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Top 5 Dumbbell Tricep Exercises!

Build Muscle & Strength!

Posted by Scott_Herman - July 13th, 2015

The key to building big triceps is making sure that you are targeting all three heads throughout your tricep routine.  You also want to make sure that you are performing the movements that require the most energy first.

This is beneficial for a few reasons.  

  1. You can focus on building more strength on these exercises.
  2. You will “pre-exhaust” your triceps so when you get to the exercises that require less weight, you can focus on form making them more effective in terms of breaking down muscle and building a stronger Mind-Muscle Connection.

Remember, without a strong MMC, you could be wasting some SERIOUS time in the gym.  Click the link below to learn more about mind-muscle connection and how to improve it!

Can’t Feel The Right Muscles Activate During A Lift?

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Now, on to my top 5 dumbbell triceps exercises!

POWERBOMB: Seated Overhead Dumbbell Tricep Extension

This is my favorite triceps exercise of all time.  It’s great for targeting the long and media head of the triceps and the pump is INSANE!  When performing this exercise you can do it seated or standing.  The main difference is that you will need more “core control” when standing.  But if your goal is to focus on demolishing your triceps, I would perform them seated.  

Once seated, you are going to pick up your dumbbell and hold it over your head with your hands together.  From here you are going to lower the dumbbell behind your head as far as you can only bending at the elbows.  Once fully descended, return to the starting position and repeat.

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A tip to keep in mind when doing this would be to focus on using your internal belt for support.  When you lower the dumbbell you put a lot of tension in your mid-section and as you start to lift heavier weight you may even feel pressure in your lower back.  To combat this, take in a breath before each repetition and keep your core as tight as you can until you complete the rep.  Then reset your breath and go again.

Dumbbell Skull Crushers

This exercise targets all three heads of the tricep (long, medial and lateral head) and requires a bit of coordination so I recommend starting with light weight first.  Lay flat on a bench holding a dumbbell in each hand.  Once in place, extend your arms up over your torso with your palms facing each other.  From here, you are going to lower the dumbbells to the sides of your head ONLY bending at the elbow.  Your arm, from your elbow to your shoulder, should not move.  Once fully descended return to the starting position and repeat.

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A quick tip for this exercise, do not just go through the motions here.  Focuses on a controlled negative and at the top of each repetition squeeze your triceps as hard as you can.  This will maximize your muscle damage during each set for more gains!

Dumbbell Tricep Press

When you don’t have access to a barbell, the dumbbell tricep press can be used to replace the close-grip bench press with a few minor adjustments.  For one, when performing this movement you want to keep your palms facing in toward your chest.  With that being said, lay flat on a bench holding a dumbbell in each hand.  At the bottom position the dumbbells should be in line with your TORSO, not your chest, and when you press the dumbbells up they should move in a straight line over your torso as well.

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This exercise will target the long and medial heads of the tricep as long as you can maintain control over the entire movement.  Do not make the mistake of going too heavy and just thrusting the dumbbells into the air.  Squeeze the handles as hard as you can and feel your triceps burn on every repetition!

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Seated Single-Arm Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extension

Now we are moving onto an exercise that requires a bit more focus on form vs weight.  Get into position by sitting upright while holding a dumbbell in one hand.  From here lift the dumbbell up and over your head with your arm fully extended.  Once in place, begin to lower the dumbbell behind your head while ONLY bending at the elbow.  Once fully descended return to the starting position and repeat.

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The biggest mistake I see on this exercise is that most people use too much weight and start to thrust the dumbbell up with momentum.  Let’s face it, EGO gets into the equation and we don’t want people thinking we are weak only using a 20lb dumbbell.  Well, who cares? Keep in mind that to people who ACTUALLY know what they are doing, you are going to look ridiculous using momentum just to toss up more weight.

This is why I like to save this exercise as one of my finishers for triceps.  It already requires less weight to utilize proper form and I am going to get a much better workout with that same 20lb dumbbell if my triceps are pre-exhausted versus being fresh.

One more quick note, this is a great exercise to do with super lightweight before you start your workout to warm-up your elbows.

Dumbbell Tricep Kickback

The final exercise is the dumbbell tricep kickback.  This is another great exercise to be utilized as a finisher at the end of your workout and does a great job of targeting the lateral head.  Just like the single-arm dumbbell extension, to utilize proper form without momentum you will need to use light weight.

Most people miss out on the most beneficial part of this exercise, which is the SQUEEZE at the top of the movement, because their dumbbell is too heavy and they do not have the strength to fully extend their arm.

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To perform the movement, kneel on a bench while holding a dumbbell and post yourself up with your other arm.  Once in place, lift the elbow of the arm holding the dumbbell so that it is in line with your back and your upper arm is parallel to the ground.  From here you are going to “kick-back” with the dumbbell.  Fully extend your arm and contract your tricep as hard as you can at the top of the movement, then control the weight back to the starting position and repeat.

Again, keep the weight light so you can focus on proper form and ZERO momentum.

Looking For A New Tricep Workout?

Be sure to switch-up your tricep workout by adding in a few of these exercises of if you want to make an entire routine out of this list, follow the guidelines below.

  • 3 sets per exercise
  • 10 – 12 repetitions per set
  • Rest 60 – 90 seconds MAX between sets and exercises.

If you haven’t already, check out my TOP 5 Dumbbell BICEP exercises.

Top 5 Dumbbell Bicep Exercises!

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Related Videos:

Tricep Tips: Eliminating Elbow Pain!

Bigger Arms! Maximize Tricep Growth With Dips!

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How To: Single-Arm Bent Over Row

Today we’re going to cover the three golden rules for the single-arm bent over row. This exercise is great for building an overall...


Reverse Bench for the win!

Scott_Herman  Edit  Delete  Close

It's a great exercise that definitely needs more love!!


Seated Single-Arm Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extension is my favourite exercise for triceps!


You want to build bigger and stronger biceps: hit the triceps first!


awesome article Scott, some more cool stuff to learn and do! gotta grow some tri's

Scott_Herman  Edit  Delete  Close

Thanks bro!!  yeah always giving good stuff for you guys!


Big fan of kickbacks and seated extensions (particularly in a superset with alternating hammer curls). your mileage may vary.

Scott_Herman  Edit  Delete  Close

Nice! I always loved a good superset!


Quality is right @whisper! This is top of the line @scott_herman! I can't wait to get back to doing powerboms!!


This is what I call a quality article. Explanations everywhere. Related videos, articles and links so that nothing goes misunderstood.

Scott_Herman  Edit  Delete  Close

Thanks @whisper! PEople need to grow them triceps!