To get big arms you need big biceps. That is the conclusion many people reach. And granted, when looking to build T-shirt-tearing guns, biceps training will take the lead. But like Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption, the triceps, which make up two-thirds of your upper arm, play an essential supporting role.

As is the case with virtually every other muscle in the body, your triceps respond best to a multitude of exercises and training protocols that make use of a variety of angles. The triceps is comprised of three heads – hence ‘tri’ – the lateral head, medial head and the long head. All three require adequate stimulation for optimal results.

Heavy, challenging compound lifts such as close-grip bench presses and weighted dips should provide the focus for triceps training, but a selection of isolation exercises are also worth your time. The triceps kick-back is one of these.

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How To Do The Triceps Kick-Back

Place one knee, shin and foot on a flat bench and bend over to keep your torso parallel to the floor. Grasp the head of the bench with your fingertips. In the outside hand hold a dumbbell. Pick a weight with which you can comfortably manage 12-15 reps. Press and hold that dumbbell-holding arm against your side, with a 90° bend at the elbow. Straighten your arm backwards until it is parallel to the floor. Contract your triceps at that top portion of the lift. Slowly lower until your arm is back at the 90° angle. Repeat for 12-15 reps, then switch arms.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

When straightening your arm at the top portion of the lift, be careful not to bend at the wrist. This removes a lot of the tension from the triceps and places it on the forearms. You should also ensure your arm is held up against the body at all times. If your arm drops down, the tension on the triceps will diminish.

Triceps Kick-Back Variations

Cable triceps kick-back

Using a cable machine for the triceps kick-back means that you have to work against steady resistance throughout the exercise, which you’ll especially notice as you lower your forearm back to the starting position in the second half of the movement.

Attach a single handle low down on the cable machine. Hold the handle in an overhand grip and step away from the machine so there is tension in the cable. Bend at the hips so your upper body is parallel to the ground, with your arm by your side and bent at 90° at the elbow. Straighten your arm behind you to perform the kick-back, then slowly bring the handle back to the starting position.

Two-arm triceps kick-back

Don’t have time to work out one arm at a time? Then do both at once. It’s best to lighten the load a little for the two-arm version of the kick-back, which can be done with dumbbells or the cable machine.

Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand. Lean forwards at your hips until your back is parallel to the ground. You upper arms should be by your sides, with your elbows bent at 90° so you’re holding the dumbbell in front of your torso. Straighten both arms behind you simultaneously, then reverse the movement to return to the starting position.