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How to Do the Dumbbell Triceps Extension

Build Strong Arms with the Triceps Extension

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Updated December 05, 2007

In this version of the dumbbell triceps extension, you start by holding a dumbbell in two hands with arms extended above the head. You lower the weight behind the head then return it to the starting position. The triceps extension develops the triceps muscles at back of the upper arms.

Find out more about weight training terminology and exercise description if you need background information before you try this exercise. Print a formatted copy of this exercise. See more dumbbell exercises.

1. The Starting Position

Dumbbell triceps extension
(c) Paul Rogers
    1. Select a dumbbell of a weight that can be held above the head with two hands.
    2. Sit on a bench or chair with the back straight and feet planted flat on the floor at a comfortable width apart. The exercise can also be done standing.
    3. Grasp the dumbbell around the shaft if possible, ensuring a firm grip, and raise above the head. Brace the abdominal muscles.
    4. Start with a light weight and plan to do 10 to 12 repetitions for one to three sets of exercises to start. Increase the weight and sets to suit your program.

2. The Exercise Movement

Dumbbell triceps extension
(c) Paul Rogers
    1. Lower the dumbbell behind the head until the elbows are flexed to full range of motion.
    2. Take care to lower the weight in a controlled manner while ensuring you don't impact the bones of the cervical spine at back of the neck.
    3. Return the weight to the starting position with arms extended above the head.
    4. Repeat the exercise for the number of sets and repetitions prescribed in your program.

3. Points to Note

  • Single-arm versions of the exercise are optional. You would normally choose a lighter weight for the single-arm exercise. You can use each arm alternately or complete a set with a single arm and then swap.
  • In the first option, hold a light dumbbell in each hand above the head and alternate the movement behind the head as you would for the two-handed exercise.
  • In the second option, use only one dumbbell until the set is complete and then swap the weight to the other hand and repeat.
  • In all versions, keep the back straight, brace the abdominals and don't contact the vertebrae behind the neck as the weight is lowered.
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