Home Bodybuilding 10 Best Dumbbell Tricep Exercises For Strong, Toned Arms

10 Best Dumbbell Tricep Exercises For Strong, Toned Arms

Written by Michael Jessimy, RPh

The triceps consist of the largest proportion of upper arm musculature, so not surprisingly, they warrant sufficient training volume.

This is sometimes easier said than done, as gym memberships, a busy lifestyle or so many other things can get in the way.

But luckily, with a good pair of adjustable dumbbells, you too can forge big arms that you would be proud to flaunt to the world.

Ready to take a deep dive into the world of dumbbells and tricep workouts with dumbbells?

Then let’s go!

Why Should You Do Dumbbell Triceps Exercises Anyway?

Given, the dumbbell is merely a tool with which you can sculpt your body, but it does bring a unique set of advantages to the table that other pieces of workout equipment cannot.

Here are some of the main reasons people go for dumbbells.

1) Budget-Friendly

One of the primary reasons people use dumbbells, especially when they are just starting out, is that they are more budget-friendly than other workout equipment.

If you want to join a gym, the monthly membership fee can be expensive, and even if you do not want to join a gym, investing in a home gym with all the equipment can cost quite a bit.

Dumbbells, on the other hand, are a lot more affordable and you can even find them second-hand if you want to save even more money.

This makes them ideal for people who want to start working out but do not want to spend a lot of money upfront.

If you are looking to purchase a pair of dumbbells, I would recommend purchasing an adjustable pair.

This way, as your strength and fitness level improves, you can easily increase the weight you are lifting.

Many people make the mistake of buying a fixed weight for their dumbbells in the beginning, and as they get stronger, they quickly outgrow these weights.

With an adjustable pair, you can simply increase the weight as needed and continue to use the same dumbbells, only having to buy additional plates from time to time.

2) Variety

Another great thing about using dumbbells is that they offer a lot of variety in terms of exercises that can be performed.

You can do everything from bicep curls and shoulder presses to squats and of course, your entire triceps routine with a good pair of adjustable dumbbells.

This variety is great because it not only keeps your workouts interesting, but also helps to prevent plateaus.

When you are doing the same exercises week in and week out, your muscles will quickly adapt and you will stop seeing results.

By incorporating different exercises into your routine, you can keep your body guessing and continue to make progress.

3) Unilateral Exercises

Did you know that we all have one-sided biases when it comes to muscular strength?

If you use a barbell, you are unlikely to notice this.

However, when it comes to dumbbells, this is an entirely different story.

Barbells or exercises which use both hands typically assist the weaker side by having the strong side compensate.

This is good, but also bad because the weaker side never truly gets to the level of the other.

For example, if you are doing a bicep curl with a dumbbell in each hand, you will quickly realize that one arm is stronger than the other.

You might not notice it in the weight being used, but if you were to take an honest assessment of endurance, by measuring the maximum number of reps to failure, you would see a difference between the two sides.

Dumbbells can help correct these imbalances by unilaterally strengthening each side.

4) Range Of Motion

Have you ever tried doing a lateral type exercise with a barbell?

I rest my case. Virtually impossible, dumbbells step up to the plate and are capable of being used through any plane of motion.

This is due to their design.

Unlike a barbell which is essentially a straight piece of metal, dumbbells have a handle on each side which allows for more range of motion.

This makes them ideal for exercises such as flies and raises, which are impossible to do with a barbell.

Plus, you aren’t strictly locked into any movement pattern, which helps to accommodate all body types and anatomical variances.

4) Recruits More Stabilization Muscles

Part of the reason why you are unable to just split your barbell lifts into half and do each with a dumbbell is related to your stabilizer muscle strength.

Barbells are incredibly effective at activating the prime movers, but they are not as good at activating the stabilizers.

This is because when you are using a barbell, the weight is distributed between both hands.

When you use dumbbells, however, the weight is not evenly distributed.

This means that your stabilizer muscles need to work harder in order to keep the weight under control.

This is a good thing because it means that you are getting a more well-rounded workout, and you are also less likely to injure yourself.

But just maintain realistic expectations that your dumbbell lifts will be lower than those of its barbell counterparts.

Blow Up Your Arms With These 10 Triceps Moves

There are many to choose from.

But keep in mind that you’ll want to choose movements that effectively target each head of the triceps to get the most from them.

With that in mind, it’s worth using the following as they are amongst the best dumbbell tricep exercises that exist.

1) Standing Single Arm Tricep Extensions

Watch Tutorial > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gsUck-7M74

The standing single arm tricep extension is a move that isolates the triceps muscle by effectively being a single-joint movement.

It is done by standing with one foot in front of the other, holding a weight in your hand, and extending your arm straight overhead.

This move can be made more difficult by adding weight to your other hand or by doing it with your back against a wall.

The standing single arm tricep extension is a good move to help you build strength and definition in your triceps.

To perform the standing single arm tricep extension:

  • Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
  • Hold a weight in your right hand and extend your upper arms straight overhead. keeping your elbow close to your side.
  • Bend your right elbow and lower the weight back to the starting position. Repeat the move with your left arm. You should keep your upper arm parallel to the floor or very close to parallel.
  • You can also do this move with both arms at the same time.
  • Perform 10-12 repetitions and 2-3 working sets per arm.

2) Seated Dumbbell Tricep Extensions

Watch Tutorial > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbX7Wd8jQ-Q

The seated dumbbell tricep extension is a move that targets the long head of the triceps.

It is done by sitting on a bench with a weight supported in both hands and extending your arms straight up.

This move can be made more difficult by leaning forward or by doing it with one arm at a time.

The seated dumbbell tricep extension is a good move to help you build strength and definition in your triceps.

To perform the seated dumbbell overhead triceps extensions:

  • Start by sitting on a bench with a weight supported in both hands and upper body straight.
  • Extend your arms straight up and hold the weight.
  • Bend at the elbow and lower the weight behind your head.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat. You can also do this move with one arm at a time.

This exercise emphasizes the long head of the triceps, which is the part that extends along the back of the upper arm.

This exercise also works the medial and lateral heads of the triceps, which are located on the sides of the upper arm, though not to the same extent.

This makes it a perfect mass-building exercise for the entire triceps muscle.

You can use a variety of weights to make this exercise more challenging, depending on your fitness level.

Alternatives to this movement include the lying triceps extension.

Perform 10-12 reps and 2-3 working sets for this exercise.

3) Close Grip Dumbbell Bench Press

Watch Tutorial > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DI5PCKdDtLQ

The close grip dumbbell bench press is a move that targets the lateral and medial heads of the triceps muscle.

It is done by lying on a bench with a weight in each hand and pressing the weights up, in a manner replicating the standard bench press.

This move can also be made more difficult by using heavier weights or by doing it with one arm at a time.

The close grip dumbbell bench press is a good move to help you build strength and definition in your triceps, accentuating that horseshoe shape many seek.

To perform the close grip dumbbell press:

  • Start by lying on a bench with a weight in each hand.
  • Position your hands so that they are close together and press the weights up.
  • Slowly Lower the weights back to the starting position under control and repeat.
  • Perform 8-10 reps and 2-3 working sets for this exercise.

This exercise is perfect for really overloading the triceps and breaking through any size or strength plateau you may be experiencing.

The close grip positioning of the hands allows you to maximally target the triceps muscle.

4) Dumbbell Skull Crushers

Watch Tutorial > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ir5PsbniVSc

The dumbbell skull crusher is a move that targets the long head of the triceps muscle.

It is done by lying on a bench with a weight in each hand and extending your arms straight up.

As the name suggests, the exercise replicates “crushing your skull” in the bottom position as the dumbbell rests directly in front of your forehead. It is also known as the lying tricep extension.

To perform the dumbbell skull crushers:

  • Start by lying on a bench with a weight in each hand, or one dumbbell supported by both arms.
  • Extend your arms straight up and hold the weight.
  • Bend at the elbow and lower the weight towards your head.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat.

Be careful when performing the skull crushers not to let the weight hit your head. This can cause injury.

Always use a weight that you can control and that allows you to perform the desired number of reps.

Perform 10-12 reps and 2-3 working sets for this exercise.

5) Dumbbell Tricep Kickbacks

Watch Tutorial > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SS6K3lAwZ8

There are so many varieties of dumbbell kickbacks that exist, that if we decided to include each of them, we’d be here all day.

We’ll just briefly touch on the standard version of the dumbbell tricep kickback

The dumbbell tricep kickback is a move that primarily targets the lateral and medial head of the triceps, since there is minimal shoulder involvement.

It is done by standing with a weight in each hand and extending your arms straight back.

To Perform:

  • Start by standing with a weight in each hand (for alternating reps), or one dumbbell at a time.
  • Bend at the waist while keeping your back straight, extend your arms straight back and hold the weight.
  • Bend at the elbow joint and slowly lower the weight towards your butt.
  • Contract the weight up and back, keeping your upper arm straight throughout.
  • Repeat for 12-15 reps and 1-2 working sets.

Be sure to use a relatively lightweight for this triceps exercise to maintain safety.

6) Dumbbell Incline French Press

Watch Tutorial > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6MQMMO_vaQ

The incline dumbbell french press is a unique and very effective move for targeting the long head.

It is done by lying on an incline bench with a weight in each hand and pressing the weights up.

This move can be made more difficult by adjusting the incline angle of the bench and deliberately slowing down the training tempo.

To perform the incline dumbbell french press:

  • Start by lying on an incline bench with a weight in each hand.
  • Press the weights up and hold them at the top position.
  • Bend at the elbow and lower the weights towards your head. An elbow bent position of close to 90 degrees is optimal.
  • Contract to return to the starting position and repeat.
  • Go for 10-12 reps and 3 working sets.

This move is perfect for targeting all the heads of the triceps muscles.

It can be performed with either a flat or incline bench, but we find that the incline version allows for a greater range of motion and hits the triceps muscles more effectively.

7) Crush Grip/ Close Grip Pushup

Watch Tutorial > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2mlaEfpEIM

This exercise does not utilize the resistance offered by dumbbells, but rather utilizes the dumbbell itself as an elevated base for performing the pushup.

This push-up variation targets the triceps primarily, but also the chest, deltoids, and core to a decent extent as they all play parts in the execution of the movement.

To perform:

  • Choose a dumbbell that is heavy enough to be stable when you start the movement.
  • Assume the standard pushup position, but grasp o[opposing two sides of a hex-head dumbbell.
  • Under control, lower your body to the level so that your upper chest almost touches the dumbbell.
  • Contract the muscles of the triceps forcefully to push your body up to the starting position again.
  • Repeat for as many reps as you can perform, for 1-2 working sets.

This exercise can be done as a pre-exhaust movement on chest day or as a wrap-up high volume movement after heavy triceps work.

If you are unable to attain stability with the dumbbell, use an alternative base or mount to perform the movement.

8) Neutral Grip Bench Press

Watch Tutorial > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBmYTiT_ImU

The neutral grip dumbbell bench press is an excellent alternative to the standard barbell bench press or flat dumbbell press, as it targets the tricep muscles more effectively and reduces the amount of stress placed on the shoulder joint.

To perform:

  • Lie on your back on a bench with a weight in each hand, and your palms facing each other.
  • Press the weights up and hold them at the top position.
  • Bend at the elbow and lower the weights as you would with a standard press, except allowing your elbows to travel down to the sides of your torso further if necessary.
  • Go for 10-12 repetitions and 2-3 working sets.

9) Dumbbell Tate Press

Watch Tutorial > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgSjoXbpy1M

The dumbbell state press is definitely a weird one, but it works.

It’s a move that was popularized by well-known powerlifter Dave Tate, and even though it looks kind of goofy, it is actually quite effective for targeting the triceps muscles.

It is purportedly very effective in enhancing bench press strength by mimicking the position of the elbows and can help you surpass a stalled bench press which is oftentimes attributed to weak triceps.

It is sometimes called the elbows out dumbbell press.

To perform:

  • Lie on a flat bench with a weight in each hand and your palms facing forward (like a standard press position).
  • Lower the dumbbells to your chest under control, slightly tapping at the bottom of the movement. Of course, to do this, your elbows will need to bend laterally, or to the sides.
  • Contract your triceps as you return to the starting position.
  • Perform 8-10 reps with a moderately heavy weight- albeit one that is safe and won’t cause you to risk damage to your body when its lowered.

In addition to the aforementioned merits of the exercise, it also helps to enhance max lockout strength, beneficial for other movements such as pushups.

10) Dumbbell Floor Press

Watch Tutorial > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUGDRwge4F8

Do you know what the major difference between the bench and floor version of pressing exercises is?

It’s not the presence of the word “bench” or not, but rather how much chest and triceps emphasis is included.

Bench presses utilize a larger range of motion, increase chest stretch, and are overall better suited for pectoral stimulation.

Floor presses, on the other hand, are more limited and tend to emphasize the triceps more.

To perform:

  • Lie flat on your back on the floor with a weight in each hand and extended, with your palms facing forward.
  • With elbows bent and slowly lower the weights as you would with a standard press, stopping when your upper arms touch the floor.
  • Contract your triceps forcefully as you return to the starting position.
  • Go for 10-12 repetitions, and perform 2-3 sets total.

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Triceps Workout

Knowing which exercises to choose is actually just the start of a good program, but putting it together is far more important.

Here’s a solid plan if you’re new to working out or trying to be more efficient when working out at home.

Focus On Compound Exercises

Compound exercises, also known as multi-joint movements, are as the name suggests, those which utilize multiple muscle groups and operate through more than one joint.

Pressing type movements such as bench presses are a good example since, in addition to bending at the elbow, movement through the shoulder joint is necessary to lower the arms, and subsequently the bar.

To start off your workout, you will want to prioritize compound exercises, as they are more demanding and subsequently elicit a greater hormonal response- one that will help to support muscle growth throughout your body.

That being said, isolation-type exercises are still good, but more so towards the end of your workout when you’re trying to really fatigue the target muscle group.

Isolation-type triceps dumbbell exercises include triceps kickback, which maintains shoulder position and emphasizes the elbows being flexed.

When Should Triceps Be Trained?

Your actual triceps training can be done at a few different times, such as following your push days (if using a push-pull split) of chest exercises, paired with the opposing group (biceps, or with the back, for example), or even trained by itself on a special day.

We advise either training it on the push day or a designated arm day, as individual muscle group splits end up causing you to have to work out too many times per week to accomplish them and affect training frequency.

Optimal training frequency PER BODYPART should be twice weekly for muscle hypertrophy, and not once weekly like muscle magazines might have you believe.

Tips For Faster Triceps Growth

1) Train Each Muscle Head

When using dumbbells for triceps training, you can hit each muscle head with a little know-how.

For instance, the long head makes up the bulk of the triceps, and overall upper arm musculature, so it’s worth your time to add 2-3 exercises for this part by itself.

1-2 exercises for the medial and lateral head are sufficient, meaning that a good training plan for the triceps will usually consist of 4-7 exercises, and 8-15 total working sets.

Be sure to gauge your recuperative ability and training tolerance when deciding on how much you need for maximal muscle and strength gains.

2) You Must Increase Lifts

The only way to get progressively stronger and larger from exercise is to constantly challenge the body with increasing weight.

This doesn’t mean that you need to increase how much you lift every single workout, but every 4-6 weeks you should better previous PRs.

This principle, known as progressive overload, is necessary if you wish to develop your body to its maximum potential.

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