Lateral head tricep exercises for toned arms

Are you looking to increase the size of your arms or have them look more defined? Lateral head tricep exercises are the best way to increase your triceps size, which is the muscle that is the most visible from the side and outside part of your arm.

You can build your triceps by adding muscle mass and balance to your overall physique. 

woman doing triangle pushups to work triceps

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About tricep muscle group

Triceps account for about 60% of your arm size. Your triceps brachii consists of three muscles:

  • Long head – inside upper arm
  • Medial head – between the long and medial heads
  • Lateral head – outside upper arm

The lateral head of the triceps muscle is the outermost muscle; together with the long head of the triceps will form a horseshoe shape at the back of your arm when well developed.

How to target the lateral head of the triceps?

Compound and isolation exercises are effective as a part of you triceps workout.

Elbow extension is the primary action of the lateral head of triceps. Movements like the overhead press or pressing movements like the bench press, dips and tricep pushdowns.

Lateral head tricep exercises for all fitness levels

The best way to target your lateral head is to keep your arms tucked into your sides with an overhand grip. While overhead exercises are great for targeting the long head, they also engage the lateral head of your triceps. 

overhead tricep extensions

Overhead triceps extensions

You can do these overhead extensions with dumbbells or cables.

  • Hold the weight overhead by grasping the inside dumbbell plate surface with both hands.
  • Slowly bend your elbows and lower the weight behind your head as far as you can.
  • Then, at the lowest point, straighten your elbows and extend the weight back overhead.
  • Hold the fully extended position for a moment, then repeat.

Triangle push-ups also known as diamond push-ups

These are done similar to regular push-ups, but your fingers are placed close together in a triangle share under your chest.

  • Hand placement will be on the ground, under your lower chest/upper abdomen.
  • Lying face down, you will push the ground away from you until your elbows are at complete extension.
  • Make sure that your hips don’t drop or shift excessively.
  • Lower back down toward the ground.

Close grip bench press

You can do these on a flat bench or on a Smith machine.

  • As you lay under the bar on a flat bench, make sure your shoulders are slightly in front of the bar to minimize the line of travel after you unrack the bar.
  • Position your hands about shoulder width apart, stacking your wrists to prevent injury.
  • Use the weight of the bar to drive your shoulders back into the bench.
  • Lift the bar out of the rack until the barbell is positioned over your mid-chest.
  • Lower the barbell in a slow and controlled motion until touching the chest.
  • Squeeze the triceps and push the bar straight up, keeping your elbows tucked to complete the movement.

Vbar cable pressdowns

  • Stand in front of a cable machine with a straight bar or v-bar tricep press down attachment with your feet together and your knees slightly bent. 
  • Using an overhand grip, firmly grasp the bar at chest height. 
  • Keeping your back straight and your core tight, press the bar downward.
  • Your elbows should remain tucked so that only your forearms move. Keep your upper arms locked in place.
  •  At the bottom of the movement hold and squeeze your triceps.
  • Let your arms return to the starting position using a slow and controlled motion.

Note: It’s natural to lean forward while doing a tricep pushdown. Tip: Hold your chest up and keep your back straight.

woman doing bench dip exercises in the gym
bench dip lateral head tricep exercises

Tricep dips (weighted or body weight)

  • Stand in front of a bench, facing away from it.
  • Sit on the very edge of the bench with your palms resting on either side of your hips.
  • Slowly lift your glutes off the bench and step out so that your legs are fully extended in front of you.
  • Keeping your head and chest elevated, slowly lower yourself down toward the floor. Your palms should remain flat against the surface of the bench with your elbows tucked to your sides.
  • Lower until your elbows reach 90-degrees, then extend upward until your arms are fully extended.
  • Repeat the motion, keeping your core tight.

EZ bar skull crushers

  • Lie on a bench with an EZ bar held in an overhand grip, with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Start with your arms at 90 degrees or just short of touching your forehead
  • Stretch your arms overhead until your arms are fully extended.
  • Keeping your elbows tucked and upper arms still, lower the weight toward your head until you reach 90 degrees.
  • Repeat
kickbacks lateral head tricep exercises
woman doing dumbbell kickbacks lateral head tricep exercises

Tricep kickbacks (cable or dumbbells)

  • Hold a dumbbell in one hand and bend at the hips until the torso is almost parallel to the ground.
  • Start with the elbow flexed at 90 degrees, drive the hand back into complete elbow extension.
  • To complete the repetition, bring the elbow back to 90 degrees.
  • Repeat this with the other arm.

Overhead press

  • Grip width is slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Firmly grasp the bar with the base of your hand.
  • The bar should rest on your clavicle/upper chest upon the unrack.
  • Elbows should be in front of the bar to direct the line of travel for the movement.
  • Build tension in your lats by breaking the bar with the outside pinkies.
  • While moving your head back, drive the weight of the bar overhead until elbows are at complete extension.
  • At lockout, the bar should be directly over the shoulder joint.
  • Control the weight of the bar back into the starting position, while being mindful of the head.

According to an American Council of Exercise study, triangle push-ups are one of the best lateral head tricep exercises you can do. It is closely followed by dips and dumbbell kickbacks.

Triceps workouts with a focus on the lateral head

Here are two triceps workout examples with a focus on the lateral head:

  1. Close grip bench press: 4 sets of 12 reps
  2. Triceps dips: 4 sets to failure
  3. V-bar cable press downs: 3 sets of 10 reps
  4. dumbbell kickbacks: 4 sets of 10 reps


  1. Triangle (Diamond) push-ups: 4 sets of 8-12 reps.
  2. Overhead tricep extensions: 4 sets of 12 reps.
  3. Triceps kickbacks: 4 sets of 12-15 reps.


Printable workout log

Keep track of your workout

When should you train triceps?

Many people incorporate tricep workouts into shoulders or chest day. You also could add an arms only day so that they aren’t worn out when focusing on other muscle groups.

How often should you train triceps?

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults should do muscle-strengthening activities targeting all major muscle groups at least twice a week.

Wrap up

You do not need heavy weight to train your triceps muscle. You can use lighter weight with proper form and feel the muscle in the back of your upper arm.

Since there are three heads of the triceps and they are a larger portion of your arm, they deserve more attention than your biceps.

You won’t necessarily develop bigger arms through strength training, but you will have stronger arms.

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