Strength Training

6 Effective Tricep Kickback Alternatives For Huge Arms

tricep kickback alternative

If you’re looking for a tricep kickback alternative to build strong triceps, then you’ve come to the right place.  

The tricep kickback is a great isolation exercise to target your triceps muscles.  It can be performed on a cable machine or as a dumbbell kickback.  

Recommended Reading – Avoid These 3 Common Causes Of Tricep Tendonitis Pain

However, there are some alternative exercises, such as skull crushers, which are just as effective.  

triceps muscles

Tricep Kickback Alternative Exercises

Below we recommend some good alternatives that will activate your triceps brachii and take the place of dumbbell and cable tricep kickbacks.  

All of the exercises below which can form part of your upper body strength training.   

ez curl bar tricep extension

Make sure you perform all exercises with proper form and full range of motion.  This ensures that you keep the resistance on the muscles targeted.  

Common mistakes often include executing movements too quickly or going too heavy with the weight.  

When starting out, it’s a good idea to stick with a light weight and good form.  

Triceps Pushdowns

tricep pushdown with rope cable

Tricep pushdowns are a really effective exercise for isolating your tricep muscles. They’re usually performed on a cable machine with something like a rope attachment or an EZ bar attachment.  

However, if you don’t have access to a cable machine, a great alternative is to use a resistance band with a handle on either end.

In this case, you’d anchor the middle of the band to the top of a doorway.  

How To Perform The Tricep Pushdown Exercise:

  1. Clip on your preferred attachment to the pulley and set it to the highest setting.  
  2. Grab hold of both ends of the attachment and take a step back, this will create some resistance in the cable.  Your palms should be facing the floor. 
  3. Keep your feet together with a slight bend to your knees and keep your elbows down at your sides.  This is your starting position. 
  4. Push the weight down as far as you can go keeping your upper arms stationary throughout.  
  5. Slowly, and with control, bring your arms back to the starting position.  
  6. Complete 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps.  

Seated Overhead Tricep Extension

overhead tricep extension

The seated overhead tricep extension is one of the best alternatives to the cable triceps kickback.

It’s usually performed when sitting on the edge of a gym bench or chair.  

You can modify this exercise by performing it whilst standing. Doing it this way will activate more muscle groups and help to work your core and upper back.

When you compare this to other triceps exercises, it engages all heads of the tricep making it a great option for increasing overall muscle strength.  

How To Perform The Seated Overhead Tricep Extension:

  1. Start by sitting on a bench (or chair) and keep your feet flat on the ground. 
  2. Lift a dumbbell up so that it rests on your shoulder.  
  3. Overlap both hands on the underside of the dumbbell, your palms should be facing towards the ceiling. 
  4. From here, extend your arms straight up overhead.  This is your starting position.
  5. Keeping your upper arms stationary begin to lower the dumbbell behind your head by bending your elbows. 
  6. Pause briefly so that you feel a good stretch to the back of your arms.  
  7. The slowly begin to raise the weight back to the overhead position. 
  8. Repeat for 3 sets of between 8 to 12 repetitions.  

Skull Crushers

skull crusher with dumbbells

The skull crusher is a hugely popular exercise and the best way of working those triceps.  The name is derived due to the technique, which involves lowering the weight towards your skull.  

You can do this exercise using a barbell or dumbbells and even unilaterally where you work one arm at a time. 

For best results perform this on a bench and this will allow for a full range of motion.  

How To Perform The Skull Crusher:

  1. Start by lying down on a weight bench and keep your feet flat on the ground.   
  2. Take hold of a dumbbell in each hand using an overhand grip.  
  3. Now extend your arms straight up above your chest  perpendicular to the floor. Make sure your palms are facing in wards.  
  4. Inhale and slowly bend your elbows, lowering the dumbbells towards your forehead.  Make sure you keep your upper arms in position throughout.
  5. Lower the weight until your forearms are just past parallel to the floor, feeling a stretch in your triceps. 
  6. Pause for a second and then extend your arms back up to the starting position.  
  7. Complete 3 sets of 10 reps.  

Close Grip Bench Press

incline close grip bench press

The close-grip bench press is an exercise that predominantly targets your triceps whilst also engaging your chest and shoulders to a slightly lesser extent. It can be performed in a flat, incline or decline position.

A key thing to note is the hand position during this exercise.  

Position your hands either at shoulder width apart or just inside.  Don’t be tempted to bring your hands too close as this can put a lot of stress onto your wrist joints potentially leading to injury.  

When performing a bench press, aim to use a suitable bench that features safety bars.  Failing that, enlist the help of a spotter.  

How To Perform The Close Grip Bench Press:

  1. Lie down on a bench press bench and keep your feet firmly planted on the floor.  Position yourself under the barbell so that your eyes align with it.
  2. Reach up and take hold of the bar with an overhand grip, keeping your hands at around shoulder-width apart or just inside.  
  3. Now brace your core and squeeze your shoulder blades together.  Simultaneously unrack the bar and hold it straight up above your chest.  
  4. Lower the bar towards the middle of your chest. Maintain a slow and controlled descent.  
  5. Follow a natural plane of movement for your body, don’t flare your elbows out, but also avoid tucking them in too much as this can stress your ac joint.  It should feel comfortable but still place tension on your triceps.  
  6. As soon as the bar has touched your chest immediately press it back up to the starting position by extending your arms.  
  7. Perform 2 to 3 sets of around 5 to 8 repetitions.  

Diamond Push-Ups

Diamond grip push-ups

The diamond push-up is a more challenging take on the traditional push-up exercise which just relies on your body weight. It’s a great way of working the triceps whilst also engaging your upper chest and shoulders. 

It takes its name from the hand placement, where your thumbs and index fingers form a diamond shape when placed on the ground.  When your hands are positioned closer together this shifts more of your body weight from your chest to your triceps.  

How To Perform The Diamond Push Up Variation: 

  1. Begin by positioning yourself in a high plank, keeping your hands directly under your shoulders with your legs extended behind you and resting on your toes. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your heels.
  2. Bring your hands together so they’re just beneath your chest.  Your thumbs and forefingers should be touching so that your hands are forming a diamond (or triangle) position.  
  3. Engage your core muscles and make sure you keep your body straight throughout without allowing your hips to sag.  
  4. Lower your chest towards the floor by bending your elbows, try and keep your elbows tucked in throughout. 
  5. Pause for a second once your chest is just above the ground and then push through your palms to extend your elbows and raise your body back up to the start.  
  6. Complete 3 sets of 10 reps.  

Bodyweight Dips

bodyweight dips

Dips are one of the best exercises for increasing muscle mass to your triceps.  It’s a compound exercise that works many muscles across the upper body and, depending on how you position yourself, you can place more emphasis on specific muscle groups.  

You can use specially designed dipping bars or parallettes for this exercise or simply some sturdy furniture if you’d prefer.  

If you find performing body weight dips too difficult, you can start with floor based dips and progress when your upper body becomes strong enough to hold your weight.  

How To Do Bodyweight Dips: 

  1. Start by positioning yourself between the parallel bars or dip bars. Grab hold of the bars overhand grip so that your palms face each other.  
  2. Lift your body off the ground by straightening out your arms. 
  3. Cross your feet at your ankles to help keep your body stable.  
  4. Keeping your torso upright, begin to slowly lower your body by bending your elbows.   
  5. Lower yourself until your upper arms are parallel to the ground.  
  6. Pause briefly at the bottom of the exercise, then press back up to the starting position. 
  7. Try and perform 10 full dips if you can.  

Final Thoughts 

Exploring alternative exercises to the triceps kickback is a great way of keeping your workouts varied and continually testing your muscles.  

Even though the tricep kickback is a popular exercise, it may not be suitable for everyone.  

By adding in some different exercises including the close grip bench press, overhead tricep extensions, and diamond push-ups, you can target your triceps from different angles and engage several other muscle groups.  

Even though the triceps are a relatively small muscle group, packing on muscle mass and increasing strength will depend on how effective and varied your workout is. 

Keep testing those muscles for the best results.

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