A Lean Life

Tricep Pushups to Build Lean, Muscular Arms

Tricep Push-ups

Tricep Push-ups

Tricep pushups, also known as diamond or triangle pushups, are a great bodyweight exercise you can do at home to build lean muscle in your triceps, and increased strength as well.  They are not easy to perform, but with good form and a little practice you will be on your way to mastery…and bigger upper arms.

When many people think of impressive size in the upper arm, they immediately think biceps.  From the time we are very young, when someone says show me your muscles, you flash your budding biceps.

Here is what most people don’t know…a full 2/3 of the upper arm is made up of the triceps.  So if your goal is to build impressive upper arms, with sharp lean muscle, then you must give at least equal focus to your triceps during training.

Even though 2/3 of the upper arm is your tricep, I don’t give more focus to the triceps than the biceps.  I suggest that an even 50/50 (triceps and biceps) will give you the most balanced, proportional look.

Finally, a great benefit of this exercise is that you can perform them anywhere…anytime.  Home or office.  Day or night.

Warm-up and Stretching

Prior to this bodyweight exercise, it’s important to properly warm-up.  This exercise will strain your wrists and elbows, so you want to make sure your body is ready.

As you approach middle age (35+) and beyond, you should always be conscious of workout injuries.  They become more likely as you get older, such as the strain on your wrists and elbows doing tricep pushups.  The tendons and small muscles are vulnerable.  I’ve had more injuries than I care to remember, so hopefully some of my pain can be your prevention.

So…

  1. 2-3 minutes of light cardio to get the blood flowing.
  2. Perform 2-3 minutes of dynamic stretching to loosen your muscles and prepare them to carry the load.  Notice in the video below how I “flap” my hands during the light cardio to loosen my wrists and also the tendons in my elbow.

I got a case of tennis elbow (but not from tennis!) in my left elbow once as a result of improper warm-up of the wrists and elbows, and then doing resistance training.  It was incredibly debilitating for 3 months…I had no grip strength at all in my left hand for months.  So proper warm-up is a must.

Performing Tricep Pushups

Remember these basics during the movement:

  • Keep your body aligned
  • This movement will require stabilizing muscles in your core, so it might take some practice
  • Primary muscle:  Triceps
  • Secondary muscle:  Chest, Shoulders

To perform the exercise:

  1. Assume a position on the floor similar to doing an ordinary push-up in the up position.
  2. Instead of having your hands at shoulder width, move them together directly under your chest, in the shape of diamond with your thumbs and tips of the index fingers touching. See photo below.
  3. Slowly lower your upper body down while keeping your body aligned – do not bow up or slump down.
  4. As you lower your body, your elbows will bend and move directly away from your body.
  5. Lower your body until your chest is a few inches from the floor, and inhale on the way down.
  6. Push your body up by straightening your elbows, feeling the squeeze in your triceps.
  7. Exhale on the way up returning to the start position.

Variations:

  1. From your Knees – if the regular exercise is too difficult, perform the same exercise except from your knees, not your toes.  Practice this way first, and you’ll be on your toes in no time!
  2. Incline Tricep pushups – Perform the regular exercise, except from a standing position, and bent over at a 30-45 degree angle with your hands mounted on a sturdy, waist-high, anchor point (such as your kitchen counter at home).  This offers less resistance when your fatigued.

Home Workout Routine

A great home workout routine is to perform the following exercises at the reps listed, with no rest between exercises:

  • Tricep pushups – 5 reps
  • Tricep pushups from knees – 5 reps
  • Incline Tricep pushups (kitchen counter) – 5 reps

Perform 3 sets, with 90 seconds rest between sets.  Each exercise gets progressively easier as you work your triceps, and when you perform them in quick succession (tri-set), it is a really good workout.

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