment, so you can bust out sets anywhere.
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