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Bent-Over Tricep Kickbacks: Exercise Overview and How-To Guide

bent over tricep kickback exercise overview

With its bilateral nature and more bent over upper body orientation, the bent-over kickback is often preferred by more advanced lifters seeking a more time-efficient workout. That, or by lifters who find conventional kickbacks to be too limiting in terms of range of motion.

Due to a lack of torso support and the fact that both arms are worked simultaneously, it is best to first master conventional kickbacks prior to attempting the bent-over variation. Make sure to drop how much weight is lifted as well.

Bent-over Tricep Kickbacks at a Glance

Equipment Requirements

Dumbbell(s)

Main Muscles Targeted

Triceps Brachii

Difficulty

Novice

Sets, Reps, and Load Recommendations

Lighter weight for 2-3 sets of 12-20 repetitions

How to Do a Bent-Over Tricep Kickback

Bent Over Tricep Kickbacks
  1. To perform a bent-over tricep kickback, the lifter will begin by first standing upright with a pair of dumbbells held at their sides, grip neutral and legs spaced a balanced distance apart.
  2. Hinging forward until the torso is nearly parallel with the floor, the lifter then aligns their upper arms parallel to the upper body, raising them several inches above the ridge of the lats. 
  3. In this position, the forearms should hang at a 90 degree angle to the elbows at the least. Furthermore, the lower back should be neutral with no curvature present beyond that in neutrality.
  4. Now in the correct stance, the lifter proceeds to squeeze their triceps and extend their arms at the elbows. This should straighten both arms, contracting the triceps fully as the upper arms remain entirely stationary.
  5. Concentric phase now complete, the lifter slowly releases tension in their triceps until the forearms returns to their original position beneath the elbows. 
  6. With the forearms at an approximate 90 degree angle to the elbows, the repetition is considered to be complete.

Additional Tips

The bent-over variation of tricep kickback is particularly susceptible to swinging of the torso or dangerous curvature of the lower back. 

With no actual support for the torso, lifters must ensure that they are correctly bracing their core and retracting their scapula so as to align the spine correctly.

Another excellent tip to consider is keeping the knees somewhat bent as the torso is angled horizontally. The exertion of the exercise – combined with this awkward position and fully extended knees – can lead to blood pressure issues. 

Keep the knees slightly bent and ensure you are breathing evenly throughout the set.

What Muscles do Bent-Over Tricep Kickbacks Work?

Bent-over tricep kickbacks are an isolation exercise, but will also isometrically contract muscle groups outside of those normally seen in variations of kickback.

anatomy of triceps brachii

Apart from dynamically contracting the triceps brachii with an emphasis on the lateral head, the exercise also works the core musculature in a static capacity – especially in regards to the erector spinae and inner abdominal muscles.

Common Bent-Over Tricep Kickback Mistakes to Avoid

With a more compromised stance, the bent-over variation of tricep kickback is especially susceptible to causing injuries. Ensure none of the following common mistakes are present in your training.

Swinging the Dumbbells/Snapping the Forearms

A highly common mistake seen with the bent-over tricep kickback is the use of excess momentum – often to “snap” the forearms backwards. This can be done either entirely with the triceps or otherwise by swinging the torso, bouncing the knees or any other form of momentum-generating movement.

bent over tricep kickbacks

In order for triceps kickbacks to be effective, the triceps must be subjected to a sufficient time under tension in order to trigger muscular hypertrophy. 

Performing the repetition too rapidly – or, worse, by using muscles other than the triceps – will lead to the triceps themselves being underutilized. Performing the exercise in this way can also lead to injuries of the elbows or lower back as they are forced to absorb more force than necessary.

Poor Back Curvature

With the lifter hunched over in a nearly horizontal upper body orientation, it is all the more important to maintain a neutral spine. 

dumbbell bent over tricep kickback showing muscles of the back of the arms being targeted

Rounding of the upper back can lead to an inefficient lift, whereas rounding of the lower back can lead to injuries of the underlying spine or the soft tissues of the back itself.

Lightly bracing the core, keeping the neck aligned with the shoulders and hinging at the hips should all be employed to protect the back.

Detaching the Elbows or Upper Arms

In order to avoid “rowing” the dumbbells or contracting any muscle group apart from the triceps, the upper arms and elbows must remain stationary throughout the entire set. 

For the bent-over variation specifically, the upper arms may jut over the upper back by several inches for a greater range of motion.

Allowing the upper arms to detach from the sides of the torso can lead to muscles like the posterior deltoids or lats activating, reducing how much weight the triceps themselves will bear and negating the purpose of the exercise.

A squeezing sensation should be felt throughout the triceps at the apex of the repetition – a result of the muscle shortening as it is pressed against the sides of the body. 

Should You Do Bent-Over Tricep Kickbacks?

Bent-over tricep kickbacks are great for building triceps muscle mass in an efficient and accessible manner – but they aren’t necessarily the best kickback variation for maximizing hypertrophy. 

Try out the supported one-arm variant for greater (and safer) loading, or the cable triceps kickback for a lengthier time under tension.

References

1. Boehler B. Masteres Dissertation. University of Wisconsin; Madison, WI, USA: 2011. Electromyographic Analysis of the Triceps Brachii Muscle during a Variety of Triceps Exercises.