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Biceps vs. Triceps: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 13, 2023
Biceps are muscles on the front of the upper arm, enabling arm flexion; triceps are at the back, responsible for arm extension.

Key Differences

The biceps, formally known as biceps brachii, play a pivotal role in the movement and stabilization of the shoulder and elbow joints. Triceps, or triceps brachii, while also instrumental in arm and shoulder actions, have distinctive responsibilities, particularly in facilitating arm straightening. Biceps are characterized by their two-headed origin, while triceps derive their name from a three-headed origin, denoting the triceps' tripartite structure.
Diving deeper into the anatomy of biceps, we identify their two heads: the short head and the long head, each contributing to different actions within arm movement. Triceps, meanwhile, have three heads: lateral, medial, and long, each of which collaborates to extend the forearm at the elbow joint. When discussing function, the biceps are primarily recognized for their role in arm flexion and forearm supination. Conversely, the triceps are largely associated with arm extension, acting antagonistically to the biceps.
The biceps, apart from facilitating movement, are often acknowledged for their aesthetic appeal when developed through exercise. The triceps, though perhaps less celebrated in popular culture, significantly contribute to the overall functionality and appearance of the arm, asserting equal importance in comprehensive arm training. Engaging both biceps and triceps during exercise is essential to ensure balanced arm strength and avoid potential injuries.
In terms of common exercises, biceps are typically targeted through curls, pull-ups, and rows, all of which involve bending the arm at the elbow. The triceps are worked via activities such as push-ups, dips, and overhead presses, where the arm is extended or straightened. A well-rounded workout regimen should incorporate exercises for both the biceps and triceps to ensure harmonious upper arm development.
Daily activities, like lifting or pulling objects, often employ the biceps due to their involvement in bringing objects closer to the body. On the other hand, actions such as pushing objects away, or rising from a seated position, generally activate the triceps. Both biceps and triceps are constantly collaborating to facilitate a full range of upper limb motions in everyday actions and physical exertion.

Comparison Chart

Number of Heads

Two (short and long head)
Three (lateral, medial, and long head)


Front of the upper arm
Back of the upper arm

Primary Function

Arm flexion and forearm supination
Arm extension

Common Exercise

Bicep curl
Tricep dip

Anatomical Movement

Elbow flexion and shoulder flexion/abduction
Elbow extension and shoulder adduction

Biceps and Triceps Definitions


Biceps play a key role in arm flexion and forearm rotation.
When you curl your arm, your biceps contract and facilitate the movement.


Triceps are crucial for activities involving pushing or lifting.
During a push-up, the triceps engage to push the body away from the floor.


Biceps are dual-headed muscles at the front of the upper arm.
Strong biceps are often associated with physical prowess.


Triceps are three-headed muscles located at the arm's rear.
The triceps extend across the back of the upper arm, from shoulder to elbow.


Biceps are frequently targeted in resistance training.
Bicep curls are popular exercises for enhancing the biceps' size and strength.


Triceps predominantly enable the straightening of the arm.
When you push an object away, your triceps contract to extend your arm.


Biceps contribute to both elbow and shoulder joint movements.
Biceps assist in lifting your arm and bringing your hand toward your shoulder.


Triceps counteract the biceps to provide balanced arm movement.
Triceps play an essential antagonistic role to the biceps in arm motion.


Biceps comprise two heads, ensuring versatile arm movement.
The two heads of the biceps work together to support various upper limb functions.


Triceps maintain arm stability during fine motor tasks.
When writing, the triceps support the stability of the arm, ensuring precise hand movement.


A muscle with two heads or points of origin.


A large three-headed muscle running along the back of the upper arm and serving to extend the forearm.


The large muscle at the front of the upper arm that flexes the forearm.Also called biceps brachii.


(anatomy) Any muscle having three heads.


(anatomy) Specifically, the triceps brachii.


A muscle having three heads; specif., the great extensor of the forearm, arising by three heads and inserted into the olecranon at the elbow.


Any skeletal muscle having three origins (but especially the triceps brachii)


What does "biceps" mean?

"Biceps" is derived from Latin, meaning "two-headed," referring to the muscle's two heads or points of origin.

Where is the triceps located?

The triceps is located at the back of the upper arm, extending from the shoulder to the elbow.

Is "biceps" singular or plural?

"Biceps" is used in singular form when referring to one muscle and in plural form without adding an ‘s’ (e.g., "two biceps").

How is "triceps" pronounced?

"Triceps" is pronounced as "try-seps."

How do you use "biceps" in a sentence?

Example: "She flexed her biceps to show off her strength."

What is the primary function of the triceps?

The primary function of the triceps is to extend the elbow, straightening the arm.

Can "triceps" refer to muscles outside of the arm?

Yes, "triceps" can refer to any three-headed muscle, but commonly it denotes the triceps brachii in the arm.

Why is it called "biceps brachii"?

It's called "biceps brachii" to specify the two-headed muscle in the arm ("brachii" = arm in Latin).

How do you spell "biceps" and "triceps" in plural form?

They are spelled the same way in plural form: biceps and triceps.

What is the opposite action of the biceps?

While the biceps flexes the elbow, its opposite action, extending the elbow, is performed by the triceps.

How many heads does the triceps muscle have?

The triceps has three heads: the lateral, medial, and long heads.

How do you strengthen your biceps?

Biceps can be strengthened using exercises like curls and pull-ups.

What exercises target the triceps?

Exercises like triceps dips, push-downs, and skull crushers target the triceps.

How do muscles like biceps and triceps work in pairs?

Biceps and triceps work in antagonistic pairs; when one muscle contracts (shortens), the other relaxes (lengthens) to produce movement.

Can biceps and triceps be worked out on the same day?

Yes, many training programs target biceps and triceps together on the same day, often termed as "arm day."

Is "triceps" masculine or feminine?

In English, "triceps" doesn’t have a gender assignment.

Can "biceps" refer to a muscle in the leg?

Yes, "biceps femoris" is a muscle of the thigh, part of the hamstring group.

What is the colloquial term for well-defined biceps?

Well-defined biceps are often colloquially referred to as "guns."

What's the relationship between biceps and forearm movement?

The biceps brachii also plays a role in supinating the forearm, meaning it helps to turn the palm upwards or forwards.

Is there a short form for "biceps" and "triceps"?

They can informally be shortened to "bis" and "tris" respectively in fitness contexts.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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