9 Most Effective Dumbbell Triceps Exercises for Building Muscle

Everyone loves toned and sculpted triceps not only because they make your arms look attractive but also because they help you do better during push exercises, such as bench presses, dips, and pushups.

In this article, I’ll show you how you can train your long, medial, and lateral heads and forge your triceps with dumbbells only.

Dumbbells are easy to grip, provide a full range of motion, and allow you to hit your triceps from all angles.

You can also do unilateral tricep exercises with dumbbells to focus more on your weaker side and improve strength imbalance and muscle symmetry.

Here are all the triceps dumbbell exercises you’ll see in this blog:

  1. Incline French Press
  2. Behind The Neck Overhead Triceps Extension
  3. One-arm Overhead Triceps extension
  4. Crush Grip Push-Ups
  5. Incline Tricep Kickback
  6. Bent-over Single-arm Kickback
  7. Close Grip Bench Press
  8. Floor Press
  9. Tate Press

Before I uncover how to perform these exercises, let’s find out a little about triceps muscles and why you should bolster them.

The Tricep Muscles and Why You Should Train Them

The triceps are located on the back of your upper arms. They are made of three heads: long, lateral, and medial. These heads are responsible for elbow extension and horizontal arm abduction.1 Kholinne, Erica et al. “The different role of each head of the triceps brachii muscle in elbow extension.” Acta Orthopaedica et Traumatologica Turcica vol. 52,3 (2018): 201-205. doi:10.1016/j.aott.2018.02.005

  1. Long head: The Long head is located on the backside of the upper arm. It is also called the inner head and the largest among the three heads. It is easier to target than other heads.
  2. Lateral head: The lateral head is smaller than the long head but an important muscle to train as it makes your arms look attractive from the sides. It is also called the outer head.
  3. Medial head: The medial head is the smallest muscle located deep within the triceps. It is least visible but crucial to isolate and reinforce for solid triceps. However, you don’t have to target it because it engages in nearly all exercises specifically.

Hitting all three heads is essential for growing tricep strength and size and enhancing your push movements.

9 Best Dumbbell Triceps Exercises to Sculpt Your Arms

1. Incline Dumbbell French Press

About Exercise

  • Focus Area: Long Head
  • Exercise Difficulty: Easy to Intermediate
  • Equipment Needed: Dumbbells and a Bench
  • Mechanics: Isolation

Benefits

The dumbbell French press isolates the triceps’ long head and helps increase the size of your upper arms.

Downsides

It can put excessive strain on your elbows if you use heavy dumbbells or do it incorrectly.

Steps to Perform

  1. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and lie on an incline bench (30 to 45-degree).
  2. Bend your arms and hold the dumbbells overhead with your palms facing each other.
  3. Lock your elbows and extend your arms until your triceps are fully engaged.
  4. Hold for a second, then squeeze your triceps and extend your arms fully.

Tips and Mistakes

  • You can also perform overhead tricep extension on a flat bench to engage your triceps effectively.
  • Keep your elbows locked and close to your ears, and make sure your only lower arms move.

How to Program

You can integrate the French press or dumbbell skull crusher into your training in multiple ways. For example, you can use it as your first exercise while training your triceps with dumbbells or do it as a warm-up exercise before pressing movements, such as bench press, overhead press, and weighted pushup.

2. Behind The Neck Triceps Extension

About Exercise

  • Focus Area: Long Head
  • Exercise Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Equipment Needed: One Dumbbell and a Bench (only for seated variation)
  • Mechanics: Isolation

Benefits

The dumbbell overhead triceps extension is an old-school muscle-building exercise for shaping your triceps muscles. It provides decent stretches to the long head, allowing you to utilize the benefits of training at long muscle lengths for increasing mass.2 Maeo S, Wu Y, Huang M, et al. Triceps brachii hypertrophy is substantially greater after elbow extension training performed in the overhead versus neutral arm position. European Journal of Sport Science. 2023;23(7):1240-1250. doi:10.1080/17461391.2022.2100279

The best thing is it helps you train both your arms using a single dumbbell only.

Downsides

This overhead tricep extension can strain your shoulder muscles if you perform with heavy dumbbells or keep your elbows outer.

Steps to Perform

  1. Grab the top of a dumbbell with your hands and stand upright.
  2. Hold the dumbbell behind your head with elbows bent.
  3. Raise the dumbbells overhead until your arms are completely extended.
  4. Hold for a moment, then slowly bring the dumbbell to the start.

Tips and Mistakes

  • Keep your arms close to your head and elbows pointing forward during the entire movement. It will ensure you’re working only on the triceps without straining your shoulder muscles.
  • When you lower the dumbbells behind your head, make sure you feel the stretch in your triceps.

How to Program

Perform three to four sets of 12-15 repetitions with moderate weight, keeping the rest time around one minute between sets. You can alternate this exercise with French Press as they both engage the triceps in the same way.

3. Dumbbell One-arm Triceps Extension

Unilateral Tricep Extension

About Exercise

  • Focus Area: Lateral Head
  • Exercise Difficulty: Beginner
  • Equipment Needed: One Dumbbell Only
  • Mechanics: Isolation

Benefits

The single-arm tricep extension is an excellent way to work one arm at a time. It allows you to train your triceps unilaterally and help to focus more on an underdeveloped side.

Downsides

Single-arm tricep extension is a safe and effective exercise and has no disadvantages.

Steps to Perform

  1. Grab a dumbbell in your right hand and sit on the edge of a flat bench.
  2. Raise your right arm straight above the shoulder, bend your elbow behind your head, and maintain a flat back. That’s the start.
  3. Focusing on your tricep, extend your arm fully.

Tips and Mistakes

Perform each rep in a deliberate manner, using the full range of motion to engage the triceps effectively.

How to Program

Perform three sets of 12-15 reps, usually at the end of your triceps/push workouts, to pump your upper arms. Do it more on the weaker side.

4. Crush Grip Dumbbell Push-ups

About Exercise

  • Focus Area: All Three Heads
  • Exercise Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Equipment Needed:O ne Dumbbell
  • Mechanics: Compound (Engage triceps, chest, anterior delt, and abdominal muscles)

Benefits

The dumbbell crush/close grip push-up is a compound exercise that bolsters your triceps, chest, anterior delt, and abdominals simultaneously. The closer width between your hands puts high stress on all three triceps heads and helps stimulate strength and mass.

Downsides

The crush grip push-up is challenging and requires decent strength and mobility. So, it may be difficult for beginners, females, and old people.

Steps to Perform

  1. Place a dumbbell on the floor, grasp its head, and get into a high plank position with your arms straight below your chest. Hold your body weight on your arms and toes.
  2. Lower your body by allowing the elbows to flex while keeping your body straight. inhale as you lower your chest close to the dumbbell.
  3. Press yourself back up to the initial position by extending the elbows. That’s one rep!

Tips and Mistakes

  • Hold your core tight to ensure your entire body moves smoothly.
  • I also recommend keeping your elbows as close to your body as possible to elicit higher triceps contraction.

How to Program

I recommend doing it three to four sets three times a week if you want to build sizable and sculpted triceps. I usually do it at the end of the workout as it fills my triceps and gives a good pump.

5. Incline Dumbbell Tricep Kickback

About Exercise

  • Focus Area: Long Head
  • Exercise Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Equipment Needed: Dumbbells and a Bench
  • Mechanics: Isolation

Benefits

The kickback highly activates all three heads effectively and helps build burly triceps.3 ACE Study Identifies Best Triceps Exercises – By Brittany Boehler, B.S., John P. Porcari, Ph.D., Dennis Kline, M.S., C. Russell Hendrix, Ph.D., and Carl Foster, Ph.D., with Mark Anders

Downsides

Lying prone on an incline bench can put stress on your chest and can make it difficult for you to breathe.

Steps to Perform

  1. Grab one dumbbell in each hand and lie prone on a 45-degree incline bench.
  2. Keep your arms straight at your sides with your palms facing each other.
  3. Slightly raise your arms, lock your elbows, and extend your arms until you feel the good contraction in your tricep muscles.
  4. Squeezing your tricep, hold for a moment, and then lower your forearm.

Tips and Mistakes

  • Keep your elbows closed and locked.
  • Kick your lower arms back till you feel the maximum contraction in your triceps.
  • Use light dumbbells and grab them with a neutral grip.

How to Program

Perform three sets to hammer your triceps long head effectively. I recommend doing at least eight reps per set, so make sure you pick the weight accordingly.

6. Single-arm Dumbbell Triceps Kickback

Standing dumbbell triceps exercises

About Exercise

  • Focus Area: Long and Lateral Head
  • Exercise Difficulty: Beginner
  • Equipment Needed: One Dumbbell
  • Mechanics: Isolation

Benefits

The single-arm kickback is a unilateral exercise, allowing you to focus on one arm at a time and help you shape your arms.

Downsides

You have to maintain a bent-over position to perform this exercise, which many people find challenging because it can put stress on the lower back.

Steps to Perform

  1. Holding a dumbbell with a neutral grip, stand in front of an incline bench.
  2. Slightly bend your knees and lean forward so your face looking down. Maintain a flat back.
  3. Keep your arm at your side, raise your elbow, and keep it fixed.
  4. Extend your arm behind until you feel the good contraction in your triceps.
  5. Hold for a second and then slowly return to the start. That’s one rep!

Tips and Mistakes

  • Keep your elbows up, locked, and close to your body.
  • Ensure only your lower arm moves so you can feel the contraction.

How to Program

Perform three sets of 10 reps on each side. You can also superset kickback with other exercises to save your time and utilize your workout.

7. Close Grip Dumbbell Bench Press

About Exercise

  • Focus Area: Lateral and Long Head
  • Exercise Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Equipment Needed: Dumbbells and a Bench
  • Mechanics: Compound

Benefits

The close grip bench press requires you to keep your elbows and hands close; this position highly engages your triceps brachii when you press the weight up and helps promote muscular hypertrophy. You can also use it as an accessory exercise to enhance your bench press.

Downsides

The narrow grip bench press has no downside unless you lift heavier than your ability.

Steps to Perform

  1. Grab one dumbbell in each hand and lie supine on the bench with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Hold the dumbbells at the chest level with your elbows bent and palms facing each other.
  3. Brace your core and press the dumbbells until your arms are straight.
  4. Hold for a second and then slowly return to the start. That’s one rep!

Tips and Mistakes

  • Keep your hands closer together with palms facing each other.
  • Perform each rep with a full range of motion, feeling the work in your tris.

How to Program

I recommend doing the close grip bench press as the first exercise on your triceps day. Perform three to four sets with slightly heavy dumbbells and aim for at least eight reps per set.

8. Dumbbell Floor Press

Floor Press, one of the tricep dumbbell exercises.

About Exercise

  • Focus Area: Lateral Head
  • Exercise Difficulty: Beginner
  • Equipment Needed: Dumbbells
  • Mechanics: Isolation

Benefits

The floor press activates the triceps and chest simultaneously and helps build a sturdy torso without a bench.

Downsides

You won’t be able to lift heavy dumbbells while lying on the floor. The floor press also limits the range of motion because your elbows won’t go down like the bench press.

Steps to Perform

  1. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and lie on the floor with your knees in front of you.
  2. Hold the dumbbells at your chest level with your elbows bent and palms facing forward.
  3. Press the dumbbells up toward the ceiling until your arms are fully straight and directly over your upper chest.
  4. Hold for a couple of seconds at the top and then slowly return to the start.

Tips and Mistakes

  • Keep your elbows tucked to your sides to feel the maximum contraction.
  • Hold your core tight and ensure your lower back stays on the floor throughout the movement.

How to Program

Perform three sets of 15-20 reps, especially when you don’t have a bench at home. Use it as a substitute for the close-grip bench press.

9. Dumbbell Tate Press

About Exercise

  • Focus Area: Lateral Head
  • Exercise Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Equipment Needed: Dumbbells and a Bench
  • Mechanics: Isolation

Benefits

The Tate press, also known as elbow-out tricep extension, is an isolation exercise for triceps muscle development. It targets lateral and long heads and helps you forge burly upper arms.

Downsides

The dumbbell Tate press can strain elbows and shoulders if you use heavy weights or do it incorrectly.

Steps to Perform

  1. Holding a pair of dumbbells, lie down on a flat bench and hold your arms straight toward the ceiling with your elbows pointing out.
  2. Lower the dumbbells inward and downward towards your chest until they are close to it, but do not let the dumbbells touch your chest.
  3. Return the dumbbells until your arms are fully extended. You’ll feel a good contraction in your triceps at the top of the extension.

Tips and Mistakes

  • Avoid thrusting your lower arms. Perform each rep with full concentration to highly engage your triceps muscles.

How to Program

Tate press is not a kind of exercise where you work on strength. It is a single-joint exercise that requires you to use light to moderate weight. That’s why I recommend doing three sets of at least 12 reps each for decent results.

4 Simple Tips to Grow Triceps Faster

  1. Focus on each head: Train each head equally. If you work out at home, you should always include an overhead tricep extension, incline French press, and dumbbell kickback for targeting each head.
  2. Start with the Long Head: It’s better to train your long head first, then lateral and medial. By working more on the long head, you will be able to build well-shaped triceps with a lot of depth.
  3. Compound Exercises: Incorporate bodyweight compound exercises for your triceps, such as triangle pushups and bench dips.
  4. Progressive Overload: Increasing load over time is known as progressive overload, and it helps in growing mass. So, if you also want to strengthen, tone, and beef up your tricep, increase your 10 to 15 percent load of your 1RM constantly, typically every three to four weeks.

30-Minute Triceps Dumbbell Workout Routine 

To develop sturdy arms, you can follow this tricep dumbbell workout plan at home.

Triceps Dumbbell Workout That Requires a Bench:

ExerciseSetsRepsRest
Close Grip Dumbbell Press2-38-1260-90 sec
Incline Dumbbell French Press3-410-1545-90 sec
Dumbbell Tate Press2-312-1560-90 sec
Dumbbell Kickbacks3-410-1245-90 sec
One-arm Dumbbell Triceps extension2-310/arm45-90 sec

No-Bench Dumbbell Only Triceps Exercise Routine:

ExerciseSetsRepsRest
Crush Grip Dumbbell Push-Ups310-1260-90 sec
Single-arm Overhead Extension310/arm45-90 sec
Single-arm Bent-over Kickback310/arm60-90 sec
Dual-arm Overhead Extension312-1545-90 sec

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can You Build Biceps with Just Dumbbells?

Yes, you can strengthen and tone your triceps with dumbbells only. Dumbbells provide a full range of motion, allow you to target one arm at a time, and isolate each head effectively. Using the combination of dumbbell exercises, you can build sturdy and aesthetic triceps.

How Often Should You Train Triceps?

Doing tricep exercises every day won’t make them bigger. A good dumbbell workout program includes tricep exercises once to twice a week.

How Heavy Dumbbells Should You Use?

Use dumbbells that are heavy enough to do at least six reps and a maximum of fifteen with proper form. But make sure you feel the contraction during each rep.

What Muscles Can You Train With Triceps?

The chest and shoulder are suitable muscles to train with the triceps. You can do tricep exercises after chest or shoulder exercises. You can also pair triceps and biceps together to forge your upper arms.

You can also explore these alternate exercises to bolster your three-headed arm muscles:

References

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Author
Murshid Akram
I'm an online personal trainer, fitness blogger, and fitness enthusiast. I love researching and writing about exercise and nutrition. I share science-based, practical, and logical information that can help you achieve your desired fitness goal.

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