The secret to an upper body that looks fierce AF: cut triceps. This part of the arm often gets lost in the workout shuffle—while moves like biceps curls and presses take main stage.
But when the muscle that runs from your shoulder down to your elbow pops, it signals serious strength—likely from mastering the triceps kickback.
How To Do A Triceps Kickback
How to: Stand with your knees bent and lean forward slightly, with a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your back straight, bend your dumbell-holding arm 90 degrees at the elbow so your triceps are aligned with your back and your biceps are perpendicular to the floor. Engage your core and your triceps and hinge at the elbow, lifting the dumbbell up and back as you try and straighten your arm. Your triceps should stay still; only your elbow moves. Guide the weight upward until your arm is straight, pause, then lower back to 90 degrees. That’s one rep.
Form tip: Make sure you don’t swing the upper body and ensure your back is flat, not hunched, says Jenna Epperly, ACE-certified trainer at Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios in Virginia Beach, VA.
Reps/sets for best results: Epperly recommends three to four sets of 12 to 15 reps.
Benefits Of The Triceps Kickback
Living up to their name, triceps kickbacks mainly work your triceps, which is the big muscle that runs along the back of your upper arm, Epperly explains. The move also strengthens the auxiliary muscles that help your hand extend.
And this move is great for functional strength: Powerful triceps are required for every pushing movement and some pulling ones when the arms are close by your side (think: opening doors, rowing, helping someone up off the floor). Plus, they make your arms look downright incredible.
Make Triceps Kickbacks Part Of Your Workout
Do triceps kickbacks at least once a week, Epperly advises—more if your workout split emphasizes upper body.
“I would definitely use this exercise in an arm workout or circuit because it’s such a simple movement and pairs so well with others,” she adds. Add it to an upper body circuit, along with moves like chest press, biceps curls, and shoulder press to target a multitude of muscles. Or pair it with another triceps-specific move, like dips, to really fatigue the muscles, she says.
Bonus idea: “You can add one set of small pulses or a static hold at the end of all your reps to really feel the burn.”
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