Man sitting at a machine in the gym.

The Long Head

Alright. Triceps. Some people prioritize biceps, but we all know our triceps are much more important. Biceps look nice, you can show them off and probably turn some heads. While not always as flashy, triceps make up a much larger part of our upper arms and generate much more power.

Everyone knows they are important but most people don’t know how to exercise them properly, mainly because they don’t understand the anatomy of a tricep. You’re probably here for some long head tricep exercises and we’ll get there, but first we need to go through some stuff before we do.

The Trio: Importance of All 3 Tricep Heads

The word ‘Tri’ means three, and since it’s called a ‘tricep’ I bet you can deduce that means there are three distinct parts to it. Contrast that with the word ‘bicep’ which has the prefix ‘bi’ for two parts to it.

Each part of a tricep is important. Here’s a short overview of them:

They each have differences, but the long head has the most potential for growth so it deserves a bit more attention than the other two. Not because it is more important, but just because it can potentially be grown much larger and faster than the medial and potentially even the lateral.

Make it Count: The Need for Optimized Triceps Training

Imagine if you only put jelly on one slice of bread in your sandwich. It wouldn’t taste as good, right? The same goes for your triceps workout. By making sure all three parts of your triceps get a good workout, and giving some extra love to that long head, you’ll notice the difference! Not only will your daily activities become easier, but you’ll also start to see some impressive muscles and all your other pressing movements will be much stronger.

Plus, a more stable shoulder is always a good shoulder. Injuries can occur with poor stability, so fixing that issue right off the bat should be a top reason to focus here. While your triceps don’t work alone to stabilize your shoulder, a strong set can absolutely help.

The Anatomy and Function of the Triceps

Here’s a quick run down of what each part, or ‘head’, of the triceps actually does for us. It’ll help you understand why it’s important to train them all but also why the long head should get some more attention.

  • Long Head: This guy is responsible for extending your arm at the elbow or shoulder, allowing us to either reach behind us or stretch our arms out.
  • Medial Head: The Medial head is the hidden power when it comes to actions needing serious strength. But, it can also give you some fine motor control for precise actions while generating immense power.
  • Lateral Head: The Lateral head is the dude who shines when you need to push something away, reach for a door, or throw a ball.

Together, they form a team. Without any of them life would be pretty hard, your arms would be (are?) tiny, and pressing movements would be far less powerful than they could be.

The Triceps’ Magic Tricks: The Function of the Triceps

Triceps are the ‘how’ behind when you:

  • Straighten your arm to reach for something tall.
  • Push open a heavy door.
  • Lift something like a school backpack.
  • Wave at your friends.
  • Move your shoulder or lift your arm in (almost) any fashion.
  • Push things away with your arms.

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Unique Long Head Features

There’s something extra special about the long head of the triceps muscle. Not only is it the biggest of the three, but it has a unique role in different movements. Let’s explore!

Important Functions

The long head of the triceps does some pretty cool things that make it stand out from its tricep siblings.

  • Double the arm action: This part of the muscle helps you straighten and bring down your arm.
  • Arm-controller: The long head is super useful for steadying your arm in certain positions. Thank you for the balance!
  • Back of the arm dream team: With the long head’s help, your arm can rotate back in a nice smooth motion.

Plus, if you are chasing symmetry you want to grow the long head to match the lateral head (which is the horseshoe looking muscle on the outside of your arm).

Training the Long Head: Results Done Right

If you’re serious about building arm mass and overall strength you need to actually work them. There are a ton of tricep exercises out there, but not all of them focus as much as they could on the long head.

Let’s break down the exercises into a few different categories: Bodyweight, Weighted Isolation, and Weighted Compound

Long Head Tricep Bodyweight Exercises

Whether you have a gym membership or not, bodyweight exercises are a great way to build strength. There are some pretty awesome ones available for working the long head of your triceps too.

Diamond Push-ups: More Than Just an Arm Exercise

Push-ups, they’re not just a classic, they’re a classic for a reason! Here’s why the diamond variety is a great exercise for that long head:

  • Comprehensive: Not only do diamond pushup work the long head, they also help train your chest and shoulder muscles.
  • Versatility: You can do them anywhere.
  • Lesson: Toss these in a few times a week.

They don’t require any equipment and can be done anywhere. Your kitchen, living room, next to your bed, the office, the gym. Even the bathroom floor if you feel like that’s your thing.

Dips: The Upper Body Champion

Dips could be your new best friend if you want to grow your triceps.

  • Tricep-focused: Dips can seriously target your triceps, including the long head. They are each activated to a greater degree during different ranges of the movement.
  • Multiple ways to achieve: You can do them on the floor, using a chair, or on parallel bars while staying upright and focusing on lowering and lifting your body without aid.
  • Stamina: Over time your body will adapt and allow you to do more and more. This will translate to weighted exercises as you get further along.

Don’t skimp on dips. They might need a bit more space, but they are worth it.

Long Head Tricep Isolation Exercises

Isolation exercises are those that only target one muscle or muscle group instead of multiple. When it comes to arms, there are a lot of isolation exercises to choose from. Here are three isolation exercises that’ll have that long head properly exercised.

Dumbbell Kickbacks

If you want to feel it, dumbbell kickbacks are what you want:

  • Get Set: Bend at the waist, bend at the elbows so your arms are at your side while the dumbbell is vertical to the floor.
  • Push It: Extend your arm at the elbow using your triceps until your fully extended. Focus on the contraction.
  • Secrets of Success: Remember, your elbows should stay close to your body and only your forearms should move.

You don’t need to go heavy with this and you won’t gain a ton of mass, but you will absolutely feel what total contraction feels like and help you build that mind-muscle connection.

Overhead Tricep Extension

The long head wants/needs full stretch, so what’s the best way to do that? By putting them in a position that gives them the most length possible which means raising the arm over your head. Enter the overhead tricep extension:

  • Grab Hold: Find a weight that’s right for you. Hold it with both hands and raise it over your head until your elbows are extended.
  • Dip It Down: Bend at the elbow, lowering the weight behind your head.
  • Stretch It Out: Lift it back up until full extension.

Really extend as far as your range of motion allows you. This one might not be on your plate if you have shoulder issues, but it’s a go-to for growth.

Skull Crushers

Don’t worry, this exercise is way more fun than its name! It’s great all around and could be added into any routine, but it is also a great substitute if you can’t do overhead extensions due to shoulder issues.

  • Lie Down: Start by lying on your back with a suitable weight.
  • Raise It: Hold the weight above you with your arms fully extended.
  • Bend the Elbow: Lower the weight down towards your forehead by bending your elbows.
  • Raise Again: Extend your arms and lift the weight again.

If you want an even better extension, lower the weight down behind your head. Changing the angle of your shoulders even a little bit towards your head increases the length of the movement and the overall effectiveness.

Long Head Tricep Compound Exercises

If you have been on this blog for awhile you will know that compound exercises are exercises that recruit multiple muscle groups at once. Bench press is one of the most well known compound exercises, for example. When it comes to compound tricep exercises for the long head it gets a bit more tricky. You won’t find a compound exercise that is mainly recruiting the long head, or even the triceps as a whole. Instead, you will find compounds that heavily recruit triceps but rely mainly on other muscle groups, such as the chest. Regardless, here are some of the best options for you in this realm.

Close Grip Bench Press

By changing a regular bench press into a close grip bench press, you really hit those triceps. Now, you (probably) won’t be benching 315 with close grip but with some effort and consistency you can move a lot of weight and grow those triceps.

  • The Setup: Lie on a bench and grip the bar closer than shoulder-width. Your palms should be facing away from you: This is important.
  • The Action: Lower the bar to your chest, then push it up, all while maintaining the close grip and keeping your elbows close to your sides.
  • The Payoff: Growth.

Your chest and shoulders will also feel this, but your triceps will get a good amount out of close grip bench.

Weighted Dips: The Power Pusher

These are just like regular dips, but with weight. Once bodyweight dips get to be too easy or you simply want a harder challenge strap on a weight belt, some ankle weights, or use the weighted dip machine at the gym. The extra weight will cause more stimulus, and by extension more growth.

  • The Start: Just wear a weighted belt or hold a dumbbell between your ankles. If you are on a machine, grasp the handles after loading the weight.
  • The Maneuver: Lower your body, or press the dip bars if on a machine, by bending your arms. Then push yourself back up.
  • The Gains: Your triceps work extra hard to lift the extra weight.

Weighted dips are extra difficult. Adding just 10-20 extra pounds can really throw your triceps for a loop. Remember to stay upright to avoid using too much chest.

Cable Crossbody Tricep Extension

Remember when I said that the better the stretch, the more growth? These will hit that requirement.

  • Cable Grip: Grab a cable in each hand from the opposite side (i. e. Grasp the cable on the right with your left hand, and the cable on the left with your right hand)
  • Press It: Extend at the elbow and hold the contraction at the bottom before releasing it.
  • Feel It: While not overhead or behind your back, the additional range of motion and contraction will have your triceps screaming.

Try extending behind your back with these for even more stretch.


There are some pretty awesome exercises for the long head of your triceps! It’s important to hit each head consistently and with enough stimulus to grow them:

  • All-rounded: Remember, your tricep makes up a large part of your arm. So, when we work out the long head of the tricep, we’re making our whole arm stronger, bigger, and more symmetrical.
  • Variety: The great range of exercises means we’re always mixing things up. That ensures our bodies don’t get too comfortable and stop challenging themselves into growth.
  • Attention: The long head is unique. Giving it its own workout helps us fully benefit from its special skills.

Simply put, these workouts are a massive treat for your tricep and arm!

Impacts on Pressing Movements

A strong long head tricep equals better pressing power. Here’s how:

  • Power Up: Exercises like the bench press and push-ups become easier and more powerful.
  • Steady Now: Your arm becomes more stable which is super handy for any pressing moves.
  • Compound Bonus: With compound exercises, other parts of your body—like your shoulders and chest—also get stronger!

Tricep Exercises For Aesthetics

Regular tricep exercises don’t just make you stronger, they make your arms the envy of those around you.

  • Shape Up: These workouts can help give your arm a defined, toned look.
  • Size Counts: As your tricep makes up a good chunk of your arm, making it stronger can make your arm bigger.

Let Us Help You Out

I want to help you achieve better physical and mental health through exercise. Check out the plans I offer to my clients and see if you could benefit from working with me. If you have questions, you can always contact me through the Contact Us page

Personal trainers, like myself, can help guide you on your pathway towards reaching your fitness goals, whether that is getting bigger, stronger, faster, more lean, or just generally feeling better.

If you choose to join one of my programs I’ll get you setup with a periodized workout plan, supplement information, and advice on nutrition to help you reach your goals. I also do advisory services that guide you along and answer questions you have if you don’t want a fully customized service.

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