Performing standard Push-Ups with your hands at shoulder-width will strengthen and build your chest, shoulder, triceps, core and abdomen muscles. But if your focus is primarily on increasing your arm size, bring your hands closer together and keep your elbows tight to your sides. The result: bigger triceps.
Below are several challenging Tricep Push-Up variations you can conveniently do using minimal equipment. Include some of them during your full-body workouts along with multi-joint pushing and pulling movements—e.g., Overhead Presses, Bench Presses, Pull-Ups, and Barbell Rows—to further boost arm size.
- Med ball or basketball
- Swiss ball
- 2 dumbbells
- Bench, chair or stair step
- Water bottle
- Timer (optional)
- Do an upper- and lower-body dynamic warm-up.
- Finish with cooldown static upper- and lower-body stretches for greater flexibility and range of motion.
- Hydrate before, during and after workouts.
- Do workouts on non-consecutive days for adequate recovery.
- Choose 3 Tricep Push-Up exercises during each full-body workout.
- Sets/Reps: 3×10
- Rest 30 seconds between sets, 60 seconds between exercises.
- Rep tempo: 2 seconds to lower (eccentric phase); 1 second pressing up (concentric phase).
- For advanced Tricep Push-Up variations, perform them with either your feet or your toes elevated.
- To isolate the triceps, make sure your elbows are close to your sides (don’t let them flare out); keep your back straight with no lower back sagging, and tighten your abdomen.
Tricep Push-Up Variations
1. Conventional Triceps Push-Up
Assume a regular Push-Up position, but place your hands close together and below shoulder level—between your chest and your neck—to target your triceps.
2. Med Ball Version
Assume the Push-Up position with your hands close together atop a med ball or basketball. This variation not only forces your triceps to work harder, but also improves balance and core stabilization, since your hands are on an unstable surface.
3. Reversed Hands Atop the Med Ball
- Start in a seated position with the ball behind you.
- Place your hands close together on the ball either with your fingertips facing toward your back or away from your body.
- Again, the key is to keep your elbows close to your sides.
- Keep your legs extended with your heels on the floor (more intense than with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor).
- More advanced: Try the movement with your heels atop a bench or chair.
- Performing Push-Ups with your hands on a med ball or basketball also strengthens your hands and wrists—essential for pushing off and blocking in football and passing in basketball.
4. Neutral-Grip Version (Hands on Dumbbell Handles)
With two dumbbells vertically placed close together a few inches apart, assume a Push-Up position with your hands gripping the dumbbell handles (palms facing each other). The dumbbells should be directly under your upper chest. Keep your head and shoulders in front of the dumbbells to isolate your triceps.
5. Reverse Dumbbell Version
This variation starts with the dumbbells placed close together vertically behind your back. Sit on the floor with your legs extended and resting on your heels. Grasp the dumbbells with a neutral grip and press yourself up (hips off the ground). Don’t bend your knees. Keep your back straight, your heels pressed into the floor, and tense your triceps at the top of the movement. Slowly lower to start position and repeat. More challenging: Do the exercise with your heels atop the med ball, chair or bench.
6. Swiss Ball Version
In what is perhaps the hardest of all the versions, assume a push-up position with your hands close together on a Swiss ball. Place your hands under your upper chest and let your head and shoulders extend beyond your hands. Besides targeting your triceps and upper-body muscles for building size and improving upper- and lower-body balance, the unstable ball challenges your core muscles. As always, make sure to tighten your abdominal muscles and prevent your lower back from sagging. For added intensity and enhanced balance and core strength, try performing the exercise with one foot off the floor!
7. Toes on the Swiss Ball
Another more challenging variation. Start in a push-up position with your hands close together on the floor and your toes elevated on the Swiss ball. As in the previous version, your core and triceps muscles (and other upper-body muscles) are all tested during this movement with your feet on the unstable ball. For even more of a challenge, perform the movement with one foot off the ball.