Triceps Workout: 6 Beginner-Friendly Exercises With And Without Dumbbells

Triceps Workout
Heather Black post Reviewer
The article is verified by Heather Black
Personal Trainer, Precision Nutrition Coach, and Health & Wellness Director of a chain of fitness centers

Looking for workout ideas to build your tricep muscles? You’ve come to the right place. This article will share an approachable, practical triceps workout and coaching tips to help you develop your tricep muscles. It doesn’t matter whether you’re searching for ideas for training at home without equipment or if you’ve got access to the resources of an entire gym.   

Table of Contents

Triceps muscle overview

Located on the back side of the arms (posterior), stretching from the shoulder blades to the elbow, the triceps muscles are made up of three different parts: the lateral, medial, and long head.

triceps muscle
Three parts of a tricep

The primary function of the triceps is as an extension of the elbow joint, which ultimately leads to straightening the arm. 

The triceps muscles are effectively built using isolated or compound movements. Compound movements include push-ups and dips, while isolated exercises include bodyweight triceps extensions and overhead triceps extensions. 

Combining both isolated and compound exercises results in effective muscle building. Improving your performance and coordination through these exercises can produce athletic and aesthetic benefits, and that’s what we’re going to dig into today. 

Triceps exercises that don’t require equipment (perfect for at-home workouts)

One secret to continuous muscle building and fitness gains is learning to implement resourceful exercises that you’re able to perform without dedicated exercise equipment. You can achieve an incredible training effect by leveraging only your body weight, positioning, angles, and movement tempo. 

You can perform each triceps building exercise listed below in a small space on the floor or by using everyday items found around your living area (chairs, stairs, etc.)

Note that these exercises are by no means a compromise to using gym equipment. These bodyweight movements will elicit an equal or more significant training impact.  

The difficulty level of these bodyweight-based movements might even humble you. Here are the three we’ll be focusing on:

  1. Narrow Grip Push-Ups
  2. Seated Bench Dips
  3. Bodyweight Triceps Extensions

#1 Narrow grip push-ups

Narrow grip push ups

Push-ups are a time-tested exercise that has been used to improve athleticism and build lean muscle for centuries. Adjusting hand position can change the entire stimulus, targeting specific muscle groups more than others. When performed correctly, push-ups are essentially a dynamic plank with arm action, which means the core muscles contribute to maintaining a rigid body position during every repetition.

Traditional push-ups position the hands directly underneath the shoulders. If we narrow the distances between the hands, the triceps are worked harder. Narrow grip push-ups are fantastic for building the triceps and delivering a potent stimulus to the core and chest musculature. 

Technique

  1. Assume a high plank position with hands INSIDE the shoulders, head in line with tailbone and heels, eyes looking in between the hands. 
  2. Flex the elbows and lower your chest/torso to the floor. 
  3. When the chest is roughly 1 inch above the floor, pause briefly.
  4. Push up to the start position. 
  5. This is one complete repetition. 

Reps

3 sets of 8-10 repetitions will work best.  

Pro tips

  • Lower slowly to maximize the muscle-building opportunity (3-5-second descent).
  • Maintain a rigid, unchanged body position while the arms work.
  • Inhale in the top position, hold your breath on the way down, and exhale while pushing up.
  • If lowering to the floor is too intense, elevate the hands onto a stair, coffee table, chair, or bench to decrease the difficulty and allow for good reps. 

#2 Seated bench dips

Seated Bench Dips

Dips are a phenomenal upper body strength-building exercise that builds the triceps, chest, shoulders, and core muscles using a functional movement pattern. Dips are a vertical upper body pressing movement since the body stays upright while the arms press and lower the body.  

Seated dips are a fantastic way to decrease the difficulty of a full bodyweight dip, allowing a beginner to acclimate to the demands of the exercise while reducing the chance of injury and increasing the likelihood of technically sound repetitions and a robust range of motion.

Dips are a resourceful exercise that can be practiced using everyday household items like a coffee table or chairs.

Technique

  1. Using a chair or bench, place your hands on the edge of the surface with fingers pointed towards your hips and feet in contact with the floor, slight bend in the hips, facing out away from yourself.
  2. Starting with straight arms, lower your tailbone down to the floor by allowing the elbows to flex and move behind the body.  
  3. After lowering to a controllable depth, reverse the motion by pressing the hands into the bench and straightening the elbows.
  4. Return to the start position with elbows straight. This is one complete repetition. 

Reps

Start with 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions. Aim to delay the lowering portion for 2-3 seconds before pushing back to the top. 

Pro tips

  • Work the largest range of motion possible for the best results. 
  • Stop the descent when you feel a stretch on the front side of the shoulder. 
  • Breathe in before lowering down, and exhale while pushing back up.
  • Don’t rush through the repetitions; use a controlled tempo.
  • Keep the elbows pressed tight to the rib cage while lowering down and pushing.

#3 Kneeling bodyweight triceps extensions

Kneeling bodyweight triceps extensions

Bodyweight triceps extensions are unique tricep-building exercises that can be performed virtually anywhere using various surfaces. This exercise combines the core conditioning elements of a plank with the arm-building resistance required to build up the triceps.

A weight bench, barbell on a squat rack, suspension trainer, chair, coffee table, or stairs will all work well for performing bodyweight triceps extensions. 

This exercise is appropriately named, as you’re using your body’s weight against gravity to provide resistance to the triceps. Indirectly, this exercise is also a fantastic anti-extension core exercise.

Technique

  1. The start position resembles a modified high plank position with knees in contact with the floor and hands fixed in front of the body on a bench or chair. 
  2. With control, allow yourself to “fall” forward toward the hands, flexing the elbows.
  3. At the halfway point of the exercise, your ears will be in between your hands.
  4. Press away from the hands back to the start position. 

Reps

2-3 sets of 8-10 repetitions using a 2-second lowering phase. 

Pro tips

  • Keep the body calm while the arms work to isolate the triceps.
  • Use a partial range of motion reps if the full range is too aggressive. 
  • Avoid flaring the elbows; keep the elbows tucked in tight. 
  • Slow down the descent to the hands and resist gravity. 

Prevent injury with any exercise

If you want to build muscle safely, choosing an exercise variation that matches your current fitness know-how and physicality is critical.

Most beginners will benefit significantly from regressing to more straightforward exercises to allow for technically perfect repetitions and a greater range of motion.

Over time, the exercise variation can increase in complexity as your body develops coordination and control over the movement. 

Resistance management is also crucial. Even with home-based exercises, it’s possible to position yourself in such a way that the resistance you are trying to overcome is far beyond your current strength levels. In that situation, it’s best to regress the exercise to allow for good technique and movement tempo.  

The human body is an adaptation machine. Progressively adding manageable stress gives the body a chance to adapt and grow while lessening the risk of injury. The goal of any muscle-building program should be a gradual progression and incremental gains over time.

Avoid the temptation to do too much too soon. Play the long game. 

Triceps workout with dumbbells

Dumbbells are one of the most versatile pieces of gym equipment. They’re perfect for a wide variety of tricep-building exercises due to their shape and ability to progress the weight incrementally as you become stronger.  

Here are three premiere exercises to add to your workout routine. 

#4 Overhead triceps extensions

Overhead triceps extensions

Overhead triceps extensions are a two-handed maneuver widely considered safe and effective to target all three heads of the triceps.

A dumbbell is the ideal piece of gym equipment to execute this movement because of its unique shape, allowing for firm placement of the hands to secure the weight. 

Technique

  1. Start by maneuvering the weight overhead, with arms straight at the elbow and the hands securely underneath one end of the dumbbell.
  2. Slowly lower the dumbbell behind the head as far as you can. 
  3. Pause at the lowest point, and return the dumbbell to the top position. This is one repetition. 

Reps

2-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions using a 2-3 second lowering phase. 

Pro tips:

  • Keep the chest and torso straight with a neutral spine, eyes forward. 
  • Lower the weight until you feel a stretch in the triceps. 
  • Avoid flaring the rib cage as the weight is lowered. 
  • Lower the weight slowly to maximize the muscle-building benefits. 

#5 Lying triceps extensions

Lying triceps extensions

Lying triceps extensions are sometimes referred to as skull crushers. Perform this exercise while lying down (supine position) to provide for one of the most potent stimuli for the entire muscle group.

To perform this exercise, you will need access to two dumbbells of the same weight.

Technique

  1. Grip the handle of each dumbbell firmly with elbows straight and the dumbbells extended directly over the chest. 
  2. Arms should be perpendicular to the bench and the floor. 
  3. Slowly lower the dumbbells at the same speed toward your ears, hands facing each other.  
  4. Stop lowering when the dumbbells are near the ears, and reverse the motion back to the top.  

Reps

3-5 sets of 10-12 repetitions using a 1-2-second lowering phase. 

Pro tips

  • Start light!
  • Control the weight through the entire range of motion.
  • Try using a barbell or EZ curl bar for added control.

#6 Dumbbell flat bench press

Dumbbell flat bench press

Nearly every muscle in the upper body is activated during a flat bench press, making it a top choice for building the chest, shoulders, and triceps muscles. The bench press is considered a compound movement. 

Technique 

  1. Using two dumbbells of the same weight, lie down on a flat bench and extend the arms over the chest/shoulders to assume the start position. 
  2. Slowly lower the weight until a stretch is felt in the chest, or the dumbbells make contact with the shoulders in the armpit region.
  3. Press back to the start position. This is one complete repetition.  

Reps

3-5 sets of 6-8 repetitions using a 3-second lowering phase. 

Pro tips

  • Use a full range of motion!
  • Start light, emphasize the lowering phase, and press up explosively. 
  • Explore different rep ranges to challenge muscular strength, hypertrophy, and endurance. 

Triceps workout chart

triceps workout chart

To build bigger and stronger arms and balance your upper body, mix triceps exercises with a back and bicep workout for a maximum result.

How to choose the dumbbell weight for a triceps workout?

The best dumbbell weight for a triceps workout is the one that challenges your body for the target rep ranges yet allows you to control every aspect of the movement.

Control over the weight encourages safety and will allow for a greater range of motion.  

The weight you use for any given exercise should allow for a few extra repetitions beyond your target rep range.

For example, if you’re scheduled to perform 8 repetitions of overhead triceps extensions, select a weight that allows for 10-11 reps. This strategy ensures the muscles are being worked adequately, yet keeps you safe by controlling the weight.

Wrapping up

Improving your triceps growth is not only about careful exercise selection but consistency over the long term. Try using fitness apps like Muscle Booster to incorporate triceps exercises into your workout routine and develop your body muscle mass evenly.

If you stick to the plan, you’ll achieve the desired results. The triceps muscles are no different than any other muscle in the body; they require a potent stimulus regularly for hypertrophy and strength improvement.

It’s also critical to leverage rest and recovery between each training session to allow your body a chance to repair itself. Allowing 1-2 days of rest between each workout is ideal. This gives the body enough time to repair and regenerate, so you can enter into each session physically ready to give it your best. 

Through a steady and consistent series of stimuli followed by rest and recovery, you’re sure to maximize the growth potential of your triceps while mitigating the likelihood of injury. 

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