The Ultimate Guide to Lateral Head Tricep Exercises for Tricep Gains

The Ultimate Guide to Lateral Head Tricep Exercises for Tricep Gains

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As a fitness trainer, I've witnessed firsthand the transformative power of focused tricep training on arm development. The triceps, constituting a significant portion of your arm's musculature, play a vital role in functional movements and aesthetics. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the often-neglected aspect of tricep development – the lateral head. Understanding its importance, training methods, and the science behind it will equip you with the tools needed to build enviable arm strength and definition.

The Significance of Triceps in Arm Development

Before we dive into lateral head tricep exercises, it's crucial to grasp the fundamental role the triceps play in arm development. Comprising three distinct heads – the lateral head, the long head, and the medial head – the triceps brachii is responsible for extending the elbow, a motion crucial for many daily activities and athletic performance. Focusing on the lateral head, our main topic, can dramatically improve the aesthetics and functionality of your arms.

The Aesthetic and Functional Benefits of a Well-Developed Lateral Head

When you think about having strong and visually appealing arms, it's often the lateral head of the triceps that makes the difference. Developing this part of your triceps creates the coveted "horseshoe" shape, giving your arms a fuller, more impressive look. Moreover, a well-developed lateral head contributes significantly to your overall arm strength, enhancing your performance in pushing movements, such as bench presses and push-ups.

Anatomy of the Triceps

To master tricep training, understanding the anatomy of the triceps is essential. The triceps brachii is situated on the posterior side of the upper arm, connecting the humerus bone to the forearm via the olecranon process of the ulna. The lateral head, which we'll focus on, resides on the outer side of the triceps, and its development can significantly contribute to the distinct look of well-defined arms.

Why Isolating and Training the Lateral Head Matters

The lateral head, also known as the lateral or outer head, is crucial for achieving balanced arm development. When trained effectively, it accentuates the outer part of your triceps, making your arms look broader and more muscular. It's essential to isolate and work on this head specifically to ensure a proportional, well-rounded arm appearance.

Benefits of Training the Lateral Head

You might wonder why it's essential to target the lateral head specifically when working on your triceps. The answer lies in the aesthetic and functional advantages of doing so.

Aesthetic Impact on Overall Arm Appearance

A chiseled lateral head creates the much-desired horseshoe shape, making your arms appear more substantial and more defined. Whether you're flexing on the beach or lifting weights in the gym, a developed lateral head sets you apart and signals your dedication to arm training.

Functional Implications in Strength and Performance

Lateral head development doesn't just look good; it's essential for improving your arm's strength and performance. Whether you're pushing your body weight up in a push-up or bench pressing heavy weights, the lateral head contributes significantly to these movements. The stronger your lateral head, the more power and stability you can generate in pushing exercises.

6 Lateral Head Tricep Exercises to Try

Now that we understand the importance of the lateral head, let's dive into six effective tricep exercises designed to target this specific area. These exercises are designed to help you maximize lateral head development while minimizing the risk of injury.

Dumbbell Skull Crushers

Dumbbell skull crushers are a fantastic isolation exercise for the lateral head of the triceps. 

To perform this exercise

  • Lie flat on a bench, ensuring your feet are planted firmly on the ground.
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand, arms extended straight up.
  • Lower the dumbbells towards your forehead, keeping your upper arms stationary.
  • Press the dumbbells back up, extending your arms.

Proper form, controlled breathing, and safety precautions are crucial. Use a weight that challenges you without compromising your form.

Benefits of Dumbbell Skull Crushers

Dumbbell skull crushers are an exceptional choice for targeting the lateral head because they provide a deep stretch and an effective contraction. The exercise recruits the triceps effectively and encourages muscle growth in the lateral head.

Tricep Pushdowns (Cable Machine)

Tricep pushdowns with a cable machine are a staple in tricep training. The exercise targets the lateral head effectively, and here's how to perform it

  • Attach a rope or bar handle to the high pulley of a cable machine.
  • Stand facing the machine, feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Grip the handle and extend your arms fully, elbows by your sides.
  • Push the handle down until your arms are fully extended.

Highlighting different grip options is essential to ensure variety in your training routine.

Benefits of Tricep Pushdowns

Tricep pushdowns with a cable machine allow for consistent tension on the lateral head throughout the movement. Different grip options, such as a rope or bar handle, enable you to target the lateral head from various angles, promoting balanced development.

Close-Grip Bench Press

The close-grip bench press is a compound exercise that primarily targets the triceps. To maximize lateral head engagement, follow these steps

  • Lie on a flat bench, gripping the barbell with your hands placed closer than shoulder-width apart.
  • Lower the bar to your chest, keeping your elbows close to your body.
  • Push the bar back up to full extension.

Explaining variations for different fitness levels ensures everyone can benefit from this exercise.

Benefits of Close-Grip Bench Press

The close-grip bench press engages not only the lateral head but also the long head of the triceps, providing a well-rounded tricep workout. The exercise is excellent for building strength and size in the triceps, enhancing the lateral head's appearance.

Diamond Push-Ups

Diamond push-ups are a bodyweight exercise that effectively targets the lateral head. 

Here's how to perform them

  • Assume a push-up position, but bring your hands close together under your chest, forming a diamond shape with your thumbs and index fingers.
  • Lower your body until your chest almost touches your hands.
  • Push your body back up to the starting position.

Providing tips for beginners and advanced practitioners ensures that anyone can benefit from this exercise 

Benefits of Diamond Push-Ups

Diamond push-ups are a versatile exercise suitable for both beginners and advanced practitioners. This bodyweight exercise places significant emphasis on the lateral head and triceps, helping to develop strength and definition in the area.

Kettlebell Tricep Extensions (aka Kettlebell Skull Crushers)

Kettlebell tricep extensions, also known as kettlebell skull crushers, provide a unique twist on the traditional skull crusher exercise. 

Here's how to perform them

  • Lie on a bench, feet flat on the floor, holding a kettlebell with both hands above your chest.
  • Bend your elbows and lower the kettlebell towards your forehead.
  • Extend your arms to return to the starting position.

Emphasize the proper setup and execution of the exercise, including how to hold the kettlebell securely to avoid accidents.

Benefits of Kettlebell Tricep Extensions

Kettlebell tricep extensions are an excellent choice for targeting the lateral head while adding a stability challenge. The unique shape of the kettlebell necessitates a stable grip and controlled movement, leading to enhanced lateral head development.

Kettlebell Overhead Tricep Extension

Kettlebell overhead tricep extensions are another kettlebell exercise for targeting the lateral head. 

Here's how to perform them

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a kettlebell with both hands above your head.
  • Lower the kettlebell behind your head by bending your elbows.
  • Extend your arms to lift the kettlebell back up.

Stress the importance of stability and control during the exercise and mention variations like single-arm kettlebell tricep extensions for added challenge.

Benefits of Kettlebell Overhead Tricep Extension

Kettlebell overhead tricep extensions require balance and stability while working the lateral head of the triceps. The exercise is a valuable addition to your tricep routine for well-rounded development.

Common Mistakes to Avoid While Performing Lateral Head Tricep Exercises

Understanding the common mistakes made during tricep exercises can help you achieve better results and prevent injuries. Here are some prevalent errors and guidance on how to correct them:

Allowing Elbow Flare

One common mistake is allowing the elbows to flare outward during exercises like skull crushers or bench presses. This places unnecessary stress on the shoulder joint and reduces tricep activation. To correct this, ensure your elbows remain close to your body throughout the movement.

Using Too Much Weight

Using excessively heavy weights can compromise your form and increase the risk of injury. Focus on lifting weights that allow you to maintain proper form while still providing a challenging workout for your triceps.

Neglecting Full Range of Motion

Partial repetitions limit the effectiveness of tricep exercises. Ensure that you perform a full range of motion, allowing your triceps to stretch and contract fully, to maximize lateral head development.

Poor Breathing Technique

Proper breathing is often overlooked during resistance training. Exhale during the concentric phase (lifting) and inhale during the eccentric phase (lowering) to stabilize your core and improve your overall performance.

Ignoring Rest and Recovery

Overtraining can hinder progress and increase the risk of injury. Allow your triceps sufficient time to recover between workouts and prioritize adequate sleep and nutrition to support muscle growth.

Sample Lateral Head Tricep Workout Routine

To effectively target the lateral head and build well-rounded tricep strength, consider incorporating the following workout routine into your fitness regimen

  • Dumbbell Skull Crushers: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Tricep Pushdowns (Cable Machine): 3 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Close-Grip Bench Press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Diamond Push-Ups: 2 sets to failure
  • Kettlebell Tricep Extensions: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Kettlebell Overhead Tricep Extension: 2 sets of 12-15 reps

Remember to warm up with light, dynamic stretches and cool down with static stretches to prevent injury and aid recovery.

Safety Precautions

To prevent injuries and ensure a productive workout, it's essential to prioritize safety when performing lateral head tricep exercises. 

Here are some safety precautions to consider

  1. Use proper form, always use proper form and technique when performing tricep exercises to reduce the risk of injury.
  2. Start with appropriate weight, choose a weight that challenges you without compromising your form.
  3. Consult professionals, If you're new to tricep training or have any health concerns, consult a fitness professional or physician for guidance.
  4. Listen to your body, pay attention to your body's signals and avoid overtraining or pushing through pain.

Progression and Variation

To continuously challenge your triceps and promote growth, it's vital to incorporate progressive overload and exercise variation into your routine. Progressive overload involves gradually increasing the weight, repetitions, or sets to keep pushing your limits and stimulating muscle growth. Additionally, varying your exercises keeps your workouts exciting and targets the muscles from different angles.

Nutrition and Recovery

Muscle growth is not solely dependent on exercise. Proper nutrition and recovery are equally essential. Ensure you're consuming adequate protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates to support muscle growth. Hydration is crucial for maintaining workout performance and recovery.

A balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals is also essential. For optimal muscle recovery and growth, prioritize sleep and stress management.


In summary, the lateral head of the triceps is a crucial aspect of achieving well-rounded arm development, both in terms of aesthetics and functionality. Targeting this area with specific exercises can make a significant difference in the appearance of your arms and your performance in various upper body exercises. By following the exercises and guidelines outlined in this guide, you'll be on your way to building stronger, more defined triceps.

Don't forget that safety, progression, and variation are key elements of an effective tricep training routine. It's not just about lifting weights; it's about doing so intelligently and sustainably.

Incorporate these lateral head tricep exercises into your fitness regimen, pay attention to form, and prioritize your nutrition and recovery. With dedication and consistency, you'll see impressive gains in no time.