Tricep Kickbacks: A Simple Exercise for Toned Arms

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If you’re looking to tone your arms and build stronger triceps, tricep kickbacks are a great exercise to add to your routine. We’ll go over how to perform them, why are they useful, and what to keep in mind when performing them. Let’s get to work!

Key Takeaways

  • Tricep kickbacks are an isolation exercise that mostly target the lateral triceps.
  • They can be done with dumbbells, cables, or resistance bands.
  • Controlled movement is important to get the most out of this exercise.

What Are Tricep Kickbacks and How to Do Them

Tricep kickbacks are a great exercise to tone and strengthen your triceps, especially the lateral head. Although they are not as good at targeting the triceps as some of the other exercises like overhead extensions, they can still be a great variation to add to your program.

Here’s how to perform a triceps kickback:

  1. Start by holding a dumbbell in your right hand and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend your knees slightly and lean forward from your hips, keeping your back neutral.
  3. Bring one arm up to your side, with your forearm perpendicular to the ground.
  4. Straighten your arm behind you by extending at the elbow.
  5. Try to pause the weight at the top before lowering the weight back down.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of reps and then switch sides.

Here are a few notes about triceps kickbacks that you should keep in mind:

If your main goal is to build muscle, then it’s best that you don’t lower the weight so far down that you lose tension in your triceps.

Another thing is to try and avoid swinging your upper arms too much. This will place more of the emphasis on the triceps.

Tricep Kickbacks Muscles Worked

Tricep kickbacks are obviously targeting the triceps muscles. The triceps are a three-headed muscle group located on the back of your upper arm. They are responsible for extending the elbow joint and are used in many pushing movements such as push-ups, bench press, and dips. The long head also plays a role in shoulder extension.

Tricep kickbacks primarily target the lateral head of the triceps muscle.

In addition to the triceps, tricep kickbacks also work the muscles in your shoulders and back. Your shoulders are used to stabilize your upper body while performing the exercise, and your back muscles are used to maintain good posture throughout the movement.


There are numerous ways to perform a tricep kickback. Here are some variations you can try to see what works best for you.

  1. Dumbbell Tricep Kickbacks: This is the most common variation of tricep kickbacks. To perform them, hold a dumbbell in one hand and place your opposite knee and hand on a bench. Keep your back straight and extend your arm behind you until it’s parallel to the ground. Slowly lower the weight back to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps. Switch sides and repeat.
  2. Cable Tricep Kickbacks: Attach a single handle to a low pulley cable machine and stand facing the machine with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the handle with one hand and keep your elbow close to your body. Extend your arm behind you until it’s parallel to the ground. Slowly lower the weight back to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps. Switch sides and repeat. You can also do these without an attachment by just grabbing the cable by its head.
  3. Resistance Band Tricep Kickbacks: Attach a resistance band to a sturdy object like a machine or a pole at waist height. Follow the same procedure as with the other variations. Depending on the strength of the band and your triceps you might have to move closer or further from the attachment point to reach the right amount of resistance.

Choose the variation that works best for you and don’t go too heavy. Due to the mechanics of the triceps kickback, going heavy will be hard on your shoulder joint and make it lose its effectiveness. It’s an isolation exercise so the focus should be on controlled contractions and time under tension (TUT).


Congratulations! You have learned everything there is to know about triceps kickbacks.

Remember, it’s not about lifting heavy weights but rather about the quality of movement and maintaining tension in the triceps. Start light and gradually increase the weight as you become more comfortable with the movement.

Test different variations and rep ranges to see what works best for you.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or shoot me a DM on socials!

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