How to Lose Tricep Fat and Gain Definition

African American man holding dumbbell in the gym

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The triceps (located on the backs of the arms) are often a place that people tend to store excess fat. It can also be notoriously challenging to get rid of, and unfortunately, spot training simply doesn't work.

In other words, you can't do tricep exercises and hope that will reduce the extra fat there. The body actually uses energy from the entire body during exercise, not just from the muscles you're working.

Do Triceps Exercises Work?

Your body may be in charge of when, where, and how you lose fat, but that doesn't mean you can't do something to help get things moving along. Your first step is to focus on losing overall body fat with exercise and a healthy diet.

There's no guarantee you'll lose fat from your triceps right away, but allowing your body to respond to your program will tell you what your body is capable of achieving. Part of this process is strength training for the triceps (and the rest of your body as well). While triceps exercises won't reduce fat in that specific area, they do help you build more muscle.

More muscle overall means firmer, stronger triceps and a higher metabolism, which will help contribute to fat loss.

How to Lose Triceps Fat

Since you can't spot reduce fat loss in one area of the body, the best way to burn fat in the triceps region is by focusing on fat loss all over. Strength training can help when combined with other healthy strategies.

Get Regular Cardio Exercise

You should be doing regular cardiovascular exercise in your target heart rate zone. For fat loss, the general guidelines suggest cardio most days of the week for 30 to 60 minutes (or working up to that if you're a beginner).

If you really want more bang for your buck, incorporate one or two interval training workouts into your routine. These workouts get you out of your comfort zone (just for short periods of time), which helps you burn more calories during and after your workout.

Focus on Strength Training

Yes, you want to work your triceps, of course, but you also want to lift weights for your entire body at least one to three non-consecutive days a week. There are endless ways to lift weights, but it's best to start with a simple beginner's program if you're just getting started. 

Adopt Healthier Eating Habits

Exercise can help you burn calories, but your diet is where you can really make a difference. A few simple tips to consider:

  • Keep a food diary in which you write down what you eat or drink. Successful weight loss happens when you regularly monitor your food intake to stay on track.
  • Use a food tracking website or fitness app to track and calculate your calories. Check out FitWatch or Lose It! for inspiration.
  • Monitor your portion sizes. Consuming more calories than you're burning usually results in weight gain. For weight loss, you need to create a calorie deficit.
  • Make small changes every day instead of trying to change everything all at once.

Rather than depriving yourself, focus on adding healthier foods to your diet. Fruits and vegetables and other foods with lots of fiber, water, and nutrients help fill you up, leaving less room for foods that offer lots of calories but little nutrition.

A Word From Verywell

If you're just starting a diet and exercise program, be sure to give your body time to respond to what you're doing. Even if you're not losing weight exactly where you want (like your triceps), that doesn't mean you won't get there eventually. Be patient with your progress—and consider asking your doctor or a registered dietitian for personalized advice.

By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."