You are here
Home > Bodybuilding > Tighten Those Wiggly Arms With Triceps Punch-Outs

Tighten Those Wiggly Arms With Triceps Punch-Outs

The condition and firmness of the posterior side of your arm is a barometer that in general, gauges how well you have done your upper body training and dieting homework. If the back of your arms, which largely consists of the triceps muscle, only becomes an afterthought or even worse, a workout casualty by omission, your otherwise firm upper body can suffer. That is because the back of the arms can become soft, loose, and almost floppy. In addition, it is a fact that fat just loves to accumulate on the backs of the arms, and this tendency can make an otherwise average-conditioned upper arm appear to be further out of shape than it really is. This problem is only accentuated as one gets older. The good news is that a commitment to working toward a firmer posterior arm is possible, beginning today.

The triceps brachii muscle resides on the back of the upper arm. Triceps punch-outs provide intense direct stimulation for the entire triceps complex, but it is especially effective for the outer area of your posterior arm.

Muscles Used

The three-headed triceps brachii muscle sits on the back (posterior) side of the upper arm. The long head of the triceps brachii is on the inner side of the arm. It begins on the scapula (shoulder blade) just below (inferior) the head of the humerus bone at the shoulder joint. It tapers as it moves toward the elbow, and it forms a tendon and joins the tendons from the other triceps heads to form a common triceps tendon.

The triceps tendon crosses the elbow joint posteriorly and attaches to the ulna bone of the forearm near the elbow. The lateral head of the triceps brachii begins on the humerus bone, about two-thirds of the way toward the shoulder joint. It attaches to the common triceps tendon and then the ulna. The lateral head of the triceps extends the forearm at the elbow joint (i.e., straightening the elbow joint). The medial head of the triceps brachii lies between the other two heads of the triceps brachii. It attaches to the posterior part of the humerus bone and runs down the arm where it joins the common triceps tendon to insert on the ulna. All of the heads share the duty of extension of the forearm (straightening the elbow joint).

Triceps Punch-Outs

Triceps punch-outs preferentially activate the lateral head of the triceps brachii, but all three heads of the triceps are activated to extend the elbow joint.

1. Grab a dumbbell in both hands. Lean forward and bend your knees just slightly.

2. Keep your back straight and look up to make sure it stays straight and tight. Bring the upper arm of the limb holding the dumbbell up to the side of your ribcage. Position your arm so that it is parallel to the floor and in line with your spine. Your elbow should be pointing directly backward.

3. Keep your upper arm close to your body and punch the dumbbell back and up by extending (straightening) the elbow joint. You must make sure that your upper arm remains parallel to the floor throughout the exercise.

4. Stop the dumbbell just short of having your elbow locked out straight. Pause for a count of one at the top position. Be sure to keep control of the weight and keep your arm in the correct position (this is not easy to do when you start to get tired).

5. Slowly lower the dumbbell over a count of two, by flexing the elbow.

6. Change to the other arm and repeat the movement.

7. Work up to 15 reps and 3 sets with each arm.

To increase the range of motion and to make the exercise a little harder, you can elevate your arm above parallel to the floor so the elbow is as high as possible throughout the whole movement. You can also heighten the toning and tightening properties of the triceps muscles by pausing for 3-4 seconds at the top of the movement before starting down with the weight – but be prepared because this will really make the exercise much harder to do.

It is easy to develop poor form with this exercise, so you will have to work hard to keep your exercise performance correct. To help you do the exercise properly, you can use the mirror to see that your elbow is stationary against your side, and that the extension of the elbow is complete. You should avoid moving your torso up and down during punch-outs. Upper body movements will “cheat” and allow you to do more lifts by jerking your torso upward, but it risks back injury and does not help your triceps. You should also be careful to use your triceps muscles to straighten your elbow.

It is important to stop the extension phase of the punch-out just short of fully locking out your elbow joint, because this will ensure that you have placed constant tension on the triceps muscle throughout the entire set and it will minimize any risk of bursa injury in your elbow.

It is not necessary to hoist large weights for this exercise. In fact, you will likely find that relatively light weights will be quite adequate, especially at first, since you will be maintaining constant tension in the muscle throughout the set. After a few weeks, you can move to slightly heavier dumbbells, as your triceps strengthens and tightens.

While this exercise is rather hard to do correctly, even with light weights, you will fall in love with the effects of the exercise. A few months of consistent work will result in a tightening, toning, and firming your posterior arms.


Barker RN, Brauer S and Carson R. Training-induced changes in the pattern of triceps to biceps activation during reaching tasks after a chronic and severe stroke. Exp Brain Res, 196: 483-496, 2009.

Gacesa JZ, Dusko KB and Grujic NG. Triceps brachii strength and regional body composition changes after detraining quantified by MRI. J Magn Reson Imaging, 33: 1114-1120, 2011.

Gacesa JZ, Jakovljevic DG, Kozic DB, Dragnic NR, Brodie DA and Grujic NG. Morpho-functional response of the elbow extensor muscles to twelve-week self-perceived maximal resistance training. Clin Physiol Funct Imaging, 30: 413-419, 2010.

MacKenzie SJ, Rannelli LA and Yurchevich JJ. Neuromuscular adaptations following antagonist resisted training. J Strength Cond Res, 24: 156-164, 2010.

Moore, K.L. and A.F. Dalley. Clinically Oriented Anatomy, 1999, 4th Edition. Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore, Philadelphia. Pp 722-733.

Popadic Gacesa JZ, Kozic DB, Dragnic NR, Jakovljevic DG, Brodie DA and Grujic NG. Changes of functional status and volume of triceps brachii measured by magnetic resonance imaging after maximal resistance training. J Magn Reson Imaging, 29: 671-676, 2009.