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Triceps Kickback Vs PowerBombs

Which Builds Bigger Arms?

Posted by Scott_Herman - August 30th, 2018

Today I am going to single handedly rip apart a beloved “go-to” exercise of about 90% of the people in my new gym, and that is the TRICEPS KICKBACK! More specifically, we are going to compare the kickbacks to my all-time favorite triceps movement, the PowerBomb, aka the Dumbbell Overhead Extension. So are kickbacks a bad exercise? No, but are you wasting your time incorporating them in your triceps routine? Yeah you probably are, and this is why.

As you know, when trying to build muscle, you mainly want to address two factors; VOLUME & INTENSITY. This means that you primarily want to be lifting enough weight to challenge your muscles and progressively overload them with more resistance. This means effectively FORCING them to adapt and ultimately grow bigger and stronger. The problem with kickbacks, whether you’re doing them with a dumbbell or a cable, is actually two-fold:

Problem #1

It’s an extreme isolator for the triceps which means you will not be able to lift a lot of weight. The mechanics of the exercise in relation to your joints prevent you from lifting more than 10 – 15 lbs with good form. Maybe some of you will be able to do 20 – 25lbs, but there’s not much room for improvement from there. It’s not like you’ll ever be able to use 50lbs dumbbells in the near future, or any future for that matter unless you start using A LOT of momentum, which for this exercise defeats the entire purpose of doing it.

Problem #2

The kickbacks do not provide any kind of meaningful stretch to the triceps. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Due to the position of the elbow (which is in line with your body), kickbacks emphasize the contraction of the triceps and are completely useless when trying to stretch them under resistance. If you’ve been following my channel for some time, you would know that heavy negatives and weighted stretching is the ULTIMATE way to spark muscle growth.

How Should You Train Your Triceps?
You need to start utilizing one of the following two compound movements; Close Grip Bench Press or Dips. Choosing the kickback for your first or second triceps exercise is simply wasting your time and energy. Then, as soon as you’re done performing your compound triceps exercise, whether it’s the CGBP or the Dip, you should move on to the Powerbomb.

But why is the Powerbomb better than kickbacks? Again, it’s for two reasons!

Reason #1

Although it’s still technically an isolation exercise for the triceps, it allows you to overload with much heavier weights. In fact, I can easily use a 100lbs dumbbell on a bad day and probably a more than 120lbs dumbbell on a good one! This means you have a lot of room for improvement and potential future gains from this exercise. Remember, to perform a kickback properly, your only going to be able to hit 15 – 25lbs MAX with proper form.

Reason #2

Because the Powerbomb places your elbow above your head, it sets up the triceps for a MAJOR stretch at the bottom of the movement. Not only does this emphasize the long head of the triceps, but it simply provides more growth potential for the entire triceps complex.

So Are Kickbacks Useless?

Definitely not! They have their place, but only in a couple of scenarios:

Recommendation #1

If you are having trouble “feeling” your triceps contract and establishing that muscle-mind connection, the kickbacks are the best exercise to get you started. In fact, I would perform a few light sets BEFORE my actual triceps workout, or even in-between my heavy sets for some extra stimulation.

Recommendation #2

Another great way to incorporate the kickback is as part of a triceps circuit that aims to bombard the triceps with volume without tiring out the rest of your body.  Because the kickback is extremely difficult to perform, even with very light weights, it provides you with more bang for your buck. That means, you can use LESS weight and still fatigue the muscle to failure. So, if you’re performing some kind of biceps & triceps superset or circuit routine, and trying to overload your arms with VOLUME, kickbacks might be the way to go.


As you can see, kickbacks have their place, but for GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT, the only isolation type exercise you should be using is one that allows you to progressively overload, like the powerbomb!

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