Exercises to Train Your Triceps

Did you see Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the movie Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle?


Or maybe a better question: Did you see The Rock’s triceps?

A nerdy high school kid with a video game habit lands in detention with a group of other students. Stuck in a supply room for the day, he discovers an old game console. And when he fires up the game, he’s transported to the virtual world of Jumanji as Dr. Smolder Bravestone, played by “The Rock.”[1]


There’s plenty of laughs, adventure, some crude humor, stunts, and special effects.


But if training your triceps has been on your mind, Johnson’s big arms might catch your attention in this movie, too.

So how did “The Rock” get his body in shape for the remake of this 1995 movie? He hit the gym five days a week, which included plenty of triceps work.

And that’s what we’re going to focus on. Say hello to the triceps brachii.


Anatomy of the triceps brachii


If you’ve got monster triceps like “The Rock,” when you flex, you’ll see the three heads of this muscle: the lateral head, medial head, and long head.

This muscle gives you the ability to extend your elbow and straighten your arm. And if you put in the work to develop this muscle, a Side Triceps pose looks pretty cool in the mirror, too.


So what did “The Rock” do to build bigger triceps for Jumanji?


He trained five days a week, with one day dedicated to working his arms. And his triceps exercises included Reverse-Grip Pushdowns, EZ-Bar Skull Crushers, Single-Arm Cable Kickbacks, and Cable-Rope Pushdowns.[2] And lifts like the Shoulder Press and Dumbbell Bench Press hit his triceps on other days.

But those aren’t the only triceps exercises you can do to build this muscle.


Some triceps exercises are better than others, according to a University of Wisconsin study.[3] And you know what? The most effective triceps exercise wasn’t even part of “The Rock’s” workout plan.


The 5 Most Effective Triceps Exercises


Want to know what the most effective triceps exercises are to train this muscle? That’s what researchers at the University of Wisconsin wanted to find out.


When they looked at what people tell their trainers and online conversations people have about fitness and physique, they found that most women want tighter, toned triceps, and most men want bigger, stronger triceps with as much definition as possible.

First they identified eight of the most popular, and commonly used exercises to train the triceps.


  • Triceps Kickbacks
  • Overhead Triceps Extensions
  • Cable Bar Triceps Pushdowns
  • Cable Rope Triceps Pushdowns
  • Closed-Grip Bench Press
  • Lying Barbell Triceps Extensions
  • Triceps Dips
  • Triangle Push-Ups


Then they put a group of people through a series of tests, using electromyography. (Sensors are attached to the triceps to measure muscle activation while performing an exercise.) Researchers measured muscle activation in the triceps during muscle contractions, 1 Rep Max, and Reps of 7 per set, with 5 minutes of rest between exercises.

Can you guess which triceps exercise maximized muscle activation?

The Triangle Push-Up. Electromyographic data showed this exercise maximized triceps muscle activation at 100 percent, and outperformed all the other exercises.


Runner’s up included the Triceps Kickback and Dips.

What makes these triceps exercises more effective than training this muscle with heavier weights?


“It’s because your body weight is used in the push-ups and dips,” says Dr. John Porcari, who led the University of Wisconsin study with Brittany Boehler. “And because it’s easier to cheat while doing the other exercises, specifically the bar push-downs and rope push-downs.”[4]

Overhead Triceps Extensions and Cable Rope Pushdowns were ranked 4th and 5th most effective triceps exercises in the study.


But to maximize muscle activation for these exercises, it’s critical to use good technique and avoid using momentum. If you can’t complete a rep without using momentum, you’re lifting too heavy. Drop the weight, and continue. It’s that easy.


Based on the study, the top 5 exercises to train your triceps include:


  1. Triangle Push-Ups
  2. Triceps Kickbacks
  3. Dips
  4. Overhead Triceps Extensions
  5. Cable Rope Pushdowns


“The Rock” wasn’t cranking out Triangle Push-Ups as far as we know, but his workout included some of the best exercises to maximize muscle activation when training the triceps.

What’s your next arms day workout for triceps look like?


Pick three of the top five triceps exercises, and aim for 3 to 5 sets of 10 to 12 reps each. Use good form and technique and a slow and controlled tempo to complete each rep.


You’ll feel your triceps fire up with every contraction, and you’ll be creating the kind of muscle damage that leads to gains in strength, muscular endurance, and lean muscle mass.

Want to learn how to train your biceps and triceps to maximize gains? Or looking for a customized training and nutrition program to shred fat, build muscle, or complete a transformation? You’ll find everything you need, right here.





  1. Tomlach, M. (Producer), & Kasdan, J. (Director). (2017). Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. United States: Columbia Pictures.


  1. Johnson, D. (2017). UA Record: The Rock Activity Feed. Under Armor. From: https://record.underarmour.com/u/81100959?CID=AF%7CVigLink%7CCJ%7CUS


  1. Boehler, B. (2011). Electromyographic analysis of the triceps brachii muscle during a variety of triceps exercises. University of Wisconsin. From: http://krigolson.com/uploads/4/3/8/4/43848243/sampleemg-triceps.pdf


  1. Anders, M. (2011). ACE-sponsored research: Best triceps exercises. American Council on Exercise. From: https://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/1562/ace-sponsored-research-best-triceps-exercises