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Incredible Tricep Dumbbell Workouts to Inflate the Back of Your Arms

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Introduction to Dumbbell Tricep Workouts

When most people start going to the gym, their attention typically goes to the bicep – the most desired arm muscles. But if you want to develop a set of muscular and strong arms, you need to direct your attention to the tricep.

The tricep, also known as tricep brachii, is a three-headed muscle located at the backside of your upper arms (1). Two of the triceps’ three heads (the lateral and medial) originate from the top of the humerus and insert into the elbow. The third (long) head of the tricep begins at the scapula, crosses the shoulder joint, and inserts into the elbow. Together, the three heads produce elbow extension, which means they straighten your arm (2). Also, because the long head crosses your shoulder, specific exercises and arm positions emphasize it better.

Building up your triceps is vital for athletic and aesthetic reasons. Although the bicep often gets the new trainee’s attention, the tricep is more prominent and makes up two-thirds of the upper arm muscle volume. So, by doing more tricep work, your arms can grow into their full potential and look great.

Besides the visual incentive, working your triceps is essential for your athletic and gym abilities. As the primary muscles that straighten our arms, the triceps play a huge role in many activities, primarily those where we press. For example, if you lie down to bench press, your chest and shoulders will work hard (3). But your triceps will play a massive role in allowing you to straighten your arms and complete the exercise. 

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3 Tricep Dumbbell Workouts to Build Strength  

Workout 1:

The first workout on our list features three fantastic exercises for the tricep. Each of the three movements trains the tricep uniquely, allowing you to build up all three heads. Together, the movements trigger impressive muscle growth and strength gain. More importantly, two of the activities force your triceps to work with your chest and shoulders, allowing you to work on your pressing strength. 

The first exercise allows you to press heavier weights and mostly work your triceps. The second is a bodyweight movement, which we recommend doing with hexagonal dumbbells. Finally, we have an isolation movement that works beautifully and forces your triceps to do all the work.

  • Dumbbell Crush Press – 3-4 sets of 8 to 10 reps 
  • Close-Stance Dumbbell Push-Up – 3 sets of 6 to 20 reps 
  • Tricep Kickbacks – 3 sets of 12 to 20 reps

Workout 2: 

Our second workout also features three proven tricep movements. The first exercise is excellent for building tricep strength and causing significant mechanical tension (4). Though a bit less known, the second is another valuable and effective tricep exercise that builds strength and trains the muscle group slightly differently. And finally, we have an isolation movement that focuses on the tricep, causes significant metabolic stress, and allows us to build extra training volume (5). The three movements work together wonderfully to produce a simple and effective tricep workout you can do with a pair of dumbbells.

  • Neutral-Grip Close Tricep Press – 3-4 sets of 8 to 10 reps
  • JM Press – 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps 
  • Standing Overhead Tricep Extension – 3 sets of 12 to 20 reps 

Workout 3:

To finish this list off, we have the third workout, which carries the tradition of including three movements. The first exercise is unique from what we typically see. It has you press at an incline, which is beneficial if you find that your chest often takes charge and you barely feel other muscles working. The second movement is also helpful because it allows us to overload our triceps with significant weight. Plus, the skull crusher is excellent for causing a considerable stretch in the long head of the tricep, thanks to the position of your arms. Finally, we have a slightly lesser-known movement to finish the workout – the Tate press. 

  • Incline Neutral-Grip Tricep Press – 3-4 sets of 8 to 10 reps 
  • Lying Tricep Skullcrusher – 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps 
  • Tate Press – 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps 

9 Best Dumbbell Exercises to Develop Ripped Triceps 

Exercise 1: Dumbbell Crush Press

The crush press is a great compound exercise that allows you to train your triceps with more weight.

Muscle groups: Triceps, Chest, Shoulders, and Serratus Anterior
Equipment: Gym Bench and Pair of Dumbbells

Step by Step Instructions: 

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and sit at the base of the gym bench.
  • Place the dumbbells on your thighs, bend your torso slightly forward, and engage your abs.
  • In one motion, lie back as you keep the weights close to your torso with your elbows bent and to your sides.
  • Once you’ve laid down, extend your arms and have the dumbbells hover over your chest.
  • Bring the dumbbells together, have your wrists point against one another, and bring the weights together.
  • Bring your shoulders back, have your feet flat on the floor, and engage your abs.
  • Take a breath and lower the dumbbells down while keeping them together.
  • Lower the weights as much as your shoulder mobility allows and press them back up, fully straightening your arms. Exhale on the way up.

Exercise 2: Neutral-Grip Close Tricep Press

Similar to the crush-press, the neutral-grip press also focuses on your triceps and allows you to train them with more weight. The primary difference here is, that the range of motion is slightly more significant, and the movement might be more fitting for folks with wrist issues.

Muscle groups: Triceps, Chest, Shoulders, and Serratus Anterior
Equipment: Pair of Dumbbells and Gym Bench

Step by Step Instructions: 

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and sit at the base of the gym bench.
  • Raise the dumbbells and place them on top of your thighs.
  • Engage your abs, flex your biceps, and lie back.
  • Once you’ve laid back, extend your arms and make sure that your shoulders, elbows, and wrists are in a straight line.
  • Bring your shoulders back, engage your abs, and place your feet flat on the floor.
  • Take a breath and lower the dumbbells to the sides of your torso.
  • Press the weights straight up, extending your elbows fully, and exhaling near the top.

Exercise 3: Standing Overhead Tricep Extension

The overhead tricep extension effectively allows you to use a single dumbbell and train both triceps simultaneously.

Muscle groups: Triceps and Shoulders
Equipment: a Dumbbell

Step by Step Instructions: 

  • Grab a dumbbell with both hands and stand tall.
  • Raise the dumbbell over your head and place it in a vertical position with your palms facing up and flat against the top weight plate.
  • Keep your elbows straight and pointing forward.
  • Engage your abs, squeeze your glutes, and take a breath.
  • Lower the dumbbell back behind your head as you keep your elbows steady. Go down as much as you can – ideally until you feel a nice stretch in your triceps.
  • Engage your triceps and raise the dumbbell back to the top, fully extending your elbows and exhaling at the top.

Exercise 4: Lying Tricep Skullcrusher

Despite its name, the skull crusher is a fun, effective, and safe movement you can use to isolate your triceps and overload them with more weight. But make sure to start with a pair of lighter dumbbells and work your way up gradually.

Muscle groups: Triceps, Shoulders, and Chest
Equipment: Pair of Dumbbells and a Gym Bench

Step by Step Instructions: 

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and sit at the base of a flat gym bench.
  • Raise the dumbbells and place them on top of your thighs.
  • Bring your torso forward a bit and flex your arms.
  • In one motion, lie back and extend your arms to position the dumbbells over your chest.
  • Rotate your wrists until they point at one another. Keep the dumbbells several inches apart.
  • Bring your shoulders back, plant your feet on the floor, and engage your abs. 
  • Take a breath and lower both dumbbells, aiming for them to travel just over your head.
  • Straighten your arms and exhale as you do.

Exercise 5: Tricep Kickbacks

The tricep kickback is another fun isolation movement you can do with nothing but a dumbbell to inflate the back of your upper arms.

man triceps kickback dumbbell

Muscle groups: Triceps
Equipment: a Dumbbell

Step by Step Instructions: 

  • Grab a light dumbbell in one hand and bend forward. Make sure your back is straight.
  • With your arms bent, raise your elbow until it’s at torso level. You can place your free hand on one knee for support.
  • Take a breath and extend your arm, bringing the dumbbell back and up.
  • Hold the top position for a moment and slowly lower the weight, exhaling on the way down.
  • Once finished with one side, grab the dumbbell with your other hand and repeat for the same number of repetitions.

Exercise 6: Incline Neutral-Grip Tricep Press

The incline tricep press is a great compound movement that allows you to overload your triceps with more weight. Plus, doing it at an incline takes away the emphasis from your chest and puts your tricep at a biomechanical advantage.

Muscle groups: Triceps, Shoulders, Upper Chest, and Serratus Anterior
Equipment: Adjustable Gym Bench and Pair of Dumbbells

Step by Step Instructions: 

  • Set a gym bench at an incline of 30 to 45 degrees.
  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and sit at the base of the gym bench.
  • Lift both dumbbells and place them on top of your thighs.
  • Engage your abs, flex your arms, and lie back on the bench.
  • Lift both dumbbells up and over your torso.
  • With your elbows straight, rotate your wrists in until they face each other. Keep the dumbbells a few inches apart.
  • Bring your shoulders back, engage your abs, and take a breath.
  • Lower both weights to the sides of your chest
  • Press the weights up, fully extending your elbows, and exhaling near the top.

Hevy – Workout Tracker

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Exercise 7: Close-Stance Dumbbell Push-Up

Push-ups will always be a fantastic movement for building up the upper body. The close-stance push-up is excellent because it puts more emphasis on the triceps (6). But make sure to do this with a pair of hexagonal dumbbells.

Muscle groups: Triceps, Shoulders, Chest, Serratus Anterior, and Abs
Equipment: Pair of Hexagonal Dumbbells

Step by Step Instructions: 

  • Place a pair of hexagonal dumbbells on the floor, parallel to one another, and at least ten inches apart. You should be able to assume a comfortable push-up position when you place your hands on them.
  • Get down on the floor, grab both dumbbells and extend your body into a push-up position. Your shoulders, hips, and knees should be in a straight line.
  • Engage your abs, bring your shoulders back, and take a breath.
  • Descend into a push-up and make sure your elbows remain close to your body and facing back.
  • Go down as comfortably as you can and press up, exhaling near the top.

Exercise 8: Tate Press

While slightly more unusual, the Tate press is a fantastic movement for emphasizing your triceps and building them up.

Muscle groups: Triceps, Shoulders, and Chest
Equipment: Pair of Dumbbells and Gym Bench

Step by Step Instructions: 

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and sit at the base of a flat gym bench.
  • Place the weights on top of your thighs and keep your elbows bent.
  • Flex your arms, engage your abs, and lie back while raising the dumbbells over your torso.
  • Once you’ve laid back, extend your elbows fully, position the dumbbells over your chest, and have your palms face forward so your elbows point to the sides.
  • Bring your shoulders back and take a breath.
  • Bend your elbows and lower both dumbbells down and into your chest while keeping your elbows stable. The weights should meet over the middle of your chest.
  • Straighten both arms and exhale near the top of the repetition.

Exercise 9: JM Press

The JM press is another lesser-known movement that works incredibly well because it combines two movement patterns into one: a press and a tricep extension.

man skullcrusher dumbbell

Muscle groups: Triceps, Shoulders, Chest, and Abs
Equipment: Pair of Dumbbells and Gym Bench

Step by Step Instructions: 

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and sit at the base of a flat gym bench.
  • Raise the dumbbell and place them on top of your thighs.
  • Engage your abs, flex your arms, and lie back. Extend your arms and have the dumbbells over your chest with palms facing one another.
  • Bring your arms slightly back so the dumbbells hover over your shoulders and keep the weights a few inches apart.
  • Bring your shoulders back into the bench and place your feet flat on the floor.
  • Take a breath and bend your elbows, having the weights travel down to your shoulders.
  • Extend your arms to raise the dumbbells back to the top and exhale.

Note: The goal here is to have the dumbbells travel in a relatively straight vertical line from the top to bottom and back. To achieve this, you will have to do a semi-press and semi-extension movement, which takes some time to understand and master.

Conclusion 

Though small and seemingly insignificant, the triceps are often misunderstood and trained incorrectly. Because of these muscles’ relatively small size, most people assume the triceps are a two-dimensional muscle group that needs a few sets of extensions to grow well.

As you saw, the tricep is a nuanced muscle group that benefits from the right approach. There are plenty of fantastic exercises and many ways to organize different movements into effective tricep dumbbell workouts. More importantly, optimal tricep development requires the use of different movement patterns. In some cases – as with the JM press – we might even combine unique movement patterns into the same movement for optimal growth.

The best part is, that we don’t need an entire gym full of all sorts of equipment to train the triceps well. We can do a lot with as little as a pair of dumbbells. So, if you’re looking for movements or tricep dumbbell workouts to try, our lists are a great starting point. Try the Hevy workout tracker to learn other great tricep movements from the extensive exercise library. 

Hevy – Workout Tracker

Create your own dumbbell tricep workout with Hevy, and track your progress – for free

Frequently asked questions

Why are dumbbells a good choice for working out the triceps? 

Dumbbells are always a great option because of their versatility. First, you can pick from different loads across the many exercises. Second, you can tweak your technique and change your range of motion on the different activities. Plus, you can pick from many fantastic movements.

What is a tricep extension?

A tricep extension is simply a movement to straighten your arm at the elbow. Depending on your arm (and shoulder) position, the tricep extension can stimulate the muscle group in different ways. 

How many times per week should a tricep workout be done? 

Our triceps are relatively small muscles, which means they tend to recover more quickly. We recommend starting with two weekly workouts and going from there. If your triceps grow well, keep it at that. But, if you notice that you’re not making good progress despite everything else being in check (recovery, nutrition, overload, etc.), consider adding a third workout.

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