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Stability Ball Tricep Kickbacks: Exercise Overview and How-To Guide

stability ball tricep kickback exercise overview

The stability ball tricep kickback targets the core muscles in a manner similar to planks and other isometric core holds.

The exercise nonetheless also works quite effectively at targeting the triceps brachii muscles in relative isolation. 

Resistance Band Pull Aparts at a Glance

Equipment Requirements

Resistance Band

Main Muscles Targeted

Traps, Posterior Deltoids, Rhomboids, Rotator Cuff Muscles

Difficulty

Easy

Sets, Reps, and Load Recommendations

2-4 Sets of 12-18 Repetitions with Light/Moderate Resistance (as an Accessory)

1-3 Sets of 6-10 Repetitions with Light Resistance (as a Warm-Up)

How to Do Stability Ball Tricep Kickbacks

Tricep Kickback on Exercise Ball
  1. To begin, the lifter carefully positions themselves chest-down atop a stability ball, extending their legs out behind them as they raise the dumbbell (or dumbbells) off the floor. The lower back must be flat with the core tightly braced, stabilizing the body and keeping the entire spine neutral.
  2. The upper arm should be positioned parallel to the torso, elbows bent with the forearms at a 90 degree angle to the elbow itself. If possible, a slightly more dramatic relative angle can be used for greater triceps range of motion.
  3. Now in the correct stance, the lifter extends their arm at the elbow by squeezing their triceps. The upper arm and elbow should remain in place, with the sole moving body part being the forearms.
  4. Once the working arm is fully extended, the lifter slowly releases tension in their triceps and bends at the elbow.
  5. When the forearms have returned to their original position with the elbows bent, the repetition is considered to be complete.

Additional Tips

The addition of a stability ball will add a dimension to the exercise that you may be unfamiliar with. If possible, aim to practice the movement unweighted prior to using dumbbells.

Of course, this also means you shouldn’t try stability ball tricep kickbacks if you haven’t performed regular kickbacks before.

Aim to keep as much of the torso distributed across the ball as you can manage. This will aid with stability and prevent the wrong muscle groups from being contracted.

What Muscles Do Stability Ball Tricep Kickbacks Work?

The stability ball tricep kickback is technically considered an isolation exercise, as the addition of the core muscles is solely in an isometric role. 

kickbacks on exercise ball

Nonetheless, tricep kickbacks primarily target the triceps brachii muscles – in particular emphasizing the lateral head of the three muscles.

Alongside these in the role of stabilizers are the abdominals, obliques and spinal erectors, all of which keep the body stable as it remains in the correct stance.

Common Stability Ball Kickback Mistakes to Avoid

To maximize the safety and benefits of stability ball kickbacks, ensure that your technique shows none of the following mistakes.

Insufficient Range of Motion

Range of motion (within the context of resistance training) simply refers to the extent to which a specific movement is performed, generally based on the range of a certain body part. 

An incomplete or insufficient range of motion can lead to poor development of whatever muscle is being trained, especially if the distal end of the range is what’s missing.

For stability ball tricep kickbacks, this means ensuring that each repetition begins and ends with the forearm at least at a 90 degree angle to the elbow as it hangs beneath the torso. 

Furthermore, the apex of the repetition should feature the elbow practically locked out, triceps fully squeezed as the arm is fully extended at the elbow joint.

Generating Unneeded Momentum

The addition of a stability ball may tempt some lifters to generate additional momentum by bouncing off the ball – if not by deviating from the correct movement pattern by rowing the dumbbell.

Either case involves the creation of force outside of that produced by the triceps. This leads to poorer triceps development as they bear less of the weight being lifted.

Curving Lower Back or Hunching Upper Back

All the more with the stability ball variation, lifters must ensure that they perform tricep kickbacks with a neutral spine. Avoiding forward flexion of the lower back and hunching at the shoulders is absolutely vital throughout the entire set.

Apart from ensuring these issues are not present, the lifter must also ensure that their scapula is ever so slightly retracted and that their core is contracted – both of which will further aid at maintaining proper kickback posture in regards to the back.

Detaching Upper Arms and Elbows

In order to ensure the triceps are the only muscle being dynamically contracted, lifters should aim to keep their upper arm and elbows stationary at the sides of the torso. 

Detaching them from this position can cause muscle groups like the posterior deltoids, brachioradialis or latissimus dorsi to be contracted – essentially turning the movement into a row or rear delt fly.

Most often, when this particular mistake occurs, it is due to an excessive amount of weight being lifted. Aim to prioritize proper form over weight lifted.

Should You Do Tricep Kickbacks on a Stability Ball?

In actuality, very little benefit is actually conferred by performing ordinary tricep kickbacks atop a stability ball. 

Apart from adding a bit of excitement into your workout, the exercise is essentially a combination of two entirely different movements (kickbacks and stability ball planks) that largely fails to maximize the benefits of either. 

The actual set is often too short for actual abdominal development to occur, and the addition of greater trunk instability does not improve the development of your triceps whatsoever.

Our advice is to instead perform conventional bent-over kickbacks while also programming stability ball planks later in your workout.

References

1. Nasim Habibzadeh (2018) Physiology of Distinct Modes of Muscular Contraction . International Physiology Journal – 1(3):1-8. https://doi.org/10.14302/issn.2578-8590.ipj-18-2441