15 Most Effective Dumbbell Tricep Exercises – Garage Gym Pro

If you want to build bigger arms, your “go-to” exercise is bicep curls, right?

You’re not alone. The triceps make up over 70% of your upper arm,s and you'll never have t-shirt bulging arms if you neglect to work them.

Adding tricep exercises with dumbbells to your workout can increase your arm's muscle mass. Don’t miss out on extra arm gains; add some of these exercises to your workout routine.

1. Single Arm Tricep Kickback (Bench Supported)

The single-arm tricep kickback is an excellent unilateral tricep exercise that works your entire tricep muscle.

Kickbacks are incredibly simple to perform, making them ideal for beginners. But they can also be used by advanced weight lifters to add more volume to their triceps workout.

Best of all, you don’t need much equipment. All you need is a dumbbell and a bench (or platform to lean on). It can be an effective exercise to add to your workout regime to develop your triceps.

How to do it:

  • Hold a dumbbell in your right arm and hinge forward, placing your left arm and leg on the bench.
  • Let the dumbbell hang and bend your elbow with your elbow tucked into your side.
  • Your arm angle should be 90 degrees.
  • Straighten your arm backwards, pushing the dumbbell against gravity.
  • Slowly reverse the movement and repeat.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: Always use a lower weight than you’d expect; the tricep kickback is strict movement and doesn’t require heavy dumbbells.
triceps exercises with dumbbells

2. Single-Arm Dumbbell Floor Press

The single-arm dumbbell floor press is the perfect triceps exercise for beginners as you have more stability on the floor than you would on a bench.

It’s also reassuring knowing that if you fail, you can drop the dumbbells on the floor without worrying too much about being stuck on a bench with them in your hands.

As the single-arm dumbbell floor press works each arm isolaterally, it helps to iron out any muscular imbalances that might have occurred throughout your regular training.

Plus, it can help increase your upper body strength, allowing you to lift more during other compound movements.

If you’ve had a shoulder injury, this could be an excellent option as it uses less shoulders than a regular dumbbell press would. This is due to the shorter range of motion.

How to do it:

  • Hold a dumbbell in your left hand (using an overhand grip) and lie on your back.
  • Hold the dumbbell above your chest.
  • Slowly lower until your upper arm touches the floor with your left elbow bent.
  • Squeeze your triceps and push the dumbbell up until your arm is straight.
  • Complete your set and swap sides.

Related Article - Floor Press Vs Bench Press

Single-Arm Dumbbell Floor Press

3. DB Bench Press

The dumbbell bench press is one of my all-time favorite triceps exercises using dumbbells, and they are an excellent way to develop raw power in your chest and triceps.

DB bench press is effective as it allows you to lift a large amount of weight, giving your upper arms and chest the stimulus they need to grow.

While lifting heavy isn’t always necessary, this is one occasion I’d say you can push yourself a little. Combining this exercise with lighter weighted isolation movements is one of the best ways to develop your triceps.

How to do it:

  • Lie on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand using a pronated grip.
  • Place the dumbbells at chest height.
  • Retract your shoulder blades into the bench and have your legs extended with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Squeeze your chest and triceps and press the dumbbells above your chest. Your upper arms should be straight.
  • Lower the dumbbell weights back to the starting position and repeat.
DB Bench Press

4. Bent Over Double Arm Dumbbell Kickback

This movement often receives a lot of hate. Still, if performed correctly, it can be an excellent exercise for developing all three heads, including the medial heads of the triceps.

A common mistake with this movement is going too heavy. You don’t need a lot of weight for this exercise, so you can focus on your form and activate your triceps effectively.

The bent-over double-arm dumbbell kickback is the same movement as the first exercise on this list but with a slight difference. It works both arms simultaneously and is easy for beginners to implement into their workout regime.

How to do it:

  • Stand with your knees slightly bent with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Grip two dumbbells and hold them at your sides (each arm straight).
  • Hinge forward from the hips while keeping a neutral spine.
  • Bend your elbows and lift the dumbbells to your chest.
  • Push the dumbbells backwards and straighten your arms.
  • Squeeze your triceps and return to the starting position.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: Slow this movement down, and don’t let momentum do the work for you.
Bent Over Double Arm Dumbbell Kickback

5. Incline Dumbbell Kickbacks

Incline dumbbell kickbacks are a pretty similar movement to the exercise above; however, your upper body is supported by an incline bench.

By supporting your upper body with a bench, you remove the need to use your core for stability. It also reduces the amount of stress on your lower back; it’s an excellent solution for anyone who’s got lower back issues and wants to train their triceps using kickbacks.

I’ve also found this movement to be incredibly strict as it doesn’t allow you to “cheat” by swinging your body… which is a good thing if you want an excellent set of triceps.

Throughout the movement, you’ll work the long head, lateral and medial heads of the tricep.

How to do it:

  • Place your chest against an incline bench with dumbbells in your hands.
  • With your arms extended, let them hang down.
  • Draw your elbows back and bring the dumbbells to your chest. (Hold this position until your set is completed).
  • Kick the dumbbells back and squeeze your triceps when your arms are straight.
  • Return back to the starting position and repeat.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: As with the other kickback variations, don’t go too heavy. Focus on using excellent form.
Incline Dumbbell Kickbacks

6. Close Grip Dumbbell Press

The close grip dumbbell press is one of my personal favorites when it comes to training your triceps.

The movement switches up the standard dumbbell press to place more emphasis on your triceps. While you perform the close grip dumbbell press, you’ll hit all three tricep heads, making it one of the most effective exercises for developing your tricep size and strength.

It’s one of the most effective tricep exercises with dumbbells that you can add to your home workout routine with ease.

How to do it:

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand and lie on a flat bench.
  • Keep your elbows tucked into your sides with a neutral grip.
  • Push the dumbbells above your upper chest, maintaining a close grip throughout the movement.
  • Slowly lower the weight back to the starting position.
  • Repeat and complete your set.
Close Grip Dumbbell Press

7. Neutral Grip DB Bench Press

The neutral grip dumbbell bench press is a fantastic way to train your triceps without placing too much stress on your shoulder joints.

As your grip is neutral, it keeps your shoulder in a closed position, limiting the amount of load placed on the joint. During this exercise, you keep your elbows tucked, moving the emphasis from your chest to your triceps.

It’s a fantastic exercise for all levels of experience and really makes those arms pop.

How to do it:

  • Lie on a flat bench while holding two dumbbells at chest height.
  • Keep your palms facing each other.
  • Tuck your elbows into your sides.
  • Press the weight up until you have straight arms.
  • Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.
Neutral Grip DB Bench Press

8. Dumbbell Skull Crushers

Dumbbell skull crushers are a fantastic exercise for working the long head of your tricep and should be a part of any great upper arm program.

However, some gym-goers might find the movement aggravates the wrist or elbow joints. If this is the case, choose another exercise.

How to do it:

  • Lie on a bench and grip dumbbells with a shoulder-width overhand grip.
  • Hold the weight over your chest with straight arms.
  • Bend your arms until they go past your head.
  • Push the weight back to the starting position and repeat.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: Make this exercise more challenging by performing a half bench skull crusher variant.
Dumbbell Skull Crushers

9. Dumbbell Close Grip Push Ups

DB close grip push-ups are a fantastic bodyweight movement to work your triceps. They provide your muscles with constant tension and can be made easier or more difficult, depending on your level.

It also works your core as you need to hold your body in the plank position throughout.

How to do it:

  • Start in the plank position.
  • Tuck your elbows to the sides.
  • Lower your body to the floor, elbows bent.
  • Hold for a second, keeping your upper arm parallel to the floor.
  • Push up to the starting position.
Dumbbell Close Grip Push Ups

10. Dumbbell Tate Press

The tate press is a unique exercise that will be a challenge for an advanced weight lifter. So, beginners… steer clear of this one.

It’s similar to the skull crusher as it has a similar starting position. But the angle of movement is different.

How to do it:

  • Lie on a bench while holding the dumbbells above your chest.
  • Tilt the dumbbells slightly inward.
  • Lower the weights inward by bending your elbows.
  • Stop when the dumbbells reach your chest and push back to the beginning.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: Remember, it’s like a skull crusher but much harder…Not for beginners.
Dumbbell Tate Press

11. Tricep Gravity Press

Is your tricep workout getting a little boring? The tricep gravity press is here to spice things up for you.

It’s an incredibly difficult movement that’ll place your triceps under constant stress from start to finish.

How to do it:

  • Lie on a bench with a dumbbell in your left and right arm.
  • Place your elbows in line with your torso.
  • Slowly press the dumbbells overhead, keeping your arms parallel to the ground.
  • Straighten your arms at the end and reverse the movement.
Tricep Gravity Press

12. Seated Dumbbell Tricep Extensions

The seated DB tricep extension is fantastic at promoting muscle hypertrophy and isn’t too difficult to perform.

It works all three heads and doesn’t require much core stability as you’re seated. This is great if you don’t have a strong core.

How to do it:

  • Sit on a bench and hold a dumbbell with both arms overhead.
  • Bend the elbows and let the dumbbell go behind your head.
  • Push the dumbbell back to the starting position and repeat.
Seated Dumbbell Tricep Extensions

13. Standing Overhead Dumbbell Tricep Extension

The overhead triceps extension is one of the best single dumbbell exercises for triceps. It’s one of my favorite exercises and is always part of my tricep routine.

It works all three heads of the triceps, giving you the most bang for your buck.

You can perform overhead triceps extensions no matter your experience level.

How to do it:

  • Follow the steps from the previous exercise but in a standing position.
Standing Overhead Dumbbell Tricep Extension

14. Dumbbell Reverse Grip Press

This bench variation places huge amounts of stress on your tricep muscles, along with your upper pecs and shoulders.

It’s an excellent muscle builder which should be performed by intermediate to advanced gym-goers.

I’ve found it to be one of the best medial head tricep dumbbell exercises.

How to do it:

  • Lie on a bench holding two dumbbells with a reverse grip.
  • Lower the weight with your elbows tucked to your sides.
  • When the weight reaches chest level, push back to the start.
Dumbbell Reverse Grip Press

15. Dumbbell JM Press

The JM press places a significant amount of stress on your tricep muscles, stimulating your muscle fibers to grow.

While it's not my favorite exercise, it does deserve a place on this list as you can develop some fantastic arms using this movement.

It’s not for beginners.

How to do it:

  • Set up as if you were about to perform a bench pressing movement.
  • Lower the dumbbells towards your face while allowing your elbows to lower at your sides.
  • Press the weight up.
  • Repeat.
Dumbbell JM Press

The Benefits Of Tricep Exercises With Dumbbells

There are several benefits to using dumbbells to train your triceps. Some of the main benefits are listed below.

Stability & Free Movement

Using dumbbells to train your triceps is fantastic as the weight is free moving and isn't fixed to a barbell. This requires you to use your stabilizer muscles to keep the weight steady throughout the exercises.

Some gym-goers might find using dumbbells more comfortable as there isn’t a fixed movement pattern. This allows your arms to move in a natural position and can reduce the stress on your joints. It’s perfect if you’ve had an injury or joint issues.

Isolateral or Bilateral

As dumbbells come in free-moving pairs, each side of your body has to move in isolation and gains no support from the opposite side. This can help eliminate any muscular imbalances that might occur throughout your training (it’s common in beginners).

With dumbbells, you can work each side at a time or simultaneously, but either option will give you the benefits of avoiding imbalances.

You Can Still Perform Compound Exercises

Using dumbbells as part of your triceps workout routine is brilliant as you can still train your body using compound exercises.

However, the main difference is that you might be able to push a little closer to failure, as you don’t need to worry about being crushed underneath a heavy barbell. Dumbbells are the equipment for your home gym.

Greater Range of Motion

Using dumbbells to train your triceps allows you to move your muscles through a greater range of motion. This increases your muscle activation, resulting in more muscle growth. 

Compared to barbells, dumbbells allow you to move your arms in any direction. Changing up your movements allows you to continually shock your triceps, which leads to greater gains.

You Get Stronger

Dumbbells have been proven to increase your overall strength significantly. This is partly because each arm has to move independently, so everything from your upper arm to your shoulder joint needs to work hard during each rep.

More Athletic

Using dumbbells increases your stability, balance, and coordination. In fact, training triceps with dumbbells can help strengthen stabilizer muscles and joints as well. Overall, it helps you become more functional and athletic.

Time efficient

As dumbbells recruit more muscle fibers than machines, you can work your muscles effectively in a shorter amount of time. This increases the time under tension for your triceps. 

This is especially useful if you only have a short amount of time per day to workout. You can also do dumbbell tricep supersets for even more time efficiency. 

dumbbell tricep exercises

The Anatomy & Function Of The Triceps Muscles

The triceps are made up of three muscles:

  1. 1
    Long head
  2. 2
    Lateral head
  3. 3
    Medial head

Each one plays a critical role in the movement of your upper arm.

The long head helps with the extension and adduction of your upper arm bone. At the same time, the other two parts help with the straightening of your arms from the elbow (elbow extension).

One of the key functions of the triceps is to aid with the stabilizing of your shoulder during your major lifts such as bench press, shoulder press, etc.

So it’s important to provide them with adequate stimulus during your workouts.

Anatomy & Function Of The Triceps Muscles

Things To Remember When Working Out Your Triceps

Technique & Form

When it comes to tricep workouts, you must always use excellent form. Using good form ensures your muscles are working correctly, reducing your risk of injury.

During each tricep exercise, you want to ensure your arms are moving through a wide range of motion. This will give your triceps the stimulus they need to grow.

Most tricep exercises require you to have your elbows tucked; this helps emphasize the force placed on each of the tricep heads.

I always recommend that you spend time learning the correct technique before you increase the weight.

Increasing the weight too soon can lead to poor form and a lack of results… or worse, an injury. It’s the last thing you want to be doing.

Exercise Variations

By using a wide range of exercises during your tricep workout, you’ll give yourself an enhanced upper body performance that will help aid shoulder stability.

I always enjoy using a combination of unilateral tricep isolation exercises and bilateral exercises to give my triceps a wide range of stimulus.

I'll often give my clients compound exercises that work the triceps and a selection of tricep isolation movements to assist the workout.

During every tricep workout, you want to hit all three heads of the tricep to ensure you develop overall tricep strength and muscle mass.

Hitting All Parts Of The Tricep

The triceps are made up of three heads. The long head (and the largest part) of the tricep is one of the best areas to target as it’s what’ll give you the most bang for your buck. But that doesn’t mean you should neglect the other two heads.

The lateral head of the triceps will help give your arms a fuller and more thick look, and the medial head helps provide stability in the elbow joint.

As a whole, the triceps muscle is worked whenever the arms are bent (elbow extension) during a pushing movement.

Each part of the triceps helps stabilize your shoulder joint and is useful during exercises like the standard bench press and the close grip bench press.

A popular movement you can add to your tricep workouts is the skull crusher exercise. It works all three tricep heads through a wide range of motion.

Training Frequency

Training your triceps is no different from any other muscle group. They require the correct amount of stimulus and adequate recovery times.

However, as the triceps are relatively small muscle groups, the triceps will have a faster recovery time, so your rest periods during each set can be reduced, and you might be able to work them several times per week.

I’ve often found my clients get the best results hitting the triceps twice weekly. But, everybody is different.

You might find your body recovers quickly, in which case you might be able to fit a third triceps workout in.

Tip: Try not to work them more than three times a week; this will likely result in less than optimal growth and will hinder your results.

The frequency you train your triceps will also be governed by the intensity of your workouts.

Intensity & Rep Ranges

When it comes to exercise intensity, everyone will have different capabilities.

If you’re a beginner, I recommend you use a low intensity and learn the movement before you try to make it more difficult.

However, if you’re an intermediate or advanced lifter, you might want to take it up a notch and increase your workout intensity.

A recent study found that increasing the intensity of your workout increases triceps fatigue in all three heads of the muscle group. [1]

When looking at rep ranges, studies have shown that high rep and low rep don't matter too much for muscle growth, as long as the perceived effort is the same. [2]


Frequently Asked Questions About Tricep Dumbbell Exercises

What is the difference between a compound and an isolated tricep exercise?

An isolated tricep movement will only target one muscle group… your triceps. Whereas a compound exercise will use more than one muscle group and joint. An example of a compound exercise is the dumbbell bench press, and an example of an isolation exercise is the triceps kickback.

The best tricep workouts have a combination of the two types of exercise, and it’s what I give to all of my clients.

Should I go heavy on the triceps?

While you can go heavy on triceps, I wouldn’t always recommend it. In fact, I would only suggest that you go heavy if you’re advanced and are performing a tricep-focused compound exercise.

Are tricep extensions bad for your elbows?

Unless you’ve had elbow joint issues in the past, tricep extensions aren’t a bad movement for you. They are one of the great tricep exercises for a reason.

But, if you're performing the movement and are feeling pain, stop them immediately and switch to another triceps movement that doesn't cause any aggravation.

How do I build triceps fast?

If you want to rapidly build your triceps, you should add 3-4 of the exercises from the list above into your workout routine.

You should then focus on using the best form possible and gradually increase the weight over the coming weeks.

Your diet is incredibly important to you whether you’ll get success or not. To maximize your results, you should eat plenty of protein (around 1-1.2g per lb should be enough for most gym goers).


Conclusion

Want to build a t-shirt popping set of upper arms? Then you need to work your tricep muscles. But, knowing which is the best tricep exercise can be a challenge.

Choose 3-4 exercises from the list above, and you’ll have all the stimulus you need to grow arms that’ll make your friends jealous.

References:

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7047337/

2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25853914/

Last Updated on September 12, 2022