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This Triceps Workout with Dumbbells Takes Just 7 Minutes
You don’t need long to work the back of your arms.
From Self Magazine-By Christa Sgobba, C.P.T.
Looking to work your arms? A triceps workout is a great routine to add to your exercise program, since it’ll help you build strength in the upper part of your arms without requiring a whole lot of time or equipment to get the job done.
In fact, you can get in a great triceps workout at home in under 10 minutes. All you need is one set of light dumbbells to get started. Read on for what makes a great triceps workout, what and where these muscles even are, and the best way to incorporate triceps exercises and workouts into your overall routine.
Then, once you have everything down, you can get started with the workout. Set aside a small chunk of time (and we mean small—say, like seven minutes), grab a yoga mat for comfort, and get ready to really work your arms. Believe us: This will be one dumbbell workout you’ll want to bookmark to keep coming back to!
What are your triceps muscles?
Your tricep is a three-headed muscle that runs along the back of your upper arm from your shoulder to your elbow, which helps you extend your elbow and straighten your arm. Triceps are considered an accessory or synergist muscle for bigger muscle groups like your shoulders and chest, Sivan Fagan, ACE-certified personal trainer and founder of Strong with Sivan in Baltimore, tells SELF.
“The accessory muscle helps the bigger muscles, which are the shoulders and the chest, to do the ‘pushing’ motion,” she explains. That means your triceps are working when you do exercises like chest presses, push-ups, and overhead presses, and also in everyday movements like pushing a heavy door closed.
Your triceps are the opposing muscles to your biceps, which make up the front of your upper arms. So if you wanted to get in a complete arms workout, you’d likely want to include moves that work your biceps and triceps.
How can you work your triceps at home?
You can work your triceps at home with dumbbell exercises or bodyweight exercises. For instance, bodyweight moves like the push-up—and especially the triceps push-up, also known as the diamond push-up—will really target the backs of your arms. If you have a set of dumbbells, you have even more options: Tricep workouts with dumbbells include moves like the skull-crusher (less intimidating than it sounds, we promise!), triceps kickback, and overhead triceps extension.
Whichever exercise you choose, you’ll see the movement pattern to work your triceps is going to be pretty similar: You’ll be bending at the elbow and then extending your arm.
What’s the best way to slot triceps workouts into your workout routine?
Your triceps fire during push-focused movements like chest presses, push-ups, and overhead presses. Because those exercises are compound movements—working multiple muscle groups—they tend to provide a greater fitness benefit for the general exerciser simply looking to increase their fitness level or get stronger, Fagan says. So if you have a larger chunk of time for a workout, like 20 or 30 minutes, you’re better off working those larger muscle groups (which also target your triceps), rather than focusing on one small muscle group during that time. This would be the most time-efficient way to build upper-body strength.
The best way to work your triceps, then, is with a short “finisher” type of workout that you can tack onto the end of your upper-body routine, says Fagan, who created this short triceps workout for SELF below. You’ll use lighter weights and little rest as you move from one triceps exercise to the next.
If you want to really smoke your pushing muscles, you can do this dumbbell triceps finisher after a chest workout or a shoulder workout. Doing it after a back workout, which works your “pulling” muscles, is also an option, since that way you’d be training opposing muscle groups during your workout and your finisher. (Plus, if you only have a few minutes and want to get some kind of movement in, you can do this triceps workout with dumbbells on its own too.)
“It’s a great way to finish your workout,” Fagan says. “You’re going to really fatigue those smaller muscles—you’re going to get burnout from a triset where we hit those muscles from different angles.”
So whether you have just seven minutes to do this triceps workout on its own or you want to use it as a triceps finisher, it’ll definitely challenge those muscles on the back of your arms. Here’s what you need to get started.
What you’ll need: One pair of light dumbbells. Because you’ll be working the same muscle with little to no rest, you should choose lighter dumbbells than you would if you were doing the moves in straight sets or alternating between different moves, says Fagan.
Once you’re done, you may want to cool down with some triceps stretches, or other great upper-body stretches that feel fantastic after a workout.
- Triceps kickback in plank
- Overhead triceps extension
- Skull crusher
Complete the moves below as a triset, performing each move for 40 seconds before going right into the next exercise. After you complete the round, rest for 30 seconds. Complete 3 rounds.
Demoing the moves are Amanda Wheeler (GIF 1), a certified strength and conditioning specialist and cofounder of Formation Strength, an online women’s training group that serves the LGBTQ+ community and allies; and Rachel Denis (GIFs 2 and 3), a powerlifter who competes with USA Powerlifting and holds multiple New York State powerlifting records.
- Start in a high plank, shoulders directly above your wrists, hands shoulder-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand on the floor, legs extended behind you slightly wider than hip-width apart (to help with stability), core and glutes engaged.
- Pull your right elbow back to do a row, raising the dumbbell to your chest and keeping your elbow close to your torso. Keep your abs and butt tight to prevent your hips from rocking.
- Keeping your elbow in place, straighten your right arm completely, pressing it back.
- Bend your right arm, bringing the dumbbell back toward your shoulder, and then lower the weight back to start.
- Repeat with your left arm. This is 1 rep. Continue, alternating sides, for 40 seconds.
- Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand behind your neck, elbows bent and pointing toward the ceiling. Press the weights together so they are touching, and pull your elbows in as close to your head as you can. This is the starting position.
- Without moving your upper arms, straighten your elbows and extend the weights directly overhead. Keep your shoulders down, your core tight, and your arms as close to your head as possible.
- Pause for a second, and then slowly lower the weights back down behind your head. This is 1 rep.
- Continue for 40 seconds.
- Lie with your back flat on a mat and your legs bent with your feet on the floor. Hold a light dumbbell in each hand.
- Hold the dumbbells straight up and over your shoulders, palms facing in, keeping your hands shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your elbows to bring the weights down by the sides of your head, keeping your elbows in the same spot.
- Straighten arms back out to start position. This is 1 rep.
- Repeat this bend-extend movement for 40 seconds.