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If you want to sculpt a killer set of triceps — the muscles on the back of your arms — look no further. These pushup variations are all you need to get moving.

Plus, we’ll show you how to perfect your form, other triceps-focused exercises to try, and more.

First things first — performing a pushup with proper form is key to reaping all of its benefits.

To perform, assume a plank position. Your palms should be on the floor, stacked underneath your shoulders, and your feet should be together. Ensure that your neck is neutral, your back is straight, and your core is tight and engaged.

As you lower yourself down, your elbows should flare out at a 45-degree angle. Lower down as far as you can go (or until your chest hits the floor), then push yourself back up to start.

If you feel your lower back start to sag, reset yourself. You may need to perform a modified pushup until you have the strength to maintain the proper form. This means dropping to your knees or doing the pushup off of an elevated surface, like a bench.

Another pitfall to watch out for is palms and elbows that are too wide-set. This places more emphasis on your shoulders and can cause pain.

Many triceps exercises are isolation exercises, meaning they focus on that singular muscle.

Standard pushups and triceps-focused pushups are compound exercises, meaning they recruit multiple muscles in the body. This requires more work, burning more calories.

Diamond pushups hit your triceps hard. If you’re a beginner, drop to your knees to complete this move so you don’t compromise your form.

To get moving:

  1. Assume a plank position with your palms stacked below your shoulders, your neck and spine neutral, and your feet together.
  2. Move your palms toward your midline, making your thumb and index fingers on each hand touch, forming the shape of a diamond.
  3. Keeping your elbows flared at a 45-degree angle, slowly lower your body down to the ground until your chest reaches the floor.
  4. Return to start. Complete three sets until “failure” (meaning you don’t have the strength to continue).

Another variation on the standard pushup, the triceps pushup is an exercise that you may need to perform on your knees or an elevated surface.

To get moving:

  1. Get into a plank position with your hands directly below shoulders, your neck and spine neutral, and your feet together.
  2. On the descent, keep your elbows pinned to your sides and your upper arms straight back.
  3. Lower down until your chest reaches the floor and return to start.
  4. Complete as many reps as you can in three sets.

By doing a triceps pushup with your feet elevated on a bench or a medicine ball, you’ll put even more weight on your triceps, challenging them more.

To get moving:

  1. Start in a plank position.
  2. Move your feet to position them with your toes on top of a bench or swiss ball.
  3. Keeping your arms and elbows tight to your sides, lower yourself down as far as you can go, then return to start.
  4. Complete as many reps as you can in three sets.

You can increase your range of motion by performing a close-stance pushup off of two stationary dumbbells. This allows for deeper engagement.

To get moving:

  1. Position your dumbbells vertically underneath your upper chest. The outer edges of the dumbbells should line up with the outer edges of your chest.
  2. Get into a pushup position with your hands on each dumbbell.
  3. Lower yourself down as far as you can go, keeping your elbows tucked, then return to start.
  4. Complete three sets to failure.

Subbing your dumbbells for a swiss ball puts your hands into an even more compact position, further emphasizing your triceps.

To get moving:

  1. Similar to the neutral-grip pushup above, place a swiss ball underneath your upper chest.
  2. Get into a pushup position with both hands on the swiss ball.
  3. Lower yourself down as far as you can go, keeping your elbows flared at a 45-degree angle.
  4. Return to start and complete three sets to failure.

To get moving:

  1. Grab two 5-10 pound dumbbells for this move.
  2. Hold one in each hand, bend your torso at a 45-degree angle, and bend your elbows so they form a 90-degree angle.
  3. Then extend your arm directly behind you, engaging your triceps as you go.

To get moving:

  1. Sit on a bench or a step with your hands placed next to your thighs.
  2. Walk your feet out until your knees form a 90-degree angle, then lower yourself down toward the ground by bending your elbows.
  3. Make sure to keep your core tight and rely on your arms — especially your triceps — to move you.

To get moving:

  1. Grab one 10-15 pound dumbbell for this move.
  2. Get into a staggered stance; your feet should be hips-width distance apart, with the toes of one foot in line behind the heel of your other foot.
  3. With bent elbows, move the weight above and behind your head.
  4. Then extend your arms straight up, feeling your triceps engage as you go.
  5. Ensure that your neck stays neutral and your elbows don’t flare out wide.

Don’t be discouraged if these exercises are difficult at the outset — most are for advanced exercisers. Utilize modifications to reap the benefits.

Performing one of these pushup variations at least once a week will help your triceps grow in size and strength — especially if done in combination with a few of the other triceps-focused moves!

Remember that eating a well-balanced diet is also an integral part of seeing those triceps gains.

Pushups are a fundamental exercise, one you should incorporate into your exercise routine for functional strength.

Doing variations on them — to focus on your triceps, for example — will spice things up and target different muscles.


Nicole Davis is a Boston-based writer, ACE-certified personal trainer, and health enthusiast who works to help women live stronger, healthier, happier lives. Her philosophy is to embrace your curves and create your fit — whatever that may be! She was featured in Oxygen magazine’s “Future of Fitness” in the June 2016 issue. Follow her on Instagram.