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Tricep Kickback Benefits: Are They Worth Doing?

tricep kickback benefits

Tricep kickbacks are more than just an old-school bodybuilding exercise.

With greater emphasis on the lateral triceps head and a considerably low barrier of entry, the tricep kickback is absolutely worth consideration for all types of resistance training programs.

The Benefits of Performing Tricep Kickbacks

Obviously, the main benefit to the triceps kickback is its capacity to develop overall muscular development of the triceps in an isolated manner. This essentially means that the exercise will solely target the triceps themselves, ensuring that no other muscle limits or overpowers the movement.

dumbbell tricep kickback movement

Tricep Kickbacks Build Size, Strength and Stability in the Triceps Brachii

Despite being an isolation exercise, the emphasis on concentric contraction (rather than eccentric) means that greater force output from a relaxed position is needed to initiate the movement. 

Apart from building a moderate amount of mass, tricep kickbacks will also improve the triceps’ strength in both a dynamic and static manner.

lateral head of triceps

To get the most out of the kickback in terms of muscular development, ensure that you are aiming for a sufficient time under tension and accounting for the rather short range of motion through greater total repetition volume. 

Reinforces Elbow Extension Bodily Mechanics

Because the triceps brachii and the underlying tendons of the elbows are both strained during a triceps kickback set, subsequent strengthening of these tissues will also be seen. 

In turn, stronger connective and muscular tissue will equate to improved biomechanical function as far as elbow extension is concerned. 

elbow extension

Apart from improved tissue density and durability, tricep kickbacks also aid in stabilizing the arm during elbow extension – and in reinforcing conscious execution of the movement while under strain.

All these minute improvements equate to the lifter executing general elbow extension in a smoother, stronger manner at a larger range.

Remember to first consult a medical professional if you plan to perform tricep kickbacks to correct elbow mobility or stability issues. Resistance training can in fact worsen certain underlying causes of such symptoms, rather than help.

Carryover to Exercises like Bench Dips, Pushdowns and Presses

As a secondary benefit of stronger triceps and improved elbow extension, regularly including tricep kickbacks into your workout can create a carryover effect to exercises of a similar movement pattern.

Practically all movements involving dynamic contraction of the triceps – or those featuring straightening of the arms against tension – will be indirectly strengthened by previous performance of kickbacks. Among the more common of these are exercises like bench dips, rope pushdowns and a wide variety of shoulder and chest pressing movements.

bench dips

Although it is unlikely tricep kickbacks will add significant tonnage to these exercises, they are excellent as part of a well-rounded strength program in the role of an accessory triceps strengthening movement.

Low Equipment Requirements and Generally Accessible to All

A common issue with triceps isolation movements is the bulkiness and price of the equipment needed to perform them. Tricep rope pushdowns may require a large cable tower, whereas lying skullcrushers can require a barbell and set of weight plates.

Fortunately, conventional tricep kickbacks buck this trend by requiring nothing other than a single (or two) moderately heavy dumbbell – of which is likely the most common form of resistance training equipment out there.

dumbbell tricep kickback muscles being worked

Lifters with little dedicated training space or those visiting a gym with a limited amount of equipment can still easily perform tricep kickbacks without issue.

What’s more, the triceps kickback is as simple an isolation exercise as they get. Even in cases where a full gym of equipment is available, novices or those just returning to lifting may feel the need to start off with simpler and less adjustment-heavy exercises like the kickback.

Provides Opportunity for Triceps Lateral Head Emphasis in Training

Although the entire triceps brachii tends to activate as a single unit, depending on the position of the humerus/forearms and the angle of resistance involved, certain sections of the triceps are targeted to a greater degree.

The name “triceps brachii” quite literally translates to three-headed arm muscle. These heads are divided into the inward-facing long head, the posterior medial head and the outward-facing lateral head.

anatomy of triceps brachii

Because kickbacks are performed in a bent-over position with the humerus parallel with the sides of the torso, it is the lateral head that is targeted more than the remaining two. 

Lifters seeking more outwardly-visible triceps (especially from a side view) will find kickbacks to be perfect for their needs.

Are Tricep Kickbacks Worth Their Benefits?

Tricep kickbacks are often substituted with similar isolation exercises that feature a larger range of motion or greater level of tension. 

Despite this, there is no denying that the tricep kickback is nonetheless still a solid exercise as far as lateral triceps head emphasis goes. If simple hypertrophy and a small amount of strength development is your goal, then the kickback will more than suffice if programmed correctly.

References

1. Tanton LC, Cappaert TA, Gordon PM, et al. Strength, Size, and Muscle Quality in the Upper Arm following Unilateral Training in Younger and Older Males and Females. Clinical medicine Arthritis and musculoskeletal disorders. 2009;2. doi:10.4137/CMAMD.S1180