Despite the fact that the triceps make up roughly 60% of the upper arm of a human, they often take a back seat in peoples training in favour of the smaller bicep’s muscles.
As anyone who has ever developed an impressive physique will tell you, this is a recipe for disaster for your overall progress.
If you have fallen into this pitfall, or even if you simply feel your tricep training is lacking a little something, I want to suggest a plan of action that will help you to develop incredible triceps, which can even be completed from the comfort of your own home.
In today’s article, I am going to outline for you how to complete the ultimate triceps workout at home with dumbbells.
We will look at everything from the different heads that make up the triceps and the exercises that target them to the ideal rep and set ranges to use in your training.
So, if you want to get to know your triceps inside and out and take their development to the next level, this is the article for you.
The Anatomy Of The Triceps
The triceps are made up of three main muscles, the lateral, long, and medial heads, which is where they get the name “tri” from.
The long head is the largest muscle in the triceps, closely followed by the lateral head, with the medial head being the smallest.
The lateral head runs down the outside of the back of your arm, while the long head runs down the inside of the back of the arm.
The medial head, the smallest of the three heads, is found at the centre of the back of the arm, just above the elbow, and is overlapped by the other two heads.
The medial head is primarily used for pressing movements, while the lateral head is designed to extend the elbow.
The long head does a similar job to the lateral head but is primarily used when the arms are in positions like above the head or behind the back.
Why Use Dumbbells For Triceps Workouts?
Dumbbells are a perfect option for training the triceps, especially at home, as they are incredibly versatile and can be used to perform various exercises.
Being relatively compact makes them ideal for home workouts, as very little room is required to store or use them.
They also allow you to effectively target a specific muscle, such as the triceps, while also giving you the ability to train each arm independently from the another.
This means you can completely train all parts of each muscle and achieve a well-balanced workout and symmetrical physique.
Dumbbells are also considered extremely flexible in terms of weight. You can quickly and easily alter the current weight of most adjustable dumbbells, giving you more control over the level of resistance they bring on each set and exercise.
The amount of exercises and exercise variations you can perform with dumbbells mean they can be effectively used to work almost every part of the body, with small changes to your workout routine being all you need to add core, shoulder, back, pec, bicep, and even leg work to your tricep session.
Best Triceps Exercises You Can Do With Dumbbells At Home
While there are plenty of great tricep exercises out there that you can perform with dumbbells, many of which have numerous variations, I want to show you the 15 best triceps exercises you can do with dumbbells at home.
These will give you more than enough options to hit each head of the triceps, adapt your workout to your own needs and equipment, and achieve complete development of your upper arms.
Close Grip Dumbbell Bench Press
Lay on your back on a bench and hold two dumbbells above your chest, with arms fully extended, and push the ends of the dumbbells together.
Begin lowering the weights towards your chest by bending your elbows, keeping the weights together the entire time.
Try to keep your elbows in constant contact with your body, until the point where doing so would cause the dumbbells to come apart. You can then allow your elbows to slightly flare out to the sides.
When you have gone as low as you can, squeeze the triceps and extend the elbows to push the dumbbells back up to the starting position. Hold the tension for a few seconds before repeating until you hit the desired number of reps.
Neutral Grip Close Grip Dumbbell Bench Press
The neutral grip close grip bench press is performed in an almost identical manner to a normal close grip dumbbell bench press, the only difference being the position of your hands.
For this exercise, hold the weights so that the sides of the dumbbells are touching, and your palms are facing each other. This will move some of the strain of the exercise from the lateral head to the long head of the triceps.
Lying Dumbbell Tricep Extension
The lying tricep extension is a dumbbell variation of a skull crusher and can be performed with either one arm at a time or both simultaneously.
Begin by lying flat on a bench on your back and hold your dumbbell or dumbbells directly over your chest, with your arms straight and pointing at the ceiling.
Tilt your arms back towards your head just a few inches, to help maintain tension at all times.
While keeping your upper arms still, bend your elbows and slowly lower the weight towards your head. If you go as deep as you can, the weight or weights should reach roughly the same level as your head.
Contracting only the triceps, extend the arms out again until they are completely straight, all while keeping the upper arms stationary.
Squeeze as hard as you can at the top of the rep and hold it for a second, before repeating until you reach the desired number of reps.
Incline Dumbbell French Press
An incline dumbbell French press is a variation on the standard lying dumbbell tricep extension.
Start by setting a weight bench at an angle between 30° and 45° degrees and get a pair of dumbbells.
You now perform the same movement seen in a lying dumbbell tricep press with two slights changes.
The first is that the weights still need to be held straight up in the air, meaning they are now above your shoulders, as opposed to over your chest.
The other is that the new angle will change where the weights are lowered to, as you have to bring them down behind your head.
These changes mean you may be able to use less weight but can achieve a deeper stretch and train through a greater range of motion. Everything else about the exercise stays just the same as it is in the regular version.
The JM press combines the motions of a lying dumbbell tricep extension and a close grip dumbbell bench press.
Start as normal by lying flat on your back on a bench and hold your dumbbells directly over your chest, with your arms straight, fully extended, and pointing at the ceiling.
Begin bending your elbows and slowly lowering the weight towards your head. However, as you do so, lower your upper arms to tuck your elbows in to your sides.
At the bottom of the movement, your upper arms should be beside your body and the weights should be near your chin.
Squeeze the triceps as hard as you can and simultaneously drive the upper arms back up while extending the elbows to straighten the arms.
Pause for a second and squeeze as hard as possible at the top, before repeating until you reach the target number of reps.
Dumbbell Tricep Gravity Press
The dumbbell tricep gravity press is a variation on the JM press and features a very similar execution, although you will likely be able to use considerably less weight in this exercise.
The starting point for the dumbbell tricep gravity press is at the bottom of a JM press, with the weights near your chin.
From here, perform the same motion you would in a JM press while simultaneously extending your arms out over your head, until the weights are in line with your body.
Pause for a second before pulling them back in, using the same technique you used to extend them, then immediately repeat the process until you hit the desired number of reps.
Cross Body Tricep Extensions
Take a light dumbbell and lay on a bench on your back. Hold the weight with an overhand grip and extend your arm towards the ceiling, until it is completely straight, with your palm facing your feet.
Keep your upper arm and wrist as still as you can and slowly bend your elbow to lower the weight towards the opposite shoulder.
When the dumbbell is almost touching your shoulder, squeeze your tricep to extend your arm and take the weight back up until your arm is just shy of totally straight.
Hold the contraction for a few seconds and really squeeze the muscle, then repeat the process until you have completed the desired number of reps.
Now switch arms and perform the same number on the other side.
Dumbbell Tate Press
The dumbbell Tate Press is a variation of the cross body tricep extension, so begins with an identical set up.
However, this time, you will need two dumbbells instead of one, both of which should be a heavier weight than you use for the traditional exercise.
Rather than doing each arm independently, a Tate Press will have you working both arms simultaneously.
You will also be lowering the weights to the center of your chest, brining them together on the way, as opposed to lowering them to the opposite shoulder.
The Tate Press works a slightly different part of the triceps to the cross body tricep extension, moving some of the stress from the lateral head to the medial head.
The greater weight also makes them a better choice for improving the strength of the triceps.
Overhead Tricep Extensions
You can perform overhead tricep extensions from both a standing position or while seated on a flat bench.
Keeping your back completely straight, raise a dumbbell to your shoulder and place both palms on the underside of the dumbbell’s top weight, creating a diamond shape around the handle with your thumb and forefinger.
Lift the dumbbell up until your arms are completely straight, with the dumbbell above your head and just slightly behind it.
Throughout the movement, you want to keep your upper arms as stationary as possible, with your elbows staying as close together as you can manage.
Bend your elbows to lower the weight as far down behind your back as you can.
When you have stretched as far as you can go, squeeze the triceps and extend the elbows to drive the weight back up towards the ceiling.
Hold the tension for a few seconds and repeat for the target number of reps.
Single Arm Overhead Tricep Extensions
Single arm overhead tricep extensions are a cross between an overhead tricep extension and a cross body tricep extension.
From a seated or standing position, take a dumbbell and raise it up until your arm is straight. Bending only at the elbow, lower the dumbbell towards your opposite shoulder behind your head.
Squeeze your tricep as hard as you can and use it to extend your arm and lift the weight back up, until your arm is almost completely straight.
Pause for a few seconds and really squeeze, before repeating for the desired number of reps, then switch arms and match it on the other side.
Get a light dumbbell and a weight bench and position yourself with one knee on the bench and the dumbbell in the opposite hand.
Bend forward until your torso is parallel with the floor and support yourself by placing your free hand on the end of the bench.
If you don’t have access to a bench, you can simply just bend over. This won’t be as stable but does give you the option to perform the exercise with both hands at the same time.
Lift your arm until your elbow is higher than your back, with your forearm completely vertical.
Keep your upper arm still, extend your elbow to straighten your arm, and lift the weight. When it reaches full extension, hold the contraction for a second before slowly returning to the starting position.
After completing the target number of reps, switch sides and complete the same number again. It is also possible to complete the exercise with both arms at the same time.
However, this can only be done using the standing variety and is less advisable for beginners or those using large weights.
Plank Dumbbell Kickbacks
The execution of a plank dumbbell kickback is essentially the same as a traditional kickback, it is just performed from the top of a push up.
This allows it to work both arms simultaneously, using both static and active contractions, as well as hitting your abs with a static contraction as well.
To perform a plank dumbbell kickback, position yourself on the floor and support your weight on your toes and hands, with your body completely straight and arms at full extension.
Take a dumbbell in one hand and complete a set of kickbacks, then switch hands and match it on the other side.
Close Grip Dumbbell Push Ups
Take two dumbbells and place them on the floor in front of you on their sides.
The handles can either be facing side to side or front to back, depending on whether you want to use a regular or neutral grip, but the dumbbells must be touching.
Get yourself in position to perform a regular press up but, instead of placing your hands on the floor, you will grip the handles on the dumbbells with an overhand grip.
Start performing a traditional press up but, as you lower yourself down, try and keep your upper arms in contact with your torso for as long as you can.
It may, however, be necessary to flare your elbows out just slightly at the bottom of the rep, so you don’t have to change your hand position.
Squeeze the triceps to push yourself back up in a slow and controlled manner, then repeat for the desired number of reps.
It is extremely important to maintain a slow, controlled, and calculated movement throughout, to avoid the dumbbells moving and you falling.
Dips Behind The Back
Take the heaviest pair of dumbbells you can find and place them on the floor on their ends, a little wider than shoulder width apart.
Sit between them, with the dumbbells just slightly behind you, and your legs fully extended out in front of you.
Reach back and place one hand on top of each dumbbell, with the heel of your hand flat on the top and your fingers gripping the front of the dumbbell.
Contract your triceps to push yourself upwards, straightening your arms and raising your buttocks off the floor.
When you reach the top, your arms and legs should both be completely straight, with all of your weight supported on your hands and heels.
Pause for a second then slowly lower yourself back down by bending only your elbows, until your buttocks are almost touching the floor.
Again, hold the position for a second before repeating the process for the desired number of reps.
For those seeking a greater challenge, you can also place your feet on a third dumbbell, allowing you to achieve a deeper stretch and work the muscles through a greater range of movement.
Tricep dips can be done on any kind of parallel bars, with either a wide or narrow grip.
The wider your grip, the more you use your chest. To make the exercise more challenging, hold a dumbbell either between your feet or from a dip belt, to increase the resistance beyond your own weight.
To perform a traditional dip, hold the bars and raise yourself into the air, bend your knees, and tuck your feet into your buttocks.
Bending only at your elbows, slowly lower yourself as far down as possible, until you feel a deep stretch in your lower pecs.
After a short pause, squeeze the triceps as hard as possible and use them to lift you up, straightening your elbows and continuing until just before your arms are straight.
Hold this position for a second, then lower yourself back down and repeat until you reach failure or hit your target number of reps.
Planning Out Your Program
When it comes to planning out your program, it is important to determine where you stand in terms of skill level, before you jump straight into a workout routine.
The three main categories that people are normally grouped into are beginner, intermediate, and advanced.
You will need to honestly consider which of these categories you fall into, in order to determine the ideal weight for the dumbbells you use.
Your ability level will also play a role in determining the ideal number of sets and reps that are best for you to complete.
Beginners should turn to lighter dumbbells and fewer sets, while often aiming for reasonably high reps.
Once you have accumulated a more significant amount of physical strength, you can then progress onto heavier dumbbells.
Intermediate level lifters will usually use a moderate weight with slightly more sets and fewer reps than a beginner.
Advanced lifters have much more freedom than either of the other groups.
They can use heavy weights with few reps and lots of sets for strength training and moderate weight, sets, and reps for increasing mass.
The Ultimate Dumbbell Tricep Workout
While the ultimate dumbbell tricep workout will vary a little from person to person in terms of the sets and reps they use, based on their own goals, everyone will need a routine that includes exercises to target each of the triceps’ three heads.
An example of a workout routine that will do just that will look something like this:
- Tricep Dips
- Lying Dumbbell Tricep Extensions
- Close Grip Dumbbell Bench Press
- Overhead Dumbbell Tricep Extensions
- JM Press
- Dumbbell Tate Press
Maximizing Your Results
While getting your tricep workout routine perfected is important for complete development of the upper arms, there are a few strategies you can use to boost your results even further when performing triceps workouts with dumbbells.
Firstly, you need to focus on starting out slow. If you push your body too hard at an early stage, you put yourself at a greater risk of injury.
Pick a suitable weight for your goals and progress with it, only increasing the weight when you are truly ready.
It is also important to do warm up exercises before a tricep workout, as it will warm and stretch the muscles, preparing them for a strenuous workout and reducing the chance of injury.
While rep ranges will vary depending on your goals and ability level, try to keep between 6 and 12 repetitions per set, with 5 to 15 reps being the absolute maximum range.
Finally, be sure to also focus on your diet. Diet plays a huge role in helping you reach your goals, and all of your hard work will be in vain if you aren’t eating the correct foods to support your training.
Dumbbells are the perfect option for anyone looking to work out at home to build their triceps.
Compact, versatile, and easily adjustable, with the right knowledge they are virtually all you need to build a pair of arms that will make you the envy of all your friends.
This article will hopefully have given you plenty of ideas to build the ultimate triceps workout to perform at home with dumbbells.
However, if you are still in need of more inspiration, there are plenty of apps dedicated to helping you build workouts exclusively with dumbbells.
That means all you have left is to select your preferred adjustable dumbbell and settle on a routine that matches your own wants and needs.
That way, you can start to see the incredible results possible for yourself before you even know it.
Dr. Ahmed Zayed holds a bachelor’s degree in medicine from Alexandria university and is a practicing plastic surgeon. He’s our expert on all things nutrition, medicine, rehabilitation, and flexibility. Dr.Ahmed has been a medical content writer for more than 11 years and his work reached top publications such as the HuffingtonPost