What is the long head of your triceps?
Well, the long head is one of the three major heads that make up your triceps muscle.
It’s the largest and the longest of the three, hence the name: the long head!
Your triceps or triceps brachii is the large muscle located on the back of your upper arm between your shoulder and your elbow. In a lot of ways, it resembles the shape of a horseshoe!
Most people think the head is just one big muscle ... But "tri" means three, which is where the triceps gets its name. There are three heads that make up the muscle:
- The Long Head
- The Lateral Head
- The Medial Head
The "head" is just the point it comes from, one on the scapula (your shoulder blade) and two on the humerus (the bone of your upper arm). These heads work together to extend your elbow!
So, why are we only focusing on the long head? Well, not only is it the largest and the longest, making up most of your muscle, but unlike the other two heads, the long head also has a second major function — shoulder extension! This is because it crosses at both the elbow and your shoulder.
Your triceps actually make up around two thirds of your upper arm, which means they’re bigger than your biceps. So, if you want to have those toned or jacked arms, it’s important to exercise them!
Working your triceps is more than just an important muscle for toning up and or building mass, however ... it’s also important for shoulder & elbow support, as well as stability. They also act as a foundation for a ton of other movements in the gym.
By working out your long head muscle, and your triceps as a whole, you can...
- Build and tone the upper body muscles
- Increase overall arm strength, power, and endurance
- Improve range of motion
- Improve shoulder and elbow stability
So without keeping you waiting ... here are some of my favorite triceps exercises for blasting your triceps, specifically, the long head!
10 Long Head Triceps Exercises
All triceps exercises are going to work the long head to some capacity, and they’ll also work both the medial and the lateral heads as well. This is great news because these exercises will help with the overall strength, size, and appearance of your triceps.
Let's get to it...
1. Diamond Pushups
Start by getting on the ground in a push-up position. Place your hands together so that your pointer fingers and thumbs are touching. They should make a triangle or a diamond shape.
Keeping your body straight, lower your chest toward your hands, making sure you don’t flare your elbows out to the sides (you want them coming in and brushing your side).
Stop before your chest hits the floor and press yourself back up to where you started. You will feel the burn after just a few reps!
2. Triceps Dips
You can do this exercise with a dip machine or even just on a bench. For the sake of keeping it simple ... we'll use a bench. Sit on the ground to the side of a bench, with your upper back resting on the bench.
From here, draw your arms behind you and rest your palms on the bench with your elbows pointed up and straight back. Straighten your legs in front of you and raise your butt off the ground ... you should only be supported by your legs and arms.
Push through your arms to raise your body up until your arms are fully extended behind you. Once you reach the top of this movement, slowly bend your elbows and bring your hips back to the ground, while still keeping your butt off the floor. This is one rep.
3. Close-Grip Bench Press
For this exercise, you'll need a bench and a barbell or EZ bar. Lie with your back flat on the bench and place your feet on both sides of the bench. Roll your shoulders back while keeping your butt and shoulders on the bench.
Grab the bar slightly closer than shoulder width apart and position it above your chest ... arms fully extended.
Now, slowly lower the bar to your chest. As your elbows fall to either side, keep them close to your body. Once the bar reaches your chest, push through your triceps and chest to extend your arms and lift the bar above your chest.
I advise using a spotter or going lighter weight if you've never done this exercise before. Safety always comes first.
4. Rolling Dumbbell Extension
For this exercise, you'll need a set of dumbbells and a bench.
Grab a light set of dumbbells and lie with your back flat on the bench. From here, hold the dumbbells straight out in front of you with your palms facing one another.
Bend at the elbows and bring the dumbbells slowly to either side of your head. Now, extend your arms up and out to straighten your elbows.
You should feel your triceps doing the work through this movement.
5. Bent Over Triceps Kickbacks
This is one of my personal favorites and only requires a set of dumbbells!
Stand up tall, then grab the dumbbells and hold them by your sides with your palms facing each other. While keeping your back straight, bend your knees and hinge at the hips to bring your body parallel to the floor. Your arms should be hanging in front of you.
Draw your elbows to your sides, forming a 90-degree angle with your arms. From here, straighten your arms out behind you while keeping your elbows glued to your sides ... no upper arm movement!
When your arms are fully extended behind you, squeeze, then bring them back to that 90-degree angle. This is one rep.
6. Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension
You can either sit on a bench or stand up tall for this exercise. Grab a dumbbell with both hands and sit/stand up tall. Hold on to one end of the dumbbell with both your hands and push the dumbbell overhead.
From here, slowly bring the dumbbell behind your head, keeping your elbows pointed toward the ceiling. When you can't go any further, use your triceps to push the dumbbell back overhead, straightening your arms.
7. Rope Pushdowns
This exercise will require a cable machine and a rope attachment. Set the rope as high as you can on the cable machine and take a few steps back.
Grab both ends of the rope so that your palms are facing each other and your elbows are at your sides. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart.
Now, straighten your arms down and to your sides by squeezing your triceps. At the bottom of the movement, push the rope slightly outward like you're skiing ... this will help fully activate your triceps.
When your arms are fully extended, slowly raise the rope back in front of you, keeping your elbows at your sides. This is one rep.
8. Wide Grip Skull Crusher
Grab a barbell or EZ bar with a wide grip, and lie with your back flat on a bench and hold the weight with your elbows in.
Press the bar straight up in front of your chest. Keeping your arms in one spot, slowly bend at the elbows, allowing the bar to come directly toward your forehead. Right before the bar reaches your forehead, extend you arms straight to bring the weight back up to its starting position.
9. Single-Arm Cable Triceps Pushdown
This exercise is a lot like the rope pulldown, but with one arm! I'll show you how it's done...
Attach a handle to the top of a cable machine and grip the handle with an overhand grip (palm facing down). Bring your arm down so your elbow is right by the midline of your body (90-degree angle).
Keeping your elbow in place, straighten your arm so that your fist meets the top of your thigh. When your arm is fully straight, slowly bring the cable back to the midline of your body.
10. Cable Overhead Triceps Extension
Similarly to the dumbbell overhead extensions, attach a rope to a cable machine ... this time, set the cable at the bottom. Grab the rope attachment and turn your back to the cable machine.
Push the rope overhead, with the cable behind your back. Keep your elbows pointed toward the ceiling as you slowly lower the ropes behind your head. When your arms have fully extended behind you without dropping your elbows, push the rope back overhead, fully extending your arms. This is one rep.
Other Tips For Your Triceps
Now, I know what you may be thinking ... "That's a lot of overhead movements." Yes it is! Studies have shown that the long head of your triceps gets the most activation as the arm moves from overhead to pointing straight down.
That's what makes these overhead tricep exercises great for developing the long head. All of these exercises though do provide a great stretch and workout for your triceps as a whole.
I recommend starting with 2-4 sets of 8-20 reps and pick 1-3 exercises to include in your next upper body/arm day ... or however you like to separate your gym days!
Stimulating your triceps a couple times a week can also make a big difference for their growth and strength. Just make sure you are recovering properly and giving your body the nutrition it needs to repair and build new muscle.
Building muscle in your triceps, arms, or any muscle group, takes a lot of time, energy, and effort ... I get that. If you're not sure where to get started, or you're just looking for more help to assist you with reaching your goals ... reach out to us!
We have a fully-staffed team of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and NASM Certified Nutrition Coaches that will help you for free! They are available Monday through Friday from 6 am to 10 pm CST at 1-800-409-9732 … or anytime via email at CustomerService@1stPhorm.com!
You can also download the 1st Phorm App to access 1-on-1 coaching, full workout programs, nutrition tracking ... and so much more!
I hope you found these long head tricep exercises helpful and you earn the results you're after!
Kholinne E, Zulkarnain RF, Sun YC, Lim S, Chun JM, Jeon IH. The different role of each head of the triceps brachii muscle in elbow extension. Acta Orthop Traumatol Turc. 2018 May;52(3):201-205. doi: 10.1016/j.aott.2018.02.005. Epub 2018 Mar 2. PMID: 29503079; PMCID: PMC6136322.ABOUT THE AUTHOR