Ever try running without swinging your arms? It feels strange for a reason.

“A good arm drive is essential to running efficiently,” Alison Staples, coach at &Running in Howard County, Maryland, tells Runner’s World. “Moving the arms forward and back (not across the body) is key for conserving energy, aiding in knee drive, and keeping the trunk from excessively rotating,” she says. And one way to optimize that upper body positioning: incorporate triceps exercises into your strength-training routine.

The Benefits of Triceps Exercises for Runners

Located on the back of the upper arm, the triceps muscles are the powering forces behind the kind of dynamic arms swing that aid in getting you up hills, past “the wall,” and across finish lines.

“When the arms are abducted, as in running, the deltoids and triceps perform most of the drive,” Staples explains. “Along with the biceps, the triceps also help maintain the 90-degree angle at the elbow when running. The triceps also function to stabilize the shoulder joint at the top of the humerus [upper body bone].”

For the sake of your arm swing and, therefore, your running form, your upper body workouts should include a couple triceps exercises as your “accessory” moves, or those that you do after heavier, more compound exercises. Below you’ll find four movements, all hand-picked by Staples, that specifically target the triceps.

How to use this list: Pick 2 triceps exercises to incorporate into your existing strength-training workout. Complete 3 sets of each exercise, performing the number of reps listed below and resting 60 seconds between sets.

Each move is demonstrated by Staples so you can master the proper form. You will need light to medium dumbbell and an exercise mat.


1. Triceps Push-Up

how to do a pushup
Alison Staples

Start in a high plank position, wrists under shoulders and forming a straight line from head to heels, palms slightly closer than shoulder-width apart. Bend elbows straight back to lower chest toward the floor, keeping the elbows tight to ribs to target the triceps. Press into hands to push body back up to plank. Repeat. Do as many reps as possible while maintaining proper form, to the point of fatigue.


2. Kneeling Single-Arm Triceps Extension

triceps exercises, kneeling singlearm triceps extension
Alison Staples

Start in a tall kneeling position. Holding a light dumbbell in left hand, lift left arm directly overhead and straighten elbow. (If necessary, use right hand to stabilize left elbow, reaching it overhead.) Keeping upper left arm still (don’t allow it to drift forward or away from midline), bend elbow to lower weight diagonally behind head. Pause, then straighten arm to contract triceps. Repeat. Do 10 reps, then switch sides.


3. Single-Arm Triceps Kickback

triceps exercises, singlearm triceps kickback
Alison Staples

Stand with feet hip-width apart and knees bent. Hinge forward at hips, holding a dumbbell in right hand. Keeping back straight, bend right arm 90 degrees at the elbow until triceps are aligned with back, elbow close to side. Straighten right arm to lift the dumbbell up and back behind you. Pause to contract the triceps, then lower the weight back down, bending elbow to bring it to hip. Repeat. Do 12 reps, then switch sides.


4. Skull Crusher

triceps exercises, skull crusher
Alison Staples

Lie faceup, knees bent, and feet planted on the floor. Holding the ends of a dumbbell with both hands, extend arms straight above you, dumbbell over chest. Bend elbows to lower the weight toward face and to just above head. Press the weight back up, straightening arms. Repeat. Do 20 reps.

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