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February 11, 2022 12 min read

Dumbbells are incredibly versatile gym equipment. Used in popular exercises like dumbbell bicep curls, shoulder press, and even  lunges, implementing the dumbbell in your routine is bound to improve your upper body strength immensely.

The dumbbell kickback is one of the most explosive dumbbell exercises you would ever encounter.

This exercise involves a simple movement that can help you build bigger and stronger guns.

Although it is easy to insert the dumbbell kickback into your routine, learning to perform it with perfect form is a strenuous task. To remedy this, we have provided you with tips and tricks.

 man makes dumbbell triceps kickbacks on a bench at a gym

What Is The Dumbbell Kickback?

The dumbbell kickback is also fondly known as the triceps kickback.

This is because it primarily targets and isolates the triceps, stimulating them and inducing growth of the arms. 

The dumbbell kickback is not an exercise you often encounter while at the gym. Many upper body exercises aim to cut, trim, and bulk the arms; however, most are compound exercises, and only a few isolate the triceps muscle.

The arms are often used as a measure of a man’s strength.

A man's fitness is often guessed by the presence of big guns, Boulder-like shoulders, and a massive chest span. This is precisely why many men focus on building their shoulders, chest muscles, and arms while at the gym. This leads them to get acquainted with different exercises that promise an increase in the size of the arms.

Of all these exercises, tricep isolation exercises are often the best choice for arm size.

The triceps or triceps brachii is the large muscle present on the back of the upper arms. This muscle is in charge of arm, shoulder, and elbow movements, and its size directly determines the size of your arms.

Working on your triceps not only helps to increase arm size but also improves mobility and builds upper body strength. 

The dumbbell kickback is a classic exercise that directly targets and stimulates the tricep muscle.Although it can be performed with different modifications, the classic dumbbell kickback is done by leaning forward and slowly moving the dumbbells from front to back while keeping your arms at your sides. The movement imitates a pendulum, and when done correctly, you can feel the stretch in your arms. 

The dumbbell kickback might focus on increasing arm size, and strengthening your core and shoulder muscles.

Given that it requires balance to perform correctly, it is safe to say that the dumbbell kickback is an excellent addition to your workout routine.

Muscles Worked

With its name giving off most of its information, it is easy to see that the tricep kickback is an isolation exercise that primarily activates the triceps. The tricep, a fleshy bulk of muscle behind your upper arms, comprises three parts or heads, namely the medial, lateral, and long heads. Altogether, these muscles are responsible for the flexion, adduction, and extension of the arms in every direction.

Separately,  the tricep heads serve different roles in elbow extension and arm movements.

Medial Head of the Triceps 

The medial head is the part of the tricep closest to the elbow.

It is the smallest and most obscure tricep head as a significant part of it sits below the lateral and long heads. The medial triceps head is also the only tricep that does not attach to the scapula. Because of this, the medial head does not perform any glenohumeral or shoulder joint movement. Although it doesn’t stabilize the shoulders or help the arms move at the shoulder joint, the medial head remains as essential as its counterparts.

The medial head attaches to the long bone of the upper arm and the forearm, enabling it to be active in all movements of forearm extension. 

Although this head is primarily activated when the forearm is in a pronated position, the reverse grip is often a better choice for starting the medial head. 

Lateral Head of the Triceps

The lateral head of the tricep is the strongest of the three heads. Originating from the humerus like the medial head, the lateral head is used for arm movements requiring high-intensity forces. 

Unlike its predecessor, the lateral head also attaches to the scapula. It aids the direction of the shoulder joint, the extension of the forearm at the elbow, and adduction of the arm. 

Long Head of the Triceps 

The last part of the tricep is known as the long head. The long head originates from the shoulder blade and is an essential part of movements at the shoulder joint. It is also a significant player in the extension, flexion, and adduction of the arms.

The long head of the tricep is the most commonly activated as it is engaged during weightlifting exercises using an overhand grip. 

Altogether, the actions of every part of the triceps work together to oppose the work of the biceps.  Targeting all three heads of the triceps at once is not so easy. The type of grip used in weightlifting often plays a massive role in activating a part of the tricep.

The dumbbell kickback is one of the few exercises that aim to engage all three tricep heads at once. While it focuses on all three heads of the tricep, it engages the lateral head to a greater extent.

Deltoids 

Other than the triceps, the dumbbell kickback also activates the deltoids and the muscles of the upper and mid-back. The deltoid is the thick shoulder muscle located between the arm and clavicle. Like the triceps, the delts help move the arms in different directions.

It also protects and stabilizes your shoulder joint during these movements, preventing an incidence of injury such as a dislocation of the arm.

Benefits of Dumbbell Kickbacks

The dumbbell kickback is an excellent addition to any gym enthusiast’s workout routine. It works the major upper body muscles leading to increased strength, stability, and muscle coordination. 

  1. Increased arm size: The dumbbell or tricep kickback is a splendid isolation exercise for bulking up the arms. Bigger guns are one of the most thirsted after features at the gym. The tricep kickback helps to directly stimulate the triceps, helping you to get bigger arms. Unlike other compound exercises that focus on various muscle groups at once, the dumbbell kickback engages the triceps, leading to contractions in the muscle fibers. These contractions last the length of your workout routine and help to tear down the muscle fibers of the triceps. The breaking down of these fibers induces the healing process and hypertrophy. The healing process, in turn, gives way to the provision of stronger and bigger muscles as the muscle fibers begin to heal. This leads to an evident gain in the size of the arms. 
  2. Increased arm strength: Growing your triceps not only provides you with a better physique but is also essential to improving your athletic performance. Arm strength is necessary for your daily activities and on your fitness journey. You need arm strength for little moments like forcing open a jar or even lifting your basket of clean laundry. In the gym, you also need arm strength to lift weights and engage in other exercises. Strong triceps are necessary for building the rest of the body. Without strong triceps, your chest, shoulder, back, and other major muscle groups will struggle to grow. This is where the MASS STACK  can help. It was formulated to increase lean muscle gain so that no muscle group lags behind in growth.
  3. Isolation: This benefit of the tricep kickback cannot be overemphasized. While other high-intensity arm exercises like the bench press and push-up are designed to hit different major muscle groups at once, the tricep kickback focuses on stimulating the triceps. All your energy and focus are funneled to work on that single muscle. This provides excellent muscle feedback and equally great results. The dumbbell kickback is a splendid exercise for athletes looking to work on arm strength and size.
  4. Less stress on the wrist: Wrist injuries are a common occurrence for athletes. This is mainly because many exercises tend to put pressure on the wrists. Unlike many other exercises like the weighted dips that involve weighted gym equipment, the dumbbell kickback has a low risk of wrist injuries when done correctly. Your wrists remain in a neutral position without the need for a rotation. Your wrists are used to a lesser degree, so no added stress or strain is placed on your wrists. The dumbbell kickback remains an excellent option for athletes who suffer from wrist injuries.

How To Do The Dumbbell Kickback


The dumbbell kickback might be a simple exercise, but it requires great focus and arm strength. All you need for this exercise is a dumbbell from the weight rack. Learning to do the dumbbell kickback might look tricky, but with the proper instructions, you can be an expert in no time. You need to focus on your form throughout your workout.

This would ensure that the tension does not move from the tricep muscles to your elbows or shoulder joint.

Concentrating on your form will also significantly reduce your chances of injuries. Below, we have broken down the dumbbell kickback into easy-to-do steps. This would guarantee that you adjust to proper form.

To do the dumbbell kickback:

  • Grab a pair of equally-weighted dumbbells.
  • Hold them with a pronated grip with your palms facing your side.
  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides, and feet planted on the 
  • Keep your spine straight, shoulder blades slightly pulled back, and your chest pushed forward.
  • Bend your knees slightly.
  • Keeping your back straight, slowly hinge forward at the hip until your chest is parallel to the floor.
  • Your back should remain straight in this position while your hands hang at your sides.
  • Keep your arms tucked at your sides and slowly hinge your elbows.
  • Contract your core and exhale
  • Bring the dumbbells close to your chest so that your arms and forearms are bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Contract your triceps and extend your arms straight behind you to align fully extended with your body.
  • Pause and squeeze your triceps at the peak of your movement. 
  • Inhale and slowly bring your arms back to the 90-degree starting angle.
  • This is one repetition. Complete as many reps as you can fit in a set.

Tips To Help You Perfect The Dum

Like any other exercise, holding proper form during the dumbbell kickback can be tricky. Getting the most out of your workouts requires you to adhere to the rules of the game strictly. Some tips to help you execute the dumbbell kickback with perfect form includes:

  • Choose lightweight dumbbells: A common mistake made by newbies who have just been introduced to the dumbbell kickback is choosing a heavy dumbbell. From just looking at the easy movements of the dumbbell kickback, it is easy to misjudge and think you can do better with heavier weights. Like many isolation exercises, focusing on form is more important than using bigger weights. Smaller weights would enable you to catch nuances in your form and quickly fix them. Smaller weights also do not put a lot of pressure on your triceps. This helps to reduce the risks of injuries during your workout drastically. Begin performing dumbbell kickbacks with light dumbbells that you can comfortably lift for 3-4 sets. Once you feel too comfortable with those weights and can lift them heavily for longer, change your dumbbells for something heavier.
  • Don’t flare your elbow: One common mistake made during the dumbbell kickback is flaring is pushing your elbows out and away from your body. Many newbies tend to jut their elbows out while overcompensating their arms during the curling motion. Floating your elbows reduces the tension in your triceps and reduces muscle response. Flaring your elbows also increases your chance of injury. Keep your elbows at your sides and pointing upward throughout your set.
  • Don’t round your back: Another common mistake made when performing the dumbbell kickback is rounding your back. This ruins your form and places unnecessary loss or stress on your back. This might lead to back pain or, even worse still, a nasty back injury. To stay safe, ensure that your back is straight throughout your exercise. Keep your back flat throughout the exercises.
  • Don’t use momentum: Momentum kills tension. When you swing the dumbbells, you take the stress out of the triceps and place them on your shoulder joints. This can result in sore shoulders and worse injuries. To fix this, focus on lifting with slow and controlled movements. This would help you to hold the contractions in your arms for longer. If this doesn’t help, switch your dumbbell for a lighter one. Using momentum is a cheat rep that often results from lifting too heavily than you can manage.
  • Engage your core: To get the most of your dumbbell kickback, you need to keep your core engaged throughout your reps. This increases your stability and helps you to maintain your posture.
  • Keep the arms stationary: When doing the dumbbell kickback, the only part that experiences motion is the arms. This leaves the rest of the upper body still. Moving your body would put tension on the wrong muscle groups and put you at risk of muscle injuries.
  • Protein is essential: Protein synthesis of your muscles is as important as the exercise you perform. If you want to hasten your muscle response, ensure that you bulk up on your proteins and essential micronutrients. VEG-PRO  is a delicious and easily-absorbed protein containing all the essential amino acids and vital micronutrients you need for ptimal muscle gain.

Dumbbell Kickback Variations

Like many other exercises out there, the dumbbell kickback can be modified to suit your fitness goals. Some of these variations can be adopted as more accessible variations, while some are designed to rev up your routine. Regardless, it is essential to perform them all correctly.

Below are some dumbbell kickback variations for you:

1. Seated Dumbbell Kickback


    The seated dumbbell kickback is a simple variation of the basic dumbbell kickback. This two-arm kickback exercise is done while sitting on a bench.

    It is beginner-friendly and a superb choice for people who suffer injuries to the lower extremity.

    It is also an excellent choice for gym-goers who find it challenging to find balance during the basic dumbbell kickback.

    To do this variation:

    • Sit upright on the edge of a bench.
    • Keep your back straight and your knees at a 90-degree angle.
    • Grab a dumbbell in each hand and grip them with a neutral grip.
    • Bend your knees slightly and lean forward at your waist. 
    • Keep your back straight while your torso is almost parallel to the floor. 
    • Keep your neck neutral.
    • Fold your elbow so that your upper arm aligns with your upper body. Your upper arm should be parallel to the floor.
    • Your elbow and forearm should form a 90-degree angle. This is your starting position.
    • Exhale and lift the dumbbells by focusing the movement in your triceps.
    • At the peak of your movement, your arm should be fully extended behind you and parallel to the floor.
    • Pause at the peak of the movement.
    • Slowly bring the dumbbells back to the 90-degree starting point.
    • Complete as many reps are possible.

    2. Bench Dumbbell Kickback


    The bench dumbbell kickback is a bench-assisted variation of the original tricep kickback.

    It is more straightforward, beginner-friendly, and an excellent choice for people who find it difficult to find their balance in the conventional dumbbell kickback.

    The bench dumbbell kickback is a unilateral variation that allows you to work one arm after the other. It is splendid for correcting muscle imbalances and for learning the form of the basic dumbbell kickback. Overall the bench dumbbell kickback is an excellent addition to any beginners’ fitness routine.

    To do this variation:

    • Stand with your left side towards a bench.
    • Hold a dumbbell with a pronated grip in your right hand. Your palm should face your thigh.
    • Bend your left knee and put it on the bench.
    • Your right foot should be planted firmly on the floor.
    • Place your left palm on the bench, so your left side now rests on the bench.
    • Your left palm should be stacked under your left shoulder.
    • Keep your neck neutral and your gaze down.
    • Bend your right elbow and bring the dumbbell towards your shoulder.
    • Contract your tricep and slowly extend your arm straight behind you. 
    • You should feel a nice stretch behind your arm at the peak of your movement.
    • Pause and feel the contraction.
    • Slowly bring your arm back to the starting 90-degree angle position.
    • Complete as many reps as possible.

    3. Resistance Band Tricep Kickback 


    In this variation, you are switching the traditional dumbbell for a resistance band. The resistance band tricep kickback is essentially the dumbbell kickback but with a resistance band. The moves and stance are the same, but the equipment isn’t.

    To do the resistance band tricep kickback:

    • Grab a strong resistance band.
    • Stand tall with your back straight and your chest proud.
    • Hold both ends of the resistance band in each hand while letting the rest of the length lay on the ground in front of you.
    • Step in the middle of the band.
    • Keep your feet slightly wider than hip-width in the band.
    • Ensure that the band is firmly under your feet to avoid a painful smack in the middle of your routine.
    • Keeping your back straight, bend over at the waist until your chest is parallel to the floor.
    • Keep your neck neutral and gaze on the floor.
    • Fold your elbows, so they form a 90-degree angle with your forearms.
    • Exhale and engage your core.
    • Slowly extend your arms backward.
    • Hold this position for a second before returning it to the starting position.
    • Complete as many reps as possible.

    The resistance band tricep kickback can also be performed as a unilateral exercise by working one arm. To do this, secure the resistance band around sturdy support at waist height, get in position, put your free hand on your knee for support, and curl and extend your arms slowly.

    4. Chest Supported Kickback

       

      With the chest-supported position of this position, you place your body at the ideal position for maximizing the full extension of your triceps for increased muscle response.

      The chest-supported kickback is done differently from its predecessors. In the variation, you are lying on your chest on an inclined bench which automatically reduces the load placed on your lower back. This allows you to hit more reps than any other thumb bell kickback can.

      To do the chest supported kickback:

      • Set up an incline bench.
      • Lay on the incline bench so that you are supported with your chest and the balls on your feet which are planted on the floor.
      • Grab a pair of dumbbells.
      • Fold your elbows so that the dumbbells are close to your shoulders.
      • Stretch your arms straight out behind you.
      • Pause and feel the contraction in your triceps.
      • Return your arms to the starting position.

      Getting Started With Dumbbell Kickbacks

      Dumbbell kickbacks are a fantastic addition to your upper body workout routine. This wonder exercise helps build bigger arms, firmer shoulders, and a stronger chest, all of which are essential for scaling up in other weighted activities.

      For better results, pair your dumbbell kickback workout with other  dumbbell tricep exercises.