dumbbell tricep exercises

Best Dumbbell Tricep Exercises For Growth

Some of you might be old enough to remember when most guys believed that you had to work almost exclusively on the biceps if you wanted bigger guns. Thankfully, the popularity of bodybuilding and fitness equipment magazines and books let people in on a little secret:

If you want bigger arms that are balanced and aesthetic, the triceps are your ticket.

Making up the majority of the size of your arm, the triceps are not a muscle to be overlooked in any workout. They are critical for the proper movement patterns of your elbows and shoulders, which makes them essential for the execution of bodybuilding favorites like the chest press.

Let’s take a closer look at your triceps muscle. We’ll cover its anatomy along with proven dumbbell tricep exercises for each head. You’ll also walk away with a few triceps workouts to get you started.


The triceps brachii is found on the back of the arm and comprises three sections or heads: lateral, long, and medial.

The triceps has a unique shape because you’ll find that the two tendons surround the largest part of the muscle, with all of the fibers running parallel.

Your bicep muscle (biceps brachii) is opposite the triceps muscle, making it the antagonist. Flexing or contracting your triceps muscle makes this possible by the simultaneous relaxation of the biceps muscle.

Lateral Head

The triceps lateral head is the largest part of the muscle. If you’re looking at the back of your arm, you’ll find it outside your upper arm. The lateral head’s primary role is to help with extending your elbow.

Long Head

The triceps-long head is the second largest part of the muscle. Again, looking at it from the back of your upper arm, you’ll find the long head on the inside of your arms, nearest the body.

The long head helps to extend your forearm at the elbow. It also extends and moves your arm inwardly at the shoulder.

Medial Head

It’s not as predominant as the others, but the medial head of the triceps is just as important, given its responsibility for allowing the forearm to extend at the elbow. It also supports shoulder elevation.

However, it is tricky to locate. You can’t see it if you look at your triceps muscle from the back because the long and lateral heads cover it. It’s easier to see the medial head from the front.

As discussed below, some exercises are better suited to target each head of the triceps muscle.

Best Dumbbell Tricep Exercises

Below, you’ll find the best triceps dumbbell exercises based on the head that they target the most. Each head of the triceps muscle will contribute to some degree to all of the exercises below, but one head is usually primarily targeted depending on which exercise you’re performing.

We’re also going to include a few proven bodyweight exercises. You can use bodyweight exercises to achieve complete fatigue when you cannot move the weights.

If you want to have well-balanced muscle development in the triceps, you’ll want to incorporate one or two triceps exercises from each of the following categories.


  • Reverse Grip Dumbbell Press
  • Dumbbell Skull Crushers
  • Diamond Push-Ups
  • Lying Triceps Extension


  • Dumbbell Crush Press
  • Close Grip Dumbbell Press
  • Dumbbell Floor Press
  • Tricep Dips


  • Tricep Kickbacks
  • Overhead Dumbbell Tricep Extension
  • Decline Overhead Dumbbell Tricep Extension
  • Dumbbell Tricep Kickback on an Incline Bench


How to adjust your workouts based on your goals?

Now that you know which exercises are best suited for your triceps, you will need the acute variables to go with them.

The sets, repetitions, intensity, and rest breaks will be based on your goal. Do you want Mr. Olympia-sized triceps? Or do you want to get your tris lean, defined, and tight?

Here are two sets of acute variables that you can use depending on what you want your triceps to look like in a few months.


To get bigger triceps, you’ll want to use a weight that is heavy enough for you to get no more than 15 repetitions. The sweet spot is between 8 and 12, so if you can reach 15 repetitions with ease, you know it’s time to increase the weight.

Shorter rest breaks will help fatigue muscles and tap into greater levels of hypertrophy.

  • Sets: 3 to 5 per exercise
  • Repetitions: 8 to 15 per set
  • Rest: Under 90 seconds. Sixty seconds is ideal.


The acute variables look slightly different when the definition is what you’re after in your triceps. The focus will be on lighter weights that allow you to complete more repetitions.

The expression “feel the burn” will be your mantra as you sculpt your triceps. The higher repetition count will burn, but you’re also rewarded with a slightly longer rest break.

  • Sets: 2 to 4 per exercise
  • Repetitions: 12 to 25 per set
  • Rest: Under 120 seconds. 90 seconds is ideal.


We’re not going to leave you hanging. If you’re unsure how to put together your triceps workout, here are three to choose from based on your experience level.

We’ll also throw in two sets of acute variables based on the above information, allowing you to choose which goal you want to go after.

Beginner Triceps Workout

Complete all of the repetitions for one triceps exercise before moving on to the next exercise. In between sets, give yourself between 60 to 90 seconds of rest.

Diamond push-ups (If you need to, perform from the knees.)

  • Growth: 5 sets of 15 repetitions
  • Definition: 4 sets of 20 repetitions

Dumbbell floor press

  • Growth: 3 x 8 – 12
  • Definition: 2 x 15 – 20

Tricep dips

  • Growth: 3 x 8 – 12
  • Definition: 2 x 15 – 20

Intermediate Triceps Workout

Tricep kickbacks

  • Growth: 5 sets of 12 – 15 repetitions
  • Definition: 4 sets of 15 – 20 repetitions

Reverse grip dumbbell press

  • Growth: 4 x 8 – 12
  • Definition: 3 x 15 – 20

Close grip dumbbell press 

  • Growth: 4 x 8 – 12
  • Definition: 3 x 15 – 20

Overhead dumbbell tricep extension

  • Growth: 4 x 8 – 12
  • Definition: 3 x 15 – 20

Advanced Triceps Workout

Dumbbell skull crushers

  • Growth: 5 sets of 8 – 12 repetitions
  • Definition: 4 sets of 15 – 20 repetitions

Dumbbell tricep kickback on an incline bench 

  • Growth: 5 x 8 – 12
  • Definition: 4 x 15 – 20

Dumbbell crush press

  • Growth: 5 x 8 – 12
  • Definition: 4 x 15 – 20

Decline overhead dumbbell tricep extension

  • Growth: 5 x 8 – 12
  • Definition: 4 x 15 – 20


Regardless if you want bigger or leaner triceps, the importance of diet must be balanced. A high-protein diet will ensure proper muscle recovery and growth for dumbbell tricep exercises. Complex carbohydrates and healthy fats provide there is fuel in the tank.

If you want super-defined triceps, you may need to enter a caloric deficit while keeping protein levels high. This is something you should speak with a certified nutritionist about.