These are the 3 best dumbbell workouts for triceps

Person performing dumbbell workouts for triceps lifting a heavy dumbbell
(Image credit: Getty images)

We’ve found the best dumbbell workouts for triceps, and they’re sure to target your tri’s in just a few simple exercises. Whether you’re looking for the best arm workouts with dumbbells or prefer to add an accessory to your arsenal of chest day workouts, we’ve got you covered. 

The benefits of dumbbells are well-documented. Not only are they widely accessible and take up little room, but they also torch calories, build muscle and strength, and allow you to train unilaterally (single-sided) to isolate your chosen muscles. Even the celebs are convinced. Find out what happened when I tried Chris Hemsworth’s 250-rep dumbbell workout.

And the research agrees. In the dumbbells vs machines debate, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that dumbbells elicit very similar results to machines when building muscle and strength but are better for improving your coordination, also making them more functional. 

It’s time to grab a set of the best adjustable dumbbells and read on for these three tricep-torching dumbbell workouts for triceps.  

(Image credit: Getty images)

Dumbbell workouts for triceps

Each workout is a tri-set (see what we did there), which means performing three exercises back to back (similar to a superset) without rest. Tricep tri-sets increase fatigue, save time and enhance training efficiency, allowing your triceps to be the star of the show. Building strength in your triceps can also improve your bench press, overhead press and other lifts, helping you to lift  heavier and improve arm definition.

Perform each exercise for 10-12 reps with a 30-second rest between sets, for a total of 5-6 sets. Each workout can be tacked on as finishers or completed together for a standalone workout. Good luck!

Workout 1

Workout 1: Diamond push-ups, seated dumbbell kickbacks and dumbbell crossbody extensions 

This workout combines one bodyweight compound exercise — the diamond push-up — which works multiple muscles like your chest, front shoulders and triceps (which assist) with two isolation exercises designed to target and fatigue your triceps. Hand positioning during the push-up works your triceps even harder.  

Diamond push-ups

Create a diamond shape with your hands, bringing your index fingers and thumbs to touch. Start in a push-up position with shoulders stacked over wrists and your core engaged. Bend your elbows, then lower your chest to the floor while ensuring your elbows stay tucked towards your ribs. Pause, then explosively push upwards for one rep. 

Modification: use your knees if you struggle to perform 10-12 reps with good form. You can also hold two dumbbells in a diamond position to ease pressure on your wrists.  

Seated dumbbell kickbacks

Sit on the edge of a bench holding a dumbbell in front of you, in each hand. Start with elbows bent. Palms should be facing inwards. Lean forwards, then extend your elbows as you kick the dumbbells back behind you keeping your elbows close to your ribs. Bend elbows as you return to starting position.

Modification: Work one side at a time or drop your weight down so that you can fully extend at the elbow and avoid swinging back.  

Dumbbell crossbody extensions

Lie with your back on a bench, ensuring your head is supported and your feet planted on the floor. Hold one dumbbell above your chest in an overhand grip. Bend your elbow and lightly tap the dumbbell on your opposite shoulder then extend your arm back to starting position. Perform 10-12 reps on one side, then swap. 

Modification: You can also perform a dumbbell crossbody extension by standing up. Avoid locking your elbow out and bring your elbow across your body for maximum engagement. 

Workout 2

Workout 2: Dips, overhead tricep extension and lying dumbbell skullcrushers 

Dips train your triceps, front shoulders and lower pectoral muscles with your rhomboids (muscles located in your back) also doing some work. The combination of skullcrushers and tricep extensions will fatigue your triceps.  

Dips

Dips can be performed using two bars, high benches, or other apparatus that you can grip with both hands on either side of you. Jump up and grip both bars with elbows extended and shoulders relaxed. Bend your knees, then lower yourself down while bending your elbows with elbows pointing behind you. Push up explosively back to starting position. 

Modification: If this is too difficult, wrap a resistance band off the bar and place both knees on it for added support. If it’s too easy, hang a dumbbell between your legs to add weight. Try bench dips for practice if you’re new to this exercise as these can relieve some pressure on your shoulder joints. 

Overhead tricep extension

Stand holding one end of a dumbbell in both hands behind your head. Start with elbows extended, then slowly bend your elbows and lower the dumbbell behind you, keeping your elbows as tight as possible to your body rather than flaring to the sides. Push the dumbbell upwards and fully extend your elbows back to the starting position. Squeeze your core and glutes throughout. 

Modification: Hold the dumbbell horizontally if you find your elbows are hurting or add a second dumbbell (one in each hand) for a progression. Avoid pushing your head forwards or leaning backward. 

Lying dumbbell skullcrushers 

Lay with your back on the floor, knees bent, and feet planted flat.  Hold a dumbbell in each hand and extend your arms above you with weights directly over your shoulders. Bend your elbows and slowly lower the dumbbells close to your ears with elbows pointing forwards. Keep the weights close to your body at all times. Extend your elbows and drive the dumbbells upwards for one rep. 

 You can learn how to do skullcrushers here. 

Modification: Hold one weight horizontally in both hands and aim for your forehead instead, hence the title ‘skullcrusher.’  

Workout 3

Workout 3: Close-grip floor press, Tate press, and Pallof press 

These three presses are designed to work tired triceps even harder. These are compound exercises just like the bench press and push-up, also targeting the same muscles but with slightly different emphasis. Grip and hand positioning both place more emphasis on your triceps and the Pallof will torch your core. 

Close-grip dumbbell floor press

Lay with your back on the floor, knees bent and feet planted. Hold a dumbbell in each hand over your chest, arms extended and dumbbells touching. Bend your elbows, slowly lower the dumbbells to your chest and then explosively push back up to the starting position. 

Modification: Drop down to one dumbbell and focus on squeezing your chest as you push the weight away. Play with a slower tempo to increase the difficulty and extend the time your muscles contract.  

Tate dumbbell press

Set up for a bench press holding two dumbbells over your chest, arms extended. Allow the ends of the dumbbells to touch in the middle. Bend your elbows, then slowly lower the dumbbell heads down to touch the center of your chest keeping the weights close together. Palms will now face away from you. Next, lift the weights upwards and slowly extend your elbows as you reverse to the starting position. 

Modification: Use light weights until you are familiar with the movement pattern or practice using one dumbbell before moving to two.  

Dumbbell Pallof press

Stand with your dumbbell in both hands in front of your chest, elbows bent. Roll your shoulders down and back and engage your core. Push the dumbbell away from you and extend your arms while squeezing your chest and shoulders. Rebend elbows and bring the weight back to your chest for one rep. 

Modification: Increasing weight, adding a second dumbbell, kneeling and adding rotations or holds will allow you to progress this exercise. Go lighter if you consider yourself a beginner.  

Need more arm workout ideas? Shape your shoulders by learning how to do an Arnold press, or build your back by perfecting your single-arm dumbbell row. Plus, this dumbbell abs workout will sculpt your core


Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III qualified fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.