Build Bigger Triceps With This Dumbbell Tricep Extension Variation

STACK Expert Brian Pankau says the Dumbbell Tricep Extension is one of the best exercises for building bigger triceps.

Many people target their triceps brachii for the purpose of hypertrophy—not necessarily because it makes their upper arms appear fuller, but because stronger triceps promote improvements in exercises that involve elbow extension, such as the Bench Press and Shoulder Press. Several exercises are available for targeting the triceps, but the Dumbbell Tricep Extension is one of the best. Let's take a closer look at it.

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Why Choose Decline Dumbbell Tricep Extensions?

In terms of muscle hypertrophy, the triceps contain more fast-twitch fibers than slow-twitch fibers. This means that when you increase the load on your triceps, the resistance promotes muscle growth. A few studies confirm the theory that this exercise is the best at triceps recruitment. They show that the Decline Dumbbell Tricep Extension is more effective for two reasons: the use of a neutral grip; and the location of the upper arms above the shoulders.

Neutral grip refers to the palms facing in toward each other. This grip on the dumbbells in the lying down position allows you to effectively recruit the triceps, particularly the long head. This is important for triceps growth, because it is the only muscle head that attaches above the shoulder joint. Simply put: You have to raise your arm overhead to fully stretch the triceps for contraction to occur.

RELATED: Bench Press Grip Guide: How Hand Placement Changes the Exercise

The neutral grip also comes in handy because it allows you to lower the dumbbells, granting maximum stretch of the triceps long head, while keeping your elbows in as close as possible. One study showed that using a close grip during the Bench Press led to better triceps contractions than the middle or wide grip. This same study also showed that the flat and decline positions of the Bench Press activated the long head with better resistance.

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Your upper arms must be above your shoulders to target the long head of your triceps. This study shows that the triceps are activated significantly when the angle of the shoulders is changed, suggesting that the decline is beneficial because it allows the greatest angle possible.

The takeaway: the Decline Dumbbell Tricep Extension is worth a try.

Step-by-Step Exercise Instructions for Decline Dumbbell Tricep Extensions

Decline Dumbbell Tricep Extensions

You need a decline bench and two dumbbells of equal load. Choose a load such that you can perform 8-10 reps with moderate resistance or 5-7 reps with heavy resistance.

  • Lie down on the decline bench and secure your legs.
  • Place the dumbbells on your upper thighs with your palms facing in toward each other.
  • Push the dumbbells out in front of your body at shoulder-width, keeping your arms fully extended.
  • Allow your elbows to bend while keeping your upper arms stable and elbows close in.
  • Breathing in slowly, lower the dumbbells by allowing your forearms to descend until your thumbs are in line with your ears.
  • Contract your triceps and retrace the path back to the starting position.
  • Repeat until you have completed the selected amount of repetitions.

Tips for Triceps Hypertrophy

  • Perform triceps exercises following training of your pectorals or deltoids. Consider this a finishing act for your triceps, since they are already fatigued from the pressing movements.
  • Throw in an arm training day to encourage more muscle hypertrophy. This gives your triceps time to contract when they are not already fatigued.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: BENCH PRESS | TRICEPS | DUMBBELL EXERCISES | EXERCISING | DUMBBELLS | DECLINE BENCH | ARMS