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Daniel Mesa

Top 7 Best Barbell Tricep Exercises

Most people start going to the gym with the basic goal of getting HUGE arms. This is a great goal to have but most people go about it all wrong and waste years of effort for minimal results. Sure bicep exercises will help, but the bulk of your arm mass is pure tricep. If you want to fill your sleeves, you need to be doing some direct tricep work with a barbell.

Tricep Anatomy

Your triceps muscle has the word “tri” in it because it is made up of three muscles known as the long head, lateral head, and medial head. Each of these heads has its own specific function but they all work together to extend your arms. Strong triceps means your arms will be better able to extend and assist you during any pressing movement. If you want to see substantial growth and stronger triceps, you will need to target all of these heads effectively using the exercises below.

Why Use A Barbell?

Most people when they think of tricep work think of cable or dumbbell exercises done with light weights. Exercises like those have some value and will need to a nice burn but are nothing compared to the work you can do by doing barbell triceps exercises.

A barbell simply allows you to move more weight while also engaging the rest of your body. I have personally noticed much more growth by grinding it out with a heavy barbell compared to doing fluff work on a cable machine. If you really want to take things to the next level you could also try using a swiss bar, a regular barbell will work fine as well though.

Top 7 Barbell Exercises For Triceps

Now that you know the basics and see the clear value of tricep barbell work, here are some of the best exercises you can do using just a barbell and some weight plates.

1. Overhead Triceps Extension

overhead extension

This is a classic tricep exercise (also known as the french press) that will heavily work the long head of your tricep. The long head is the largest part of your tricep gives your upper arms that beefy look. You may be used to doing these with a rope or dumbbell but you can use much heavier weights with a barbell. If you have wrist pain, using an EZ bar would also be okay.

How To:

  1. Using a pronated grip, grip a barbell with your hands narrower than shoulder width apart

  2. Raise the barbell above your head and slowly lower it behind your head. You should be feeling a significant stretch in your triceps muscles at this point.

  3. Raise the barbell overhead until your arms are fully extended. At the lockout, squeeze your triceps to get the maximum contraction

2. Skull Crushers

skull crusher

Skull crushers, also called the lying barbell tricep extension, are very similar to an overhead triceps extension. The main difference is that your body will be parallel to the ground. While the variation may seem minimal, the change in form will cause the majority of the weight to shift to the later head of your tricep.

How To:

  1. Using a pronated grip, grip a barbell with your hands narrower than shoulder width apart. Lye down on a bench with the bar over your chest.

  2. Slowly lower the bar towards your forehead. Once the bar is about to make contact with your head, allow your shoulders to move so that the bar can go behind your head.

  3. Once you can no longer lower the bar anymore, extend your arms fully to the locked-out position.

3. Barbell Overhead Press

overhead press

The overhead press works a lot more than just your triceps. It is a legendary compound movement that works your chest, shoulders, upper back, and triceps. While it may not be an isolation exercise, trust me when I tell you that it will result in significant tricep growth. The amount of weight you will be moving overhead is not something you can get with any other movement.

How To:

  1. With an overhand grip, grasp the barbell with your hands shoulder width apart. Unrack the bar and rest it on your upper chest.

  2. At this point, your body should be like a rock. Your abs, glutes, and upper back should all be very tight to create a solid base for pressing. Your arms should be in a locked position with your wrists in line with your elbows.

  3. Once you are ready, press the bar as hard as you can by pushing up. While you are pressing, you will want to move your head/shoulders forward once the bar passes your head to maintain balance.

  4. Once your arms are fully extended, slowly lower the bar back down towards your chest.

4. Close Grip Bench Press

This is another movement that works all of your upper body and not just your triceps. Unlike the conventional bench press though, this variation will put concentrate the load on your triceps instead of your chest. The closer you move in your grip, the more your triceps will be targeted but chose the most comfortable position for you based on shoulder and wrist comfort. I have also found that guys with longer limbs also tend to respond better to an incline close grip bench press but test both out and see which you like.

How To:

  1. Lay on the bench and retract your scapula. Your entire body should be rigid. Grip the bar at shoulder width or narrower.

  2. Slowly lower the bar towards your chest

  3. Press up until your arms are locked out

5. Floor Press

floor press

The floor press provides your triceps with a different type of stimulus by making your start the press from a dead stop. For added benefit, you could even use a close grip on this as well. If you suspect that your triceps are the weak point in your bench, this is a great variation to improve.

How To:

  1. Adjust the j cups on the power racks so that when you are lying flat on the ground, your arms reach the bar in a comfortable position to unrack the barbell. Lye down on the floor and reach and grasp the barbell.

  2. Slowly lower the bar down towards your chest. Lower until your upper arm is making full contact with the ground and your arm has around a 90-degree bend.

  3. Explode up off the ground until your arms are fully locked out

6. Single Arm Landmine Press

landmine press

Barbell tricep exercises can be a little harsh because the nature of a bar will lock your arms and shoulders into certain motions. If this sounds like you and you have some wrist or elbow pain, the single arm landmine press is a great exercise choice. The ability to use one arm, take a neutral grip, and grasp the fat end of the barbell means that many common pain points are removed.

You also should also be aware that you do not need a landmine attachment to perform this exercise. You can just stick the end of your barbell in the corner of a room.

How To:

  1. Stand with your feet hip width apart in front of the landmine holding the end of the barbell. You can also kneel or take a lunge position.

  2. Hold the end of your barbell in front of your shoulder

  3. Tighten your entire body by bracing your car and tightening your upper back

  4. Press the barbell up until your arm is fully locked out.

  5. Slowly the bar back down towards your shoulder

  6. Repeat with the other arm

7. JM Press

The JM press is named after the legendary powerlifter out of Westside Barbell called JM Blakey. Nobody had ever seen this movement before JM came along but it was his go-to accessory for improving his bench and working his triceps. It may seem a bit weird when you see it but it is a combination of close-grip bench press and skull crushers.

How To:

  1. You will start this exercise the same way you would with a close-grip bench press. The only difference is that the bar should be directly over your upper chest. Grasp the bar using a narrow grip.

  2. Keep your elbows 45 degrees away from your body and lower the bar until your biceps are touching your forearm.

  3. Let the bar roll back a little to keep your elbows pointed forward up

  4. Press the bar back up until your arms are fully locked out.

Programming Triceps Training

If you already have an established workout routine, you may be wondering how to incorporate some of these exercises into your routine. I would not recommend doing just tricep workouts. Instead, I think you should take some of your favorites from our list and use them in your split. Here we have broken it down by some of the most common training splits.

Push Pull Legs (PPL)

PPL is probably the most common split nowadays. If you are doing PPL, I would take one press (OHP, close grip bench press, etc) and one extension (standing, skull crusher, etc) on my push days.

Bro Split

If you are doing a bro split where you focus on one body part each day, you will do some of these exercises on your arm days. The one drawback to barbell tricep exercises is that can be very straining on your joints. Due to this, I would do one extension and one press on my arm days. The rest of your exercises that day should be machines or cables to limit fatigue.

Full Body

With a full-body split you have more options. I would just make sure to do one direct tricep exercise at least every other workout. Whether that be a press or extension.

How Many Sets And Reps?

Like most other triceps exercises, this will depend on your goals. If you want to build more strength that translates to your core lifts, go lower in volume (6-8 reps). If you want to trigger more muscle mass growth go higher in volume (12-15 reps).

The only caveat will be that if you are prone to elbow pain or wrist pain, I would go higher in reps. As I have mentioned before, the only drawback to the extra weight that a barbell allows you to use is the strain put on your joints. Go higher in reps to avoid any injury.

What If I Am Unable To Use A Barbell?

Many people cannot use a barbell because they either do not have access to it or because they are limited by injuries. If this is you, there are meaningful alternatives. I believe that the most effective triceps exercises involve the use of a barbell, but you can do other movements that will still lead to growth and strength gains.

Here are some triceps exercises you can do without a barbell

  • Dumbbell extensions

  • Dumbbell Skull crushers

  • Cable pushdown

  • Diamond pushups

  • Dips


Your triceps are the key to having big arms and strong presses. If you want to see them improve you need to be targeting them directly.

Like all other muscle groups, they also respond best to heavy, hard sets. This means that you will have to be doing a barbell triceps workout if you want to see some serious gains.

Choose any of the exercises and just sprinkle them into your routine. You will start seeing the changes quickly.


What is the number 1 tricep exercise?

The best overall tricep exercise has to be the barbell overhead tricep extension. No other movement allows you to load your triceps with that much weight.

Can your work triceps with barbell?

Yes, in fact the barbell may be the best tool to work your triceps. The overhead press, close grip bench press, and overhead tricep extension are all great barbell tricep exercises.

How do you hit triceps with barbell?

Any exercises that requires you to extend your arm will hit your triceps. So the overhead press, close grip bench, and overhead extension all hit your triceps with just a barbell.

What exercises hits all 3 tricep heads?

The close grip bench and overhead press hit all three heads of the triceps at the same time.