How To Do Tricep Kickbacks

By: Chris Freytag, CPT // July 14, 2022

The tricep kickback is an exercise that uses dumbbells to strengthen and tone the triceps for strong, sculpted arms. Tricep kickback form is extremely important to move properly and with a full range of motion. If you complain about the wiggle and jiggle on the back of your arms, then you will want to pay attention to this exercise.  

Many people complain that as they age their upper arm starts to sag but there is a way to combat this from happening to you.  Strengthening and sculpting your triceps can be done at any age. It’s just a matter of using good form and being consistent with your strength training. Sculpted triceps not only look great but they help you with so many daily activities that involve pushing and pulling. Strong triceps muscles will also help make push-ups more doable and effective. 

When learning how to do tricep kickbacks we suggest you start with lighter weights. If the weights are too heavy, you may actually inhibit your progress. Start lighter, master the form, and then progress to heavier dumbbells in your workout as you feel more confident in your ability to do it properly.

Dumbbell kickbacks can be done anytime but pairing it with an overhead extension for a superset will give you even better results.  

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


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    How To Do Tricep Kickbacks

    Tricep kickback form is very important to avoid injury and maximize your results. Here are the steps to performing this exercise:

    1. Start with feet hip-distance apart and dumbbells on the sides of the body, palms facing in towards the body. 
    2. Engage abdominals, feet shoulder width apart and hinge forward at the hips, bringing the upper body almost parallel to the floor. 
    3. In the hinged forward position and palms facing in towards the body, lift the elbows up to your rib cage in a row position, engaging the upper back muscles. 
    4. On the exhale, engage the triceps by straightening the arms from the elbows and pressing the dumbbells back. 
    5. Squeeze the tricep as you hold the extension for a second or two, and then release back to the starting position. (During this exercise you are not swinging from the shoulder. The shoulder joint remains stabilized and you bend and straighten from the elbow.) 
    6. Repeat tricep kickback for 10-15 reps, take a 30-second break, and complete two to three total sets for optimal muscle fatigue. 

    What Muscles Do Tricep Kickbacks Work?

    As can be assumed based on the name, tricep kickbacks strengthen and tone the tricep along with the muscles of the upper arm. 

    The tricep consists of three heads of the muscle: the long head of the tricep, the medial head of the tricep, and the lateral head of the tricep. 

    Side angle of woman and tricep muscles with text: lateral head, long head and medial head

    While dumbbell kickbacks engage all three heads of the tricep, it primarily targets the lateral head of the triceps. 

    The dumbbell kickback also requires the mid and upper back to contract as stabilizer muscle groups throughout the exercise. And don’t forget about the core muscles needed to keep your body hinged forward in a flexed position during the motion of a tricep kickback! 

    In addition, as mentioned earlier, pairing this exercise with tricep overhead extensions is a great idea.  The exercise targets the lateral head of the tricep while the tricep overhead extension targets the long head of the tricep making them a dynamic duo for strengthening and sculpting.  

    If you want to avoid saggy arms, you should learn how to do this exercise.

    Benefits of Tricep Kickbacks

    There are many reasons you should incorporate the kickback exercise into your workouts. When you use proper tricep kickback form, it can:

    Strengthens Triceps

    It’s 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 surefire 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 perform this exercise, 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.

    Less Stress on Wrists 

    Throughout the motion of a tricep kickback the wrists remain in a neutral position. In other words, no stress or extra added strain is added to the wrist joint. 

    Unlike tricep dips, a bodyweight movement used for strengthening the triceps, the tricep kickback uses a light to medium set of dumbbells to strictly isolate the tricep and upper back muscles, causing no irritation on the wrist joints. 

    How Many Calories Do Tricep Kickbacks 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 a higher intensity. Bottom line: the harder you work, the more calories you burn.

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

    Other Exercises Similar To Tricep Kickbacks

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

    How To Do Tricep Dips 

    How To Do Tricep Push-Ups on Knees 

    How To Do Tricep Overhead Extensions

    How To Do Tricep Side Push Ups

    Incorporating Tricep Kickbacks Into Your Workouts

    Dumbbell kickbacks are a great exercise to practice any time on their 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 like 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 dumbbell kickbacks 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

    Now that you know proper tricep kickback form, 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


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