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12 dumbbell exercises to tone the triceps

The triceps are the largest muscle in the arm. Tone and strengthen the back of the arm with these simple dumbbell exercises.

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The back of the arm is a spot that many of my clients wish to tone and tighten. Most of them have a less-than-flattering nickname for this area, like bat wings or arm flab. But the muscle that they are referring to is the tricep.

Strengthening and toning the triceps creates a balanced physique in the upper body and also, and more importantly, helps with shoulder stability, upper-body strength and even rotation of the arm. Having strong triceps can also help to stabilize the shoulder joint and assists with movements in the hand and forearm.

What are triceps?

The triceps are actually made up of three parts: the long head, the lateral head and the medial head. They’re the largest muscle group in the arm and run from the shoulder down to the elbow. The different heads help extend your elbow by moving the forearm away from the upper arm. They help to stabilize your shoulders when you lift things over your head and they help move your arms backward.

Dumbbell tricep exercises

Here are 12 dumbbell tricep exercises to tone and strengthen the back of the arm.

Tricep kickbacks exercise

Tricep kickbacks

Stand with your feet hips-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold one weight in each hand and let your arms hang down at your sides. Hinge at the hips so that your chest is tilted down toward the ground. Hug your elbows into your sides and pull your elbows up into a row. From here, keep the elbows stationary and extend the forearms back into the tricep kickback. Come back to the row position and then repeat the kickback 10 times.

Alternating tricep kickbacks

Alternating tricep kickbacks

Come into the same position as the tricep kickbacks above and repeat the same motion except with one arm at a time. Alternate right and left for a total of 10 repetitions to each side.

Renegade rows

Renegade rows

Before you set up in a plank position, come on to all fours and place a dumbbell on either side of you, next to your shoulders. In tabletop position grasp a dumbbell in each hand. Then push up into a plank position or a modified plank position on your knees. With your back straight and core engaged, keep your hips and shoulders square to the floor as you drive your left elbow up toward the ceiling into a row. Lower back to starting position. Alternate arms, performing 10 repetitions on each side. 

Plank tricep kickbacks

Plank tricep kickbacks

Come into a plank position with one dumbbell in the center of your hands. Make sure your shoulders are over your wrists, and your heels are reaching toward the back of the room with your abs engaged. Grab the dumbbell with your right hand, and pull it up toward your chest. From here, extend the arm and weight back into a kickback, and come back to your chest. Repeat 10 times, then switch sides.

Pulsing arm kickbacks exercise

Pulsing arm kickbacks

Stand upright with a dumbbell in each hand. Flip the palms so that they face the back of the room. Press the arms back toward the wall behind you, and then come back to center. Repeat at a moderate pace for 10 reps. 

Single arm tricep reach exercise

Single arm tricep reach

Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and step your left foot forward into a split stance. Bend your left knee and hinge forward over your knee so that your torso is at a 45-degree angle to the ground. Keep your shoulders facing toward the front. Then, with your right palm facing inward, lift your right arm straight back behind the body only as high as you can without dipping the shoulder down. Engage the back of the arm and upper back. Release the arm. Repeat 10 times, then switch sides.

Seated overhead tricep extension exercise

Seated overhead tricep extension

Sitting on a bench or chair, hold a dumbbell above your head with both hands. Bend the elbows and slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head, bending the elbows to 90 degrees. Then slowly straighten the arms again to bring the dumbbell back overhead. Repeat 10 times.

skull crushers exercise

Skull crushers

This exercise is a lying overhead tricep extension. Lie down on your back holding a dumbbell in each hand. Bend your knees with your feet as wide as your hips. Extend the arms straight up so that the dumbbells are as wide as your shoulders. Then bend the elbows to a 90-degree angle, lowering the weights to frame your face. Extend the arms up straight, and repeat 10 times.

Dumbbell jack tricep exercise

Dumbbell jack

Holding one dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet as wide as your hips. Bend your elbows to hold the dumbbells close to your chest. Face your palms toward one another. Push one of the dumbbells forward and straighten your arm like you’re throwing a punch in boxing, then bring it back to the starting position and repeat with the other arm. Repeat for 10 repetitions on each side.

Alligator mouth flies

Alligator mouth flies

Stand with your feet hips-distance apart, holding one dumbbell in each hand. Bend the knees slightly and hinge forward at the waist slightly. Pull your abs in. Dangle your arms down and then reach the right arm straight up in front of you until it is aligned with your right ear. Then, reach the left arm back behind you, engaging the left tricep. Think about forming one straight, diagonal line with both arms. Return to your starting position. Then alternate, reaching the left arm forward and the right arm back. 

Row into kickback on hands and knees exercise

Row into kickback on hands and knees

Come down onto your hands and knees with one dumbbell in between your hands. Grab the dumbbell with your left hand, and pull the weight up into a row toward the left side of your chest. With the elbow bent, extend the arm and weight toward the back of the room feeling your tricep contract. Repeat 10 times, then switch sides.

Tricep press exercise

Tricep press

Lying on your back with your knees bent, hold one dumbbell in each hand. Bend your elbows by your sides, then press the weights up over your chest with your palms facing each other. Lower back own and repeat 10 times.