4 Tricep Workouts With Dumbbells For Bulky Arms In 2024

After the COVID-19 pandemic, many people started to work and work out from home more often. Not everyone has the luxury of a full home gym setup, but having a few sets of dumbbells on hand can be a handy and effective tool for training multiple muscle groups, including the triceps. 

As the name implies, the tricep brachii muscle is made up of three heads:[1] the lateral head, medial head, and long head. Dumbbell workouts for triceps are an excellent way to reach all portions of the muscle and tone and strengthen these muscles of the upper arm. 

Several forms of gym equipment can be used to train the tricep muscles, but dumbbells have a few differences and advantages. In this article, we’ll go over the best dumbbell tricep exercises, tips for how to do them safely and effectively, and other pertinent information about triceps workouts. 

Best Tricep Exercises With Dumbbells

The four best tricep workouts with dumbbells are:

These exercises can be done by anyone from beginners to pros either from the gym or from the comfort of your own home.

Best Tricep Workouts With Dumbbells For Mass

Best Tricep Workouts With Dumbbells For Mass
Building muscle mass with dumbbells is entirely possible. Photo: senivpetro/Freepik

Here is a round-up of four of the best dumbbell triceps exercises that can be done by anyone from beginners to pros. 

Dumbbell Seated Triceps Overhead Press

This move, also known as an overhead triceps extension, is a common tricep exercise and an excellent addition to any workout. It primarily targets the long head portion of the muscle, which is also the largest, making overhead tricep moves the most beneficial for muscle hypertrophy.[2]

It can be performed on a bench set at 90 degrees or on a flat bench. The right angle can help to ensure good form by forcing an erect posture and strong core. 

This move can be slightly stressful on the elbow joint, but this is all the more reason to warm up properly and not overdo it on repetitions for this one.

Dumbbell Seated Triceps Overhead Press
Dumbbell Seated Triceps Overhead Press Guide. Photo: Aliaksandr Makatserchyk

How To Do

  1. Start sitting on a bench (either flat or at 90 degrees) while gripping a dumbbell at one end with both hands. 
  2. Bring the dumbbell over your head to where your elbows are near your ears. 
  3. Slowly drop the dumbbell behind your head, while keeping the elbows close to your head. 
  4. Bring the dumbbell back to the starting position to complete a rep.

Tips

  • You can always adjust your grip and swap which hand is over the top. 
  • Sit on a sturdy bench with back support and maintain a neutral spine to prevent lower back strain during the exercise.
  • Use a controlled and deliberate motion, focusing on extending your elbows and fully engaging your triceps at the top of the press.

Optimal Sets And Reps

Training StyleSetsReps
Strength Training3-46-8
Hypertrophy3-48-12
Endurance Training2-315-20+
Power Training3-44-6

Dumbbell Triceps Kickback

The triceps kickback is a great isolation exercise that works the arms one at a time. You’ll need a flat bench and one dumbbell. For this description, we’ll start with the right side.

Dumbbell Triceps Kickback
Dumbbell Triceps Kickback Guide. Photo: Aliaksandr Makatserchyk

How To Do

  1. Start by grabbing a dumbbell in your right hand and placing your left bent knee and hand on the flat-weight bench. Look forward but don’t strain the neck.  
  2. Grip the dumbbell with your palm facing toward your body.
  3. Bring the dumbbell up to the side body so that the right arm is bent at a 90-degree angle. This is the starting position.
  4. Extend your right arm behind you by flexing the tricep.
  5. Return to the starting position to complete the rep.
  6. After completing the set, repeat all of this on the opposite side.

Tips

  • In this move, the entire body should be stationary with only the forearms moving. Like many things, this requires good core strength and stability.
  • Keep your back straight and maintain a stable, slightly bent-over position to isolate and target the triceps effectively.
  • Fully extend your arm and focus on squeezing your triceps at the top of the movement to maximize muscle engagement.

Optimal Sets And Reps

Training StyleSetsReps
Strength Training3-48-12
Hypertrophy3-412-15
Endurance Training2-320-25+
Power Training3-46-8

Dumbbell Skull Crusher

You can’t talk about a tricep workout without mentioning a skull crusher, aka a lying triceps extension. There are a few variations of this exercise, and it can be done with a dumbbell in each hand or a single dumbbell.

This is a very similar movement to the tricep extension, but lying down reduces the pressure on the wrists. You don’t need to do both versions[3] of tricep extensions on the same day as they activate the same musculature.

Dumbbell Skull Crusher
Dumbbell Skull Crusher Guide. Photo: Aliaksandr Makatserchyk

How To Do

  1. Lie down on the bench with your knees bent and feet planted firmly on the ground.
  2. Bring dumbbell(s) over your chest with your arms extended. 
  3. Bend your elbows to move the weight behind the head while keeping the elbows stationary. 
  4. Bring the dumbbell(s) back up to the starting position to finish the rep. 

Tips

  • Try and keep the forearms perpendicular to the bench to isolate the triceps more so than the shoulders. Also, keep your back flat on the bench using core strength.
  • Keep your elbows stable and close to your head throughout the movement to effectively target the triceps while reducing strain on the elbows.
  • Lower the dumbbells to a point just beside your ears, maintaining control, and then extend your arms upward, squeezing the triceps at the top of the movement.

Optimal Sets And Reps

Training StyleSetsReps
Strength Training3-46-8
Hypertrophy3-48-12
Endurance Training2-315-20+
Power Training3-44-6

Dumbbell Bench Press

A nice tricep exercise with the barbell is the close grip bench press. This move also works the chest, back, and upper arms, but it also activates the lateral head of the muscle.[4] This compound lift can be mimicked with dumbbells, and this eliminates any risk of being crushed by the bar.

Dumbbell Bench Press
Dumbbell Bench Press Guide. Photo: Aliaksandr Makatserchyk

How To Do

  1. Take a dumbbell in each hand and lay on a flat bench. Grip the dumbbells with palms facing each other. 
  2. Keep your elbows tucked and the dumbbells parallel as you raise the weight above your chest by extending your arms. 
  3. Bring the dumbbells back toward your chest to complete the rep. 

Tips

  • Make sure to squeeze the elbows in and focus on the flexion and extension of the elbow joint to engage the triceps rather than the chest. Mind-to-muscle is especially important for this one.
  • Maintain a stable and balanced position on the bench, with your feet flat on the floor, to ensure proper stability and control throughout the exercise.
  • Lower the dumbbells to chest level with control and press them upward explosively, emphasizing a full range of motion and squeezing your chest muscles at the top of the press.

Optimal Sets And Reps

Training StyleSetsReps
Strength Training4-54-6
Hypertrophy3-48-12
Endurance Training2-315-20+
Power Training3-43-5

Benefits Of Doing Tricep Dumbbell Exercises

There are several good tricep workouts with dumbbells to choose from, but the exercises listed above are four common, effective, and straightforward moves to build lean mass[5] in the triceps. 

It’s important to train the triceps for both health and aesthetic reasons. Strong triceps are important for pressing movements, and lockout strength, and are often vital accessory muscles used when doing more intense lifts. They are an important part of overall upper body strength and endurance. Additionally, toned triceps can make the arms look lean and strong. 

Triceps are also important for joint stability, especially when combined with other exercises like front delt workouts for the shoulder. The triceps muscles play a large role in stabilizing the elbow joint and a small one in helping stabilize the shoulder.

Tricep exercises are important in general, but dumbbells have a few benefits over other equipment like addressing muscle imbalances and allowing for a much greater range of motion. Also, these exercises are a great addition to a quick morning workout routine that can be done at home without needing bulkier equipment or a gym membership.

Addresses Muscle Imbalances 

Muscle imbalances are inevitable. Sometimes we’ll have one arm or leg that is stronger than the other. A weaker side can’t hide when using dumbbells like it may be able to with a barbell or weight machine. Dumbbells can also be used to help strengthen the weaker side.

Greater Range Of Motion (ROM)

The elbow joint can become inflamed with overuse, regardless of how it’s overused. However, since dumbbells allow for a greater ROM, this may help with joint discomfort. While barbell exercises like a lying tricep extension are also effective, they limit you to one pattern of motion and leave little room for adjustment if that particular movement doesn’t feel right on your joints.

Tips For Doing Tricep Workouts With Dumbbells

Tips For Doing Tricep Workouts With Dumbbells
Dumbbells are perfect for home workouts. Photo: serhii_bobyk/Freepik

When doing a triceps workout with dumbbells, remember that you can make adjustments to your grip to place the least amount of pressure on the wrist joints. Start with low weight, practice your form, and graduate to heavier dumbbells once comfortable with the movement. Always allocate time for a warm-up and post-workout stretch, even if it is brief. By following these tips, you’ll be much less prone to injury and have a more effective triceps workout. 

Say you’re an intermediate gym goer looking to build strength, aim for 3 sets of 6-12 reps per exercise. A beginner or advanced lifter may need to adjust this routine. Your tricep exercises can be done alone, or combined with chest, back, biceps, etc. for a full upper body workout. 

To effectively build lean muscle mass, you’ll need to strength train at least 2-3 times per week[6] in addition to doing at least 150 minutes of cardio and eating a clean diet! The 3-day workout split is a great routine for those focused on building muscle mass, though a 5-day workout split is a comprehensive plan to build strength faster.

Conclusion

Triceps exercises are a must-have addition to any upper-body strength routine. Using dumbbells can make a solid triceps workout all the more accessible for at-home tricep workouts with dumbbells. Dumbbells also have advantages over a barbell or weight machine like potentially lessening impact on the joints by allowing for a greater ROM and may help with muscle imbalances.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are tricep workouts with dumbbells good for beginners?

Yes, dumbbells can be great for beginners with proper form because it’s easy to adjust the weight to find a sweet spot where the move is challenging without sacrificing good form. On the other hand, dumbbells allow for a greater range of motion, making it easier for beginners to do exercises with improper form.

What dumbbell tricep exercises can I do without a bench?

The dumbbell tricep exercises that can be done without a bench are sitting or standing tricep extensions (or triceps overhead presses). Tricep kickbacks can also be done without a bench, but having a stable bench is best for optimal form.

What are the benefits of triceps exercises?

Triceps exercises benefit elbow and shoulder stability, well-rounded upper body strength and endurance, and sculpting the upper arms.

Can you get big triceps with dumbbells?

Yes, you can build muscle in the triceps with dumbbells. Evidence[7] suggests that lower-load training is also effective for muscle growth. Aim for lower reps with a higher weight if the focus is hypertrophy rather than toning.

Can I do hip abduction exercises every day?

While daily exercises are generally safe, your muscles need rest to rebuild and strengthen. A balanced routine with rest days is usually recommended.

Are hip abduction exercises safe during pregnancy?

Generally, yes. But always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new exercise regimen during pregnancy, as individual needs can vary.

Can these exercises help me if I’m recovering from a hip injury?

With guidance from a healthcare professional or physical therapist, these exercises can support hip injury rehabilitation by strengthening the muscles and improving mobility.

Do hip abduction exercises contribute to a leaner physique?

While they can help tone the hip and thigh areas, remember that total-body fitness and a balanced diet are essential for overall fat loss and a lean physique.

Resources

  1. Landin, D., Thompson, M. and Meghan Reid Jackson (2018). Functions of the Triceps Brachii in Humans: A Review. Journal of Clinical Medicine Research, [online] 10(4), pp.290–293. doi:https://doi.org/10.14740/jocmr3340w.
  2. Sumiaki Maeo, Wu, Y., Huang, M., Sakurai, H., Kusagawa, Y., Sugiyama, T., Hiroaki Kanehisa and Tadao Isaka (2022). Triceps brachii hypertrophy is substantially greater after elbow extension training performed in the overhead versus neutral arm position. European Journal of Sport Science, [online] 23(7), pp.1240–1250. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2022.2100279.
  3. Alves, D., Torres, T. and Fernandes, L. (2018). Effect of shoulder position on triceps brachii heads activity in dumbbell elbow extension exercises. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, [online] 58(9). doi:https://doi.org/10.23736/s0022-4707.17.06849-9.
  4. Jeon, I.-H., Rizki Fajar Zulkarnain, Sun, Y., Lim, S., Jae Myeung Chun and Jeon, I.-H. (2018). The different role of each head of the triceps brachii muscle in elbow extension. Acta Orthopaedica et Traumatologica Turcica, [online] 52(3), pp.201–205. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aott.2018.02.005.
  5. Michał Krzysztofik, Wilk, M., Grzegorz Wojdała and Artur Gołaś (2019). Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, [online] 16(24), pp.4897–4897. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16244897.
  6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2018). Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans 2nd edition. [online] health.gov. Available at: https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf.
  7. Weakley, J., Schöenfeld, B.J., Ljungberg, J., Halson, S.L. and Phillips, S.M. (2023). Physiological Responses and Adaptations to Lower Load Resistance Training: Implications for Health and Performance. Sports Medicine – Open, [online] 9(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/s40798-023-00578-4.