Triceps Brachii: Learn Your Muscles

The triceps brachii are another one of our more superficial, glamour muscles. Along with the biceps brachii, they’re the very noticeable muscles on the upper arm. Read more to learn how this defined muscle moves at your elbow and shoulder joints.

Location

triceps brachii

Thanks to Virtual Sports Injury Clinic for the image.

The “tri” part of tricpes brachii refers to the three heads of the muscle:  the long head, the lateral head, and the medial head. Because there are three heads, there are three origins. However, there is only one insertion.

The origin for the long head of the triceps brachii is on the infraglendoid tubercle of the scapula. When you look at a picture of a scapula from the front, you’ll see the scapula with a little bony hook up top (the acromion) and a little bony hook below it (the coracoid process). In between and slightly below those hooks is the glenoid cavity. You may remember that the long head of the biceps originates above the glenoid cavity. The long head of the triceps originates just below it. For a better view of this point of origin, check out the illustrations on this Wikipedia page.

The origin of the lateral head of the triceps is on the superior (upper) half of the posterior surface of the shaft of the humerus. The medial head of the triceps originates on the inferior (lower) half of the posterior surface of the shaft of the humerus.

All three of the triceps muscles insert on the olecranon process of the ulna and also connect to deep fascia of the forearm. The olecranon process is on the superior (upper) posterior area of the ulna that is right near the elbow joint. Remember, the radius and ulna are the two bones in your forearm. Your radius is in line with your thumb, and your ulna is in line with your pinkie finger.

Function

The main function of the triceps is to straighten the bent elbow. All three heads contribute to this action.

Additionally, the long head of the triceps can adduct the humerus and extend the flexed humerus at the shoulder joint. This means that the long head can bring your upper arm toward the midline of your body, and it can reach your upper arm behind you when your elbow is bent.

Common Dysfunction

If your triceps are dysfunctional, you might have difficulty bending your elbow all the way. This issue is not very common, though.

Your triceps can be injured with sudden force or stretch. This can happen if you throw something with excessive force or if you overstretch the muscle.

Restoring or Maintaining Health

If you think you have injured your triceps brachii in some way, please contact your doctor. Remember, your doctor has the ability to order all of the appropriate imaging, medicine, and therapy necessary to help you heal.

For those seeking some simple exercises and stretches to keep their triceps healthy, I have some suggestions. First of all, keep in mind that we’re using our triceps very frequently. Any time you straighten your elbow or lower your lifted arm, that’s your triceps.

Try strengthening your triceps by practicing Tolasana, or Scales pose. You can also find tricep strength when you practice arm balances like Crow pose, where you’re pressing the floor away. Plank is also another good tricep strengthener.

When you lower down and hold Chaturanga Dandasana, you’re stretching your triceps. Honestly, most of the time when your elbows are bent, you’re stretching your triceps. I’d personally pick a more upright position to get a good triceps stretch like Gomukhasana. The top arm in particular resembles the old school, gym class triceps stretch.

More Information

I consulted The Concise Book of Muscles by Chris Jarmey. Recently, the book was revised and is in its third edition. I love this book as a quick go-to guide for easy to understand anatomy.

For those who are more interested in technical terminology and smaller muscles, I recommend Flash Anatomy Muscles Flash Cards. Any time a client comes to me with pain, I use these flash cards.

Also, I consulted David Keil’s article on the triceps at Yoganatomy.com.

What’s your favorite way to strengthen your tricepss? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Sarah Stockett

Hi! I'm Sarah, and I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. When I'm not working with clients, I'm researching the best ways to get rid of pain. Do you want to learn how to practice yoga and Pilates safely in your own home? Or, do you want to know all my tips and tricks for pain relief? Join my mailing list and receive free goodies to help you.

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