5 Fantastic Dumbbell Triceps Exercises

The triceps brachaii – or triceps 1tri meaning three, and ceps meaning head for short – is a large muscle on the back (or dorsal) of your upper arm. When well-defined, the muscle ends up having a horseshoe like shape and takes up a significant portion of your arm .

Made up of 3 “parts” – the long head, the lateral head, and the medial head – the primary function of the tricep is to extend your elbow joint. It works opposite of the biceps brachaii, which is used to flex your lower arm toward the upper part.

Along with extending the forearm at the elbow, the triceps can also stabilize the elbow joint when the forearm and hand are doing fine movements such as writing.

Additionally, of all the joints in your body, your shoulders should have the greatest range of motion. And your triceps – believe it or not – actually have a small role in stabilizing the humerus 2 upper arm bone in your shoulder joint.

So, as you can see, training triceps and getting them strong is important for everyone, not just weightlifters or athletes. Triceps can be trained in a variety of ways: with compound, multi-join exercises, statically by keeping the arm straight against resistance, and with isolation tricep-specific exercises.

And while compound exercises are great and should be the foundation of your training, it’s also important to train all three heads of the triceps if you want your arms to really pop.

tricep workout exercises

This of it this way: virtually every time you use a pushing motion or extend your forearm, whether it be to open a door or move your grocery cart down the aisle, you’re actively using your tricep muscles.

The most effective way to build stronger, more supportive triceps is through regular exercise. And for complete development, those exercises should explicitly be designed to emphasize each of the three parts of the muscle.

Compound exercises that work out the triceps include any pressing movements like push-ups, bench press, close grip bench press, tricep dips, and military presses. The closer the grip on these exercises, the more they isolate the triceps. The wider the grip, the more they work your chest.

So while there are a ton of options, let’s look at five fantastic triceps isolation exercises (with a dumbbell!) you can try today to give your triceps a boost.

PS! For a full list of Dumbbell Exercises see this article.
PPS! The best possible dumbbells to use at home are these bad boys.. (or these if you’re on a budget).

5 Dumbbell Tricep Exercises

1. Dumbbell Triceps Extension

Dumbbell Overhead Extension

Target Muscle Groups: Upper Arm (Triceps, specifically the long head), Lower Arms (Wrist Flexors), Shoulders (Deltoid, Teres Major), Back (Latissimus Dorsi), Chest (Pectoralis)

What Do You Need: 1 Dumbbell, Exercise Mat or bench

How To Do It:

  1. Stand on your exercise mat with your feet flat, hip-width distance apart with knees slightly bent. Remember to keep your back straight up through to your neck.
  2. Hold a dumbbell with both hands in front of your chest. Keep your palms facing towards each other with your fingers securely wrapped around the dumbbell.
  3. Slowly bring the dumbbell up and over behind your head until you lockout your elbows at the top.
  4. Disengage your biceps by keeping your upper arms still, and bend your elbows as you continue to bring the dumbbells back behind your head. This is your starting position.
  5. Lower the weight until your forearms and biceps are touching, or as low as you can comfortably bring the weight.
  6. Make sure to engage your triceps when doing a triceps extension as you slowly lift your dumbbell back up into the starting position to complete one repetition.

Reps X Sets: Try to do 3 sets of 8-10 reps of the triceps extension, and as you improve, increase to 4 sets of 10-12 reps.

Youtube: Click here to see a short video example of what your dumbbell triceps extension should look like in action. Or, click here for a longer-form video with some different variations on this triceps extension that you can try.

2. Triceps Kickback 

Dumbbell Triceps Kickback

Target Muscle Groups: Upper Arms (Triceps, specifically the long head)

What Do You Need: Set of 2 Dumbbells, Exercise Mat

How To Do It:

  1. Stand on your exercise mat with your feet hip-width distance apart and bend your knees slightly.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing in towards each other. Keep your back straight and bend at your waist to lean forward.
  3. Bend your elbows and keep your elbows tucked close to your sides so that your arms create a 90-degree angle. Remember to also keep your forearm and sides in line with one another. Keep your upper arm parallel and in line with your body. This is your starting position.
  4. Engage your core and triceps as you straighten your forearms out and extend it behind you. Your arm should be in a straight line.
  5. Pause when you lockout your elbows and make sure that your elbows are taking full control of the movement.
  6. Guide the weight back down to the starting position to complete one rep

Reps X Sets: Aim for 3 sets of 10-12 reps if you’re just starting out. For more experienced fitness enthusiasts, aim for 4 sets of 12-15 reps to challenge your triceps muscles.

Youtube: To see a triceps kickback in action, click here for a short video that demonstrates proper form in less than a minute. Or, for a more explanatory video with a few tips and tricks to help you along, click here.

3. Incline Dumbbell Overhead Extension

Dumbbell Incline Triceps Extension - Exercise Database | Jefit ...

Target Muscle Groups: Upper Arms (Triceps, all heads), Shoulders (Deltoids)

What Do You Need: Set of 2 Dumbbells, Incline or Adjustable Workout Bench (Alternative: Stability Ball)

How To Do It:

  1. Position your adjustable bench to an incline between 25 and 35 degrees and sit down.
  2. Hold one dumbbell in each hand vertically, allowing the bottom weight to rest on your thighs. You can also have a third party assist bypassing your dumbbells to you once you’re in position.
  3. Use your knees to help you gain momentum and raise your dumbbells until your elbows lockout at the top of your press. Your dumbbells should be about shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.
  4. Engage your triceps by unlocking your elbows and lower the weights behind your head until your forearms are parallel with the floor or your biceps and forearm are touching.
  5. Pause to hold position before guiding your weights slowly back into the starting position to complete the rep.

Reps X Sets: Start with 3 sets of 8-10 reps and work your way up to 4 sets of 10-12 reps as the exercise becomes easier to perform.

Youtube: Click here for a visual guide to what your incline dumbbell overhead extensions should look like when performed with perfect form. Or, you can click here to see a more extended, more illustrative example with professional trainer insight.

4. Close Grip Dumbbell Pushups

Exercise Database (Chest26) - Close Grip Dumbbell Push Ups — Jase ...

Target Muscle Groups: Shoulders (Deltoids),Upper Arm (Triceps, emphasis on long and lateral heads), Chest (Pectoralis), Core (Abdominals, Obliques), Bottom (Glutes)

What Do You Need: Set of 2 Dumbbells, Exercise Mat

How To Do It:

  1. Set up your dumbbells on your exercise mat so that they are between 4 and 6 inches apart and parallel to each other. They should be slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Get into the plank position on your mat, lining up your dumbbells so that you can grip them overhand. Your knuckles should be pointing down towards the floor, with your palms facing each other. This is your starting position.
  3. Keep your elbows tucked in towards your sides and your upper arms straight as you slowly lower your body towards the floor and engage your triceps.
  4. Once your chest grazes your mat, pause, and return to the starting position to complete one repetition.

Reps X Sets: Go for 10-12 reps for three sets to start and aim for 12-15 reps for four sets once you’re more familiar with the form and mechanics of close grip dumbbell pushups.

Another Option: Turn this exercise upside and do a dumbbell floor press. Essentially, you lie on your back on the floor and then press the dumbbells away from you until your arms are extended. The limited range of motion (by being on the floor) puts more emphasis on the lateral and medial heads of the triceps.

Keep your elbows bent and tight to your sides for further goodness. If you have a bench, you can use that to get a bigger range of motion and turn this into a close grip bench press variation.

Youtube: You can click here to see a quick overview of proper form, or you can also click here for an alternative video with instructions to help you guide you as you workout.

5. Skull Crusher

How to Do Skull Crushers | Openfit

Target Muscle Groups: Upper Arm (Triceps, specifically medial head, Back (Latissimus Dorsi)

What Do You Need: Set of 2 Dumbbells, Exercise Mat

How To Do It:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, so that your palms are facing in towards each other. Sit down on your exercise mat and rest your dumbbells on your thighs, or have a third party hand them to you.
  2. Lie down on your exercise mat face up, with your black flat and your legs bent at the knee to create a 45-degree angle. Your feet should be flat on the floor.
  3. Raise your dumbbells above your chest and straighten your arms up until your elbows are straight. This is your starting position.
  4. Slowly lower the weights down and back towards the sides of your head by bending your elbows until they create a 90-degree angle.
  5. Guide your dumbbells to the mat, and remember to keep your elbows bent and pressed in close to your head.
  6. Pause and hold before lifting your arms and resuming the starting position to complete the rep.

Reps X Sets: You should try to complete 3 sets of 8-10 reps to start with and increase to 4 sets of 10-12 reps as your muscles strengthen to avoid stagnation.

Youtube: Click here to check out a quick video explanation of skull crushers. Or, click here for a longer format video with helpful tips to guide you along.

Dumbbell Recommendations

So now you know the moves, but do you have all of the equipment? 

Continue reading to find out about my top dumbell recommendations for everyone from professional athletes to fitness newbies.


PowerBlock Series Adjustable Dumbbell Set (PB-SERIES)

Powerblock’s adjustable dumbbells are in the second spot of my top three recommended products when it comes to dumbbells for at-home gyms. 

I bought my Powerblock dumbbells in 2015, and they have quickly become one of my favorite sets.

The EXP range of dumbbells from Powerblock is adjustable from 5 pounds to 90 pounds each and adjusted in 2.5-pound increments. 

Although these rectangular beasts may look a bit scary to use at first, these dumbbells are durable and comfortable to use once you get familiar with them.

The EXP adjustable dumbbells from Powerblock are best suited to fitness enthusiasts and professional athletes who regularly use dumbbells as part of their workout already. 

You can find out more about Powerblock from my in-depth review of their adjustable dumbbells by clicking here.


Amazon.com : Bowflex SelectTech 552 - Two Adjustable Dumbbells ...

The SelectTech series of adjustable dumbbells from Bowflex is my number one recommendation for fitness enthusiasts and those just starting down their road to wellness, alike. 

And, having reviewed more than 30 of the best-selling dumbbells currently on the market, that’s saying something.

Bowflex’s SelectTech adjustable dumbbells feature a super easy to use adjustment system that allows you to transition from 10 pounds to 90 pounds quickly. 

They also have a lot of Amazon reviews with an above-average rating, so you don’t have to just take my word for it.

I cannot recommend the Bowflex SelectTech series enough to anyone interested in purchasing dumbbells for their home that are as stylish as they are durable. 

Click here to find out more about Bowflex’s SelectTech series from this thorough review featuring pros and cons, and a full company overview.



On my top 3 products list, Ironmaster’s adjustable dumbbells come in at number three.

I bought my first pair in 2014, and six years later, they still look and work as well as they did when I first purchased them.

Ironmaster’s adjustable dumbbells feature a square design that allows you to perform exercises like close grip dumbbell pushups with extra stability and without the fear of rolling. 

The adjustments do take a little more time to change than Powerblock or Bowflex, but they’re able to accommodate weights from 5 pounds to 75 pounds in 2.5-pound increments.

If you plan on making dumbbells a regular part of your workout, adjustable dumbbells from Ironmaster are a space-saving and relatively affordable option for professional-grade gym equipment that you can use at home. 

You can find out more about Ironmaster’s adjustable dumbbells from my extensive review by clicking here.

Hex Dumbbells

BodyMax Rubber Hex Dumbbell Sets - Shop Online - Powerhouse Fitness

For beginners who don’t plan on using their dumbbells regularly, rubber hex dumbbells could be your best option. 

These cheap adjustable dumbbell alternatives are often sold in small sets of six or eight and can range in weight depending on the company.

Rubber Hex Dumbbells are also helpful for athletes who need equipment for recovery and anyone recovering from an injury in need of physical therapy. 

Most rubber dumbbells are made with a metal core and with small, ergonomic designs for easy transport and storage.

If you’re interested in finding out more about rubber hex dumbbells, click here for my review of the top five most affordable rubber hex dumbbells on the market.

The Bottomline

tricep dumbbells exercises

Now that you have the know-how and the equipment you need, you no longer have any excuses. Get ready to boost your workout and your physique with these tricep busting exercises.

And if you require further inspiration still, check out the example routine I’ve created below using the great tricep exercises we’ve discussed.

For maximum results, consider adding this example triceps workout onto your regular workout 1 or a max of 2 days per week. Note, I would still focus on foundational upper-body strength movements – such as the bench press or incline bench – before doing the below workout.

Killer Tricep Workouts for Beginners:

  • Extensions: 8-10 Reps X 3 Sets
  • Kickbacks: 8-12 Reps X 3 Sets OR Incline Dumbbell Overhead Extension: 8-12 Reps X 3 Sets
  • Close Grip Dumbbell Pushups: 10-12 Reps X 3 Sets OR Skull Crusher: 8-10 Reps X 3 Sets

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