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Standing Tricep Kickbacks: Exercise Overview and How-To Guide

standing kickback exercise overview

Although a marginal point of difference, standing and conventional tricep kickbacks are actually two distinct exercises performed with an ever so slightly separate stance.

Standing triceps kickbacks are a triceps isolation exercise performed with one hand pressed atop the knee to support the torso, rather than atop a bench or with both hands occupied with dumbbells instead.

Standing Tricep Kickbacks at a Glance

Equipment Requirements

Dumbbell(s)

Main Muscles Targeted

Triceps Brachii

Difficulty

Novice

Sets, Reps, and Load Recommendations

Lighter/Moderate weight for 2-3 sets of 8-16 repetitions

How to Do Standing Tricep Kickbacks

Standing Tricep Kickback
  1. To perform a standing tricep kickback, the lifter grips a light or moderate weight dumbbell in one hand, staggering their legs for greater stability as they hinge the torso forwards at the hips. 
  2. The upper body should be at a 45 degree angle, knees bent and the elbow of the working arm close to the sides of the ribs. The opposite hand may rest atop the legs to help maintain a balanced and upright torso.
  3. Now in the correct stance, the lifter proceeds to contract their triceps and extend their arm at the elbow – raising the forearms until the maximum range of elbow extension has been reached.
  4. With the elbow fully extended, the lifter then continues by slowly releasing tension in their triceps, allowing the arm to bend at the elbow until the forearms are at a 90 degree angle to the joint itself.
  5. Working forearm now hanging beneath the elbow, the repetition is considered to be complete.

Additional Tips

In most cases, the standing version of triceps kickback is picked over the conventional variant due to a lack of space or equipment. However, it can also be quite useful for reducing strain on the lower back by ensuring the upper body does not exceed a 45 degree angle of incline.

When actually performing the movement, ensure that the upper arm remains as parallel to the side of the torso as possible. This will ensure proper triceps contraction and reduced strain on all joints involved.

What Muscles do Standing Tricep Kickbacks Work?

Standing tricep kickbacks are an isolation exercise, meaning that only a single muscle group is dynamically targeted by the movement.

anatomy of triceps brachii

As one can likely guess from its name, this singular muscle group is the triceps brachii of the upper arm. Among the three heads (medial, long and lateral), it is the lateral or short head that is targeted to the greatest degree by the vast majority of kickback variants.

Common Standing Tricep Kickback Mistakes to Correct

Apart from lifting a reasonable amount of weight and programming total volume, standing tricep kickbacks should also be performed without the following mistakes in order to maximize triceps growth.

Poor Range of Motion

One of the most important aspects of any exercise’s technique is achieving a full range of motion. 

For the standing tricep kickback, this involves beginning and ending each individual repetition with the forearms at a 90 degree angle to the elbow.

standing kickback

Likewise, the height of the repetition where the muscles transition from concentric to eccentric contraction should display full forearm extension at the elbow – meaning the elbow is practically locked out.

Failing to complete a full range of motion can lead to overall poor development of the triceps brachii, if not sticking points and greater strain on the elbow joint as well.

Insufficient Torso Incline

Although the standing triceps kickback is most often done to limit how far forwards the torso can hinge, lifters should also be careful not to limit their stance too much. 

In connection with an incomplete range of motion, failing to bend the upper body far enough forwards can also limit how far the triceps can lengthen – if not entirely negate tension in the muscle as gravity assists the dumbbell away from the muscle’s optimal angle of pull.

standing kickback muscles

Lifters performing tricep kickbacks will want to maintain an approximate 45 degree angle to their torso, avoiding angling it less than a 30 degree angle (if standing upright were 0 radians). 

Snapping the Forearm Backwards

Practically all tricep kickback variations are meant to be performed in a slow and controlled manner, maximizing time under tension and actual triceps muscle tension itself. 

Snapping the forearm backwards into full extension will negate both of these aspects, reducing the triceps’ response to training and potentially leading to injuries of the elbow joint.

Aim to stretch out the concentric phase of the movement for up to two seconds, ensuring the dumbbell and forearm is moving with conscious control.

Rowing the Dumbbell

Much like excessively rapid forearm extension, lifters should also avoid “rowing” the dumbbell by detaching the upper arm from the sides of the torso or otherwise moving any joint other than the elbow.

Performing tricep kickbacks with this particular mistake can cause other muscles to supercede the triceps, especially in regards to the posterior deltoids and latissimus dorsi muscle groups.

Obviously, because kickbacks are performed in order to isolate the triceps, we will want to avoid recruiting other muscles as much as possible.

Apart from ensuring that the upper arm remains stationary, lifters should also be mindful of the position of their scapula and pay attention to whether their torso is twisting as the movement is performed. Both are mistakes under the same wing, and should also be corrected if present.

Are Standing Tricep Kickbacks the Right Exercise for You?

Standing tricep kickbacks are effective for building up triceps mass and strength in a highly targeted manner. 

Although kickbacks as a whole aren’t quite considered the best form of triceps isolation work, they are nonetheless an all-around solid and relatively safe exercise for general muscular development.

If the standing variation isn’t quite pumping your triceps how you would like, try out the cable triceps kickback or even entirely distinct alternative exercises.

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.