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IT’S SAFE TO say that building big arms is a primary fitness goal for a lot of guys. Contrary to the popular belief, though, strengthening your arms doesn’t mean simply repping out as many biceps curls as possible. You need to spend time developing your triceps, too.

Building muscle on any part of your body requires consistency. If you’re not getting your lifts in at least a few times a week, you’ll never achieve the gains you want. That means being prepared for whatever life hits you with—including the days you might not make it to the gym.

An effective workout doesn’t require a whole gym’s worth of equipment, though. Even if all you have access to is a simple set of dumbbells, these eight triceps-blasting moves will get you the pump you’re looking for.

What Are Your Triceps Muscles?

The triceps muscle, scientifically known as the triceps brachii, sits along the backside of your upper arm. While it’s one muscle, there are three sections: the long head, lateral head, and medial head.

The three heads all originate at different parts of the humerus and scapula, but combine at the bottom of the muscle to attach at the elbow. The muscle is primarily responsible for extending, or straightening the elbow. The long head of the triceps also plays a small role in extension and adduction of the shoulder joint.

Benefits of Training Your Triceps

Muscle Building

The triceps and biceps make up the two muscles of the upper arm. To achieve those big, superhero arms you’re training to build, you’ll need to program some triceps exercises into your routine.

Muscle Balance

We know that it’s aesthetically pleasing to grow bulging biceps. But, it’s important for the functionality of your joints to train your triceps just as much. Muscular imbalances can cause injury and instability.

Elbow Stability

The triceps is one of the main movers of the elbow. The muscle works to stabilize the joint through tons of lifts. Good triceps strength helps ensure the safety of the joint.

Strengthens Other Lifts

The triceps are a supporting muscle in tons of exercises. Strengthening them with more isolated exercises will even improve other movements where they’re utilized, especially compound exercises like presses.

Why You Should Use Dumbbells to Train Triceps

Dumbbells are easily accessible compared to other pieces of fitness gear, especially if you’re using an adjustable set that features multiple weight denominations in just one pair of bells.

Dumbbells are also free weights. That means it’s up to you to stabilize the weight through a full range of motion, since they’re not fixed to a track like cables and Smith machines. That also means you can use them in several planes of movement—opening up tons of options for training. Dumbbells are great for unilateral training, too, which can help to correct strength imbalances.

The 8 Best Tricep Exercises

Dumbbell Skull Crushers

Why: You’ve seen them done with barbells and EZ curl bars, but the skull crusher hits different with a set of dumbbells. Here’s how to do it.

How to Do It:

  • Grab your dumbbells and lay down on the bench.

  • Press the dumbbells up over your chest, and tip the elbows slightly back towards your face—think 92 or 93 degrees at the shoulder instead of 90.

  • Bend at the elbows to lower the dumbbells down and back to the sides of your face, palms facing each other.

  • Squeeze the triceps to straighten the arm out again, ensuring the elbow stays tips back so it’s not stacked on top of the shoulder.

Sets and Reps: 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 15 reps


Dumbbell Lying Triceps Extension

Why: The dumbbell lying tricep extension hits one thing other tricep exercises miss: training shoulder extension. Shoulder extension is an oft-neglected duty of the long head of the triceps muscle, and this exercise strengthens that movement pattern.

How to Do It:

  • Grab a dumbbell, wrapping your thumbs around each other touching one side of the bell.

  • Lie back on a bench, placing your head near the end of the bench.

  • Squeeze your glutes and focus on driving your feet into the ground.

  • Reach back as far as you can with the dumbbell. Be careful not to create an arch with your back—you don’t to turn this into a pullover. Instead, squeeze your abs tight and maintain tension with your glutes

  • Begin to lower the dumbbell behind your head, driving your elbows toward the ceiling. Avoid flaring your elbows—keep your arms tight and close to your torso. Work to get a deep stretch at the bottom—the goal is to get your forearms perpendicular to the ground.

  • Straighten your elbows to drive the weight up, moving your elbows forward into shoulder extension.

Sets and Reps: 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 15 reps


Triceps Kickback

Why: The triceps kickback is a classic triceps movement that deserves a place in your arm day. You’ll have more success with a cable or band, but performing this exercise with proper form and focus with dumbbells can lead to gains, too.

How to Do It:

  • Set the bench so that you can prop yourself into position with one arm against it, hinging at the waist. Squeeze your glutes and core to create tension.

  • Look down at the floor, keeping your neck in a neutral position. Pick up the dumbbell off the floor.

  • Row the dumbbell up until your upper arm is parallel with the ground. You’ll work from this position. Keep your whole body rigid by maintaining full-body tension, squeezing your glutes and core.

  • Extend your elbow to kick back, moving only at the joint. At the top of the position with your arm straight, hold the weight still for a count and squeeze your triceps.

  • Close your elbow to come back to the starting position, keeping your upper arm in that parallel position.

Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps for each arm


JM Press

Why: The JM press is an underrated triceps exercise that will not only strengthen your arms, but improve your bench press capacity, too.

How to Do It:

  • Grab your dumbbells and lay down on the bench. Drive through the heels, squeeze through the glutes, squeeze the abs, and drive the shoulders into the bench.

  • Press the dumbbells up over your chest, and tip the elbows slightly back towards your face just a little bit—think 92 or 93 degrees at the shoulder instead of 90.

  • Drop the elbows to bring them close to your ribcage. Tap the head of the dumbbell to your chest.

  • Squeeze up through the triceps to return to that 92 or 93 degree angle.

Sets and Reps: 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions


Eccentric Skull Crusher to Double Press

Why: This exercise provides two different movement patterns in one, giving you more bang for your buck per rep.

How to Do It:

  • Grab your dumbbells and lay down on the bench.

  • Press the dumbbells up over your chest, and tip the elbows slightly back towards your face just a little bit—think 92 or 93 degrees at the shoulder instead of 90.

  • Bend at the elbows to drop the dumbbells down and back to the sides of your face, palms facing each other, super slow. Aim for 3 to 4 seconds on the lowering portion.

  • Instead of straightening out your elbows, shift them forward towards your ribcage.

  • Keeping the dumbbells close together, squeeze the triceps and chest to extend the arms up, pressing towards the ceiling quickly.

  • Do two press reps before returning to the skull crusher.

Reps and Sets: Do 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps


Kneeling Tricep Kickback Challenge

Why: This challenge forces you to own the straight arm position where the tricep is working the hardest in your kickback.

How to Do It:

  • Get in a tall kneeling position on the ground, holding both weights. Hinge at the hips to lean over for kickbacks, keeping your arms parallel to the ground and your head neutral.

  • Squeeze your triceps to perform a kickback rep with both arms.

  • Maintain the squeeze with one of your arms while you perform another rep with the opposite arm. Continue that squeeze no matter what.

  • Repeat that pattern, this time with the arm that was holding straight arm position.

  • Perform another double arm kickback rep. After this one, perform the above series with each arm, performing 2 kickback reps this time.

Sets and Reps: Aim for 3 sets, continuing through the pattern until you hit at least 4 reps.


Triceps Kickback Hold-to-Reps

Why: Want to beef up your triceps kickback? Give this challenge a spin.

How to Do It:

  • Kneel on the ground, holding two lightweight dumbbells at your sides. Tighten your core and hinge your hips backwards. Squeeze your back muscles, raising your upper arms so your elbows and shoulders are on the same plane and parallel with the ground. Look at the ground. This is the starting position.

  • Squeeze your triceps, straightening your arms. Pause in this position, keeping your core tight, and hold for four seconds. Follow with four kickback reps.

  • Do a 3-second iso-hold, then do 3 kickback reps. Then a 2-second hold and 2 reps, then do a 1-second hold and 1 rep.

  • That’s 1 set.

Sets and Reps: Do 3 sets of the progression.


Tricep Gravity Press to JM Press

This challenge subjects your triceps to constant work, ramping up the time under tension.

How to Do It:

  • Start lying on the flat bench holding the dumbbells with a neutral grip (palms facing each other). Keep your abs tight and your elbows in line with your torso, making sure that your forearms are parallel to the ground.

  • Slowly press the dumbbells overhead, focusing to keep your forearms parallel to the ground.

  • At the top of the rep, straighten out your arms completely before returning to the starting position, maintaining your arms parallel to the ground.

  • Repeat for 6 to 8 reps.

  • After completing the gravity press, finish with 4 to 6 JM presses, pushing at about a 93 degree angle relative to your torso.

Sets and Reps: Do 3 sets of the progression.

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