Having well-toned arm muscles with mass and proper definition is one of the first goals chased by gym-goers. But most people tend to focus on the biceps while working out the arms — ignoring or giving less attention to the triceps. The triceps muscles are not only aesthetically important, but they also have a role in ensuring overall functional strength in the body. And triceps workouts with dumbbells are the most effective way to isolate and work the muscles.
Dumbbell exercises for triceps not only condition the muscles but also isolate and strengthen them. This in turn has a bearing on other exercises that involve pushups and on general athletic performance.
Anatomy and function of triceps
As per a 2022 research article, the primary function of the triceps brachii, which is in the shape of a horseshoe situated on the posterior part of the arm, is the extension of the elbow joint.
The muscle is composed of three heads:
- long head, which originates from the scapula and extends to the elbow, helps in holding the head of the humerus bone in the ball and socket joint. It also helps in the adduction and extension of the arm at the shoulder joint.
- medial head, which is active only during forearm extension at the elbow joint, and
- lateral head, which is the strongest, is active during the extension of the forearms at the elbow joint when the forearm is supinated or pronated.
“Triceps play a major role in the overall fitness journey,” says Mohnish, a fitness trainer from Delhi. “If a person does pushups, then the support of the triceps is essential as it helps in giving the push. These muscles are involved in every upper-body exercise. If the triceps muscles are weak then it will result in injury to the elbows. The adverse effect can also be seen in the forearm muscles.”
Dumbbell workouts for triceps
While dumbbell workouts for triceps are great, beginners and those with shoulder issues should avoid them.
“Machines have a support system which aids the workout,” says Mohnish. “Dumbbell is a manual workout where the load on the muscles is higher and the strength or force to do the exercise must come fully from the person. For beginners, machines are preferred. Once they develop strength, then the transformation towards dumbbell should be made. Those with elbow issues, especially those dealing with tennis elbow, should avoid dumbbells.”
Sticking to the right form for these exercises is paramount.
“There should be a proper form and the exercises should provide the complete range of motion,” adds Mohnish. “Abstain from ego lifting. And whether one should go for high repetitions or low repetitions, depends on the fitness goal.”
Here are six effective dumbbell exercises for triceps:
Single-arm dumbbell extension
This exercise helps in stretching and activating the long head of triceps along with the overhead movement, improving shoulder stability.
- Hold a lightweight dumbbell in one hand, stand straight engaging the core with shoulder in retracted position.
- Holding the dumbbell in one hand, raise the arm parallel to the head.
- Lower the dumbbell to the back of the head, experiencing a stretch in the triceps muscles. Return to the starting position, repeating the same movement for the prescribed number before changing hands and repeating.
Two-arm seated dumbbell extension (French press)
This exercise targets all the heads of the triceps and improves shoulder stability. It can be done on a gym bench with or without back support. The back needs to be kept straight.
- Sit on a gym bench and hold a dumbbell with both hands. Raise it above the head and, holding the elbows close to the ears, lower the dumbbell to the back of the head.
- The dumbbell should be lowered to a position where it comes in a straight line to the top of the head. Return to the starting position and repeat.
- The key is to keep the elbows close to the ears, maintaining form right through.
Dumbbell skull crushers
This helps in improving the strength and muscle mass.
- Lie on your back holding two dumbbells in your hands.
- Raise your hands till both arms are parallel to each other. The palms should face each other.
- Keeping the hands straight, bend the elbow, lowering the dumbbell and then returning to the starting position. Repeat.
Kickbacks isolate the triceps and condition the muscles.
- Hold a dumbbell in one hand. Bend the knees a little with the back kept straight and the head in a straight line, engaging the back along the core. The upper body should be parallel to the ground.
- Keep the elbows close and straighten the hand holding the dumbbell, extending it backward. Repeat the movement before changing hands.
Weighted bench dips
Other than triceps, bench dips also target muscles of the upper arm, shoulders, chest and upper back.
- Sit on a bench or a chair or on the edge of a wall.
- Extend the legs and lift the body supported entirely by the hands.
- Keep a dumbbell on the thigh.
- Now lower the body by bending the elbow to a 90-degree angle.
- Return to the starting position and repeat.
Close grip dumbbell triceps pushups
This exercise resembles the close grip diamond pushups, with the difference being that the dumbbell helps the body get into an incline position. Along with triceps, this exercise also targets muscles of the shoulder and the chest.
- Place a dumbbell erect on the ground and place the hands on top of the dumbbell to attain the pushups starting position.
- Now lower the body and return to the starting position.