What is the one-arm tricep extension with a dumbbell?
The one-arm tricep extension is a popular exercise that strengthens and builds up the triceps muscle group. The goal is to grab a dumbbell, raise your arm above your head, and begin doing extensions.
Single-arm extensions are by far one of the most straightforward and beginner-friendly movements trainees can start doing to build tricep strength. The best part is that you don’t need any special equipment for the exercise. A single dumbbell is enough, making the one-arm extension viable even if you train at home.
Doing tricep extensions above your head is beneficial for reinforcing shoulder stability because the muscle group works hard to keep your arm in position.
The movement can also improve our daily life by making us stronger and capable of carrying out physical tasks. For example, one-arm tricep extensions are great for enhancing our ability to lift objects above our heads.
How to do a One-Arm Tricep Extension with a Dumbbell
- Hold a light dumbbell in one hand. Have your arm straight and to your side.
- Bring your shoulders back, direct your gaze forward, and engage your abs.
- Raise your arm and position the dumbbell over your head with your palm facing forward.
- Take a breath and slowly lower the dumbbell by bending your elbow.
- Go down until the dumbbell is behind your head, and you feel a stretch in your tricep.
- Hold the bottom position for a second and extend your elbow fully to bring the dumbbell to the top. Exhale on your way up.
- Take another breath and repeat.
- Once you finish training one tricep, grab the dumbbell with your other hand, and do the same number of repetitions.
What muscles do the one-arm tricep extension with the dumbbell activate?
The primary muscle group that works during a one-arm dumbbell extension is the triceps. The muscle covers the rear of our upper arms and produces elbow extension (1).
The long head of the tricep originates from the scapula, which means it crosses the shoulder joint and plays a role in arm stability. Our tricep controls the dumbbell on the way down and produces all the force we need to extend our elbow to the starting position.
Our shoulders also play a minor role in the dumbbell tricep extension. The muscle group flexes isometrically to keep the shoulder joint stable and in position throughout each set.
Our core muscles (abs, transverse abdominis, obliques, glutes, and erector spinae) keep us stable, especially when doing a standing single-arm dumbbell tricep extension.
Benefits of One-Arm Tricep Extension Instead of Using Both Arms
Unilateral training (working one side at a time) is crucial for balanced muscular development, building optimal strength, and reducing our risk of injuries.
The one-arm tricep extension is fantastic because it allows you to focus on one tricep at a time. In doing so, you can more easily spot muscle imbalances and fix them before they start causing problems.
Plus, training one arm at a time is great for teaching both sides of your body how to work evenly, translating to better performance in the gym and improved athleticism.
Training one arm at a time is also more challenging for your core, making the one-arm version great for developing stability and balance (2).
Working both arms simultaneously is also beneficial because it saves time, allows you to use slightly more weight, and is typically easier to do. But be mindful of the potential drawbacks and include some unilateral exercise into your training.
Variations and Modifications of the One-Arm Tricep Extension with a Dumbbell
1. One-Arm Tricep Extension With a Kettlebell/Cable/Band
The great thing about the one-arm tricep extension is that you can use different kinds of equipment. Dumbbells work great, but you can also use a kettlebell, cable machine, or a simple resistance band.
2. One-Arm Tricep Extension With a Slow Negative
The one-arm tricep extension with a slow negative is a fantastic variation you can use to challenge yourself more. The goal of this movement is to lower the dumbbell for three to four seconds. Doing so improves tricep activation and can lead to superior muscle growth in the long run.
3. Bilateral Tricep Extension
The bilateral tricep extension is a variation where you grab a slightly heavier dumbbell and train both arms simultaneously. You can position the dumbbell vertically and place your palms flat against the top weight plate. Working both arms simultaneously is good for inducing a more significant overload and saving yourself some time.
Mistakes to Avoid
The most common mistake with the one-arm tricep extension is using too much weight. Doing so forces you to cut the range of motion short and often leads to poor technique and the use of momentum. So, pick a weight that allows you to do at least twelve good repetitions.
Another significant mistake to watch out for is allowing your elbows to move back and forth with every repetition. Doing so isn’t ideal because it takes some of the tension away from the tricep and instead allows you to use momentum to lift and lower the dumbbell. Avoid the mistake by anchoring your elbow in a position next to your head. The only motion should be bending and straightening your arms.
Arching your lower back is another mistake to avoid. Excessive arching puts stress on the spine, which can lead to discomfort or an injury. Trainees typically do this when lifting heavier weights, but you need to be careful regardless of the load. Engage your abs before every set to maintain a neutral spine. If you can’t get into position without excessive low back-arching, your issue could relate to a lack of upper back or shoulder mobility.
Similar Exercises to the One-Arm Tricep Extension with Dumbbells
The kickback is a great isolation movement for developing your triceps with a single dumbbell. Unlike the one-arm tricep extension, the goal here is to bend forward, raise your elbow to torso level, and begin extending your arm.
Triceps Rope Pushdown
The triceps rope pushdown is another great isolation movement you should include in your arsenal. The exercise is useful because it offers a significant range of motion and its overloading potential is impressive. Plus, using a rope forces you to improve your technique and use the appropriate load.
The close-stance push-up, also known as a diamond push-up, is an effective bodyweight exercise for emphasizing the triceps (3). The goal is to bring your hands close to one another. In doing so, you place your triceps at a mechanical advantage, allowing them to do most of the work.
EZ-Bar Skull Crusher
The EZ-bar skull crusher is another effective movement for overloading your triceps with more weight. You have to use an EZ bar, which is smaller and weighs less than a traditional barbell. You grab the EZ bar, lie back on a flat gym bench, and lower the weight behind your head before extending your arms.