Mention the triceps kickback in sure lifting circles and also you may generate some facet eye seems of disappointment or perhaps a little bit of mocking laughter. This short-sighted response comes from the train’s unlucky and unfair status of being ineffective, or being carried out solely by individuals with “less-than-serious” objectives.

The dumbbell kickback was as soon as a staple of bodybuilding’s Golden Era from the Nineteen Fifties to the ’70s. However, its reputation in ’80s mainstream health courses diluted its muscle-building connection and it started to be carried out with extraordinarily gentle weights for very excessive repetitions. “To tone up without building bulk” was the favored, if misguided, logic.

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Regardless of the misinformation, the triceps kickback is a really efficient software to focus on the most important arm muscle — the triceps. The triceps are additionally a key muscle for efficiency by many higher physique workouts. So neglect what you may’ve heard concerning the train and be taught the true the reason why you must embody this train in your coaching routine.

How to Do the Triceps Kickback

The primary single-arm dumbbell triceps kickback is an isolation (single-joint) train that focuses solely on triceps improvement. It’s an effective way to emphasise peak contraction of the muscle.

Step 1 — Set Up within the Starting Position 

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Stand in entrance of one thing sturdy, like a rack or a bench. Hold one dumbbell and get into a large stance. Bend your knees barely and lean ahead on the hips whereas conserving a impartial backbone. Aim to have your torso virtually parallel to the ground. Place your free hand on the rack or bench for optimum stability and stability.

Pull your working arm up so your elbow is close to your ribs and pinned near your physique. Let your forearm cling perpendicular to the ground along with your palm dealing with in towards your physique. Don’t lookup or ahead. Keep your head in keeping with your backbone and your chin barely tucked in.

Form tip: Flaring your elbow away out of your physique will solely encourage dishonest to maneuver extra weight and doubtlessly pressure your elbow joint. Keep your higher arm glued to your facet. This is just not an train to maneuver super-heavy weight. Keep the load comparatively gentle to make sure impeccable type.

Step 2 — Reach a Peak Contraction

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Brace your core and exhale whereas flexing your triceps till your arm is totally straight. Squeeze on the high for a second to really feel a most peak contraction. Your decrease arm ought to be the one factor shifting. This is an isolation train, so concentrate on solely working the triceps.

Your hand, and the dumbbell, ought to pivot round your elbow. Treat your elbow like a hinge. No different a part of your physique ought to transfer.

Form tip: Be certain to achieve full extension with every rep. In the highest place, your complete arm ought to be almost parallel to the bottom. Because gravity gives minimal resistance in opposition to the burden within the backside a part of the motion, it’s important to make use of a full vary of movement and emphasize the contraction. 

Step 3 — Return to the Stretched Position

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Slowly come again to the beginning place whereas inhaling. Again, solely your forearm ought to transfer. Pause very briefly within the backside place to keep away from rapidly swinging the burden down and up.

Sure, momentum may can help you transfer extra weight, however you’ll diminish the vary of movement and the time beneath rigidity — each essential for muscle mass. Swinging the burden can even put extra stress on the elbow joint. More joint pressure with much less muscle-building is just not an awesome discount.

Form tip: Start every set along with your weaker or non-dominant facet so you’ve got extra vitality and extra focus. Perform all repetitions after which match the identical variety of repetitions along with your stronger arm, even when one facet is able to extra reps. This will assist to stability frequent power or improvement discrepancies between left and proper arms.

Triceps Kickback Mistakes to Avoid

This train may be vulnerable to unhealthy execution as a result of it requires gentle weights, so a lifter can generally lose focus. Learn about the commonest errors and find out how to keep away from them.

Swinging the Weight

Let’s be actual for a second: dishonest a number of reps on the finish of a session received’t smite you immediately. It can generally even be helpful, for knowledgeable lifters utilizing it as a deliberate intensity-boosting approach. But for the overwhelming majority of individuals, you must keep away from dishonest and swinging the burden with kickbacks or almost any train.

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If you swing and cheat, you’ll solely truly work your triceps by a really quick portion of the vary of movement, and the train will present a restricted triceps-building stimulus. Moreover, this can end in extra stress to the elbow joint and also you don’t need to develop tendonitis — that’s one of the simplest ways to maintain having small arms.

Avoid it: Make certain you management the eccentric (decreasing the burden), and even pause for a dead-stop on the backside briefly. If you concentrate on solely shifting your forearm, you principally can’t cheat. If your elbow strikes, you’ve began doing a dumbbell row, not a triceps kickback.

Not Locking Out Your Arm

If you don’t utterly prolong your arms and squeeze your triceps in a tough lockout, you lose a lot of the advantages of this train due to the resistance curve. At the beginning of the carry, there may be virtually no resistance in any respect as a result of the dumbbell isn’t straight shifting in opposition to gravity. The hardest a part of the train is within the shortened vary when the muscle is contracted.

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If you don’t lockout, which might occur when you attempt utilizing an excessive amount of weight, then you definitely don’t actually work your triceps’ most difficult a part of the vary of movement. That finally ends up making the train simpler and fewer environment friendly for muscle progress.

Avoid it: Make certain you utilize a correct weight that lets you absolutely lockout your arm. If you’ll be able to’t pause on the high for a second, the burden is an excessive amount of.

Benefits of the Triceps Kickback

Even although the train is commonly ignored and disrespected, the triceps kickback has distinctive advantages in your triceps coaching and can enable you get greater, stronger arms.

Muscle Growth

This train is targeted on straight coaching the triceps, particularly for hypertrophy (muscle progress). Indeed, this train thrives with lighter weight and an extended time beneath rigidity, which is an effective way to construct muscle and create an aesthetic physique. (1)

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Moreover, as an isolation train, it’s the good match for growing a mind-muscle connection and accumulating triceps-specific quantity with out taxing different muscle teams, that are each helpful for muscle progress. (2)(3)

Pressing Strength

Triceps power, and the pushing sample typically, are concerned in lots of sports activities like volleyball, American soccer, fight sports activities, and so forth. And let’s not neglect power sports activities like powerlifting.

Sure, the triceps kickback received’t create pure neurological power like coaching the heavy bench press or overhead press, however constructing bigger triceps muscle tissue can ultimately enhance power. (4) So when you’re all in favour of efficiency, match this into your accent coaching.

Training the Shortened Range

Many triceps workouts comparable to cranium crushers emphasize the lengthened vary of movement and stress the stretched place. The triceps kickback, then again, focuses on the shortened or contracted portion. Because of its resistance curve, the train is comparatively simple within the stretched place and far more difficult within the peak contraction.

This can present a novel stimulus, assist develop a stronger mind-muscle connection, and unlock new good points, as a result of coaching selection may be higher for motivation and hypertrophy in itself. (5)

Easy on the Elbows

The triceps kickback may be invaluable for knowledgeable lifters with cranky joints. Because the higher arm is in a better place than the forearm, and joint isn’t being strained by the whole vary of movement, the elbow can transfer extra freely with out vital stress.

If you’ve got nagging ache in your elbows, shoulders, or wrists, or when you’re vulnerable to tendonitis, make the kickback seem often in your coaching plan.

Muscles Worked by the Triceps Kickback

The goal of the train is to coach your triceps, however some postural muscle can be recruited as effectively to carry the place.

Triceps Brachii

This is the most important arm muscle and the primary goal of the kickback. It is product of three heads. Two of them (the medial and the lateral head) go from the elbow to the humerus (higher arm bone). These are liable for extending the arm.

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The lengthy head additionally extends the arm, however as a result of it’s connected to the scapula, it additionally extends the shoulder and raises the arm. Because the higher arm is positioned alongside the torso, the triceps kickback emphasizes the lateral and medial heads.


The complete again — higher again, lats, and decrease again — work to take care of a parallel physique place and stabilize the working arm throughout the kickback. The again’s involvement ought to be restricted to the muscle tissue working statically to carry your physique’s place with out motion.

However, if the kickback is carried out improperly, the again muscle tissue (particularly the higher again and lats) might turn out to be extra considerably recruited, drawing muscular stress away from the triceps.

Who Should Do the Triceps Kickback

The purpose of the kickback is so as to add meat onto your triceps. So when you’re on the lookout for greater, stronger arms — like loads of individuals within the health club — you’ll be able to embody this carry in your coaching routine.


Some individuals advise that newbies to keep away from single-joint workouts and focus totally on the massive fundamentals (multi-joint compound lifts like presses). This is mostly sound recommendation, however isolation work may also have advantages for newer lifters.

By bettering the mind-muscle reference to particular muscle tissue, they will really feel that muscle work extra successfully, which results in higher progress and physique consciousness. Exercises just like the triceps kickback additionally assist to straight practice muscle tissue which can be under-worked when compound workouts are overemphasized.

Physique Enthusiasts

Whether your purpose is to look higher or to compete in a physique present, the triceps kickback is an ideal match. Performing this train lets you improve triceps quantity with out fatiguing different muscle teams, resulting in centered muscle progress.

This may be very precious, for example, when you lack general arm improvement, or if that you must create a balanced and symmetrical physique by correcting muscular imbalances.

Strength Athletes

If you’re an athlete that requires urgent power comparable to a powerlifter, strongman/strongwoman, or CrossFit athlete, then triceps coaching is important. Including the triceps kickback may be surprisingly efficient for power athletes.

The comparatively gentle weight and excessive muscular rigidity permits them to improve triceps coaching quantity with out aggravating their elbows, that are often already crushed up by heavy lifting.

How to Program the Triceps Kickback

The kickback is a single-joint train and as such, it’s not excellent for shifting heavy weights as a result of further muscle tissue can be excessively recruited. The kickback is handiest utilizing average to gentle weight to stimulate muscle progress and zero-in on working the triceps.

Moderate Weight, Moderate Repetitions

The time-tested bodybuilding scheme of three to 4 units of 10 to 12 repetitions can be your kickback bread and butter. This is a really environment friendly method of accelerating quantity resulting in muscle progress.

Light Weight, High Reps

This train can actually shine with greater reps due to its resistance curve, cumulative time beneath rigidity, and its low influence on the joints. Performing two to 4 units of 15 to twenty repetitions can function an incredible finisher to essentially scorch your triceps. It can be an effective way to begin your arm exercise by actually warming-up your elbow joints.

Triceps Kickback Variations

The single-arm dumbbell kickback is a superb train in itself, however you’ll be able to tweak it to higher fit your objectives or present a unique feeling. Here are the primary kickback variations.

Cable Triceps Kickback

Instead of utilizing dumbbells, use a cable. Instead of attaching a deal with, seize the cable by the “ball” on the finish, simply above the cable clip.  This lets you preserve a impartial hand place with out straining your wrists.

The train might not appear to be a lot due to the comparatively lighter weight, however the cable gives fixed rigidity by the carry, much more than utilizing a dumbbell. This stimulates the triceps all through the whole vary of movement, which is able to improve the time beneath rigidity and result in improved muscle progress. 

Pronated Kickback

This refined variation was popularized by bodybuilding coach John Meadows. Using a pronated (palms-down) grip will emphasize the medial head of the triceps. Using two dumbbells without delay additionally modifications the total-body stability requirement.

Because your forearm is barely rotated, this variation can even deal with forearm and wrist well being. You may even carry out a sort of superset, starting with reps of pronated kickbacks after which instantly transitioning to plain neutral-grip kickbacks.

Two-Arm Dumbbell Kickback

This variation is fairly straight-forward: Perform the usual triceps kickback with each arms on the similar time. This will barely lower the burden you’ll be able to carry as a result of the muscle focus is “divided” between each arms.

This variation additionally requires extra work out of your core, again, and legs to stabilize your self since you don’t have a free hand to brace on an out of doors assist.

Triceps Kickback Alternatives

If you’re nonetheless not satisfied to include kickbacks, listed below are some alternate options that can share related advantages to boost your coaching. Variety will problem the muscle tissue in a different way, selling new muscle progress.

Triceps Pushdown

If you’ve received entry to a cable station, you’ll be able to carry out this basic train. The triceps pushdown, generally referred to as a pressdown, emphasizes the height contraction and isn’t very hectic on the elbow joints.

Use an attachment that lets you prolong your arms utterly — a rope deal with is commonly handiest. As with the kickback, you should definitely preserve your arms near your physique and solely transfer your arms and forearms with out swinging your elbows.

Decline Dumbbell Skull Crusher

The customary flat bench cranium crusher is an efficient train, however utilizing a decline bench provides it a twist to focus extra on the medial and lateral heads of the triceps. The arm angle doesn’t present as a lot stretch or lengthy head stimulation, however can supply extra rigidity within the high place.

Using a pair of dumbbells permits your arms to maneuver freely and cut back pressure in your wrist and elbow joints, in comparison with performing the train the a barbell or EZ-curl bar.

Overhead Dumbbell Extension

If you need to emphasize the lengthy head of the triceps, this variation is for you. Performing triceps extension along with your arms prolonged above your shoulders will focus extra on the lengthened vary and can considerably recruit the lengthy head as a result of it’s concerned in elevating the arm.

Because this motion emphasizes the stretched place, make sure your elbows and shoulders are totally warmed up. It’s not a really perfect first-exercise in your triceps exercise, however it may be a key participant in constructing bigger arms.


Do I’ve to coach my arms straight?

It is determined by a number of variable. If you’re a short-limbed lifter, your arms will most likely be considerably stimulated with compound workouts just like the bench press, overhead press, rows, and pulldowns. But when you’re coping with lengthy arms, you must practice them straight as a result of your leverage on large lifts is completely different and the biceps and triceps are sometimes under-stimulated in these actions.

Ultimately, when you’re all in favour of having greater arms, it’s a good suggestion to embody no less than some direct coaching, particularly when you’re a extra superior lifter. If you’re a aggressive athlete, you must skip direct arm coaching in-season and preserve that vitality in your sport-specific coaching. Accumulating an excessive amount of coaching quantity could cause burnouts, stagnation, and even regression.

I can’t cease my elbow from flaring. Why is that?

The first wrongdoer might be weight. If the dumbbell is simply too heavy, flaring your elbow out will recruit additional muscle tissue (in your again and shoulders) to assist carry the load, nevertheless it’s on the potential detriment of your joints and it’ll cut back triceps activation.

If you’re sure which you could management the burden, it might be a matter of mobility. If your higher again or shoulder mobility is compromised, it would end in protruded, forward-pointing shoulders that forestall you from conserving your elbows near you. You ought to embody a mobility routine in your exercises with workouts like band pull-aparts and wall slides.

Let’s Get Pumping

The triceps kickback’s unhealthy status is unfair and unfounded. Don’t let any misinformed knee-jerk reactions or cliches steer you away from this basic arm-builder. It’s a flexible motion that allows you to hit your tris with gentle weight, excessive rigidity, and minimal joint pressure. It’s positively time to remind as we speak’s gyms that kickbacks are for severe lifters.


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