What are great arms without terrific triceps? When it comes to training your triceps, the dumbbell kickback is in the top ten list of excellent exercises for great arms. Whether you are building your arms up for aesthetics or pure power, there is no doubt that kickbacks are the way to go.
As with every exercise, your form is key to getting the best out of your workouts. Without proper form, you could be missing out on vital gains. Let's get straight into it.
Dumbbell Kickbacks - The Right Way
Aim: 3 sets of 10 - 15 reps
- 1Grab a set of dumbbells, don't go overboard with the weight.
- 2Grab the dumbbells, one in each hand, palms facing each other.
- 3Standing with your feet hip-width apart, hinge at your hips, and place a slight bend in your knees.
- 4Raise your arms up towards your chest and bend your arms at a 90-degree angle. The top of your elbows should be just beyond your back. Keep your elbows tucked in close to your body and your torso engaged.
- 5Look forward towards the floor to maintain alignment in your spine. Keep your back straight.
- 6Begin extending your arms at the elbows, driving your forearms back, and locking your elbows out. Your upper arm is the only part that should move as you hinge at the elbows.
- 7You should feel your triceps contract to create the movement. Squeeze at the top of the movement.
- 8Slowly release down to the starting position.
- 9Repeat for 3 sets of 10 - 15 reps.
The Muscles Targeted
The triceps are the target of dumbbell kickbacks. The triceps are a large muscle group in the arms comprised of three heads - the long, medial, and lateral head. They are essential for everyday functionality.
Kickbacks are an isolation exercise focusing on the triceps; it does have a secondary target on the rear deltoids and a few muscles in the back and core as they are engaged for stability.
Isolation of the triceps - Biceps are great, but well-rounded and evenly dispersed muscle across the arms is even better. Kickbacks are a great place to start seeing some growth in your triceps muscles for insane gains.
Balance - Kickbacks are ideal for anyone with an imbalance in the arms. Whether you have recovered from an injury or just need to strengthen your arms, kickbacks will iron out any weakness in a particular arm.
Less stress on the wrists - The exercise is easy on your wrists.
Insane gains - Kickbacks are the easiest way to see excellent gains in your triceps area. Triceps are one of the most important muscles used in a number of other exercises; without strength there, you will not be able to get the most out of the rest of your training.
There are a few tips to keep you performing this exercise with ease; it is crucial to understand how to troubleshoot them to prevent mistakes from happening. Mistakes can lead to serious injury, which is why maintaining form is so important.
Flaring elbows - Shoulder injuries stem from elbow flaring; your elbows should be tucked in neatly at your sides. Flaring them can actually damage your gains as it takes the tension off of your triceps.
Arching or rounding of the back - Due to the angle at which you are training, rounding or arching your back can cause a back injury. If you have lower back issues, go for a supported variation of this exercise to take the strain off of your back.
Swinging momentum - Let your triceps do the work; your muscles should be engaged and the driving force behind the movement. If you find that you need momentum to get the exercise going, drop your weight lower. You should feel the burn and contraction in your triceps. Your upper arm should move in a controlled motion at every point in the exercise.
Poor head alignment - Misalignment of your neck and head can lead to injury; keep your head and neck aligned throughout the movement.
Heavyweights - Practice perfect form before upping your weights to the heaviest you think you can go. Proper form creates bigger and better gains.
Skipping recovery - Rotator cuff injuries and other injuries should be fully recovered or in a state of rehabilitation before you add this into your routine. Additional stress on the shoulders can exacerbate an injury or create one.
A serious note: If you feel sharp pain during or after this exercise, do not continue. As it relies on a stable core and proper alignment, you risk injuring your neck if you are not careful.
There are a few ways to modify this exercise to suit your needs and environment. Whether you would like more of a challenge or need to change it up for a different workout style, try these.
If you can't get to the gym, don't stress - a set of TRX resistance pull-up bands are an easy way to get your tricep workout at home.
Pin the band underneath the balls of your feet and stretch your arms back with a firm grip on the band.
Single-arm kickbacks are perfect for anyone that needs to rehab an arm. If you need to practice your form and need additional support, this variation is ideal for you. Another advantage of the bench is it trains you to keep your torso parallel to the floor.
To perform a single-arm kickback:
- 1Get set up by a bench.
- 2Place your left knee and arm firmly on the bench.
- 3Keep your back straight and grip the dumbbell with your right hand. Palms facing inward.
- 4Bend the elbow to 90-degrees and raise it; slowly extend your right arm out behind you.
- 5Squeeze at the top of the movement and slowly release back to the starting position.
- 6Complete your full set of reps and repeat with the left arm.
Alternatives are great additions to your upper body or arm workout plan. Try adding this alternative to your next session for the best upper body strength results.
The tricep pressdown is another excellent exercise for your arms. Here's how to perform it:
- 1Get set up with a cable machine and a V-bar or a rope attachment.
- 2Grip the attachment with an overhand grip.
- 3With your weight set on relatively low weight, bring the rope down to chest level.
- 4Tuck your elbows in at your sides, engage your core with your feet hip-width apart.
- 5Pull the attachment downwards until fully extended, keep your knees slightly bent at the point of the pulldown. Your back should be straight at all times and core engaged.
- 6Slowly return your arms to the starting position while engaging your muscles.
- 7Repeat for 9 - 12 reps.