dumbbells for tricep workout

10 Best Dumbbell Triceps Exercises for Building Bigger Arms

Biceps get a lot of looks when people are thinking about arm training and size. However, the area of the arm that really helps to add size and physique is the triceps.

Biceps get a lot of looks when people are thinking about arm training and size. However, the area of the arm that really helps to add size and physique is the triceps. If you want to build your triceps, then dumbbell triceps exercises are what you want to do.

Today, we’ll cover the anatomy of the triceps, their function, and the best exercises to try today. Then, we’ll leave you with a sample workout to try on your own. Are you ready? Let’s get started! 

What are the Triceps? 

The triceps are a group of muscles that make up the back of the upper arm. Their primary function is to extend or straighten the elbow joint. They also play a role in extending the shoulder as well. 

This primary muscle group is highly involved with larger pressing motions in training, such as the overhead press and bench press. Isolated training of this muscle group is extremely common and it facilitates a functional output for other movements.

Anatomy of The Triceps

There are three primary muscles or heads to the tricep. The most notable recognizable are the Lateral and Long Heads of the Tricep Brachii. These two heads of the tricep produce the “horseshoe” shape that is recognized on the posterior upper arm. The middle head of the tricep is a more flat muscle belly that sits very close to the elbow joint itself. It is not extremely recognizable but is an absolute workhorse. This area of the tricep is involved in 100% of the extensions that occur at the elbow where the larger heads of the Lateral and Long tend to hold off getting heavily involved until workloads become significantly challenging.  

The Best Dumbbell Triceps Exercises

Now that you have an idea of what the triceps do, let’s take a look at the best triceps exercises with dumbbells! 

8. Single-Arm Dumbbell Triceps Kickback

The single-arm kickback is a widely-used exercise. This exercise places an individual in a position that doesn’t allow much of a contribution from all three tricep heads. This exercise is going to mainly target the medial head of the triceps and should be done at very controlled tempos and with high reps. 

How to Do the Single-Arm Dumbbell Triceps Kickback

  • Position yourself against a stable surface and hold one dumbbell

  • Position the upper arm of the hand holding the dumbbell tightly against your ribcage 

  • Focusing on only moving your forearm from the elbow joint extend your arm to a straightened position 

  • Slowly lower the dumbbell back to its original starting position 

7. Narrow Grip Dumbbell Press (Hex Grip)

This exercise is executed in the supine position and enables the triceps to always be under load due to gravity. All three heads of the triceps will be engaged as well as the Pectoralis Major, Latissimus Dorsi, Deltoids, and Teres Major. 

How to Do the Narrow Grip Dumbbell Press

  • Place one dumbbell and each hand palms facing inward towards each other, recline back on a bench to a supine or lying position 
  • With the dumbbells pressing against one another press the dumbbells away from the torso until your arms are entirely straight
  • Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position while always keeping constant pressure inward toward one another 

6. Dumbbell Seated Triceps Overhead Press

With adequate shoulder mobility, the seated overhead tricep press is one of the greatest exercises to help develop the triceps. With the dumbbell always placing tension on the triceps from gravity there is never a moment in the Range of Motion (ROM) that the triceps and not engaged. The extension of the arms overhead brings the Longhead of the tricep into full extension and therefore maximizes the stretch/shortening cycle. 

How to Do the Dumbbell Seated Triceps Overhead Press

  • Grab one dumbbell and take a seat on a sturdy surface 
  • Make a “diamond position” with your thumbs and index fingers. Place the handle of the dumbbell in the “diamond” you’ve created 
  • Bring the dumbbell to an overhead position palms facing up toward the ceiling 
  • Begin to bend your elbows thus lowering the dumbbell toward the back of your shoulders 
  • Keep each of your upper arms positioned close to your ears to ensure the only joint moving is the elbow 
  • Press the dumbbell back to the original starting position 

5. Dumbbell Skullcrushers

Skullcrushers are one of the OG movements for thicker arms. Dumbbell skull crushers work all three heads of the triceps in a supine position. This positioning allows for adequate overloading of the muscle belly, advantageous positioning for overload, and just the right amount of instability to get the most out of each arm. The two dumbbells allow for a greater response from each of the arms vs a fixed bar. The arms must function independently giving you a greater return on muscle contraction. 

How to Do the Dumbbell Skullcrushers

  • Place one dumbbell and each hand palms facing inward towards each other, recline back on a bench to a supine or lying position 
  • Leave the dumbbells functioning independently and NOT pressing against one another extend them up over your torso resting equally to your chin height 
  • Bending only from the elbow lower the dumbbells toward your forehead or ears
  • Upon arrival extend the forearm from the elbow back up to the original starting position. Focus on not bringing the dumbbells back over your chest but instead having them remain in line with your chin 

4. Dumbbell Tate Press

The dumbbell tate press is an exercise that is seemingly intended to affect different areas of the tricep but the truth is, it’s not worth it. The exercise is executed in a supine position and one dumbbell in each hand. In order to execute the movement an individual must contain a large amount of wrist stability and shoulder mobility. The return on investment here just isn’t there. We encourage you to redirect your focus to the narrow-grip dumbbell press (hex grip). 

3. Neutral Grip Dumbbell Press

This variation of the dumbbell bench press is a good variation for tricep development. The neutral grip is not just the reference to holding onto the dumbbells facing inward but also the angle of the movement or press. As the dumbbells are lowered towards the chest the upper arm stays close to the torso and ribs. This greatly reduces the mechanical involvement of the pecs and the lats thus placing higher demands on the triceps and delts. This exercise is very favorable to use with high workloads and gives each exerciser a great ability to overload the triceps during a set. 

How to Do the Neutral Grip Dumbbell Press

  • Place one dumbbell and each hand palms facing inward towards each other, recline back on a bench to a supine or lying position 
  • Pull your shoulder blades back towards one another in an attempt to limit the involvement of the upper back and lats
  • With the dumbbells functioning independently (not pressing together) press the dumbbells away from the torso until your arms are entirely straight. Focus on locking out at the elbow and truly engaging the tricep 
  • Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position 2. 

2. JM Dumbbell Press

The JM Dumbbell press is an exercise that tries to mimic some aspects of a cable press down. The exercise is executed in a supine position, with one dumbbell in each hand. In order to execute the movement, an individual must contain a large amount of rotator cuff strength and stability in conjunction with great Ulnar Deviation at the wrist. 

How to Do the JM Dumbbell Press

  • Start on the bench in a supine position, holding you dumbbells at shoulder level with palms facing forward.
  • Press the dumbbells up towards the ceiling, exhaling and engaging chest muscles.
  • Lock your elbows at the top, holding for 3-4 seconds.
  • Lower the dumbbells down in a controlled manner, inhaling.
  • Repeat for desired reps, gradually increasing weight until you reach your maximum load.

1. Dumbbell-Loaded Parallel Bar Dips

Loaded dips are in the running for the greatest exercise for tricep development. This exercise works almost your entire upper body from the chest, upper back, core, and of course; triceps. The reason why this exercise is so beneficial for you is the overload is consistent throughout the full ROM and as you fatigue you’re able to modify, or lessen, the ROM in which you pass through, and the exercise remains beneficial. This movement truly deepens the development of the lateral and long head of the tricep. 

How to Do the Dumbbell-Loaded Parallel Bar Dips

  • Either pinch a dumbbell behind one of your knees or use a belt attachment to lay your body with a dumbbell 
  • Utilizing a dip station or dip attachment place your hands at a comfortable width in relation to your shoulders 
  • Start with your arms fully extended and your body hanging freely against gravity 
  • Begin by bending the elbows to lower your chest towards the bar. Work to keep your feet under your shoulders and reduce the amount of forward lean as you descend 
  • Upon a ninety-degree bend of the elbow begin to bring yourself back to your original starting position and focus on the full lockout of the elbow joint to truly engage the triceps 

Dumbbell Triceps Workout

Using the exercises above, we’ve created a sample dumbbell triceps workout for you to try next time you do arm day. 

Other Triceps Exercises to Include

You shouldn’t just train your triceps with dumbbells. Functional fitness is important and building mobility in your arms can help you train longer and more effectively. Here are some other triceps exercises to incorporate:

  • Diamond Push-ups 
  • TRX Tricep Extensions
  • Narrow Grip Cable Press downs  
  • TRX Plank Presses
  • Tricep Curls

If you can, try to incorporate kettlebells into your workout as well. There are plenty of kettlebell triceps exercises that you can do that will build muscle in all three areas of your tricep.  

Final Thoughts

Now that you have a list of dumbbell triceps exercises to do at the gym, you can sculpt your arms and the muscle groups surrounding them. Try incorporating our sample workout into your next push or pull day and let us know what you think!