Les Mills BODYPUMP instructors…

TRI these TRICEPS combo tips!

How do I improve my execution of the triceps mountain climber combos?  How do I coach the members to help them increase strength?

The first step to progress triceps combination training, is to understand the anatomy and function of the muscle group.  The triceps brachii is a group of three (long, medial, lateral) muscles on the back (posterior) of the upper arm.  The mass of this muscle group is twice the size of the biceps brachii!  In terms of the function, the triceps are elbow extensors, moving the joint from a bent to a straight position.

Les Mills BODYPUMP 113 includes bench pushups, overhead extensions, and dips.  The reason why this release, as well as typical triceps tracks, include multiple exercises is to ensure recruitment of all three heads.  During the track summary, mention this quick fact as well as introducing the combination of the bench pushup and mountain climber.

The second step to progress triceps combination training is to execute a triceps pushup with stellar technique.  Effective coaching includes providing an accurate visual example.

COMBINATION SETUP:  Stack hands directly below shoulders with fingers rotated laterally and thumbs facing forward.  When triceps pushups are completed on the narrow side of the bench, the fingers naturally wrap around the edge in this position.  Supinating the forearms will reduce the shear force at the elbow while maximizing the isolation of the triceps brachii.  In other words, turning hands to the outside will place less pressure on the joint and more activity in the muscle.

hand placement for triceps pushups

COACHING PUSHUP EXECUTION:  Flex (bend) elbows and lower body until shoulders and elbows are in line.  Extend (straighten) elbows by pushing up through the palms.  Maintain a long, straight spine throughout.  The key to success is to engage the quadriceps, glutes, and core musculature at all times so the body moves as one solid unit from toes (or knees) all the way up to the shoulders.

COACHING MOUNTAIN CLIMBER EXECUTION:  Keep the knee low with the shin parallel to the ground and drive toward chest.  This will hold hips beneath shoulder height to maintain core activation.


  1. Allows participants to successfully complete more triceps pushup repetitions on their toes with full range using the mountain climber as both stabilization and active recovery for the triceps.
  2. Adds a cardiovascular training component with the mountain climbers to induce a novel overload component during strength exercises.

Triceps pushups elicit the greatest activity for all three heads compared to any other exercise with over 90% of the fibers recruited.  This is a fancy way of saying, triceps pushups are flipping hard!  Therefore, the BEST way to become stronger at triceps pushups is to practice triceps pushups!  In BODYPUMP 113, the combination is completed on the bench, which decreases the load (difficulty).  Another modification is to perform the triceps pushup on knees and lift to toes for the mountain climber.  As a supplement to practicing pushups outside of class, incorporate heavy triceps press sets into more traditional weight training sessions at the gym. 

While Les Mills BODYPUMP is a strength program, it has always induced a cardiovascular response due to the high repetitions and minimal rest.  So, progressing your execution of combinations includes maintaining your heart and lung fitness with both moderate and vigorous intensity cardio workouts. Bottom line… improve execution by understanding the exercises and coach modifications to maximize ideal technique.  Have fun with these challenging combinations!


Gottschall, J et al; J Applied Biomechanics, 2018

Lou, S et al; Clinical Biomechanics, 2001


7 Responses

  1. Thank you for that information. Is there another way to modify the mountain climbers when we start doing them faster in the video? The video did not show the modifier much at those parts.

    • Hi Sumiyah! If you are instructing and notice that your participants are having difficulty performing the faster pace, return to the slower pace or execute the mountain climber on your knees. Jinger

    • Thank you Bill! You know how much I L-O-V-E a properly executed triceps pushup!

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