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How To Do Cable Tricep Kickbacks Properly: Correct Form, Alternatives And Mistakes

I know you want bigger arms (who doesn’t), which is awesome, but did you realize that your triceps account for more than two-thirds of your upper-arm mass? Triceps, the big muscles at the back of the upper arms, have one simple but important function: they extend the forearm. However, triceps are also responsible for a range of motion at the elbow, shoulder, and forearm.

Strength training would be incomplete without including triceps exercises to assist increase upper body strength. Focusing on long head triceps exercises can help you gain mass since they comprise the bulk of the triceps muscle. So there should be no doubt that the long head of the triceps does deserve a little extra attention.

Cable tricep kickbacks have become a popular isolation movement for people who desire to strengthen and develop their triceps’ long head. It’s effective for building muscle mass and strength all over, and it’s the best way to get that distinctive “horseshoe” shape on your upper arms. Here’s how to do it

While the cable triceps kickback is one of the finest exercises to get your triceps muscles firing on all cylinders, if you want to see the full list of the top 10 exercises for triceps strength and size, we covered it in one of our earlier articles. How to perform the exercise correctly, a few alternatives with dumbbells, and common mistakes will be discussed in this article.

How To Do Cable Tricep Kickbacks

It’s easy to do the cable tricep kickback in the right way and proper form by following the steps below:

  • Set up a handle on a low pulley cable machine to begin. Using a cable machine with a low pulley helps keep the movement steady and under control. Stand with your back bent and parallel to the ground in front of the machine. For this exercise, use a single-grip handle.
  • Focus on keeping your head, neck, and spine in a straight line as you grab the handle, bring it to your side, and tuck your elbow in.
  • On an exhale, slowly extend your arm as far back as you can while squeezing your tricep. Hold for a count. Make sure to keep your arm close to your side.
  • Then inhale as you bring your arm back to where it started.
  • Do the number of sets and reps as per your current schedule.

Cable Tricep Kickback Alternatives

If you don’t have access to a cable machine, it’s being used, or you just want to do it with free weights, the exercises below are good alternatives to the cable tricep kickback.

Dumbbell Triceps Kickbacks

Triceps kickbacks aren’t typically thought of as mass builders, but they’re hard to beat for highlighting your triceps long head. Because it has to work hard to maintain your upper arm extended during this exercise, the long head of the triceps is particularly active.

Man performing Dumbbell Triceps Kickbacks

Light to moderate weights and medium to high reps are ideal for this workout. With heavy weights or few repetitions, it doesn’t work well. Kickbacks are a good finishing exercise if you want to get a good pump.

Seated Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extensions

The sitting dumbbell overhead triceps extension is a very efficient approach to target your triceps long head, provided you have the upper body mobility to do this exercise correctly and safely.

Man demonstrating how to do Seated Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extensions

This exercise is perfect for drop sets because it involves a dumbbell. Put a few dumbbells in a line at your feet, perform the reps until you reach failure, then pick up the smallest weight and repeat. To exhaust all of your muscle fibers, start out hard and keep going until you can hardly lift a dumbbell which is one-third of the weight you began with.

You can perform this exercise while standing, but be careful not to sag backward. And it’s always a good idea to keep your core engaged and your knees slightly bent in order to relieve the strain on your lower back.

Bentover Triceps Kick Back

As your arm will once again be in a retroversion posture with the arm pushed back past your back, the triceps kickback is a fantastic exercise to use for targeting the long head. The long head will be more activated as a result of this action alone, and you will also be adding elbow extension on top of that.

Man doing Bentover Triceps Kick Back at gym

The Bohler study demonstrated that kickbacks were the second-most successful exercise for the long head. Now, this translates to the fact that dumbbell kickback is the ideal isolation exercise for the long head.  

You should begin with light weights when doing the bent-over triceps kickback.  A little weight goes a long way because you are mechanically at a big disadvantage. Your torso should be just slightly above parallel when you stoop. 

Bend over and extend your arm as far as you can comfortably. Extend your elbow while keeping it still so that your arm is straight. Squeeze it a little before descending slowly.

Common Mistakes

When doing cable tricep kickbacks, try not to make these common mistakes. Keeping the below mentioned points in mind will help you keep your form clean and get the most out of the kickback for your triceps.

  • Use a weight that is light enough that you only have to move your forearm to move it.
  • Your forearm should be the only part of your body that moves. To avoid making common mistakes, keep the rest of your body still while you do the exercise. All of the mistakes have to do with using other parts of the body to help move the weight.
  • Keeping the upper arm and shoulder still and rigid allows the triceps to work best and do the most work. Shrugging at the top can add momentum.
  • Warm up with light  weight before doing heavy ones to keep your elbows from getting too stressed. As a general rule, you should always start with your weakest side. Most of the time, this will be the left side.

Take Away

Cable tricep kickbacks are a great way to work all three heads of the triceps. The exercise is simple, but it really helps build and strengthen your triceps. Just keep in mind that you shouldn’t lift more than you can do with good form. If you use too much weight, you might also round your back as you do the move. This will put unnecessary strain on your lower back. Try it out the next time you work out your triceps.


Rahul is a sports and performance consultant. Over the course of his 15-year career in the fitness sector, he has held positions as a strength and conditioning instructor, gym owner, and consultant. He is deeply committed to assisting people in finding happiness and feeling good about themselves. Rahul has a master's degree in exercise science and is a certified NSCA CSCS and CISSN.

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