Training our triceps is one of the most satisfying muscle groups to work in the gym. 

Whether it’s finishing off a push day or smashing through an arm day, the pump we get can feel unmatched. 

But when it comes to training them, especially with dumbbells, we can find ourselves sticking to our old favorites and rarely experimenting.

For many years, I have seen my clients challenged by this same issue. They struggle to be creative with dumbbells and effectively build their triceps.

So, in this article, I am going to share with you my 13 most effective dumbbell tricep exercises to maximize muscle growth. 

Let’s jump in.

Table of Contents

  • Let’s Break Down Tricep Anatomy
  • 5 Benefits of Training the Triceps
  • 13 Dumbbell Tricep Exercises for Best Results
  • Tricep Workouts With Dumbbells
  • The Benefits of Training Triceps with Dumbbells vs. Barbells and Machines

Let’s Break Down Tricep Anatomy

The tricep is one of the larger muscles of our arms. 

Comprising three heads, the tricep is not just aesthetically pleasing. It is responsible for a lot of the arm’s functions.

So, here I will break down the anatomy and function to help you better understand how they work and how you can train them more effectively.

Dumbbell Tricep Exercises
Dumbbell Tricep Exercises

Anatomy

  • Triceps brachii lateral head (Outer side)
  • Triceps brachii long head (Inner side)
  • Triceps brachii medial head (Beneath lateral and long head)

Triceps brachii lateral head

  • Originates from the lateral (outer side) of the back of the humerus
  • Inserts into the elbow (olecranon process)
  • Extends the elbow

Triceps brachii long head

  • Originates from the scapula (shoulder blade) 
  • Inserts into the elbow (olecranon process)
  • Extends the elbow and extension of the shoulder joint

Triceps brachii Medial head

  • Originate from the posterior medial (middle of the back of the upper arm) 
  • Inserts into the elbow (olecranon process)
  • Extends the elbow

Here you can see that the triceps lateral and medial heads are responsible for the extension of the elbow. This is the movement we use for our press and tricep extension movements.

The triceps long head on the other hand has an origin point at the shoulder blade. This makes it responsible for the extension of our shoulder joint and at the elbow.

With these movements in mind, we can accurately program to target these specific heads by taking not only our elbow through its full range of motion but the shoulder joint, too.

5 Benefits of Training the Triceps

See Also: Long Head Bicep Exercises

Build Fuller Arms

The tricep itself is larger than its anterior counterpart (biceps). With its additional head, it can produce some serious size to really fill out our upper arms.

Improve Overall Strength

Triceps are capable of pushing a considerable amount of weight both in isolation and compound movements.

Used in exercises such as bench press, overhead pressing, and dips, having strong triceps is essential when it comes to training in the gym. 

By training your triceps you won’t only be building a nice set of arms, you increase overall strength, too

Tricep Exercises
Tricep Exercises

Increase Performance

When it comes to performance, it is important that we have all our muscles firing for maximum output. 

Research indicates that by strengthening our triceps, we provide our body with additional firepower movements in the gym and for activities outside as well.

From push pressing, Olympic lifting, tackling in a contact sport, or even just lifting heavy objects in day-to-day life, you can benefit from having a strong set of triceps.

Improve Shoulder Health and Function

Shoulder function is something many of us struggle with, whether it be due to injury or general wear and tear. 

But what if I told you that having a great set of triceps does more than contribute to better functioning shoulders now? 

Working the triceps can help us reduce the occurrence of injury and retain overhead strength as we age.

With our long head of triceps attaching to our shoulder blade, it is responsible for stabilizing and extending the shoulder joint.

This also means that when we perform many of our dumbbell tricep exercises we are improving our shoulder health as well.

Improve Definition

I’m just going to come out and say it – triceps are one of the best-looking muscles in the body. No good set of arms is complete without a set of well-defined triceps.

Training triceps will not only give you that added mass, but they will help to define all the muscles of your arms.

By defining the borders of our triceps we also help create the outline and separation of the rear deltoid (shoulder), and biceps. This is what gives us that awesome interwoven look of the arms. 

Related: Dumbbell Back Exercises

13 Dumbbell Tricep Exercises For Best Results 

1. Tricep Kickback

Target Muscles

  • Triceps (Long head, lateral head, medial head)
  • Latissimus dorsi (Lats)

Benefits

  • Builds long head of triceps
  • Engages lats (great for improving shoulder stability)

How To Perform The Tricep Kickback

  • Standing on one side of the bench, place your knee and same-side hand on the bench.
  • Place your other foot on the floor, creating a tripod.
  • Pick the dumbbell up with the remaining hand, making sure that shoulders are in line with one another, with the elbow tucked to your side at 90 degrees.
  • To perform the kickback, keep the elbow locked into the side while extending the elbow back until the arm is straight in line with the body.
  • Gradually lower the dumbbell down, returning it to the starting position. Repeat.

Pro Tips

  • Aim to keep the elbow tucked to the side of your body. This will help to isolate the triceps, engaging the long head triceps and the lats.
  • Avoid swinging or generating momentum when performing the movement.
  • Focus on extending the elbow, and squeezing the muscle for best results.

2. Skull Crushers

Target Muscles

  • Triceps long head
  • Triceps (Lateral head, medial head)
  • Deltoid (Shoulder)
  • Core

Benefits

  • Great for building the long head (takes muscle to full stretch).
  • Requires full body contraction to stabilise.
  • Dumbbells offer greater movement than barbells, decreasing pressure on the wrist and shoulders.

How To Perform Skull Crushers

  • Using a flat bench and a pair of dumbbells, lie on your back.
  • Start by positioning the arms up straight in the air, dumbbells and arms directly over shoulders
  • From here, gradually lower dumbbells by bending the elbow. Lower them toward your head.
  • Once your elbows reach 90 degrees, return dumbbells back to the upright position. Repeat.

Pro Tips

  • If you’re unfamiliar with the movement, start with a light weight and don’t bend your elbow beyond 90 degrees during the lower phase. This will help to reduce the risk of injury.
  • Once you are comfortable with the movement, change the starting position by having the arms slightly over your head. 
  • This will make it harder to rest during repetitions and take the long head into a great stretch.

3. Seated Tricep Extensions

Target Muscles

  • Triceps (long head, lateral head, medial head)
  • Deltoids (shoulder)
  • Core

Benefits

  • Full stretch of triceps long head
  • Great for growth and mass

How To Perform Seated Tricep Extension

  • Use a seat, preferably with a back for support and a single dumbbell.
  • Sitting upright, grab a dumbbell with both hands and lift with arms straight above the head.
  • Engage and brace the core, keeping elbows tucked close to the head. 
  • Allow the elbow to bend, gradually lowering the dumbbell behind the head.
  • Lower until the dumbbell reaches 90 degrees, then return it to the beginning phase. Repeat.

Pro Tips

  • Be sure to keep the elbow tucked close to the head. This will help isolate the triceps and prevent the shoulders from taking over.
  • Start with a light weight and do not bend the elbows below 90 degrees to begin with. This will help reduce the chance of injury.
  • Before every repetition, be sure that your core is engaged. This will help to stabilise the body and reduce unwanted strain on the lower back.

4. Close Grip Press

Target Muscles

  • Triceps (long head, medial head, lateral head)
  • Deltoids
  • Chest

Benefits

  • Great for overall tricep growth
  • Can load up weight
  • Works chest and shoulders

How To Perform Close Grip Press

  • Using a flat bench and a pair of dumbbells, lie on your back.
  • Start by positioning the arms up straight in the air, dumbbells and arms directly over shoulders.
  • From here, gradually lower dumbbells by bending the elbow. Lower elbows down to 90 degrees tucked to the side of the body.
  • Thumbs should finish in line with the lower chest.
  • Once your elbows reach 90 degrees, press dumbbells back to the upright position. Repeat.

Pro Tips

  • Try to keep elbows tucked to the side of the body. This will keep the focus on the triceps.

5. Incline Bench Prone Kickback

Target Muscles

  • Triceps long head
  • Triceps (Medial head, lateral head)
  • Latissimus dorsi

Benefits

  • Similar to kickback, but you can work both arms together
  • Great for developing long head of triceps
  • Engages lat dorsi

How To Perform Incline Bench Prone Kickback

  • Lying face down on the bench, legs straight with chest positioned off the top of the bench.
  • Pick up both dumbbells, holding with a narrow grip.
  • Pull elbows up to sides, bent at 90 degrees
  • Begin the movement by extending the elbow, stop once the arm is straight and in line with the body.
  • From here, gradually lower the dumbbell until it returns to the starting position. Repeat. 

Pro Tips

  • Keep shoulder blades and lats engaged for the duration of the movement. This will help to isolate the triceps.
  • Use a light weight to begin and perform the movement without momentum. 
  • Focus on squeezing the tricep muscle when the elbow is extended and in line with the body.

6. Tricep Push-Ups

Target Muscles

  • Triceps lateral head
  • Triceps (medial, long head)
  • Pectoralis major/minor (Chest)
  • Deltoids (shoulders)
  • Core 
  • Glutes

Benefits

  • Great for building lateral and medial triceps
  • Can use dumbbells for hand grips (comfort)

How To Perform Tricep Push-Ups

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells (hexagon dumbbells are better for stability) and some space on the floor.
  • In a push-up position, grab dumbbells, with shoulder joints directly over, and feet shoulder-width apart. 
  • Keep the elbow tucked  to the sides of the body, lower yourself as you would with a push-up.
  • Once you have reached the position at the bottom, press up and return to the starting position. Repeat.

Pro Tips

  • When performing the movement, focus on squeezing the triceps when the elbow is extended (at the starting position).
  • Focus on breathing, inhale as you lower, exhale as you press up. Focus on activating abdominals. 

7. Single Arm Seated Tricep Extension

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3w6m0aENVQ

Target Muscles

  • Triceps Lateral head
  • Triceps (medial head, long head)

Benefits

  • Focus on triceps lateral head
  • Full stretch of triceps long head
  • Great for growth and mass

How To Perform Single Arm Seated Tricep Extension 

  • Use a seat, preferably with a back for support, and a single dumbbell.
  • Sitting upright, grab a dumbbell with one hand and lift with arms straight above the head.
  • Engage and brace the core, keeping elbows tucked close to the head. 
  • Allow the elbow to bend, gradually lowering the dumbbell behind the head.
  • Lower until the dumbbell reaches 90 degrees, then return it to the beginning phase. Repeat.

Pro Tips

  • Start with a light weight to begin, focusing on technique.
  • Keep your arm tucked close to your head. This will put a greater stretch on the long head of the triceps and help to isolate the muscle.
  • Can be performed either in seated or standing positions.

8. Tate Press

Target Muscles

  • Triceps lateral head
  • Triceps medial head, long head
  • Deltoids

Benefits

  • Builds lateral head
  • Great overall tricep growth

How To Perform Tricep Inward Press

  • Using a flat bench and a pair of dumbbells, lie on your back.
  • Start by positioning the arms up straight in the air, dumbbells and arms directly over shoulders.
  • From here, gradually lower dumbbells by bending the elbow outward. Lower dumbbells and inwards toward the midline of the body.
  • Once your elbows reach 90 degrees, return dumbbells to the upright position. Repeat.

Pro Tips

  • Start with a lighter weight as the movement can be difficult to perform for beginners, as the direction when lowering the weight can put pressure on the wrist and shoulders.
  • Focus on squeezing the muscle at the top of the lift.  

9. Bent Over Tricep Extension

Target Muscles

  • Triceps Long Head
  • Triceps medial head, lateral
  • Latissimus dorsi (lats)
  • Hamstrings
  • Quads
  • Glutes
  • Core

Benefits

  • Targets long head
  • Engages the whole body
  • Engages lats

How To Perform Bent Over Tricep Extension

  • From a standing upright position, bend forward (between 45-90 degrees), hips back with the spine in a neutral position. 
  • Grasp dumbbells with feet shoulder-width apart.
  • With elbows tucked to the side, pull elbows back, bending then 90 degrees.
  • To perform the kickback, keep the elbow locked into the side while extending the elbow back until the arm is straight in line with the body.
  • Gradually lower the dumbbell down, returning it to the starting position. Repeat.

Pro Tips

  • Begin with a lighter weight as holding a bent-over position can be difficult for the duration of the set.
  • Focus one pulling shoulder blades back and tucking elbows into the sides. This will help to isolate the triceps and increase long head and lat activation.

10. Incline Bench Skull Crushers

Target Muscles

  • Triceps long head (Focused)
  • Triceps medial head and lateral head

Benefits

  • Puts greater stretch on triceps long head
  • Similar to flat bench skull crushers

How To Perform The Tricep Kick Back

  • Using an incline and a pair of dumbbells, lie on your back.
  • Start by positioning the arms up straight in the air, dumbbells and arms directly over shoulders, arms running past ears.
  • From here, gradually lower dumbbells by bending the elbow. Lower them toward your head.
  • Once your elbows reach 90 degrees, return dumbbells to the upright position. Repeat.

Pro Tips

  • This exercise is great for increasing the stretch of the long head of the triceps, as the incline of the body and the flexion at the shoulder are greater.
  • Start with a lighter weight to get familiar with the movement.
  • As you get more comfortable with the movement, lower the dumbbells for additional stretch to the long head of the triceps.

11. Dumbbell Bottoms Up Press

Target Muscles

  • Triceps (Lateral, long, medial head)
  • Deltoid
  • Rotator cuff (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor)
  • Serratus

Benefits

  • Similar to a close grip press, builds tricep growth
  • Dumbbell position creates imbalances requiring shoulder stabiliser to work

How To Perform Dumbbell Bottoms Up Press

  • Lying on the floor with a dumbbell (hex dumbbell preferred), lie on your back.
  • Start by positioning the arms tucked to the side with the elbow bent at 90 degrees.
  • To begin, press the dumbbell upward, finishing when the is straight directly in line with the shoulder. 
  • From here, gradually lower dumbbells to the starting position. Repeat.

Pro Tips

  • This exercise is great for building strength and stability of the entire shoulder and arm.
  • Start with a lighter weight and focus on balancing to begin.

12. Angled Single Arm Tricep Extension

Target Muscles

  • Triceps long head
  • Triceps lateral head, medial head

Benefits

  • Applies stretch to long head of triceps
  • Incline bench great for stability
  • Great tricep building mass

How To Perform Angled Single Arm Tricep Extension

  • Using a single dumbbell and an incline bench, lie on your side, with the dumbbell in hand away from the bench.
  • While lying on your side, tuck the bench under the arm closest to the bench for support.
  • Using the outer arm, lift the dumbbell directly up, in line with the shoulder.
  • From here, gradually lower the dumbbell towards and behind the head.
  • Lower to 90 degrees.
  • Once you have reached your desired stretch, lift the dumbbell and return it to its starting position. Repeat.

Pro Tips

  • Before starting the lift, position yourself comfortably. This is to ensure you have a stable position to lift from.
  • This is for advanced lifters, so if you are new to the movement, start with a lighter weight to get the technique right.

13. Reverse Grip Dumbbell Press

Target Muscles

  • Triceps (lateral head, long head, medial head
  • Deltoid
  • Chest

Benefits

  • Builds mass for all heads of triceps
  • Can load up weight

How To Perform Reverse Grip Dumbbell Press

  • Using a flat bench and a pair of dumbbells, lie on your back.
  • Start by positioning the arms up straight in the air, dumbbells and arms directly over shoulders, with your hand in the underhand (supinated) position.
  • From here, gradually lower dumbbells by bending the elbow. Lower elbows down to 90 degrees tucked to the side of the body.
  • Thumbs should finish in line with the lower chest.
  • Once your elbows reach 90 degrees, press dumbbells back to the upright position. Repeat.

Pro Tips

  • Similar to close grip press, this is a very safe movement.
  • If you are unfamiliar with pressing using this hand position, start with lighter weights.

Tricep Workouts with Dumbbells

Beginner

ExerciseSetsRepetitionsRest Time
Dumbbell Close Grip Press38-1245 – 60 secs
Dumbbell Reverse Grip Press38-1245 – 60 secs
Dumbbell Skull Crushers38-1260 secs
Tricep Kickback38-1045 secs
Dumbbell Tricep Push-Up38-1245 secs

Advanced

ExerciseSetsRepetitionsRest Time
Dumbbell Close Grip Press4845 – 60 secs
Dumbbell Tate Press4845 – 60 secs
Dumbbell Incline Skull Crusher46-860 secs
Angled Single Arm Tricep Extension38-1245 secs
Dumbbell Tricep Push-Ups3Max Reps45 secs

The Benefits of Training Triceps with Dumbbells Compared to Barbells and Machines.

Training triceps in the gym can be a lot of fun. But with a variety of equipment such as dumbbells, barbells, and machines, it can be difficult to know which is the most effective when it comes to getting the results you want.

So, let’s talk about each, how they work, and which will suit your needs. 

Dumbbells

Dumbbells are an incredibly versatile piece of equipment that can afford you the freedom that barbells and machines don’t.

A dumbbell’s ergonomic design allows you to move the weight according to the comfort level of their wrist and shoulder joints.

This maneuverability also provides a minor level of instability. This requires the stabilizers (rotator cuff) of the arms and shoulders to fire when performing push-based movements. 

This also poses a challenge. Unlike the barbell, when using a dumbbell, you must lift each weight individually, which is great for building unilateral strength.  

Barbells

Barbells are great pieces of equipment that let you really load up the weight and push for growth and performance.

Unlike dumbbells, the barbells require less stability, meaning that you can focus on the movement and push larger weights.

While there isn’t as much freedom with grip position, this can be worked around with the use of dumbbells and a variety of different bars.

Machines

Machines are placed at the other end of the spectrum. If dumbbells give you freedom and instability, then machines lock you in on a track for a specific movement.

This is not to say that machines are bad or not useful. Rather, the movement is safe and precise.

Machines are excellent for beginners and for those who aren’t comfortable using free weight. 

They are also fantastic for anyone looking to hammer out the last remaining sets of a workout to completely smash a target muscle.

Conclusion

Training triceps with dumbbells can be a highly rewarding and challenging experience.

While many see the dumbbell as a limiting factor in their training, others see endless possibilities.

Their ability to create imbalance, accommodate dysfunction, and build weaknesses make them an invaluable piece of equipment in any gym.

So, see any of your favorites on our list, or have one to recommend? 

Let me know in the comments below.