Who doesn’t want strong, firm triceps muscles that look great from behind? Don’t forget, the triceps make up 2/3 of the muscle in your upper arms, so it’s important to keep them strong. Kickbacks help you do that. You need a variety of exercises to strengthen and strengthen the triceps muscles. One that you hear a lot about due to its popularity is triceps kickbacks.
Triceps kickbacks is an isolation exercise that works the triceps muscles. Unlike a compound exercise, like push-ups, that also works the triceps, triceps kickbacks focus with precision on the triceps muscles, although your posterior deltoids get some stimulation when you do this exercise. Triceps kickbacks are effective for isolating the triceps, but they can also help correct an asymmetry in triceps strength or size since you can work one side at a time with this exercise. Unfortunately, most people do the exercise wrong and that limits their gains. How many of these triceps kickback mistakes to you make?
Using the Wrong Resistance
Maybe it’s for vanity, but most people select too much weight when they do kickbacks. For safety and effectiveness, don’t make this mistake. Choose a weight that’s light enough for you to extend your arm back through its full range of motion without using momentum or cheating by not extending your arm back far enough. If you can’t successfully move the weight to the top of the movement, you’ll limit your gains. You should be able to extend your arm until it’s parallel to the floor without locking your elbow at the top. If not, you’re not getting the full benefits.
Another downside to using heavy weights with triceps extensions is it can lead to elbow pain, especially if you use incorrect form. Remember, it’s an isolation exercise and your triceps aren’t huge muscles. They aren’t designed to handle large amounts of weight.
Other people choose a weight that’s too light and don’t thoroughly fatigue the muscle. Select a weight that tires out your triceps after 10 to 12 reps. Then, reduce the weight on the next set and do another 10 or so reps. Aim for 3 sets using good form.
Letting Your Elbows Flare
Another common mistake is not keeping your elbows in place. Your arms should be against your sides at all times during the exercise. No elbow flaring or you’ll risk injury.
Bending Your Wrists
Do you bend your wrists when you do a kickback? This is almost a universal problem with triceps kickbacks and doing so reduces recruitment of the triceps. When you bend your wrists back as you extend the weight behind you, the flexor muscles in the wrists pull on the medial part of the elbow known as the medial epicondyle. Over time, doing this can lead to elbow pain.
Letting Your Back Round
Rounding your back is a fast way to get a back injury. Keep your back in a neutral position with your core muscles tight throughout the exercise. Your torso shouldn’t rotate when you do the exercise either. It’s easy to unconsciously round your back, so have someone critique your form.
Always Using a Dumbbell
The way most people do triceps kickbacks Is to hold a dumbbell in the hand of the side they’re working. But you’ll get more benefits if you use a cable instead. When you use a dumbbell, the tension doesn’t rise until you approach the top of the movement. That’s why it’s so important to use a full range-of-motion. When you use a cable, the cable pulls your forearm forward throughout the movement. This creates constant tension on the triceps rather than tension only near the top. Try it using a cable rather than dumbbells and see if you don’t feel the difference!
Only Doing Triceps Kickbacks
Triceps kickbacks work the triceps, but they aren’t the best exercise for strengthening and firming this muscle. In one study, the American Council on Exercise researchers asked 15 young females to do a variety of triceps exercises, eight in total. The movements included bar push-downs, triceps kickbacks, overhead triceps extensions, close-grip bench press, rope push-downs, and lying barbell triceps extensions. As they did the exercises, the researchers used EMG to measure muscle activation of the triceps at two different points: the lateral head of the triceps and the long head.
The results? The triceps kickbacks fared well. In fact, they came in second in terms of triceps muscle activation. But they couldn’t compete with triangle push-ups. This exercise outperformed every other exercise in terms of triceps activation. Here are the exercises in order from most to least triceps activation:
· Triangle push-up
· Overhead triceps extension
· Rope pushdowns
· Bar pushdowns
· Lying barbell triceps extensions
· Closed-grip bench press
Use this to guide your exercise choices. If you’re serious about getting strong triceps, the triangle push-up is one to consider. It’s a tough exercise and also a compound movement that works multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Compound exercises burn more calories because they work more muscle groups. The third in line exercise, dips, is another compound exercise that activates the triceps almost as much as kickbacks. But don’t get caught in a kickback rut. Give the other exercises on the list some of your workout time.
The Bottom Line
How’s your form on triceps? Hopefully, you now know some of the most common mistakes and how to correct them. It’s easy to get sloppy doing triceps kickbacks and it will keep you from getting the full results this exercise offers. If you watch your form, triceps kickbacks can be an effective exercise that targets your triceps safely and effectively.
Even if you’re a master at triceps kickbacks, vary your triceps exercises. Include more of the exercises on the ACE list above. Though rope pushdowns and bar pushdowns didn’t rank as high as kickbacks in terms of EMG activation, you need pushing exercises to balance out pulling ones. This reduces the risk of developing muscle asymmetries. Plus, doing a variety of exercises means you’re less likely to get bored. Keep working those triceps and balance it out with biceps work as well.
American Council on Exercise. “Triceps Kickbacks”
American Council on Exercise. “ACE-sponsored Research: Best Triceps Exercises”
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