The Latin word for triceps is “triceps brachii muscle” which means “three-headed arm muscle”. Obviously, the reason for this name is the fact that the triceps have three heads. Out of the three, only the long head works heavily during pull-ups.
The long head originates from the infraglenoid tubercle of the scapula and therefore is part of the pulling system (back, elbow flexors, rear deltoids)
Whenever you pull something, the long head of the triceps contracts in order to bring the upper arm closer to you. As a result, you get sore triceps after a pull-up session.
In addition, the long head is heavily involved in straight arm pulling exercises like pull-overs and front levers. In fact, one of the best ways to hit the long head safely without risking too much elbow damage is to do pull-overs instead of skull crushers. When done properly, you will feel the exercise in your lats and triceps. During the straight arm version, the triceps have to contract even more intensely to keep the elbow joint extended.
Q: Bro, you are a moron. It’s really simple. The triceps work during pushing exercises whereas the biceps work during pulling motions. Educate yourself, loser.
A: That may be the general rule, but you cannot deny the fact that the long head of the triceps has to contract along with the lats during pulling exercises. The elbow flexors may be doing tons of work, but the triceps is also involved in the motion because a part of it is connected to the scapula. Try exercises like straight arm pull-overs or front levers. Your triceps will be screaming.
Q: Does this mean that the biceps work hard during bench presses?
A: Yes. The biceps is heavily involved in shoulder flexion. The effect is even more pronounced when the bench press is performed with a wide grip.
To understand this more clearly, look at the picture below. It shows a gymnast performing a maltese on the rings. During the exercise, the biceps work incredibly hard along with the front deltoids, the chest, and many other upper body muscles.
In essence, the whole system (biceps, front deltoids, chest) becomes one. The same happens during wide grip bench presses which is why some people develop biceps tendonitis from the exercise.
Q: I don’t feel my triceps when I do pull-ups. Am I doing them wrong?
A: Not necessarily. The fact that you are not feeling a muscle does not mean that it’s not working. There is no need to overthink in this particular case because the main movers in a pull-up are still the elbow flexors and the lats.
P.S. The post on natural potential has been updated.
Do the pull ups exercise the triceps?
Only the long head.