5 exercises to workout triceps with dumbbells

Find out exactly how to workout triceps with dumbbells for toned, stronger arms

Woman doing tricep exercises with dumbbell
(Image credit: Getty)

If you’re wondering how to workout triceps with dumbbells, then you’ve come to the right place. A simple set of dumbbells is often all you need for a great muscle-building workout.

Our tricep muscles are located at the back of our upper arms. The reason for them being called ‘tri’ceps is because they essentially have three heads; a long head, a lateral head, and a middle head.

Using a pair of the best adjustable dumbbells is a good way to help tone, strengthen and build up the tricep muscles.

Research (opens in new tab) has found that the triceps - which also go by the full name of the triceps brachii - are essential for extending the elbow. When the triceps contract, the biceps - the muscles that run along the front of the upper arm - relax. In fact, the biceps and triceps work synergistically together.

Although a barbell, kettlebells, and/or other weighted equipment are useful tools when training the triceps muscles, a set of dumbbells allow for a number of different exercises. Here, David Wiener, Training and Nutrition Specialist at Freeletics (opens in new tab) shares his tips on how to work out triceps with dumbbells, for toned, strong upper arms, plus the benefits of using dumbbells for your tricep workout.

David Weiner
David Wiener
David Wiener is a level 3 Personal Trainer and level 5 Advanced Qualified Nutritionist. He is also qualified in sports nutrition with a huge passion for health, nutrition and fitness. David is currently the Training Specialist at one of the world’s fastest-growing digital fitness brand company, Freeletics. With an educational background in nutrition and personal training, he is passionate about unlocking the true potential of those he coaches. He is an expert in strength training, injury prevention and rehabilitation, and sports sciences.

Can you train your triceps with dumbbells?

In short, the answer to whether you can train your triceps with dumbbells is yes! 

When comparing dumbbells, which are classed as free weights, to machines for training triceps, dumbbells require a little more stabilization. And there’s even a study (opens in new tab) that’s been done to back this up. 

Wiener says that dumbbells also allow for increased muscle activation which ‘stimulates more muscle fibers for enhanced results’. So if you want to grow your muscles, look no further than the trusty dumbbells!

Plus, dumbbells are a good way to work muscles unilaterally. When working out the tricep muscles, it’s clear which is weaker than the other, if each arm is holding a dumbbell. This means that work can be done to adjust this imbalance. 

Weiner adds: “One of the biggest plusses is that dumbbells allow users to perform unilateral loading exercises, working each side of the body together at one time. This form of training ensures users have more control and allows them to focus more intently on each movement.”

Dumbbells also allow you to increase the intensity as you can switch up the weights you’re using.

“Dumbbells do not get enough credit when it comes to strength training,” says Weiner.

“Using dumbbells offers a better range of motion and movement across different muscle planes when performing exercises, and this is one of the most effective ways to challenge and build muscle. When it comes to the triceps, training with dumbbells activates the muscles to their full potential and adds resistance stimulating muscle growth.”

5 exercises for triceps with dumbbells

“Triceps are often confused with biceps, but they are completely different muscles with completely different purposes,” says Weiner.

“The triceps are an essential muscle in helping stabilize your shoulders and arms, which in turn improves your flexibility and movement throughout the whole body. It’s extremely important not to neglect your triceps, especially as they take up almost 70% of your whole upper arm.”

Give Weiner’s five dumbbell moves a try to work out your triceps. Aim for 10 reps of each move, and complete the circuit five times.

Exercise 1: Dumbbell Triceps Extensions

David Wiener doing a tricep extensions

(Image credit: David Wiener)
  • Start standing upright, with a dumbbell grasped in both hands. Always keep the core tight as you bring the dumbbell above your head with both arms fully extended.
  • Bend your arms at the elbows to lower the dumbbell behind your head, keeping the upper arms still and close to your ears.
  • Use the triceps to move the dumbbell back up to the start position. 

Exercise 2: Dumbbell Lateral Raises 

David Weiner doing a dumbbell lateral raise

(Image credit: David Weiner)
  • Start standing upright, arms at your sides with a dumbbell in each hand. 
  • Always keep your core tight and always keep your arms extended as you raise your arms out to the sides up to shoulder height. Then, slowly lower back down. 

Exercise 3: Dumbbell Push Presses Left and Right 

Man doing dumbbell push press

(Image credit: David Weiner)
  • Start standing upright, with a dumbbell in your left hand resting on your shoulder. Always keep your core tight. 
  • Bend slightly at the knees and press the dumbbell first with your legs, then with your arm. 
  • Fully straighten the arm holding the dumbbell, overhead.  
  • Lower back down, then repeat with the other side. 

Exercise 4: Dumbbell Bench Presses 

Man doing dumbbell bench press

(Image credit: David Weiner)
  • Lie back on a bench, feet flat on the floor. 
  • Start with arms straight above the chest holding a dumbbell in each hand. Always keep shoulder blades squeezed together and always keep your head, shoulders, and glutes on the bench. 
  • Keep your palms facing away as you lower the dumbbells with control to your chest.
  • Engage the chest muscles to push up to the starting position.

Exercise 5: Double Dumbbell Shoulder Presses 

Man doing shoulder press

(Image credit: Freeletics)
  • Start with a dumbbell in each hand, resting on your shoulders.
  • Press the dumbbells overhead using your shoulders and as you do so, keep your core tight.  
  • Be sure to press from the upper body, not your legs. 
  • Fully straighten arms overhead then lower them back down.