tricep exercises featured image

Most Effective Long Head Tricep Exercises 

With over 15 years of health and fitness experience, Strength Bible founder Ben Hardman takes us through his 10 go-to long head triceps exercises for bigger arms.

Are you on a mission to develop your triceps? Are you looking to focus in on the long head muscle fibres in particular?

If so, you’ve made it to the right place.

Training triceps is one of my favourite sessions. There’s something highly satisfying in feeling the burn at the back of your arm and witnessing the horseshoe-shape develop over time.

3 heads of triceps

Of your three tricep muscle heads, the long head is the largest. Its size helps to make up the bulk of your upper arm. If you extend your arm out to the side with your palm facing up, the lower section between your elbow and shoulder is where you’ll find the long head.

Untrained people might know this as the so-called ‘bingo wing’. But not here.

To us, this long head triceps segment is our key to big, strong, solid arms. It’s not just about size either. A well-developed long head contributes to impressive, well-defined aesthetics.

To get to this point though, you need to get your exercise selection right. This will make sure the specific long head tricep is hit.

Here’s where I can help.

In this article, I’ll share my top science-backed long head triceps exercises to help you on your muscle building journey.

My Top 10 Long Head Tricep Exercises

Each of the three tricep heads converge to a single point at the elbow. This means that you’ll be hitting your entire triceps muscle with all of the below exercises to some degree.

However, due to the anatomy of the triceps fibres, you can target certain regions of the muscle with specific exercises.

Here are my top 10 exercises to put emphasis onto the long head tricep.

Weighted Dips

Exercise type: Compound

Reps: 6-10

I love a weighted dip. They’re also a fantastic exercise for developing the long head of the tricep.

The weighted dip is a compound movement. It allows you to progressively overload the muscle over time, meaning you can add more weight to keep the growth coming. I’d stick to the lower rep range, so that you can push more weight.

To focus on the triceps here, make sure you maintain an upright body position as you lower down and move back up. This is opposed to leaning forward, which will engage the pecs more.

Close-Grip Bench Press

Exercise type: Compound

Reps: 6-12

By narrowing your grip from the standard bench press position, you’ll move the emphasis away from the chest and onto the triceps.

It’s best to position your hands anywhere from 4 to 15 inches apart. This all depends on your wrist flexibility.

Your hands shouldn’t be positioned outside the line of your shoulders if you’re looking to work the long head tricep. If your wrists are a problem, consider using wrist wraps for added support.

I often do this for the heavy pressing sets. When the wraps go on, business is going down!

With the narrow bench press, bring your elbows out to the side as you lower the weight. This will put further emphasis onto the triceps and the long head section.

Incline Triceps Kickback

Exercise type: Isolation

Reps: 12-15

Research has shown that of the tricep exercises, the incline tricep kickbacks are one of the most effective exercises for activating the long head fibres.

It’s the combination of high elbow position and body angle that maximises the effect of the move. The result is a stronger contraction in the long head. You’ll want to make sure you keep your arm close to your body too.

Although you can’t use heavy weights for the incline kickback, your triceps will get a good working over and it will give you a great pump!

Cable Tricep Kickback

Exercise type: Isolation

Reps: 12-15

The cable kickback is a variation of the dumbbell move described above. I wouldn’t do them both in the same workout, but it’s good to have options in your locker.

The differences in angles and motions between the kickbacks will hit your triceps fibres differently too.

With the cable exercises, you get constant tension as soon as you take the weight. This makes sure your triceps are engaged throughout the full range of motion. An excellent exercise for targeting the long head.

Incline Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extension

Exercise type: Isolation

Reps: 10-12

Another great exercise to really stretch out the long head through its entire range.

With the incline dumbbell overhead extension, you’ll need just one dumbbell. Lie back on the incline bench and position your arms vertically above.

Now, move your shoulders and arms back slightly to create a wider angle from your body. This emphasises the stretch in your long head triceps even more.

From this starting position, lower the dumbbell behind your neck and extend your arms back up again. Aim for 10-12 reps here.

Cable Pushdown

Exercise type: Isolation

Reps: 10-15

The cable pushdown is one of my all-time favourite exercises. It also happens to be a great exercise to target the long head as outlined in the Strength and Conditioning study by Behrens and Buskies.

It’s simple but brutal. You can go heavy with this exercise too, which is always a winner for me.

A top tip to target the long head tricep is to use a straight bar or grip, as opposed to a rope. The rope puts more focus on the lateral head, whereas a bar will hit the long head more effectively.

Cable Rope Overhead Extension

Exercise type: Isolation

Reps: 12-15

The cable rope overhead extension is an excellent, if not slightly spicy isolation exercise for the long head triceps.

Take a grip of the rope and turn so you’re facing away from the cable machine. Bring the rope up so it’s near your trapezius at the back of your neck. This is the starting position.

Push and extend the rope up above your head so your triceps are fully stretched out. Blast out 12-15 reps of the overhead extension for a nice burn.

High Cable Overhead Rope Extension

Exercise type: Isolation

Reps: 12-15

You’ll need the same kit here as the overhead cable extension, but the movement is quite different.

Start with the cable and rope in a high position at the machine. Take the handles and lean forward. You’ll be extending your arms in a horizontal plane to hit those long head fibres from a different angle.

Keep your elbows in a high, elevated position to zone in on the long head.

EZ Bar Skullcrusher

Exercise type: Isolation

Reps: 10-15

On to an old-school favourite – the EZ bar skullcrusher.

This is a classic triceps burner. It has a similar type of movement to many of the other exercises listed here, but again we’re mixing up the angles.

I sometimes find the EZ bar a little cumbersome to manoeuvre, which is why I’ve recently been performing this exercise with a pair of light dumbbells. Try both ways and see what you think.

Diamond Press-Up

Exercise type: Bodyweight

Reps: 15-20

Bodyweight exercises can often get overlooked – I’m guilty of this too. But when performed at volume, they can be very handy for muscle growth. They’re also functional too.

The diamond press-up can be done anywhere. As you’re getting into position, place your hands close to each other so that your hands form a diamond shape. It might look more like a triangle.

The diamond position flares your elbows out a little more, to get that extra hit on the long head.

If this feels uncomfortable, try a close-grip press-up where your thumbs are almost touching on the floor.

How To Add Real Size To Your Long Head Triceps?

To understand how to add real size to your long head triceps, let’s take a quick look at the anatomy of the triceps muscle in general.

The primary function of the triceps is to extend your elbow. Your biceps then kick in to flex your elbow back again. This means your triceps are actively engaged during all pressing and pushing movements. The muscle also provides support to the elbow and shoulder joints they connect together.

To give its proper name, the triceps brachii is made up of three heads – hence the name ‘tri’.  On the other side of your upper arm, the bicep muscle consists of two heads, hence ‘bi’.

The three heads of the triceps are:

  • Long head – This is the largest section of the muscle and runs down the inside of your upper arm. It extends from near your elbow all the way to the back of your shoulder blade. This is why it’s called the long head.
  • Lateral head – The lateral section is the most visible head from the side. When developed it sticks out like a mini-shelf. This head gives your triceps good width.
  • Medial head – The least visible of the three, the medial head plays an important role in strength building and overall triceps shape.

In a way, the triceps are similar to the deltoid muscle surrounding the shoulder, which is also composed of three sections.

When all three tricep heads are trained and developed, you get the sought-after horseshoe shape. This is the key to adding real size to the muscle.

While all tricep exercises will engage the three heads to some degree, you can choose specific exercises to focus on developing a particular head. That’s why it’s important to plan out your arm workouts for maximum effectiveness.

Best Way To Train Your Long Head Triceps For Growth

To train your long head triceps effectively for growth, you need to combine compound movements with isolation exercises.

This is my go-to for growing most muscle groups. To be science-backed however, it’s wise to know what kind of muscle fibres you’re training. 

Interestingly, the triceps are predominantly made up of type 2 muscle fibres. These respond better to heavy weight training. 

This means you need to hit the compound pressing movements for effective tricep growth. Barbell bench press, dumbbell press and all types of shoulder pressing are going to play a significant role in your triceps development. They’ll do the majority of the heavy lifting, so to speak.

For me, a successful tricep training strategy involves using heavy weights first, followed by isolation exercises of higher reps with lower weights.

A good routine will consist of one or two compound movements followed by two or three isolation exercises. Of course, this can and will differ from person to person.

Angles play an important role too. You want to hit the muscle from various positions to really work it. For compounds, I like to incorporate a horizontal and vertical movement.

Then it’s on to the isolation exercises where you can work different angles to determine where the emphasis is placed on your triceps. If you’re focusing on your long head, you’ll choose some of the exercises from the ones above that will activate this section the most.

Final Thoughts On Building Your Long Head Triceps

Building your long head triceps will benefit you and your training in a few ways.

Firstly, it will help develop well-defined, head-turning arms. This is probably your main goal.

But strengthening the long head will also help you make progress in the big compound lifts – namely the bench press and shoulder press. In turn, these exercises will significantly work your long head triceps.

The heavy compound press movements should form the foundation of your triceps training. The isolation exercises and specific long head triceps exercises in this article will then help to sculpt and grow your fibres further.

Remember, all progress takes time. Keep turning up and training with science behind you. All that’s left now is to do the hard work in the gym!


Effective tricep exercise study

Tricep muscle fibre types

Similar Posts