Man sitting and holding dumbbells

The Best 7 Tricep Exercises With Dumbbells

When it comes to upper arm exercises, triceps often take a backseat despite the fact that they make up the majority of the muscle mass in your upper arm. Whether you want to get rid of arm flab or want your arms to fill out your sleeves, tricep exercises are the key.

You don't need fancy equipment to work your triceps; you can give this three-headed muscle some much-needed attention using dumbbells alone.

Read on for 7 of the best dumbbell-only triceps exercises to build strength and muscle definition.

Anatomy and Functions of the Tricep Muscle

The triceps brachii is a major muscle located at the back of your upper arm and runs from your shoulder blade all the way down to your elbow joint. The tricep muscle makes up around 70% of your upper arm and has three heads or muscle layers: long, lateral, and medial.

Tricep muscles have two primary functions: helping with shoulder mobility, and elbow extension, which means you use them every time you use your shoulders or straighten your arms.

Working out your triceps builds muscle endurance, bulks up your arms, and improves the range of motion in your shoulders and arms. The best part? You can get these benefits using only dumbbells.

Are Dumbbells Good for Triceps?

Dumbbells are great for working your triceps, especially for beginners, as they help you isolate the triceps brachii better while being easy on the joints (more on this below).

Benefits of Training Triceps With Dumbbells

Not only are dumbbell exercises great for beginners who prefer at-home workouts, they also have some obvious advantages over barbells and machines when it comes to training your triceps.

  • Dumbbells allow you to isolate and target your triceps, which builds muscle mass fast.
  • You can focus on one arm at a time, addressing muscle imbalances.
  • Dumbbells give you greater freedom of movement compared to barbells, machines, or cables. This allows you to try out different movements and find the ones that don’t come with pain and discomfort.
  • You get a more natural range of motion when training with dumbbells, which fully works your muscles and connective tissues. This engages more of your muscle fibers, leading to increased tricep growth, better mobility, and flexibility.
  • Dumbbells are easier on the joints since you can control your movements and allow your elbow joint and shoulder joint to move naturally through their entire range of motion.

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7 Best Dumbbell Triceps Exercises

Here are 7 beginner-friendly dumbbell exercises to work your triceps muscles.

1. Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extension

The overhead tricep extension targets all three heads of your tricep, with the long head being the most active throughout the exercise. This workout extends your triceps to their longest position and helps you build muscle while increasing your core and shoulder stability.

  • Stand or sit upright, grip the dumbbell with both hands and hold it above your head.
  • Bend your elbows and slowly lower the dumbbell backward as far as it can go. Make sure to keep your elbows pointed forward and your core engaged.
  • Extend your arms and bring the weight overhead to the starting position. Engage your core and glutes for this movement. Remember to keep your torso straight throughout.
  • Do 3 sets of 8-12 reps each. Take a rest of 60 seconds in between each set.

To address muscle imbalance in any one arm, you can complete this workout by holding your dumbbell with a single hand.

2. Dumbbell Tricep Kickback

The dumbbell tricep kickback targets all the three heads of your tricep, with special emphasis on the lateral head. It also works the deltoid muscles of your shoulder, improving your range of motion.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Keep your upper arms close to your body and bend forward from your waist so that your torso is almost parallel to the floor.
  • Slowly move your forearms backward and forward in a swinging position while engaging your triceps. Your upper arm must remain still.
  • Do 3 sets of 8-12 reps each with a 60 second break in between each set.

For a more advanced version of the triceps kickback, you can do the exercise one arm at a time.

3. Close-Grip Bench Press with Dumbbells

The dumbbell close-grip bench press is a compound exercise that works your triceps, the anterior deltoid muscles on your shoulders, as well as your pecs with an emphasis on your inner chest muscles.

  • Lie down flat on a bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing inward.
  • Press up, bringing the dumbbells over your chest, keeping them level with your sides.
  • Slowly lower the weights to your chest.
  • Pause for a second and straighten your arms to push the weights back up.
  • Do 3 sets of 8-12 reps each with a 60 second break in between each set.

4. Dumbbell Skull Crusher

The dumbbell skull crusher—also known as the lying triceps extension—targets  the long and medial heads. This exercise is more advanced than, say, tricep extensions, as all the weight is on your arms and shoulders, making it super effective.

  • Lie down on a flat bench,  holding a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing downwards.
  • Keep your arms extended above your chest. Your arms should be in line with your shoulders.
  • With your upper arm fixed, slowly bend your elbows backward, allowing the dumbbells to go past your head.
  • Hold for 1-2 seconds and slowly straighten your arms again, coming back to the original position.
  • Do 3 sets of 5 reps each with a 60 second break in between each set.

5. Dumbbell Tate Press

The dumbbell tate press is an isolation exercise that works all three heads of your triceps and also targets the deltoids. It allows for a deeper range of motion for your triceps, which means better stability and more muscle activation. If you want great horseshoe triceps, you should make this triceps exercise part of your workout routine.

  • This workout is similar to the dumbbell skull crusher, except you keep your elbows flared out and pointing out to the sides.
  • With a dumbbell in each hand, keep your arms extended above you.
  • Bend your elbows outward, bringing the inner part of the weights down to your chest.
  • Engage your triceps to push your arms back up to the starting position.
  • Do 3 sets of 8-12 reps each with a 60 second break in between each set.

For some variety, lie down on an incline bench instead of a flat bench when performing this triceps exercise.

6. Side Plank with Dumbbell Raise

This is one of the best compound exercises to target the muscles in your upper body, such as your triceps, biceps, and shoulders, as well as your core.

  • Grip a dumbbell in your right hand and assume a side plank position on the left side with your feet stacked.
  • Raise your hips so that your body is straight from ankles to shoulders.
  • Extend your right arm straight above while still holding the dumbbell.
  • Pause for a second or two, then bring your right arm back down till it's parallel to the floor.
  • Do 3 sets of 8-12 reps each with a 60 second break in between each set.

7. Bent-Over Single-Arm Triceps Extension

In addition to increasing the strength of your triceps, this exercise helps you focus on one arm at a time which can help you identify and correct any muscular imbalances.

  • Sit down on a flat bench with a dumbbell in your right hand. Your palm should be facing towards you.
  • Bring your upper body forward till it’s almost parallel to the floor.
  • Keep your right arm close to your body with the elbow bent at a 90 degree angle.
  • Slowly extend your right forearm behind you till it’s parallel to the floor.
  • Hold for 1-2 seconds and bring it back down to the starting position.
  • Do 3 sets of 8-12 reps each with a 60 second break in between each set.

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What is the Best Dumbbell Triceps Exercise?

Although all dumbbell tricep exercises are great, the overhead triceps extensions and triceps kickbacks are some of the best for beginners since they target each head of the triceps.

Related: 7 Best Back Exercises with Dumbbells

Safety Tips and Proper Form

To prevent injury and get the full benefits of your workout, proper form is essential when doing dumbbell triceps exercises. These tips will help you get the most bang for each workout.

  • As a beginner, start with 2-3 kg dumbbells and gradually increase the weight after 4-6 weeks. The dumbbells should challenge your muscles, which means they shouldn’t feel too light. At the same time, they shouldn’t be so heavy that you’re unable to maintain proper form.
  • Do a 5-minute warm-up routine with some dynamic stretches before your workout to get your triceps pumped for activity. Similarly, do a 5-minute cool-down routine with static stretches after.
  • Don’t lift the weight quickly. Pace yourself, go slow with controlled movements, and don’t ignore any pain or discomfort.
  • Take your elbows through their full range of motion. If you can’t, lower the weight.
  • Add variety to your workout routines to target different parts of the triceps.
  • Take a minimum of 2 rest days between your workouts to allow your muscles time to recover. For beginners, we recommend doing dumbbell triceps exercises only 1-2 times per week.

Sample Workout Routines with the Best Dumbbell Triceps Exercises

Here are some sample workout routines to help you get started.

Sample Workout 1:

  • Dynamic stretches (arm circles, overhead tricep stretch): 5 minutes
  • Dumbbell overhead triceps extension: 3 sets x 5-8 reps.
  • Rest: 60 seconds.
  • Dumbbell skull crusher: 3 sets x 5 reps.
  • Rest: 90 seconds.
  • Close-grip dumbbell bench press: 3 sets x 5 reps.
  • Rest: 90 seconds.
  • Static stretches: 5 minutes.

Sample Workout 2:

  • Dynamic stretches (arm circles, overhead tricep stretch): 5 minutes
  • Dumbbell triceps kickback: 3 sets x 5-8 reps.
  • Rest: 60 seconds.
  • Dumbbell tate press: 3 sets x 5 reps.
  • Rest: 90 seconds.
  • Side plank with dumbbell raise: 3 sets x 5-8 reps.
  • Rest: 50 seconds.
  • Static stretches: 5 minutes.

Build Bigger and Better Triceps

Whether you want to increase your upper-body strength, get rid of arm flab, bulk up your arms, or simply want to improve the mobility of your arms and shoulders, training your triceps will do wonders. Dumbbells are a beginner-friendly way of working out the triceps and getting the results you want.

Get started with Montreal Weights dumbbells and choose from a variety of high-quality hex or adjustable dumbbells.

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Julien Méthot

Passionate about fitness from a young age, Julien co-founded Montreal Weights in 2020 with the vision of providing Canadians with all the necessary tools to workout & stay fit from home. 

Over the years, Julien has helped build a dynamic team that continuously strives to help create the best possible home gym setups for Montreal Weights customers across the nation. 

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