How To Do The Triceps Kick-Back

How To Do Tricep Kickbacks

How To Do The Triceps Kick-Back

Tricep kickback is an exercise that uses dumbbells to strengthen and tone the triceps for strong, sculpted arms. If you are sick of your arms wiggling and waving even when your hand has stopped, then this move is for you.

Many people complain that as they age their upper arm starts to sag. there is a way to combat this from happening to you.

If you learn how to do tricep kickback you will have one very simple way to strengthen and tone your upper arms and keep them from looking your great grandma’s did!

When you learn how to do tricep kickback we suggest you start with lighter weights. It is extremely important you learn how to do this move properly and with full range of motion. If the weights are too heavy, you will be inhibited from this.

For instance, the elbows should begin in a parallel position with the shoulders. When the weights are too heavy, you won’t be able to hold the arms up that high therefore starting in the wrong position from the get-go.

Start light, go full range, then add heavier weights as you feel more confident in your ability to do it properly.

Tricep kickback can be part of an overall body workout or you can pair it with other great tricep exercises such as the tricep overhead extension for a superset and to double up on your upper arm.

These two moves together are a powerhouse way to keep your arms tight, sculpted and ready for anything! Try to incorporate tricep kickback into your regular workout routine or check out our 15-minute tricep toning workout!

Here are the steps to performing Tricep Kickback:

1) Start with feet hip distance apart, engage abdominals, and sit back into a slight squat with arms bent at 90- degree angles, and dumbbells on the sides of the chest.

2) Press dumbbells back past hips hugging the side body while working your triceps and return the arms back to 90- degrees with control.

What Muscles Do Tricep Kickbacks Work?

Tricep kickback is a move that strengthens and tones the tricep and all other muscles of the upper arm. If you want to avoid saggy arms, you should learn how to do tricep kickback.

Benefits of Tricep Kickbacks

There are many reasons you should incorporate tricep kickback into your workouts. Here are just a few:

Strengthens Triceps

Tricep kickback is a great upper body move! Using a light to medium pair of dumbbells, the triceps get stronger as they work to press and pull the dumbbells out and in. This pushing and pulling motion is a sure fire way to tone up those triceps.

Strengthens Shoulders

Tricep kickback targets the tricep muscle directly, but indirectly your shoulder is also getting a challenge. Keeping the dumbbells lifted and in place works your shoulder muscles as well as your entire arm.

Strengthens Upper Back

While you work your tricep kickback, the upper back muscles are engaged the entire time. You want to avoid scrunching and overuse of the tops of the shoulders, so by engaging your upper back muscles you will have better form during your tricep kickback.

How Many Calories Does a Tricep Kickback Burn?

People often ask how many calories they are burning in their workouts. Most exercises will generally burn about 100 calories for every 10 minutes you are working at higher intensity. Bottom line: the harder you work, the more calories you burn.

Tricep kickback builds muscle in your body, which makes for a better metabolism and higher calorie burn all day long.

Other Exercises Similar to Tricep Kickbacks

If you the tricep kickback and the results you get from it, here are a few more exercises you might want to try.

How To Do Bicep Curl

How To Do Lateral Raise

How To Do Shoulder Front Raise

Incorporating Tricep Kickbacks Into Your Workouts

Tricep kickback is a great exercise to practice any time on its own. However, you could also incorporate it into other workouts to mix them up. Here are some ideas to make that happen.

Use Tricep Kickbacks in An Arm Workout

Combining several upper body exercises in one training session can shape that upper body and work your arms to the max. Use this workout as your arm day challenge. You’ll sculpt and shape your biceps, triceps and shoulders.

Sculpt and Tone Your Arms Workout: Try each exercise below for the number of repetitions listed with just a few seconds in between to rest.

10 Overhead Shoulder Press

10 Shoulder Lateral Raise

10 Push Ups

10 Renegade Rows

10 Bicep Curl

10 Tricep Kickback

Repeat 3 times.

Use Tricep Kickbacks in a Full Body Strength Workout

Getting a full body workout feels amazing. You walk away knowing you tackled it all! Not only do you make the most of your time, but if you move from one exercise to the next without stopping you will get your heart rate up as well. This workout gets it all done using basic strength moves tricep kickback.

Full Body Strength and Tone: Warm up for about 2-3 minutes then do between 10-15 of each of the following moves:

Squat To Bicep Curl

Tricep Kickback

Side To Side Squat Swing

Plank To Upright Row

Overhead Shoulder Press

Plie V Raise

Single Arm Row (10 each arm)

Russian Twist

Use Tricep Kickbacks In a HIIT Workout

High-Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, has become a phenomenon due to the results seen time and time again. You can easily incorporate tricep kickback into a HIIT workout that skyrockets the heart rate and targets the upper and lower body both! Just surround it with some high-intensity cardio moves and you’ve got your fat blaster. Check this out:

HIIT Workout: Grab a pair of dumbbells and do each of the following moves for 30 seconds with no rest between moves. After completing all 4 moves, take a 30-second break and repeat. Go through the sequence 4 times.

Squat Jumps

Tricep Kickback

Split Jumps

Plie V Raise


Repeat 3 times

Here are 3 more workouts to help tighten and tone your triceps!

Upper Body HIIT Workout

15-Minute Tricep Toning Workout

Terrific Toned Triceps

Targets: triceps, shoulders, quads


The 8 Most Effective Exercises for Your Triceps

How To Do The Triceps Kick-Back

Strong arms are important for almost every upper body movement you do each day and your triceps are often the heavy lifters. Anytime you push something—a door, a stroller, a lawnmower or a barbell, you're using your triceps.

Strong is important and, for many of us, so is having shapely, toned arms. In other words, most of us don't it when our triceps keep waving even after we've stopped.

The best way to build strong, firm triceps is to choose the exercises that hit all those muscle fibers from every angle.

The triceps, as the name suggests, has three different heads—the long head, lateral head, and the medial head. All of these heads contract during triceps exercises, but some moves emphasize different parts of the triceps.

Also, some triceps exercises are more effective than others, something we know from the ​American Council on Exercise.

In an ACE-commissioned study, researchers took exercisers through eight of the most common triceps exercises and recorded muscle activity by attaching EMG electrodes to their triceps.

With this information, they were able to rank the eight best triceps exercises.

Rather than doing all of these moves in the same workout, focus on choosing exercises that emphasize all the different areas of the triceps.

  • Diamond push-up – This exercise emphasizes all three heads of the triceps muscle and, as shown below, it's the most effective move for that. 
  • Kickbacks – This move also targets all three heads of the triceps, but not quite as much as the diamond push-up. This exercise is also easier so may be more user-friendly than the push-ups.
  • Triceps extensions – Including this exercise means you have a move that emphasizes the long head of the triceps muscle, a nice complement to the other exercises. 
  • Triceps pushdowns emphasize the lateral head of your triceps, again a nice complement to the other exercises.


PeopleImages/Getty Images

The diamond push-up is probably the hardest triceps exercise in this list. It requires tremendous upper body strength, so you may need to try this move on your knees and slowly work your way up to the toes.

  1. Begin the move by positioning the hands on the mat directly under the chest with the fingers spread and the thumbs and forefingers touching, making a diamond shape.
  2. Straighten the legs into a plank position (harder) or keep the knees on the floor for an easier version.
  3. Make sure the back is flat and the abs are engaged as you bend the elbows, lowering until your chin or chest touches the mat. If you can't go that low, go as low as you can and work to build enough strength to lower all the way down over time.
  4. At the bottom of the movement, your elbows should stay in close to your sides.
  5. Press back to start keeping the torso rigid and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.


David Foster/Getty Images

The kickback is the second most effective triceps exercise and not far behind diamond push-ups, coming in at about 88% of muscle activation.

By bending forward, you really have to work against gravity to move the weight up and down. The key to this move is to use your shoulder to stabilize the upper arm, allowing the forearm to extend behind you. If you feel your elbow drifting down, use a lighter weight to keep good form.

  1. Prop the right foot on a step or platform, resting the right forearm on the thigh to support the back.
  2. Hold a weight in the left hand and pull the elbow up to torso level.
  3. Keeping the elbow in that position, extend the arm behind you, focusing on contracting the triceps.
  4. Lower the forearm down to about 90 degrees and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.
  5. Focus on keeping the upper arm stationary against the body throughout the exercise.


Dips are the third most effective exercise and a tough one depending on how you position your feet.

In this version, the knees are bent, making the exercise easier. Extending your feet out will increase the intensity of the exercise.

The key to keeping this move safe is to keep your hips close to the chair or bench to avoid straining the shoulders. Make sure you keep the shoulders down and away from the ears and, if you feel any discomfort in the shoulders, skip this exercise.

  1. Sit on a chair or bench with hands just outside of the hips and the knees bent or the legs extended straight out (harder).
  2. Lift up onto the hands and, keeping the hips very close to the chair or bench, bend the elbows, lowering down until they're at about 90 degrees.
  3. Keep the elbows pointing behind you, the shoulders down and the abs engaged.
  4. Push back to start and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.
  5. Avoid this exercise if you feel any pain in the shoulders.


The overhead triceps extension is the fourth most effective triceps exercise, coming in at about 76% of muscle activation. The key to this exercise is to keep the arms next to the ears as you lower the weight behind you. Make sure you can contract the abs to keep your back from arching.

You can do this exercise seated, as shown, or standing. Believe it or not, this move actually feels harder when you're sitting. A ball adds an element of core strength.

  1. Sit on a chair, bench or ball and hold a weight in both hands, extending it up overhead.
  2. Keep your biceps close to your ears and elbows pointing forward as you lower the weight behind your head until the elbows are at about 90-degree angles.
  3. Straighten the arms, contracting the triceps and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.
  4. Keep the abs engaged throughout the exercise and avoid arching the back.


gilaxia/Getty Images

The rope pushdown, normally done on a cable machine with a rope attachment, comes in at number five, eliciting about 74% of muscle activation. The idea is to spread the rope at the bottom of the movement to really fire up the triceps muscles.

If you don't have access to a cable machine, you can use a resistance band. Attach it to the top of a doorway and tie a loose knot in the band about halfway down.

  1. At a cable machine with a rope attachment, hold on to the rope near the knotted ends and begin the exercise with the elbows bent at about 90 degrees, elbows next to the torso.
  2. Extend the arms, taking the hands down towards the floor, spreading the rope slightly out on either side as you contract the triceps.
  3. Bring the forearms back to start and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.


Severin Schweiger/Getty Images

The bar pushdown is similar to the rope pushdown but slightly less effective at about 67%.

This exercise is usually done on a cable machine at the gym using a small bar attachment, although you can also do this exercise at home with an exercise band and a small pole or bar threaded through the handles.

The key to this move is to keep the elbows stationary as you push the weight down. If you lift the bar too high (say, higher than neck level), your elbows may come forward, making the exercise less effective.

  1. Stand in front of a cable machine, holding onto the bar with the elbows bent to about 90 degrees.
  2. Keeping the elbows stationary, push the bar down, contracting the triceps as you extend the arms.
  3. Bring the bar back up to about chest level without moving the elbows and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.


Barbell triceps extensions (or what we often call skull crushers for obvious reasons), come in at a surprising number seven, eliciting about 62% of muscle activation.

This is surprising because, if you've ever done these, you know how challenging this exercise is.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't do these anymore, but work them into a program that includes some of the top exercises as well.

  1. Lie on a bench, step or floor and hold the barbell with hands about shoulder-distance apart.
  2. Begin the exercise by extending the weight up over the head, palms facing out and thumbs next to the fingers.
  3. Bend the elbows and lower the weight until the elbows are at about 90-degree angles. This would be the part where you wouldn't want to crush your skull by going too low.
  4. Squeeze the triceps to straighten the arms without locking the joints.
  5. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.


The close grip bench press comes in 8th as an effective triceps exercise, eliciting about 62% of muscle activation. This move also involves quite a bit of chest, which may be why the triceps don't work as much as in other exercises.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't do this exercise. In fact, this can be a great exercise if you're working both the chest and triceps in the same workout.

Doing this move at the end of your chest exercises can warm up the triceps before you move on to more targeted moves.

  1. Lie on a bench or step holding a barbell with hands about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Begin the exercise with the elbows bent and the barbell hovering just over the ribcage.
  3. Press the weight straight up over the ribcage, focusing on contracting the triceps.
  4. Lower and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.


You See People Doing Them, But What Are Triceps Kickbacks?

How To Do The Triceps Kick-Back

The gym bunny in the corner is so fit, so firm, so fancy with her triceps kickbacks. What is she doing over there? Why don’t I do that? Should I do that? How do I do those anyway, and will I benefit from triceps kickbacks?

Oh, yes, the questions may be many, but the answers are few: Yes, yes, and yes!

What Are Tricep Kickbacks?

As you might expect from its name, the triceps kickback works almost exclusively on your triceps (a small group of muscles that make up about two-thirds of your upper arm).

Many gym goers concentrate on biceps because of aesthetics, but recognizing the math of things means triceps take up more real estate on your arms, and should not be neglected if you’re looking for arms that will really wow people!

Triceps kickbacks are probably one of the most common exercises you’ll see both men and women doing at the gym because they can sculpt your arms and deliver amazing results…if you do them correctly.

How to Perfect This Exercise

As with anything done well in life, there is a technique to successful execution. The triceps kickback is no different. You want to make sure you are exercising correctly and not putting undue strain on your back by simply swinging weights willy-nilly.

The upper portion of the arm you are working (from the shoulder to elbow) should be held against your side in a position that’s almost parallel to the floor. Next, with a light dumbbell in your hand, start with a 90-degree bend in your elbow and press the weight back until your arm is fully extended.

If available, use a weight bench to balance yourself: Place the opposite hand and knee on the bench while you work the other arm.

If no bench is available, stagger your stance so one leg is in front of the other leg and support the non-working arm on the thigh of your front leg. Now, while in a bent-over position, extend your elbow joint against the resistance and repeat.

The triceps kickback is all about extending the elbow joint against resistance slowly and with minimal weight.

The Benefits of Triceps Kickbacks

If you are looking to firm up that flab that jiggles when you shake your arms, the kickback is your friend. This exercise is meant for strength and tone, not bulk. It’s about definition and firming up the triceps brachii, the brachialis and the pronator teres. These muscles all work in tandem so you can bend and extend your elbow to successfully complete the exercise.

Toning your triceps is all about isolation—which means targeting one muscle group rather than multiple muscle groups at once. (It does not mean hiding in a dark corner of the gym to perform these exercises because you feel you look silly.) The kickback will kick that flab to the curb, and give you triceps worth bragging about.

Just remember: You can’t use a lot of weight with this exercise; it’s about toning not bulking.


How to Do the Triceps Kickback Exercise for Bigger, Stronger Arms

How To Do The Triceps Kick-Back

The triceps kickback is a valuable addition to your training routine that can help to pump up your arms, but are you sure you're even doing the exercise correctly?

For this movement, you shouldn't settle for anything other than perfect form—especially because it's such a killer exercise that can serve as a highlight of your training plan.

Let Men's Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.

and associate fitness editor Brett Williams guide you through the move's subtleties, saving you from the bad habits that are keeping you from unlocking your fitness potential.

Before you hinge over and start swinging dumbbells, take note that it's extremely important to pay attention the movement here. Hitting the proper form is essential to make sure you're getting the most the exercise—particularly because of the subtle details with the position and your arm action that will make it effective. Let's break down everything you need to know.

Men's Health

Upper Arm Parallel

Eb says: Keep your upper arm parallel to the ground throughout your entire set of triceps kickbacks. Two of the most common errors during kickbacks occur when you don't think about this.

Sometimes people over-focus on keeping their upper arm high, and they wind up with their elbow being the highest point during the kickback; then they don't face the full force of gravity in the straight-arm position.

Don't do that.

The more common error is even worse: If you start with your elbow below your shoulder, then you have to swing your upper arm upwards, a motion that recruits the lats, not the triceps (a.k.a.

the muscle you're trying to train). Avoid these issues and really focus on maintaining an upper arm angle with both elbow and shoulder on the same level.

Use a mirror if you can, at least at the start of your set.

Own the Position

Eb says: Your triceps' responsibility is to straighten your arm at the elbow, and that's when it's at peak contraction.

So, just as we'd squeeze our biceps at the top of a good biceps curl to get more that moment, take a moment to squeeze your tris when your arm is fully straight during a kickback.

Don't just rush back down; instead, hold your arm straight for a one-count.

It's here that having your upper arm fully parallel to the ground yields its greatest benefit, too, because the forearm lever is at its longest. Don't hike your upper arm once you get here either; battle for a straight arm and you'll feel it in your tris.

Light Weight

Eb says: The triceps kickback isn't a move that's going to let you move a massive amount of weight. When you use it that way, you're destined to cheat with your form.

So bury your pride and operate with a lighter weight, but prove to yourself that you can own that straight-arm position and get a great triceps squeeze. You'll get a lot more from a 12.5-pound kickback set done properly than you will from a 40-pound kickback set done with a ton of swing and sloppiness.

Want to master even more moves? Check out our entire Form Check series.


Exercise of the month: Tricep Kickback

How To Do The Triceps Kick-Back

The Tricep Kickback is an exercise that strengthens and tones the back of the upper arm. Responsible for extension of the elbow joint, the triceps allow the arms to straighten. Most everyday activities do not use the triceps to a significant degree, making it important to add exercises to work this area.

Starting position (see photo 1): Grasp a dumbbell in your right hand, lean forward slightly and place your free hand on your left knee as shown. Lift upper arm until it is parallel the the floor.

Strengthening phase (photo 2): While keeping the upper arm in place, slowly straighten the arm. You should feel the back of the arm tightening (contracting). Pause for a second or two and then slowly return to starting position.


For variety the Tricep Kickback can be performed using a resistance band or cable equipment in the gym. Throughout the exercise, engage the abdominal muscles to help stabilize the spine, do not round the back or allow your torso to rotate. Speed of movement should be slow and controlled.

For maximum benefit, maintain strict form. Once the upper arm is in place, it is important to keep it in this position while extending the arm. It is also important to go through a full range of motion, straightening the arm until you feel the muscles engaging.

Beginners: Start with one to two sets, performed every other day. You can increase the number of sets, repetitions or weight as you become stronger. This exercise does not require use of heavy weights. The idea is to choose a resistance level that fatigues the muscles by the end of a set of 8 to 12 repetitions.

Take a brief rest break between sets. The amount of time taken depends on factors such as weight used and goals. The greater the intensity, the longer the rest between sets should be. Generally speaking, anywhere from 20 seconds if using a light weight to a full minute or more if training with high intensity, is acceptable.

Safety should be your first priority when working out.

If you have an existing medical condition, injury or joint problem or are unaccustomed to physical activity, its always best to get clearance from your doctor before beginning a new routine.

Once cleared, if you feel uncomfortable training alone, seek the advice of a professional or use a spotter who has experience with strength training and proper form to help guide you.

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Marjie Gilliam is an International Sports Sciences Master certified personal trainer and fitness consultant. She owns Custom Fitness Personal Training Services LLC. Send email to