Hoping to fill out your t-shirts with well-developed muscular arms? While your inclination may be to grab the nearest dumbbell and start doing bicep curls like it's your job, we recommend shifting your attention to a different arm muscle: your triceps.
We realize that the biceps are often the star of the upper arm show, but as the triceps are larger and come with plenty of carryover to important athletic movements, they deserve equal, if not more, attention than your bis.
So, what do you do to grow your triceps? Well, the tricep kickback, of course! And we'll show you everything you need to know to master it, including:

What are triceps kickbacks?
How to do triceps kickbacks with proper form
Other equipment options and programming tips
Common mistakes when doing the triceps kickback



What are Triceps Kickbacks?
Triceps kickbacks are an isolation exercise targeting the horseshoe-shaped muscle on the back of your arm. A strong mind-muscle connection is key here since you cannot load it very heavy or your form breaks down.
Positioning for this exercise is crucial for it to be effective. It can often turn into a momentum swing or an ego lift when people think more weight means more growth (more on this shortly).
Using this exercise to strengthen the triceps will assist with shoulder stability and the lockout portion of motions like the bench press or military press. It also will help with athletic movements that involve pushing or throwing.
If the bench press and dips are a hammer, the triceps kickback is a fine chisel used to carve out small details on eye-catching triceps. It's a great addition to your arm workout.
What Triceps Heads do Tricep Kickbacks Work Most?
Like many muscles, itís impossible to isolate a specific head of the triceps completely. So any exercise will hit each triceps muscle to a certain degree. Having said that, triceps exercises can emphasize a certain head of the tris differently and more effectively.
Letís first look at the three heads and what they do.
Long head:
Originating at the scapula and inserting into the humerus, this tricep muscle head and most long head tricep exercises are responsible for extending your elbow and assisting with shoulder stability when the arm is close to your side.
Lateral head:
Originating on the humerus and inserting into the ulna, this is the biggest and strongest of the three triceps muscles. Itís the one people notice first, found on the outside of your shoulders. Its primary function, seen in lateral head exercises, is forearm extension at the elbow joint during supination (palms up) and pronation (palms down).
Medial head:
Originating on the humerus and inserting into the ulna, this head is more hidden between the two. It is vital for medial head exercises requiring elbow extension.


The kickback is going to target the long and lateral heads primarily. This is due to the positioning of your arms. Your elbows are fixed behind your body and close to your sides. Shifting your body position even slightly or changing your equipment may change the targeted tricep head.
A chest-supported kickback will allow you to be in a more stable position with your elbows at your sides, making it the best option to target the long head. A cable tricep kickback will better target the lateral head by keeping constant tension on that muscle throughout the movement.
Are Triceps Kickbacks Effective?
Watching someone do a bench press vs. a triceps kickback will look completely different. Itís obvious which one seems more complex and more critical. (Hint: It's always going to be the compound lift.) But even though itís an isolation move done with a lighter weight and doesnít look overly complicated, it is still an effective exercise.
As we mentioned earlier, the triceps heads have profound benefits when they are strong and functioning correctly. If you can grow and strengthen them, which you will with this exercise, you will see a carryover to all your pressing and athletic movements. And as a bonus, you will see significant changes when you look in the mirror.
Strength, aesthetics, and feeling good - thatís what itís all about, right?
How to Do Tricep Kickbacks with Proper Form
This how-to covers the dumbbell triceps kickback. Add it to your arm workout, and your tris will be happy campers.
You can also hit one triceps at a time using the one-arm version. For the unilateral exercise, set up an incline bench in front of you so you can rest one hand on it while your other arm works.
How to perform Dumbbell Triceps Kickbacks:

Grab your dumbbells and then hinge forward at the waist until your upper body parallels the floor. Your lower body should be in an athletic stance like you are paused in a bent-over row position. Squeeze your glutes to make sure your lower body is engaged.
Maintaining this neutral position, pull your arms back in a row-like fashion until your upper arms are parallel to the floor and your upper body. Make sure you squeeze the dumbbells and make a tight fist to lock your elbow correctly. Start with elbows bent.
Extend your elbows back like you are trying to smash your fist into the ceiling. Extend back until your arms are completely locked out and you feel the triceps flex as much as possible. Hold at the top for a moment to ensure you arenít using momentum and can feel the muscle working.
Slowly lower the weights back down to the starting position under control, maintaining the same tight squeeze on the dumbbell, so nothing relaxes and loses tension. Repeat for indicated reps.

Other Equipment That Can Be Used for Tricep Kickbacks
Whether you have access to a cable machine, barbells, or kettlebells, you can still effectively hit your tris using the tricep kickbacks exercise. Here's a look at the different equipment you can use.
1. Cable machine or resistance band:

The cable machine or a resistance band will stimulate your muscles similarly. The difference between these and dumbbells is that they will create constant muscle tension. The dumbbell is very effective, but it only provides tension on the muscle while locked out. Cables and bands will keep it throughout the entire movement.
2. Kettlebells:
The different weight positioning of kettlebells helps you better keep the tension throughout the movement, enabling you to feel the triceps more during this kickback variation.
Kettlebell Tricep Kickback Demo on Youtube
3. Barbell:
Get in the standard kickback position, holding a barbell behind your body with palms up or down instead of neutral. As you bend over into a bent-over row position, the barbell starts low, behind you, close to the backs of your knees. As you extend your elbows, you'll raise the barbell as high as you comfortably can.
If you can handle the weight and maintain the position, you can load the triceps more than dumbbells.
Barbell Tricep Kickback Demo on YouTube
4. Chest supported on incline bench:

This will still be with dumbbells, so itís more that you are using a different piece of equipment to hold a better position. The flat bench will allow you to anchor your upper body and will help you hold the correct position, which will keep your arms close to your sides and prevent your shoulders from moving. This will likely be your best option for performing this exercise correctly and avoiding stress on your shoulder joint.
Common Mistakes when doing the Tricep Kickback
To get the most out of this dumbbell triceps exercise, avoid these 4 common mistakes.
1. Going too heavy:
Like almost every exercise, ego lifting with too much weight will cause your form to suffer. Remember, form is everything. So if you are using too much weight, you likely will begin losing momentum and lose the position of your upper arm. This will make it less effective, so check your ego at the door.
2. Bending at the wrist:
As mentioned above, keeping your hand and fist tight and engaged during this exercise is essential. If you feel the dumbbell slipping more toward your index finger and thumb (the strongest part of the hand), you will struggle to lock out your elbow at the end range of motion. Remember to think fist stacked over the wrist. That is the money-maker portion of this exercise, so keep your hand tight.
3. Not keeping your elbows at your sides:
For this exercise, the elbows need to be close to your body. At most, in the cable machine version, they will be 30 degrees away from your body.
4. Not keeping your head and chin tucked:
Your upper body will follow where your head goes. So to keep your upper arms parallel to the floor and a flat back, keep your head in a fixed, neutral position.

Best Load & Rep Range
Since this exercise is done with lighter weights, tension and tempo are your new best friend. That doesnít mean you can't still progressive overload, but there will be somewhat of a ceiling to the weight you can do. You generally wonít see people using 25 pounds and up for this exercise. So think about starting in the 10-15 pound range and adjust accordingly based on how it feels for you.

For muscle strength, try 3 sets of 8-12 reps. Focus on slow tempo and pausing during the lockout.
For muscle hypertrophy, try 3 sets of 15-20 reps. Donít forget to control the weight even though itís a higher rep count.


Programming Tips
Triceps kickbacks may not have as much bang for your buck as a close grip bench press, but as we discussed, itís an essential tool for sculpting your triceps. Make sure to hit your tris with multiple variations and positions to see what works best for you.
Here are three tips to help with your programming.

Prioritize compound exercises first and finish with isolation exercises to hit each triceps head.

Build muscular strength with upper body exercises like bench presses, dips, or close grip push-ups. And then fine-tune your triceps with the kickback.
Wherever you place this in your workout (we recommend toward the end of your routine after compound exercises), remember proper positioning. Squeezing the muscle is priority number one.


While you can add this move to an arm workout, other options include adding it to your chest and triceps routine or a dumbbell upper body workout.
By now, you should understand the often misunderstood triceps kickback. When done correctly, it's an extremely effective move, especially for hitting the long and lateral heads of the muscle. Avoid making common form mistakes, and you will surely see tricep muscle growth.
Related: 8 Kettlebell Exercises to Build Horseshoe Triceps


BEST HYPERTROPHY PROGRAM






Prepare to maximize your gains with our exclusive 12-week hypertrophy training program. Choose between a 4 or 5 day training split and gain 2-12 pounds of muscle over 90 days...


Hoping to fill out your t-shirts with well-developed muscular arms? While your inclination may be to grab the nearest dumbbell and start doing bicep curls like it's your job, we recommend shifting your attention to a different arm muscle: your triceps.


We realize that the biceps are often the star of the upper arm show, but as the triceps are larger and come with plenty of carryover to important athletic movements, they deserve equal, if not more, attention than your bis.


So, what do you do to grow your triceps? Well, the tricep kickback, of course! And we'll show you everything you need to know to master it, including:


  • What are triceps kickbacks?
  • How to do triceps kickbacks with proper form
  • Other equipment options and programming tips
  • Common mistakes when doing the triceps kickback





What are Triceps Kickbacks?
Triceps kickbacks are an isolation exercise targeting the horseshoe-shaped muscle on the back of your arm. A strong mind-muscle connection is key here since you cannot load it very heavy or your form breaks down.


Positioning for this exercise is crucial for it to be effective. It can often turn into a momentum swing or an ego lift when people think more weight means more growth (more on this shortly).


Using this exercise to strengthen the triceps will assist with shoulder stability and the lockout portion of motions like the bench press or military press. It also will help with athletic movements that involve pushing or throwing.


If the bench press and dips are a hammer, the triceps kickback is a fine chisel used to carve out small details on eye-catching triceps. It's a great addition to your arm workout.


What Triceps Heads do Tricep Kickbacks Work Most?
Like many muscles, itís impossible to isolate a specific head of the triceps completely. So any exercise will hit each triceps muscle to a certain degree. Having said that, triceps exercises can emphasize a certain head of the tris differently and more effectively.


Letís first look at the three heads and what they do.


Long head:
Originating at the scapula and inserting into the humerus, this tricep muscle head and most long head tricep exercises are responsible for extending your elbow and assisting with shoulder stability when the arm is close to your side.


Lateral head:
Originating on the humerus and inserting into the ulna, this is the biggest and strongest of the three triceps muscles. Itís the one people notice first, found on the outside of your shoulders. Its primary function, seen in lateral head exercises, is forearm extension at the elbow joint during supination (palms up) and pronation (palms down).


Medial head:
Originating on the humerus and inserting into the ulna, this head is more hidden between the two. It is vital for medial head exercises requiring elbow extension.






The kickback is going to target the long and lateral heads primarily. This is due to the positioning of your arms. Your elbows are fixed behind your body and close to your sides. Shifting your body position even slightly or changing your equipment may change the targeted tricep head.


A chest-supported kickback will allow you to be in a more stable position with your elbows at your sides, making it the best option to target the long head. A cable tricep kickback will better target the lateral head by keeping constant tension on that muscle throughout the movement.


Are Triceps Kickbacks Effective?
Watching someone do a bench press vs. a triceps kickback will look completely different. Itís obvious which one seems more complex and more critical. (Hint: It's always going to be the compound lift.) But even though itís an isolation move done with a lighter weight and doesnít look overly complicated, it is still an effective exercise.


As we mentioned earlier, the triceps heads have profound benefits when they are strong and functioning correctly. If you can grow and strengthen them, which you will with this exercise, you will see a carryover to all your pressing and athletic movements. And as a bonus, you will see significant changes when you look in the mirror.


Strength, aesthetics, and feeling good - thatís what itís all about, right?


How to Do Tricep Kickbacks with Proper Form
This how-to covers the dumbbell triceps kickback. Add it to your arm workout, and your tris will be happy campers.


You can also hit one triceps at a time using the one-arm version. For the unilateral exercise, set up an incline bench in front of you so you can rest one hand on it while your other arm works.


How to perform Dumbbell Triceps Kickbacks:




  • Grab your dumbbells and then hinge forward at the waist until your upper body parallels the floor. Your lower body should be in an athletic stance like you are paused in a bent-over row position. Squeeze your glutes to make sure your lower body is engaged.
  • Maintaining this neutral position, pull your arms back in a row-like fashion until your upper arms are parallel to the floor and your upper body. Make sure you squeeze the dumbbells and make a tight fist to lock your elbow correctly. Start with elbows bent.
  • Extend your elbows back like you are trying to smash your fist into the ceiling. Extend back until your arms are completely locked out and you feel the triceps flex as much as possible. Hold at the top for a moment to ensure you arenít using momentum and can feel the muscle working.
  • Slowly lower the weights back down to the starting position under control, maintaining the same tight squeeze on the dumbbell, so nothing relaxes and loses tension. Repeat for indicated reps.

Other Equipment That Can Be Used for Tricep Kickbacks
Whether you have access to a cable machine, barbells, or kettlebells, you can still effectively hit your tris using the tricep kickbacks exercise. Here's a look at the different equipment you can use.


1. Cable machine or resistance band:



The cable machine or a resistance band will stimulate your muscles similarly. The difference between these and dumbbells is that they will create constant muscle tension. The dumbbell is very effective, but it only provides tension on the muscle while locked out. Cables and bands will keep it throughout the entire movement.


2. Kettlebells:
The different weight positioning of kettlebells helps you better keep the tension throughout the movement, enabling you to feel the triceps more during this kickback variation.


Kettlebell Tricep Kickback Demo on Youtube


3. Barbell:
Get in the standard kickback position, holding a barbell behind your body with palms up or down instead of neutral. As you bend over into a bent-over row position, the barbell starts low, behind you, close to the backs of your knees. As you extend your elbows, you'll raise the barbell as high as you comfortably can.


If you can handle the weight and maintain the position, you can load the triceps more than dumbbells.


Barbell Tricep Kickback Demo on YouTube


4. Chest supported on incline bench:



This will still be with dumbbells, so itís more that you are using a different piece of equipment to hold a better position. The flat bench will allow you to anchor your upper body and will help you hold the correct position, which will keep your arms close to your sides and prevent your shoulders from moving. This will likely be your best option for performing this exercise correctly and avoiding stress on your shoulder joint.


Common Mistakes when doing the Tricep Kickback
To get the most out of this dumbbell triceps exercise, avoid these 4 common mistakes.


1. Going too heavy:
Like almost every exercise, ego lifting with too much weight will cause your form to suffer. Remember, form is everything. So if you are using too much weight, you likely will begin losing momentum and lose the position of your upper arm. This will make it less effective, so check your ego at the door.


2. Bending at the wrist:
As mentioned above, keeping your hand and fist tight and engaged during this exercise is essential. If you feel the dumbbell slipping more toward your index finger and thumb (the strongest part of the hand), you will struggle to lock out your elbow at the end range of motion. Remember to think fist stacked over the wrist. That is the money-maker portion of this exercise, so keep your hand tight.


3. Not keeping your elbows at your sides:
For this exercise, the elbows need to be close to your body. At most, in the cable machine version, they will be 30 degrees away from your body.


4. Not keeping your head and chin tucked:
Your upper body will follow where your head goes. So to keep your upper arms parallel to the floor and a flat back, keep your head in a fixed, neutral position.





Best Load & Rep Range
Since this exercise is done with lighter weights, tension and tempo are your new best friend. That doesnít mean you can't still progressive overload, but there will be somewhat of a ceiling to the weight you can do. You generally wonít see people using 25 pounds and up for this exercise. So think about starting in the 10-15 pound range and adjust accordingly based on how it feels for you.


  • For muscle strength, try 3 sets of 8-12 reps. Focus on slow tempo and pausing during the lockout.
  • For muscle hypertrophy, try 3 sets of 15-20 reps. Donít forget to control the weight even though itís a higher rep count.


Programming Tips
Triceps kickbacks may not have as much bang for your buck as a close grip bench press, but as we discussed, itís an essential tool for sculpting your triceps. Make sure to hit your tris with multiple variations and positions to see what works best for you.


Here are three tips to help with your programming.


[*]Prioritize compound exercises first and finish with isolation exercises to hit each triceps head.[*]
Build muscular strength with upper body exercises like bench presses, dips, or close grip push-ups. And then fine-tune your triceps with the kickback.[*]Wherever you place this in your workout (we recommend toward the end of your routine after compound exercises), remember proper positioning. Squeezing the muscle is priority number one.


While you can add this move to an arm workout, other options include adding it to your chest and triceps routine or a dumbbell upper body workout.


By now, you should understand the often misunderstood triceps kickback. When done correctly, it's an extremely effective move, especially for hitting the long and lateral heads of the muscle. Avoid making common form mistakes, and you will surely see tricep muscle growth.


Related: 8 Kettlebell Exercises to Build Horseshoe Triceps




BEST HYPERTROPHY PROGRAM






Prepare to maximize your gains with our exclusive 12-week hypertrophy training program. Choose between a 4 or 5 day training split and gain 2-12 pounds of muscle over 90 days...














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