5 Best Kettlebell Exercises For Bigger And/Or Stronger Triceps


Kettlebells are great. A single piece of equipment can provide you with enough exercise options for a full body and cardio workout. You still have to know how to use them to reach your goals though. How can you use kettlebells to train your triceps? 

Here are the five best kettlebell exercises to train your triceps;

1. Kettlebell Tate Press

My favorite triceps exercise you can do with a kettlebell is the Tate press. It’s easy to learn for almost anyone and there is very little possibility for mistakes. That makes it an excellent triceps exercise for beginners. And on top of that, it’s effective. 

Setup:

  • Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor. On the floor or on a bench is both OK. In case you’re on the floor, keep your knees bent. 
  • Put the kettlebell on your chest. 
  • Grab the sides of the kettlebell handle with both hands with your thumbs facing down. 
  • Flare out your elbows to the side. 

Exercise:

  • Push the kettlebell up until your elbows are almost locked out (not completely locked out). Focus on your triceps by thinking about pulling your elbows together. 
  • Hold the kettlebell at the top for a moment so it comes to a complete stop. Don’t throw the weight around without control. 
  • Slowly lower the kettlebell down until you touch your chest. Make sure to keep your elbows flared out. 

Tip: If you’ve got two kettlebells of the same (appropriate) weight, you can do the same exercise with two kettlebells as well.

2. Overhead Extension

The classic triceps exercise is the overhead extension. It’s a bit trickier to get right although once you get it, it’s not too difficult. Just be careful to not hit your head. 

Setup:

  • Grab a kettlebell with both ands and stand up straight (feet shoulder width apart) or sit on a bench with your back straight. 
  • Lift the kettlebell straight above your head. 

Exercise:

  • Let the weight go back behind your head by bending the elbows while keeping your elbows in the same place. Lower the weight in a controlled manner until your elbow is at a 90 degree angle. 
  • Push the kettlebell back up until the weight is straight above your head and the elbows are straight. 

This exercise can be done with two arms grasping the same kettlebell or with one kettlebell for one hand.

3. Tricep Kickback

The triceps kickback is an interesting exercise since the resistance curve is different than most other exercises. The weight feels heavier the closer you get to locking out the elbow. Most exercises Get a little easier the closer you get to locking out. Also, you use your triceps to move the weight behind your body against gravity. Most exercises are the other way around or they don’t have the range of motion to behind the body. 

The downside of the kickback is that you have to learn to properly hip hinge first. The squat or deadlift is a good way to learn this. 

That means the kickback is a great exercise to add on to your workout. Because it’s a little different than the most other tricep exercises, you’ll likely feel a pretty good burn after this. 

Setup:

  • Stand up straight with the feet shoulder width apart. 
  • Hinge at the hip until your body is at a little below a 45 degree angle to the floor. You can bend at the knees a little bit but only as much as you need. Make sure to keep your head, neck and back in line. 
  • Brace your core. 
  • Grab the kettlebell handle with one hand. 
  • Pull up the kettlebell until your elbow a little behind your body. Let your forearms hang down. You’ll end up with a roughly 90 degree angle in the elbow. 
  • You can place your empty hand on your knee for support if necessary. 

Exercise:

  • Lift the kettlebell up by extending your elbow until it’s straight. The kettlebell should end up higher than your body. 
  • Make sure to keep your elbow in the same location. Keep your arm close to your body. 
  • Squeeze the triceps at the top. Try to hold the weight still for a moment. 
  • Lower the kettlebell back down to the starting position. Lower the weight in a controlled manner. 

4. Skull Crusher

With a name like this, you might be a little worried. The names comes from the fact that you could hit your head with the weight if you’re not careful. However, this mostly applies if you use a barbell. With a kettlebell, it’s pretty easy to avoid. 

Setup:

  • Lay down on the floor or a bench with the feet flat on the floor. 
  • Grab one kettlebell with both hands, thumbs pointing down while the weighted end rests on your chest. 
  • Push up the kettlebell until your elbows are extended and arms are vertical. The weighted end should point towards your head.  

Exercise: 

  • Bend at the elbow and let the weight go behind your head until it almost touches the floor. 
  • Squeeze the triceps until the weight is back in the starting position. 

Tip: your elbows should stay in the same position as much as possible. However, to avoid hitting your head with the weight, you might have to change the angle of your upper arms a little bit. Find the right angle for your upper arms to clear your head and then keep your elbows in the same position. 

5. Kettlebell Bench Press

The bench press is one of the most popular exercises in any gym. To do a ‘real’ barbell bench press you need more equipment than a kettlebell but we can adapt the exercise as to make a similar movement with a kettlebell. 

The kettlebell bench press doesn’t only target the triceps but also the pecs. Unless you really want to isolate the triceps that’s not a bad thing. The triceps and pecs usually work together in daily life (any pushing movement) so training them together is a good thing. 

Setup:

  • Lay down on the floor. Keep a bend in the knees and foot flat on the floor.
  • Grab one kettlebell with both hands palms facing each other. 
  • Rest the kettlebell below the chest on the bottom of the rib cage. 

Exercise:

  • Push the kettlebell up until the elbows are extended and the kettlebell is over the chest. Squeeze both the triceps and pecs to do this. 
  • Slowly return to the starting position. Let the kettlebell touch your ribcage on every repetition but be careful not to slam it into your body. 

Do You Have To Do All 5 Exercises Every Time?

The exercises above are the best five in my opinion. They target the triceps and many surrounding muscles the best way that is beneficial for growth and athleticism. That doesn’t say anything about if you should do them and if you should do them all. 

Suggested: 5 Best Kettlebell Exercises For Biceps

The exercises in the list above are just options you can use in your workouts. Kettlebells are great for full body workouts and most people don’t use kettlebells to just train one muscle. If you want to focus on training your triceps specifically, adding one or two exercises from the list above to your routine will increase their strength, size and endurance over time. 

It’s not necessary to do all of these 5 exercises every workout to get stronger and/or bigger biceps. Adding one or two on top of your normal routine will be fine. If you want to do a dedicated triceps workout, 3 of the exercises above is probably enough, especially if you combine it with some bodyweight exercises like push-ups. 

Also, it’s good to keep some variety in reserve. Varying exercises every few months gives your muscles a stronger training impulse. That means by switching exercises in and out you can optimize your muscle and strength increases. So if you pick one tricep exercise to do every workout, in three months you can change it out for another one on the list. This way the muscles get trained in slightly different ways every time and which leads to your body getting stronger in different ways. 

Suggested: 5 Best Kettlebell Exercises For Big Arms

Also, exercise variety is good to keep workouts interesting. Doing exactly the same workout every time gets boring after a while and if working out gets boring, you’re less likely to adhere to a schedule. 

Image of woman doing a kettlebell overhead extension.

How To Optimize Your Kettlebell Workouts

Everyone has different reasons to work out. Some people want to look better, others want to become stronger to become better at a certain sport or just for everyday activities. Kettlebells are great tool to reach those different goals with a single piece of equipment. We all like to use our time as efficiently as possible though. So how can you get the most out of a kettlebell workout? 

There are a few things you can do to make your kettlebell workouts more efficient;

  • Consistency
  • Recovery
  • Diet
  • Rest periods
  • Supersets
  • Full body
Image of people doing kettlebell exercises

Consistency

The most important for anything fitness related is consistency. In the grand scheme of things, one good or bad workout doesn’t move the needle towards your goals a whole lot. Doing the right thing (working out) consistently x amount of times a week is what will get you there. Improving fitness, body composition and growing muscle is a slow process. 

Doing a single super good workout is great and makes you feel good but working out consistently is more important in the long run. That also means you shouldn’t beat yourself up too much if you have a bad day. It happens to everyone and there isn’t much you can do about it. Just feel good about the fact that you still did your workout even though you didn’t feel like it because that is the mindset you need to reach your fitness goals. 

Set a challenging but realistic workout schedule and stick to it. It should be challenging (for you) because that’s what will push your body to improve. However, it should at the same time be realistic to actually stick to it to the end. If you set unrealistic goals you are more likely to get demotivated when you notice you can’t reach them or keep up with the workout schedule.

Rest periods

Do you sit around for long periods of time between sets and exercises? Keeping your rest periods short is one of the best things you can do to make your kettlebell workouts more efficient. Short rest periods do a few things;

  • Make your workouts shorter: This is a pretty obvious benefit. By cutting the time between sets short your whole workout will take less time. 
  • Better conditioning and burn more fat: Shorter rest periods means your heart rate will recover less between sets. A higher heart rate generally means your conditioning will improve and it also burns more calories. Since kettlebell workout are usually already quite heavy on the cardiovascular system, this is a nice way to boost those benefits even further. 
  • Increases muscle growth and endurance: Shorter rest periods can improve the muscle growth (30-90 seconds rest) and endurance (30 seconds rest) benefits of your workout even if you don’t change anything else. 

If you want to train purely for strength, longer rest periods are better. That’s only if the weights are so heavy you can’t otherwise lift them though. 

Supersets

Another way to optimize your kettlebell workout is with supersets. As said before, kettlebell workouts are great because they target many muscles at the same time while also being great cardiovascular exercise. 

Keeping your rest periods short is one way to make the workout more efficient but supersets are another similar way to do this. 

A superset means you do two exercises immediately after each other without rest in between and rest after you finished both the sets. Then repeat the superset after resting. For example;

1 set KB swings ->No rest ->1 set high pulls ->Rest ->Repeat

If you want to focus more on muscle growth, picking two exercises that use the same muscle group is a good way. If you want to focus more on fat burning, pick two exercises that use different muscle groups. 

Full body

With kettlebells, one of the big benefits is that you can do a full body workout quite easily with a limited amount of exercises and just one piece of equipment. Doing a full body kettlebell workout 5 times a week is going to be more conducive to most peoples goals than training arms one day, legs the next day and so forth. 

Splitting up your workouts in body parts makes sense if you’re bodybuilding or are building strength specifically in certain body parts or for specific movements. However, for general fitness, daily strength and conditioning, full body workouts are the way to go in my opinion. By training your whole body many times a week, you stimulate the muscles multiple times a week while by doing a split, you might only target them once a week. 

And while you might not be able to target all your muscles as hard with a full body workout as with a split, the increased frequency more than makes up for it. For people that don’t live in the gym and don’t want to keep track of a very complicated workout routine with a different workout every day, full body is the way to go. 

Also, full body workouts are tougher on the cardiovascular system and burn more calories which plays into the strengths of kettlebell workouts and the fitness goals most people have. 

Recovery

Training is just one part of improving yourself. However, recovery is a very important part of the puzzle as well. Training breaks down your muscles and puts wear on your tendons. There is nothing wrong with that since your body fixes that damage quickly and repairs it in a way that is stronger. This is what creates bigger, stronger muscles. 

Eating healthy and sleeping right is important for getting the best workout results.

However, it’s necessary to give your body the time and recourses to recover properly. That means getting enough sleep and eating well (the right amount of calories with a lot of nutrients) but also things like massages, foam rolling, sauna. Sleeping and eating right is by far the most important but the latter things can give you a little boost if necessary. 

Of course the harder you train, the longer it takes to recover. If you’ve ever been sore for many days after intense exercise, that means your body isn’t fully recovered yet. Improving recovery plays a big role in this but also creating a proper workout schedule that doesn’t push you too far too often. Getting the balance right between training and recovery is what allows you to work out consistently for a long time. 

Diet

It’s already mentioned above but diet is very important. It’s important both for short term recovery and to reach your long term goals. 

The right amount of calories is the most important basic thing to get right. Calculate how many calories you roughly need in a day. Next, get a myfitnesspal account and put in what you eat. If you want to gain weight, eat up to 500 calories more than you need, and if you want to lose weight, eat up to 500 calories less than you need. 

Try to get enough protein while working out since proteins are the building blocks of muscle. You need protein not only to grow muscle but also to maintain it while working out. About 0.6-0.8 gram per pound of body weight is a good target. 

Other than that, make sure to get mostly healthy food with enough micronutrients. Heavily processed foods are generally better to avoid. 

Matt

Hey, I'm Matt. Welcome to HomeGymResource.com. I've been going to the gym for about 15 years and am now looking to build my own. In the process I've learned many things I'd like to share with you.

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