When it comes to working your arms, biceps usually get all the attention. Triceps can often get left behind and do not get worked out as much, partly because your biceps are stronger and more resilient to tough exercises, whereas your triceps can give out from fatigue easier. Even though biceps appear stronger when working out, triceps are larger muscles, covering the entire back of the arm and connecting your shoulder to your elbow, which allows your arm to bend. From the Latin for “three-headed muscle of the arm,” triceps brachii are made up of three separate muscles coming together in the upper arm, without which, you would not have the flexibility you are accustomed to.
When your triceps are not toned, the fat and skin in your upper arms is pulled there by gravity, giving you flabby upper arms, which are often referred to as bat wings. Unfortunately, your triceps are an area of your body that do not slim down on their own – they have to be specifically targeted to achieve muscular definition. The good thing is, toning your triceps is simple and low intensity. Of the many tricep exercises you can do, tricep extensions, or kickbacks, are the easiest.
To perform a proper tricep extension, or kickback, follow these steps:
- Stand next to a weight lifting bench with one knee on the bench or get down onto a mat in push up position with your knees on the mat holding a dumbbell in your right hand.
- Keeping your back flat (do not arch or round your back) and your arm bent at a 90-degree angle, pull your arm up against the side of your body as far up towards your back as you can go. Hold this position throughout the exercise. Make sure your arm stays against your body throughout the movement.
- Straighten your lower arm from your elbow and push towards your back until your arm is completely straight.
- Slowly lower your arm back to your 90-degree angle starting position. Repeat this movement eight to fifteen times for three to five sets. Do the same amount of reps and sets for your other arm – what you do to one side you must do to the other. Rest your arm in between sets. Remember: the heavier your dumbbell, the fewer reps and sets you should do. The lighter your dumbbell, the more reps and sets you should do.
Luckily, tricep extensions have a very low chance of causing injury, even if your form is not correct. The biggest mistake you can make in your technique is not holding your elbow tight against your torso and letting your whole arm swing during the movement. While this will not cause injury, it does not allow you to work your tricep muscle, but changes the exercises to affect your bicep and shoulder muscles, defeating the purpose of the tricep extension. As always, start with low weights – you can always increase them as you get more familiar with the exercise. No weightlifter has ever said they wished they had begun with heavier weights.
Once you get comfortable with tricep extensions, there are about half a dozen other exercises you can do to tone and define your triceps. Another version of the tricep extension is the standing tricep extension, another beginner level tricep exercise. To perform a standing tricep exercise, stand with your feet shoulder width apart, holding a single dumbbell in both hands. Raise your arms up over your head and bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle. Slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head, as far down as you can until your arms are straight. Bring the dumbbell back to your starting position.