Want to make your arms look better? This is where tricep workouts come in handy. A basic understanding of your triceps muscle and its functions is integral to training and developing it in your workout regime.
This all might sound complex, but rest assured – we’ve done all the hard work for you! Here are 21 of the best tricep dumbbell exercises.
Let’s Talk About Triceps
One of the most common misconceptions about arms is focusing on the biceps to build mass. If you were thinking the same thing, we’re here to tell you it couldn’t be further from the truth.
In truth, your triceps are made up of three distinct tricep heads instead of only two that your bicep has. The three heads that make up your triceps brachii muscle are:
- The Long Head: This part of the tricep starts from the scapula to the elbow and assists with extension and adduction (closing into the body) from the shoulder joint.
- The Medial Head: This head starts at the back of your humerus inferior bone to the radial groove (the triangular part of your tricep) and stretches to your elbow joint.
- The Lateral Head: This part of the tricep starts at the proximal point of the humerus superior bone (the outermost part of the tricep), stretches down to the elbow, and assists with your abduction movement arm.
All three of these muscle heads work to assist with the extension of the elbow. The most significant appeal of training your tricep is to give your arm a full and well-proportioned look.
The following exercises are great for giving your tri’s extra mass and separation, and all you need are a couple of dumbbells.
1. Single Arm Kickback
This exercise is classic and great for unilateral tricep isolation (load weight to your entire tricep).
To do this, you’ll need to find a classic bench for support and balance.
1. Place one non-working arm and knee on the bench and keep your body in a flat table-top position.
2. With a dumbbell in hand, keep your upper arm in line with your back, and your forearm dropped at a 90-degree angle.
3. Slowly extend your forearm back until it’s straight and hold the position for 1-2 breaths before releasing back to the starting position.
2. Incline Kickback
Incline kickbacks are great for targeting the long head muscles of your triceps, and you can do them with both arms.
You’ll need a bench lifted at a 45-degree angle for more tension.
1. To do this, you’ll need to lay chest down on the bench holding both dumbbells with your upper arms in line with your torso.
2. Your elbows should be relaxed in the starting position, and you’ll slowly extend your forearms until straight.
3. Hold this position for one breath and slowly release your arms back to the starting position.
You can do this exercise alternating arms if you choose, but the most effective way is to use both arms simultaneously.
3. Bent Double Arm Kickback
If you’re looking to build and tone your triceps, this is the perfect exercise to go to.
Much like the benched single-arm kickback, you’ll be keeping your body in a flat-top position. The only difference is that you’re supporting your own weight. This exercise can be done with both arms simultaneously or unilaterally if you so choose.
1. To start, you’ll bend forward into a flat position with your knees slightly bent.
2. Keep your back straight and both upper arms in line with your torso.
3. Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle and slowly start to extend your forearms backward until your arms are straight.
4. Hold this position for one breath before releasing back to the starting position.
4. Standing Overhead Tricep Extension
The standing overhead tricep extension is excellent for building strength and mass and challenges your shoulder stability. You can do this with either both arms or one at a time.
1. To start, you’ll need to stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with both hands holding the upper head of the dumbbell in a pronated grip (palms facing up) behind your head.
2. Keeping your elbows pointing forward, slowly lift the dumbbell above your head, locking your arms out.
3. Hold this position for a single breath before slowly lowering your arms back to the start position.
5. Seated Tricep Extension
This exercise is similar to the standing overhead extension, but it’s a bit more challenging as your focusing solely on all three heads of the tricep. This exercise will help build strength in your tricep as opposed to size.
1. To start, you’ll raise the dumbbell above your head with a pronated grip and lower your forearms to a 90-degree angle.
2. Hold this position for one breath before raising your arms back to the starting position.
6. Close Grip Dumbbell Press/Crush Press
Because this is a press, you’ll also be utilizing your shoulders and chest, but you’ll be able to maximize your overall strength while still targeting your tricep muscles.
1. To start, you’ll need to hold both dumbbells straight above you, locking out your elbows.
2. Touch and hold both dumbbells together and slowly lower them just above your chest, keeping your elbows in.
3. Hold this position for a single breath and slowly lift the dumbbells back to the starting position.
7. Gravity Press
The gravity press is a unique exercise for your triceps as you’re under constant tension between reps (no locking out.) You won’t get a full extension or stretch, but it will increase your arms’ strength and muscle endurance.
1. To do this, lay down flat on a bench and hold both dumbbells directly above your shoulders while keeping your core tight.
2. Slowly bend your elbows until they are parallel to the ground and gradually extend your arms overhead, keeping that parallel position.
3. Once you’ve extended your arms as far as they can go, slowly bring them back to the starting position.
8. Close Grip Dumbbell Pushup
Unlike the standard tricep pushup, the close grip dumbbell pushup offers a better range of motion and better extension while building strength in your tricep.
1. Start in a plank position holding both dumbbells close to one another.
2. They should both be placed directly underneath your shoulders with your palms facing inward. Slowly bend your arms at the elbow just past 90-degrees.
3. Hold for a single breath and lift yourself up and back to the starting position.
9. Half Bench Skull Crusher
The half bench skull crusher is excellent for gaining strength for all three tricep heads, but it’s also a great way to challenge your core strength.
1. To do this, you’ll need to start lying flat on a bench while holding a dumbbell with either your left or right hand—shimmy over to one side where only one-half of your body is on the bench.
2. Hold your non-working arm out for extra stability and your working arm out directly above you with a vertical grip. Slowly bend at the elbow until the dumbbell is beside your face.
3. Hold this for a single breath and slowly lift it until your arm is locked out to the starting position.
10. Dumbbell JM Press
The JM press is also unique because it acts as a hybrid exercise that uses the close grip dumbbell and gravity press movements.
1. To start, lay flat on a bench and extend both arms fully, holding the dumbbells in a vertical grip. Slightly lower both dumbbells to an arm angle just above your shoulders.
2. Slowly bring your elbows down to the sides of your ribs and hold for one to two breaths. Gradually extend your arms to the starting position.
11. 2 Single-Arm Dumbbell Floor Press
Floor presses are excellent beginner exercises because of the improved stability from the floor. You’ll have a much easier time focusing on your form while gaining strength.
1. Start by lying your back and feet flat on the floor.
2. Have both arms extended above you, holding both dumbbells in a closed grip at a 45-degree angle.
3. Slowly lower your elbows until they stop on the floor and lift back to the starting position.
12. Dumbbell Tricep Dip
Much like the dumbbell tricep pushups, this is a bodyweight movement. It targets your later and medial heads and is great if you want to tone. Depending on your level, you can place the dumbbell weights down horizontally to make it easier or place them vertically for more of a challenging weight.
1. Start by sitting with legs extended and heels to the floor with your dumbbells slightly behind you.
2. Grip one head of both dumbbells with your hands and slowly lift yourself off the ground extending your elbows until straight.
3. Lower yourself to just a few inches/centimeters above the ground and lift yourself back to the starting position.
13. Reverse Grip Dumbbell Press
The reverse grip dumbbell press targets both the chest and develops all three heads of the triceps. The setup is much like the standard bench press, but instead, you change your grips so that your palms are facing up.
1. To start, lay flat on a slightly inclined bench and hold both dumbbells in a full arm extension with reversed grip.
2. Slowly lower your elbows to the side of your ribs and lift back to the starting position.
14. Kneeling Tricep Kickback Finisher
The movement for the kneeling tricep kickback finisher is just like the bent double kickback. The only difference is that you’ll be kneeling on the ground while bending forward to a nearly 90-degree angle. You can do this exercise with both arms simultaneously or unilaterally.
15. Angled Single-Arm Overhead Extension
The angled single-arm overhead extension is also a hybrid of two exercises that uses the same arm angle as the incline kickback and the same movement as the overhead extension for maximum tension. However, you will be lying on the incline bench on your side rather than your chest.
1. This is a unilateral exercise, and to start, you’ll set your bench to a 45-degree angle and lie down on your side.
2. Hold the dumbbell and hammer grip with your arm straight and in line with your torso.
3. Slowly bend your forearm at the elbow to a 90-degree angle, hold for 1-2 breaths, and extend your arms back to the starting position.
16. Seated Reverse Grip Tricep Overhead Extension
Much like the standard seated overhead extension, the reverse grip extension has the same movement and targets all three heads of the tricep. The difference is in the grip where the palms will be reversed and face behind you, adding more tension to your medial head.
17. Two-Point Dumbbell Row
Another classic tricep exercise, the two-point dumbbell row, helps you gain both size and strength in your triceps and back.
1. The setup is the same as the standard kickback, where you’ll place your non-working hand and knee flat on a bench.
2. Start with having your arm lowered to the ground holding onto the dumbbell with a closed grip.
3. Lift your arm slowly to a 90-degree angle, hold for a single breath, and lower it back to the starting position.
18. Prone Double-Arm Tricep Kickbacks
The prone double-arm tricep extension kickback is a good step above the incline kickback as you’ll be laying chest down on a flat bench.
To do this, place your upper arms in line with your torso leaving your forearms bent at a 90-degree angle. Holding the dumbbells in a closed grip, extend both arms until they’re straight and hold for one breath. Slowly lower your forearms down to the starting position.
19. Plank Tricep Kickback
The plank tricep kickback is both a challenge to your triceps and your core. Much like the prone tricep kickback, your body is flat for this exercise, but you can only do it unilaterally.
1. To do this, start off in a plank position while holding a dumbbell in one hand while the non-working arm holds you in place.
2. Hold your working arm in line with your torso with your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle.
3. Extend your forearm back until straight and hold for one breath before releasing back to the starting position.
20. JM Press to Rollback Extensions
This double movement requires a bit more lifting savvy, so focus, and proper form are essential. Doing both of these exercises will build strength in your extension as well as muscle endurance and isolation.
1. Lay flat on a bench and start in the JM press position with a neutral grip, palms facing inward. 2. Slowly lower the dumbbells just above your chest with your elbows close to the sides of your ribs.
3. Steadily roll your elbows back, placing the dumbbells next to your ears, and hold for a single breath before moving your elbows forward and extending your arms back to the starting position.
21. Eccentric Skull Crusher to Double Press
This exercise is another double movement that involves the skull crusher exercise and a press variation. The eccentric skull crusher requires significantly slower movement for added tension. Once completed, add two close grip presses to double the work.
Now you’re more knowledgeable on triceps; you can easily add any of these lifts, pulls, and presses to your workout regime. With consistent and proper training, you can expect to see the results of your work in one to two months. With a variety like this, you can’t go wrong!
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I Go Heavy on Triceps?
The short answer is – it depends. When starting on any muscle group, the key is to focus on proper form and use a weight that you can control but still challenges you. Only add extra weight if you can handle it.
Are Tricep Extensions Bad for Your Elbows?
Though tricep extensions help strengthen the muscles attached to your elbows, be careful not to overwork your muscles or fully lock out your arms, as that can increase the chance of injury.
How Do I Build Triceps Fast?
If you’re looking to speed up the process of getting results, the best way to ensure that is through a consistent and practical fitness program. A mistake that many people make is not having a plan of action, leaving them to work out with no real idea of what to do and where to go. Always have a plan and always be tactful.