13 Best Lateral Head Tricep Exercises For Building Huge Arms

Looking to build an impressive set oft-shirt-busting arms? If so, you must work your triceps, especially the lateral head.

However, there are so many triceps exercises it can be challenging to figure out which ones you should add to your workout.

In this article, I’ll show you 13 of the best lateral head tricep exercises you can perform to give you impressive tricep development.

1. Close Grip Bench Press

The close grip bench press is a must-have exercise in your triceps routine, and it’s one of the best lateral head tricep exercises you can perform for many reasons. 

Firstly, it allows you to lift a significant amount of weight, which helps stimulate your muscle fibers, resulting in growth. Another reason this exercise is popular is that it's a variation of the normal bench press…everyone loves the bench press, right?

However, there is a drawback; if you suffer from joint pain, the fixed barbell position might not suit you as it locks you into a set movement pattern, placing strain on your wrist, shoulder, and elbow joints.

Garage Gym Pro Tip: If you get wrist, elbow, or shoulder joint pain, try using dumbbells instead.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Lie on a bench press on your back.
  2. 2
    Place your hands shoulder-width apart on a barbell.
  3. 3
    Hold the barbell above your chest.
  4. 4
    Lower the barbell to your chest until your elbow joint is 90 degrees. (Elbows tucked in close to your body).
  5. 5
    Push the barbell to the starting position.
Recommended Rep Range: 3-6 reps (go heavy).
lateral head tricep exercises

2. Tricep Pushdown

The tricep pushdown is an excellent upper body movement that targets your lateral triceps. The movement is one of the best isolation exercises to develop upper arm mass, and it's relatively simple to perform…even if you're a beginner. 

While this exercise does target your lateral head, it works all three heads (including long and medial heads), making it a great exercise for overall tricep development. 

They are less demanding on your body than other exercises, so you should recover quicker. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip: Focus on using proper form throughout this isolation exercise.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Set a cable machine above head height.
  2. 2
    Attach a rope handle (or straight bar).
  3. 3
    Hold with both hands with your elbows tucked into your body.
  4. 4
    Lean forward slightly, hinging from the hips.
  5. 5
    Push the rope downwards until your arms are straight (complete elbow extension).
  6. 6
    Slowly return to the starting position.
  7. 7
    Repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 12-15 reps
man in black tank top doing a cable rope tricep pushdown

3. Diamond Push-ups (Triangle Push-ups)

The diamond push-up is a variation of the standard push-up, which helps you target the lateral triceps, providing you use proper form. 

It’s a brilliant bodyweight exercise you can add to your tricep workout as it requires little room and no equipment. It’s the perfect movement if you’re working out from a hotel room or on the move. 

However, diamond push-ups are a challenging exercise for some gym-goers to perform, especially if you’re new to resistance training. I would recommend adding this to your triceps training, only if you’re more advanced. 

It’s also worth noting that while it does help you grow big arms, the movement can strain your wrist and elbow joints. If you’re prone to joint issues, maybe give this tricep exercise a miss. 

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Assume the push-up position on the floor.
  2. 2
    Place your hands together, so they form a diamond shape.
  3. 3
    Keep your core tight and your elbows tucked in.
  4. 4
    Lower yourself to the floor benign your elbows.
  5. 5
    Return to the starting position and repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 12-20 reps
man in gray shirt doing diamond push ups on a bridge

4. EZ Bar Skull Crushers

EZ bar skull crushers are one of the best triceps exercises around. They are a single joint movement which allows you to focus all your efforts on working the triceps lateral head. It’s the triceps exercise you’ve undoubtedly seen many gym-goers performing in your local gym. 

This tricep exercise focuses on elbow flexion and extension, isolating the triceps in the process. It's perfect if you're short on time and want to give your lateral triceps head a decent workout. 

However, EZ bar skull crushers place a large amount of stress on your forearms which can cause problems for anyone with wrist or forearm issues (such as tendonitis) - if this sounds like you, try another lateral head exercise from this list. 

It’s also important to note that this movement is challenging to load, so if you’re new, don’t go too heavy. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip: You can use a straight bar for skull crushers, but EZ bars place less stress on your joints.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Set up an EZ bar and lie on a flat bench.
  2. 2
    Place your hand’s shoulder width using an overhand grip.
  3. 3
    Hold the weight over your chest.
  4. 4
    Bend the elbows lowering the weight towards your head (hence the name skull crushers).
  5. 5
    Pause, then press the EZ bar back to the starting position.
  6. 6
    Repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 8-12 reps
man doing ez bar skullcrushers on a weight bench

5. Dumbbell Floor Presses

The dumbbell floor press is a favorite of mine, and it's easy for beginners to learn and can help advanced lifters push through sticking points. As far as compound movements go, you'll feel pretty safe adding this to your triceps workouts.

During this triceps exercise, you not only improve the size and strength of your lateral heads but also develops your chest, shoulders, and deltoids, giving you bang for your buck.

Beginners love this lateral head exercise as they can lie on the floor and have no risk of being crushed by large amounts of weight. You can perform this exercise virtually anywhere.

Got shoulder issues? The dumbbell floor press has you covered; it places a lot of stress on your joints, making it a great alternative to the close grip bench press. 

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Hold a set of dumbbells and lie on the floor.
  2. 2
    Lower the weight until your upper arms rest on the floor and your elbows are 90 degrees.
  3. 3
    Push the dumbbells upwards to the starting position.
  4. 4
    Repeat and complete your set. 
Recommended Rep Range: 8-12 reps

Related Article - Floor Press Vs Bench Press

man in black tank top doing a dumbbell floor press on a gym mat

6. Close Grip Dips

Want to add one of the best lateral head triceps exercises to your triceps workout routine? Then you need to add close grip dips. 

Close grip triceps dips are a tricep dominant exercise that causes large amounts of stress on your triceps, stimulating muscle growth and strength gains. 

I’m a fan of this exercise as you can use a resistance band to make the exercise easier, and you can add additional weight to a dipping belt to make the exercise tougher. It’s ideal for all ranges of ability. 

It’s worth noting that some lifters will experience shoulder discomfort or even wrist pain due to the position during this lateral head tricep exercise. 

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Stand in front of a dip machine or parallel bars.
  2. 2
    Hold onto the handles with your palms facing inward.
  3. 3
    Support your body weight by keeping your arms straight.
  4. 4
    Lower your body by bending at the elbow, keeping your elbows tucked.
  5. 5
    Stop at 90 degrees.
  6. 6
    Push your body upwards and squeeze your three triceps heads.
  7. 7
    Repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 6-12 reps

Also Check Out - Chest Dips Vs Tricep Dips

man in black and white tank top doing a close grip dip

7. Bench Dips

Bench dips are a brilliant way to work your lateral head tricep muscles virtually anywhere without needing specialist equipment.

Seriously, you can perform this bodyweight exercise on steps, chairs, stairs, park benches… pretty much any elevated platform.

Bench dips are one of the first lateral head tricep exercises I get my clients to perform. It’s easy to learn and can be regressed for anyone new to strength training.

You can use this movement to build muscle and strength before moving to the traditional tricep dips (see the previous exercise). 

My only gripe with bench dips is that they can sometimes aggravate your joints, mainly your shoulders and wrists. But, if you don’t have these issues, feel free to add this lateral head movement to your triceps workout. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip: If you’re struggling, bring your legs closer to your body. If you find it easy, elevate your feet on a platform.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Find a solid platform such as a bench, step, chair, etc.
  2. 2
    Sit on the platform and place your hands outside your hips with your palms firmly on the platform’s edge.
  3. 3
    Straighten your legs out front and lift your body from the platform.
  4. 4
    Keep your elbows tucked and lower your body towards the floor until your upper arm is parallel to the floor (elbows 90 degrees).
  5. 5
    Return to the beginning position and repeat. 
Recommended Rep Range: 12-20 reps
man in white tank top and black shorts doing bodyweight bench dips

8. Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extension

Dumbbell overhead triceps extensions are outstanding at developing your triceps, it targets all three heads (long head, medial and lateral heads), giving you plenty of muscle stimulus to develop muscle mass in your upper arms. 

I’m a fan of using overhead exercises while targeting your triceps as they place your shoulder joint in flexion, which lengthens the long head of your triceps. A 2022 study has shown that muscular hypertrophy is greater in your triceps when you perform an overhead triceps exercise [1]. 

However, overhead elbow extension exercises can be challenging, especially for beginners, so lifting heavy weights might not be an option for newbies. But, this won’t be an issue if you’re using good form; you’ll soon develop strength.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip: You can perform this movement using one arm at a time for extra focus on your lateral head.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Stand up tall with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. 2
    Hold a dumbbell above your head with both hands.
  3. 3
    Tuck your elbows towards your head.
  4. 4
    Slowly lower the weight behind your head until your triceps are fully stretched.
  5. 5
    Push the weight back to the start.
  6. 6
    Repeat
Recommended Rep Range: 12-20 reps
woman in gray sports bra doing a dumbbell tricep overhead extension

9. Tricep Cable Kickbacks

Tricep kickbacks are a fantastic upper arm exercise to work your tricep’s lateral head. Traditionally, they are performed using a dumbbell, but using a cable adds a constant tension to your lateral head tricep, stimulating greater muscle growth. 

During the tricep cable kickbacks, you also work your tricep’s long head, enabling you to add more muscle mass to your upper arms.

However, you can place greater emphasis on your lateral head tricep by putting your body in the bent-over position. 

The bent-over position might not be the most comfortable for some gym-goers, so if you’ve got a weak lower back, you might feel discomfort. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip: Use a lighter weight and focus on form and mind-muscle connection.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Set a cable machine to knee height and attach a single handle.
  2. 2
    Hold the handle using a neutral grip (you can also use an underhand grip).
  3. 3
    Hinge from your hips until your body is parallel to the ground.
  4. 4
    Tuck your arms in at your sides.
  5. 5
    Flex your elbow to 90 degrees and maintain this position throughout.
  6. 6
    Extend your elbow, pushing your hand backwards. 
  7. 7
    Squeeze your lateral head.
  8. 8
    Slowly return to the start.
  9. 9
    Switch arms and repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 12-20 reps
man in black t-shirt and shorts doing cable tricep kickbacks

10. Overhead Press

Hear me out on this one… sure, the overhead press is best known for its deltoid building capabilities, but it’s also highly effective at developing your triceps. In fact, it’s one of the best lateral head tricep exercises around. 

I like the overhead press as it works multiple muscle groups and is one of the core compound exercises most beginners can benefit from learning. If you want bigger arms, don’t neglect this movement. 

However, overhead pressing isn't suitable for everyone. For example, if you suffer from high blood pressure or have heart issues, you should avoid lifting weight overhead. Don’t worry, you can substitute this movement with any others on this list. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip: Don’t lean back; keep your torso in line with the rest of your body.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Hold a barbell with an overhand grip placed shoulder width apart.
  2. 2
    Bring the barbell to shoulder level.
  3. 3
    Press the barbell upwards until your arms are straight.
  4. 4
    Lower the barbell to shoulder height and repeat. 
Recommended Rep Range: 8-12 reps
woman in white sports bra doing a barbell overhead press in front of a squat rack

11. Barbell JM Press

The barbell JM press is a hybrid movement that crosses the close grip bench press and skull crushers. During this exercise, your lateral head tricep has to work incredibly hard to straighten your elbow. 

While this exercise targets the lateral head of your triceps, it also works the long head and medial head making it a brilliant all-round tricep exercise. 

However, I must warn you that this exercise is one of the most complex lateral head triceps exercises.

I wouldn’t recommend this movement to beginners, and it should only be performed by more advanced gym-goers who’ve mastered other lateral head tricep exercises, such as the close grip bench press. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip: Your forearms should be at an angle at the bottom of the movement.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Lie on a flat bench press with a barbell.
  2. 2
    Unrack the barbell and hold it over your chest (arms straight with an overhand grip).
  3. 3
    Slightly bring your arms back so they are at around 95 degrees (on an angle toward you).
  4. 4
    Keep your elbows tight and lower the weight to your sides.
  5. 5
    Pause and press it back to the start.
  6. 6
    Repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 8-12 reps
man in black short and t-shirt doing a barbell JM press

12. Dumbbell French Press

The dumbbell French press is a triceps isolation exercise that primarily works the lateral head. You can perform numerous variations using resistance bands, cables, dumbbells, or machines. 

While performing this exercise, I’ve found it works your triceps through a wide range of motion which is ideal for muscle growth. 

As you’re using dumbbells during this movement, it’s relatively safe for beginners, and you don’t need to worry about getting stuck under a heavy barbell. It’s one of the more straightforward lateral head triceps exercises to perform. 

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Hold two dumbbells and lie on a flat bench.
  2. 2
    Place the dumbbells over your chest.
  3. 3
    Straighten your arms and slowly bend the elbows bringing the weights past the sides of your head.
  4. 4
    Hold at the bottom and return to the beginning position.
  5. 5
    Repeat. 
Recommended Rep Range: 8-12 reps
man in black doing a dumbbell french press on a weight bench

13. Medicine Ball Overhead Throw

The medicine ball overhead throw is a fun way to finish your tricep workout. It’s simple to perform and helps grow your lateral head triceps, along with your lats, glutes, quads, hamstrings, abs, and delts… it’s basically a full-body workout.

With most triceps exercises, you need to perform the movement slowly; however, with the ball throw, you should be as explosive as possible. It’s a nice change of pace and will give you one hell of a pump if you crank out as many reps as you can. 

This lateral head tricep movement is suitable for most gym-goers but can be used by athletes to develop explosive power.

However, be warned that this will get your heart racing… which isn’t a bad thing.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Grab a medicine ball and stand a few feet away from a solid wall.
  2. 2
    Hold the ball above your head using an overhand grip.
  3. 3
    Pull the ball behind your head (biceps to ears).
  4. 4
    Extend your arms and throw the ball explosively at the wall.
  5. 5
    Catch the ball and repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 15-20 reps (or - AMRAP - As Many Reps As Possible)
man in green shirt doing overhead medicine ball throws

Lateral Head Of The Tricep – An Overview

What Is Lateral Head Of Triceps Brachii Anatomy?

The triceps are located at the back of your upper arms and are made up of three heads:

  • Long head
  • Medial head
  • Lateral head

While all three heads are important, the lateral head gives your arms the “lifter” look.

They’re often thought of as the strongest tricep heads and help you push weight during movements like the bench press.

The lateral head and long head are often associated with the “horseshoe” shape you get on your arms; if they’re well developed, both have the most growth potential.

The medial head has less potential but is equally important for assisting the other two triceps muscles.

Where Is It Located?

The lateral head of the triceps is located on the back of your upper arms. It’s one of the three heads of the triceps, which starts at the humerus and ends at the ulna bone (forearm). It’s a thick muscle visible from the front, side, and back.

What Is The Muscle’s Function?

The lateral triceps work together to allow extension above the elbow joint. However, they only come into effect when you extend your arm against a load. This is why it’s incredibly important to perform lateral tricep exercises.

When your lateral tricep is engaged, it helps to provide power to your movements.


Benefits Of Training This Muscle

Developing a strong set of triceps gives you impressive-looking arms and helps aid movement in your elbows and shoulders. You get improved stability, greater flexibility, and increased range of motion… who doesn’t want all of that?

However, one of my favorite reasons for strengthening the triceps is its carry-over effect on all other lifts. Stronger triceps will give you a stronger bench press and overhead shoulder press, meaning more upper body muscle.

As you get stronger, your arms and shoulders will be more stable, resulting in a lower risk of injuries.

shirtless man flexing triceps

Lateral Head Tricep (Example Workouts To Try)

Depending on your goal, here’s a quick example of how you can structure your workouts to help develop your lateral tricep heads.

For Strength Workouts

If you’re looking to develop strength, it’s often recommended to ditch the high reps as they’ll cause you to fatigue and will have a detrimental effect on the amount you can lift. 

When it comes to rep ranges, it all depends on how heavy you’re lifting. The last thing you want to do is hinder your strength gains. However, if you stick to the rule of thumb, “no more than 6 reps”, you won’t go far wrong. 

Generally, when I’m programming a strength phase, I suggest 3-5 sets of 3-6 reps. Sure, there are exceptions to this rule, but this is an excellent place to start for most gym-goers. 

Overall you should be performing no more than 10-15 sets per muscle group per week, giving you the best strength results. 

By using the exercises above, an example workout could look like this:

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Close Grip Bench Press

5

5

Dips (Weighted)

3

3

Skull Crushers

3

8

Tricep Pushdowns

3

12

The first two exercises are the most demanding and are your main lifts. The other two are assistance exercises to develop your triceps further without overloading the body too much.

For Hypertrophy Workouts

When it comes to muscular hypertrophy, you want to adjust your workouts to suit your goals.

Higher reps are welcome, and recent studies have shown that both high reps and low reps can result in muscular hypertrophy if used correctly [2]. But in this instance, using slightly higher reps will give you excellent results.

Performing 12-16 sets per week for a muscle group should be enough for most people.

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Close Grip Bench Press

4

8-12

Dips (Bodyweight)

4

8-12

Skull Crushers

4

8-12

Tricep Pushdowns

4

12

Common Lateral Head Tricep FAQs

Do triceps respond better to high reps?

The triceps are small muscles and more resistant to fatigue; using high reps can be beneficial. However, I use a variety of low reps and high reps depending on the demands of certain exercises.

Close grip bench presses often demand more muscle fibers than bodyweight dips, so it would make sense to use heavier weights for low reps with bench press movements and higher reps with the bodyweight dips. 

Can you isolate the lateral head of the tricep?

You sure can; isolation exercises for lateral tricep head include tricep pushdowns and kickbacks. However, don’t dismiss other tricep exercises on this list. 

What should you do if you have a tricep head imbalance?

Most muscle imbalances come from an incorrect form or a dominant side. To fix an imbalance of one tricep head, you should ensure the form you're using is 100% correct (even if it means reducing the weight), and you could start using isolateral exercises to work one side at a time.

It’s also good practice to train all three heads at once by using exercises such as the close grip bench press. 

What can I do if the lateral head of my tricep isn’t growing?

If your lateral triceps aren’t growing, you should incorporate a wide variety of rep ranges and loading patterns into your workout routine, along with a selection of exercises to hit your triceps from multiple angles.

Consider using paused reps and playing with the tempo of your lifts. You’ll be surprised how these changes stimulate growth in each head of the tricep.


Conclusion

Wanting to build bigger arms can leave you wondering what exercises are the best. From experience, I’ve found developing your lateral triceps massively increases your arm’s muscle mass.

Knowing the best lateral triceps exercises can be tricky; there are so many available.

Read through the list above of the 13 best exercises for your lateral triceps. Select a handful and try them out. 

References:

1. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17461391.2022.2100279

2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25853914/

Last Updated on September 8, 2022