5 Best Dumbbell Triceps Exercises

Triceps are key players in upper body strength, and dumbbells offer the perfect tool for targeted workouts.

The best exercises include the Close Grip Dumbbell Bench Press, One-Armed Overhead Dumbbell Extension, Dumbbell Skull Crushers, Dumbbell Kickbacks, and Triceps Dips using dumbbells—keep reading for a detailed guide on how to perform each for maximum effectiveness.

Close Grip Dumbbell Bench Press

The Close Grip Dumbbell Bench Press is a powerhouse exercise that targets not just your triceps, but also engages your shoulders and chest, making it a comprehensive upper body workout.

Ideal for those looking to enhance strength and muscle size, this exercise uses dumbbells to provide a range of motion that's more natural and joint-friendly compared to a barbell.

Overview of the Exercise

The Close Grip Dumbbell Bench Press focuses on the triceps while also engaging the pectoral muscles and deltoids.

Using dumbbells allows for a greater range of motion and can help in correcting muscle imbalances since each arm works independently.

This exercise is beneficial for building overall upper body strength and is particularly effective in targeting the triceps, contributing to thicker, well-shaped arms.

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Starting Position: Lie flat on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Your feet should be flat on the ground, knees bent, and your spine in a neutral position.
  2. Grip and Elbow Position: Hold the dumbbells with your palms facing each other, arms extended directly above your chest. Keep your elbows close to your body throughout the exercise to maximize triceps engagement.
  3. Lowering the Dumbbells: Slowly lower the dumbbells towards your chest by bending your elbows. Keep the movement controlled and elbows tucked in.
  4. Pressing Up: Push the dumbbells back up to the starting position, focusing on using your triceps to perform the lifting motion.
  5. Breathing: Exhale as you press the dumbbells up and inhale as you lower them back down.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Flaring Your Elbows: Keep your elbows close to your sides to ensure the focus remains on the triceps and to avoid shoulder strain.
  • Losing Form at the Bottom: Don't let the dumbbells touch your chest or shoulders at the bottom of the movement; this can place unnecessary stress on your shoulders.
  • Locking Your Elbows: Avoid fully locking out your elbows at the top of the press. This can lead to joint strain and reduces muscle engagement.
  • Rapid Movements: Performing the exercise too fast can lead to loss of form and reduced muscle engagement. Focus on a slow, controlled motion.


  • Incline Close Grip Dumbbell Bench Press: Performing the exercise on an incline bench targets the upper pecs and the long head of the triceps more intensely.
  • One-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press: This unilateral exercise increases core engagement and helps address any strength imbalances between the arms.
  • Neutral Grip to Pronated Grip Rotation: Start with a neutral grip (palms facing each other) and rotate to a pronated grip (palms facing your feet) as you press up. This variation increases triceps activation through the additional rotation movement.

One-Armed Overhead Dumbbell Extension

The One-Armed Overhead Dumbbell Extension is a precision exercise designed to isolate and build the triceps, specifically targeting the long head for impressive arm definition.

This focused movement is perfect for those aiming to enhance muscular symmetry and strength in their upper arms.

Purpose of the Exercise

The One-Armed Overhead Dumbbell Extension is particularly effective at targeting the long head of the triceps, which is crucial for developing arm thickness and strength.

Isolating this muscle can improve overall arm aesthetics and functionality.

Since the long head of the triceps spans the shoulder joint and the elbow, this exercise also aids in stabilizing these areas during movements involving overhead actions.

How to Perform

  1. Choosing Your Position: You can perform this exercise either sitting or standing. If standing, ensure your feet are shoulder-width apart for stability. If sitting, use a bench to provide back support.
  2. Starting Position: Hold a dumbbell in one hand and raise it overhead, arm fully extended. Your other hand can rest by your side or help support the arm being worked.
  3. Execution: Keep your upper arm close to your head with the elbow pointing upwards. Slowly bend your elbow to lower the dumbbell behind your head. Make sure the movement is controlled and focused.
  4. Contraction: Extend your arm back to the starting position, concentrating on using your triceps to lift the weight. Keep your core engaged and your back straight throughout the exercise.
  5. Repetition: Perform all reps on one arm before switching to the other, ensuring equal work on both sides.

Safety Tips

  • Warm-Up Properly: Always start with a lighter weight to warm up your muscles and joints, gradually moving to your working weight.
  • Maintain Form: Avoid letting your elbow flare out to the sides. Keep it pointing straight up to prevent joint strain.
  • Controlled Movements: Resist the temptation to use momentum to lift the dumbbell. Use slow, controlled movements to maximize muscle engagement and minimize the risk of injury.
  • Mind Your Surroundings: Especially if you're standing, ensure you have enough space around you to perform the movement without obstruction.

Progression Tips

  • Increase Weight Gradually: As your strength improves, gradually increase the weight of the dumbbell. Ensure you can perform the exercise with proper form before adding more weight.
  • Add Repetitions or Sets: Another way to progress is by increasing the number of repetitions per set or adding more sets to your workout.
  • Pause Reps: Introduce pause reps where you hold the weight at the bottom of the movement for a few seconds before extending to intensify the workout.
  • Superset with Other Triceps Exercises: Combine this exercise with other triceps-focused movements in a superset to increase intensity and endurance in your workout routine.

Dumbbell Skull Crushers

Dumbbell Skull Crushers, also known as Lying Triceps Extensions, are a formidable exercise for achieving powerful triceps development.

This exercise focuses on the elongation and contraction of the triceps muscles through a specific range of motion, making it a staple in arm-strengthening workouts.

Exercise Breakdown

Dumbbell Skull Crushers primarily target the triceps muscles at the back of the upper arm, engaging all three heads of the triceps.

The exercise involves an eccentric (lowering) and concentric (lifting) phase, which helps in maximizing muscle hypertrophy.

By lying down, you reduce the involvement of other muscles, thereby isolating the triceps more effectively.

Instructional Guide

  1. Setup: Lie flat on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Extend your arms fully, holding the dumbbells directly above your chest with your palms facing each other.
  2. Execution: Keeping your upper arms stationary, slowly bend your elbows to lower the dumbbells toward your forehead or just beside your head. It’s crucial to keep the movement controlled to avoid any injury.
  3. Contraction: Extend your elbows to lift the dumbbells back to the starting position, focusing on contracting the triceps muscles intensely.
  4. Breathing: Inhale as you lower the dumbbells and exhale as you raise them back to the starting position.

Benefits of the Range of Motion

The unique range of motion in Skull Crushers allows for extensive elongation of the triceps muscles during the lowering phase, which is key for muscle building.

This stretch, followed by a forceful contraction, helps stimulate muscle fibers throughout the triceps, leading to improved muscle growth and increased strength over time.

Equipment Alternatives

  • Flat Surface: If a bench isn't available, you can perform this exercise by lying on any flat surface, like the floor. This variation slightly reduces the range of motion but is still effective.
  • Stability Ball: Using a stability ball instead of a bench adds a core-strengthening component, as you must stabilize your body while performing the exercise.
  • Incline or Decline Surface: Performing Skull Crushers on an incline or decline surface can alter the angle of resistance, targeting the triceps slightly differently and adding variety to your workout.

Dumbbell Kickbacks

Dumbbell Kickbacks are an excellent exercise for targeting the triceps, specifically honing in on the definition and separation of the muscle.

This focused movement is ideal for those looking to refine and sculpt the back of their arms, as it emphasizes the contraction of the triceps at the peak of the movement.

Detailed Explanation

Dumbbell Kickbacks directly target the triceps, engaging primarily the lateral and medial heads of the muscle.

The movement isolates these areas through a focused extension of the elbow, where the triceps are required to work against gravity to move the weight.

This exercise is particularly effective for sculpting and defining the triceps due to the intense contraction at the top of the movement.

Performing the Exercise

  1. Starting Position: Begin by holding a dumbbell in one hand. Lean forward slightly, placing your opposite hand on a bench or stable surface for support. Keep your back straight and your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Body Alignment: Your working arm should be close to your torso with the elbow bent and tucked at your side. This will be your starting position.
  3. The Kickback: Keeping your upper arm stationary, extend your elbow to kick the dumbbell back and up. The movement should be smooth and controlled, focusing on moving the weight with your triceps.
  4. Peak Contraction: Once your arm is fully extended, pause briefly and squeeze your triceps at the top of the movement for maximum engagement.
  5. Return: Slowly return the dumbbell to the starting position, maintaining control and not allowing gravity to do the work.

Tips for Effectiveness

  • Mind the Peak: Focus on the peak contraction when your arm is fully extended. A brief pause at this point can enhance the muscle activation and effectiveness of the exercise.
  • Control the Weight: Use a weight that allows you to perform the movement with complete control. Avoid using momentum to swing the dumbbell; the motion should be driven purely by your triceps.
  • Maintain Posture: Keep your back flat and avoid rounding your shoulders. Proper alignment ensures that the triceps are doing the work and prevents strain on other areas.
  • Gradual Progression: As you grow stronger, increase the weight gradually to continuously challenge your triceps and promote muscle growth.

Common Pitfalls

  • Swinging the Dumbbell: One of the most common mistakes is using momentum to swing the dumbbell rather than performing a controlled extension. This reduces the effectiveness of the exercise and can lead to injury.
  • Raising the Elbow: Your elbow should remain pinned at your side throughout the movement. Raising the elbow as you extend the dumbbell shifts the focus away from the triceps and can strain the shoulder.
  • Overextending the Back: Avoid the tendency to arch your back as you lift the weight. This can place unnecessary stress on the lower back and detract from the isolation of the triceps.

Triceps Dips Using Dumbbells

Triceps Dips using dumbbells are a highly effective exercise for building robust triceps muscles, offering a unique approach to triceps training by utilizing your body weight as resistance.

This exercise is versatile and can be adjusted to suit different fitness levels, making it a fundamental part of any strength training regimen.

Introduction to the Exercise

Triceps Dips using dumbbells focus intensely on the triceps muscles by forcing them to lift and lower your body weight.

This direct application of resistance helps to strengthen not only the triceps but also engages the shoulders and lower chest, providing a comprehensive upper body workout.

The ability to perform this exercise with minimal equipment and simple modifications makes it an accessible yet powerful addition to any workout.

Guide on How to Perform Dips

  1. Setup: Place two sturdy dumbbells on the floor, parallel to each other, shoulder-width apart. Ensure they are secure and won’t roll.
  2. Position: Sit between the dumbbells and grip them with your hands, palms facing in towards your body. Extend your legs forward, with your heels on the ground and toes pointed up.
  3. Lift Off: Press into the dumbbells to lift your body off the ground, straightening your arms. Your body should hover above the floor, supported only by your hands and heels.
  4. Descending: Slowly lower your body by bending your elbows until they form a 90-degree angle. Keep your elbows close to your body to maximize triceps engagement.
  5. Press Up: Push down through your palms, extending your elbows to lift your body back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat: Perform the desired number of repetitions, maintaining control and stability throughout the movement.


  • Beginner Modification: If full bodyweight dips are too challenging, you can bend your knees and bring your feet closer to your body to reduce the load and assist in the movement.
  • Advanced Variation: To increase the difficulty, elevate your feet on another set of dumbbells or a bench. This increases the weight your triceps have to lift.
  • Weighted Dips: For an additional challenge, add a weight plate on your lap or use a weighted dip belt to increase resistance.

Benefits Over Other Exercises

  • Compound Movement: Unlike isolated tricep exercises, dips engage multiple muscle groups, which can lead to better overall upper body strength and muscle development.
  • Increased Muscle Activation: The gravity-based resistance in dips often leads to higher muscle activation compared to pushdowns or extensions, which can result in faster strength gains.
  • Scalability: Dips are easily modified to increase or decrease intensity, making them suitable for all fitness levels and allowing for progressive overload as strength improves.

Integrating These Exercises into Your Routine

Integrating these triceps-focused exercises into your routine can significantly enhance your overall strength and muscle development.

By strategically planning your workouts and incorporating various exercises, you can achieve balanced and effective results.

Workout Planning

Incorporating the described triceps exercises into your routine requires consideration of your overall workout goals—whether you're focusing on strength, hypertrophy, or endurance.

For a triceps-specific session, select three to four of these exercises, varying the movements to hit the muscle from different angles and activation points.

When planning a full-body workout, include one or two triceps exercises alongside other movements that target different muscle groups.

This ensures comprehensive development and prevents overtraining any single area.

It's crucial to start with exercises that require the most energy and stability, such as the Close Grip Dumbbell Bench Press, and move towards more isolated movements like the Dumbbell Kickbacks as your workout progresses.

Sample Workout Schedules

For beginners, a good starting point might be performing triceps exercises twice a week, allowing plenty of time for recovery.

A sample beginner schedule could include triceps exercises on Monday and Thursday, integrating them into a routine that also involves other muscle groups on these days.

For intermediate enthusiasts, consider increasing the frequency or intensity of the triceps workouts by adding another day or incorporating supersets.

An example could be working on triceps on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, possibly combining them with chest exercises on Monday, shoulder exercises on Wednesday, and full upper-body workouts on Friday.

Advanced lifters might focus on even more specialized techniques like drop sets or eccentrics, performing triceps exercises up to four times a week with varying intensities and combinations.

Recovery and Care

Recovery is as vital as the workout itself, especially when training muscles as frequently used as the triceps.

Muscle growth occurs during rest, not during the workout.

Therefore, ensuring adequate recovery time between sessions is crucial to allow the muscles to repair and grow.

This involves not only scheduling days off or lighter days between heavy sessions but also paying attention to sleep quality and nutrition.

Hydration and a diet rich in proteins and healthy fats can significantly enhance recovery processes.

Additionally, consider incorporating stretching and mobility exercises for the triceps and surrounding muscles to maintain flexibility and reduce the risk of injury.

This holistic approach to training and recovery will support sustained progress and help avoid the pitfalls of overtraining.


Incorporating these five top dumbbell triceps exercises into your fitness routine can significantly enhance your upper body strength and aesthetics.

By following the detailed guides and adjusting based on your fitness level, you can maximize the effectiveness of each workout while minimizing the risk of injury.

Remember, consistent effort combined with proper recovery and care is key to achieving and maintaining your strength training goals.