Although you can work your triceps with a variety of strength training equipment, many people find that triceps workouts with dumbbells are the preferred method of triceps strengthening due to the convenience and familiarity with performing exercises with dumbbells.
The good news is that you can absolutely put together an effective triceps workout with dumbbells as long as you are collecting the best triceps dumbbell exercises and programming your triceps dumbbell workouts in a way that is appropriate for your fitness level and training goals.
But, what are the best triceps exercises with dumbbells? How should you structure a triceps workout with dumbbells?
In this article, we will discuss how to put together the best triceps workouts with dumbbells and provide step-by-step instructions for some of the best dumbbell triceps strengthening exercises for your dumbbell triceps workouts:
- Narrow Dumbbell Presses
- Tate Presses
- Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extensions
- Dumbbell Skull Crushers
- Narrow-Grip Dumbbell Push-Ups
- Dumbbell Floor Presses
Let’s dive in!
How to Structure Triceps Workouts With Dumbbells
The triceps is the muscle that runs along the back of your upper arm.
This three-headed muscle helps extend the elbow from a flexed to a straightened position.
Having strong, toned triceps not only helps give your arms a sculpted look but also helps improve your performance in any sort of pushing or pressing strength training exercises, such as the bench press, push-up, or bodyweight dip.
The number of reps and sets you should do per exercise if you are looking to increase triceps strength should be 4 to 6 sets of each exercise, performing 1 to 6 reps per exercise.
The weight that you lift should be quite heavy—a minimum of 85% of your one-repetition maximum (1RM) is recommended. The fewer reps you perform, the closer to 100% of your 1RM you should strive for.
If your goal is to perform triceps workouts for building mass or increasing size, the recommendations for hypertrophy (muscle growth) are to perform three sets of each exercise, using loads that are 70 to 85% of your 1RM for 8 to 12 reps.Lastly, if you are trying to do the best triceps workouts for muscular endurance, perform at least three sets of each exercise using weights that are about 65% of your one RM for a minimum of 15 reps or until failure.
The Ultimate Triceps Workout With Dumbbells
Here are some of the best dumbbell triceps exercises for mass, strength, and power in your arms:
#1: Narrow Dumbbell Presses
One of these best triceps exercises with dumbbells for strength and hypertrophy is the neutral-grip, narrow dumbbell chest press.
This hand positioning shifts the workload more to your triceps instead of your chest muscles.
Another benefit of doing this exercise in triceps workouts with dumbbells vs. barbells is that the neutral grip reduces some of the strain on your shoulders.
Here is how to do this triceps workout exercise with dumbbells:
- As you lie back on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand, press the dumbbells straight up above your chest to get into the starting position.
- Place your hands closer than shoulder-width apart. The closer they are, the more you will isolate your triceps rather than your pecs. Your palms should face one another.
- Pull your elbows down and inward toward your sides as you bring the weights down to chest level.
- When the dumbbells graze your chest, press through the heels of your hands, squeezing your triceps to lift the weights back up until your elbows are fully extended. Keep your hands in the neutral position the entire time, and try to keep the weights as close together as possible.
#2: Tate Presses
One of the best dumbbell triceps exercises is the Tate Press, which involves a press with a twist.
Here are the steps for how to perform this arm exercise with dumbbells:
- Set up on your back like the end position of a dumbbell chest press. Your palms should be facing away from your body, just as they would with the chest press or bench press. This is the starting position.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells toward the middle of your chest, allowing your elbows to flare out to the sides and your hands to come in towards one another, rotating the dumbbells so that they are vertical with one and pointing towards your chest and one and pointing towards your ceiling.
- At the end position, your palms should be pointing at about a 45° angle away from your body. Do not allow the dumbbells to actually touch down on your chest. Maintain tension without resting.
- Hold the bottom position for three seconds.
- Use your triceps to extend your elbows and rotate your arms back to the starting position with your arms straight up over your chest.
#3: Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extensions
When you perform overhead shoulder presses, one of the limiting factors is often your lockout strength.
This dumbbell triceps exercise is a great way to build overhead lockout strength.
Here are the steps:
- Stand upright with good posture, chest up, shoulders down, and feet shoulder-width apart.
- Carefully bring a single, relatively heavy dumbbell behind your back, holding it between both hands with your palms up, cupping the inner surface of the endcap of the dumbbell. The dumbbell should be vertical so that one end is pointing towards the ceiling, one end is pointing towards the floor, and the handle is going straight up and down your body.
- Lift your elbows up so that they are in front of your body, pointing away from your face, and the dumbbell is hanging down from the base of your neck down your upper back. This is your starting position.
- Squeeze your triceps to straighten your elbows to the full lockout position, bringing the dumbbell straight up overhead. You may need to tuck your chin forward slightly to keep your head out of the way.
- Squeeze your triceps in this locked-out position before slowly lowering the dumbbell back down behind your back until you cannot lower it any further.
#4: Dumbbell Skull Crushers
This is a great exercise for dumbbell triceps workouts. You can perform the exercise with a barbell, a cable pulley, or kettlebells.
Note that in all cases of using free weights for this exercise, it is best to use a spotter.
Here are the steps for this triceps exercise with dumbbells:
- Lie down on a flat bench holding dumbbells with your arms extended straight up like the end position of the bench press.
- Your palms should be facing away from your body and the dumbbells. Beginners can Press the two dumbbells in towards one another as if fusing them into a single barbell. As you get stronger, keep space in between each dumbbell to isolate the triceps muscle on each arm equally.
- Point your elbows so that you can lower the dumbbells backward towards your forehead, only moving your lower arms. Your upper arms should remain completely fixed and perpendicular to the weight bench.
- The dumbbells should nearly graze your forehead before you contract your triceps to press them back up and forward to the starting position.
#5: Narrow-Grip Dumbbell Push-Ups
This is a great exercise for home triceps workouts with dumbbells.
You will not be lifting the dumbbells during the exercise, but you will use them to anchor your hands, and holding onto the handles of hex dumbbells will allow you to perform these triceps push-ups with a neutral grip.
This can be much more comfortable, allowing you to get deeper with your push-ups with less wrist discomfort.
Beginners can start on the knees until they are strong enough to do full push-ups from their feet.
Here are the steps:
- Get into the standard push-up position, but instead of placing your hands shoulder-width apart, move them as close together under your chest as you can. You should place the hex dumbbells side-by-side, going in the vertical direction so that the ends are pointing toward the wall in front of you and the wall behind you.
- Grip the handle of each dumbbell with a neutral grip so that your palms are facing one another.
- Lower your chest toward the ground by bending your elbows until they are flexed to a 90° angle.
- Press through your palms to engage your triceps and pecs and return to the starting position.
#6: Dumbbell Floor Presses
The dumbbell chest press can actually be performed right from the floor, which is a useful variation to add to your dumbbell triceps workouts.
Although lying on the floor limits the range of motion of your arms, this range of motion restriction means that you can actually press more weight, allowing for bigger triceps gains.
Here is how to do this dumbbell exercise for triceps mass:
- Lie on the floor with a dumbbell in each hand hovering around your armpit. Be sure to keep your elbows tucked in at a 45° angle toward your body.
- The closer inward you position the dumbbells, the more you will isolate your triceps.
- Press through the palms of your hands by engaging your triceps and pecs to extend your arms straight up to the top position.
- Slowly lower weights back down.
To learn how to maximize your muscle gains, check out our muscle-building guide here.