Are Tricep Kickbacks Useless?

August 25, 2022 0 Comments

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In this article I will be answering the question “are tricep kickbacks useless?”. Tricep kickbacks are a controversial exercise and divides opinion in the lifting community.

Many people believe the exercise is completely useless and a waste of time. Others believe there is some utility in this exercise. I will be exploring this topic in detail and sharing my thoughts!

Are Tricep Kickbacks Useless?

Overall, tricep kickbacks are not useless. They can serve a good purpose in terms of getting more out of less weight and isolating the triceps. You can get a great pump with this exercise and build up the triceps.

However, tricep kickbacks are not the best exercise that you can pick as an isolation exercise. There are far more effective exercises that will add more mass to your triceps such as pushdowns and extensions. 

Tricep kickbacks are best used as a finisher movement at the end of your workout to exhaust the muscle and leave with a fantastic pump. There is a strict variation of this exercise used by Matt Wenning which is effective in muscle hypertrophy. 

Not The Most Effective For Hypertrophy

Tricep kickbacks are not the most effective tricep exercise for hypertrophy. The most effective tricep movements for adding mass to the triceps would be compound exercises like close grip bench presses, weighted dips and weighted push ups.

In terms of isolation exercises, pushdowns and tricep extensions are more effective. They involve heavier weights than tricep kickbacks and put more stress on the triceps. 

The overhead tricep extension can hit the long head really well, pushdowns can be done with various attachments to add serious meat onto the triceps.

Tricep kickbacks don’t involve using a lot of weight and are better used to pump blood into the muscles. They hit the upper triceps more and emphasise the peak contraction.

There is a good article from fitstop24 showing lots of variations of the tricep kickback. You can read it here

Better As A Finisher

As I mentioned, tricep kickbacks are best served as a finishing move at the end of your workout to really fatigue your triceps and get a serious pump. This is what the exercise is designed to do. 

If you perform this exercise at the start of your workout, you will fatigue the triceps a lot more and this will negatively affect consequent exercises that involve the triceps with heavier loads.

For example, it wouldn’t be the best idea to perform heavy close grip bench presses directly after fatiguing the triceps with high reps of kickbacks. 

Not The Best Use Of Time

One of the big black marks against tricep kickbacks is that they aren’t the best use of time. If you are doing a shorter workout and want to be get the best bang for your buck, you wouldn’t include tricep kickbacks.

Simply put, it would be a waste of time that would be better served doing a different isolation exercise that would induce more hypertrophy and strength gains in the triceps.

If you are doing a bro split like a bodybuilder and are doing a dedicated tricep workout, then it could be a good idea to include kickbacks in at the end to finish the muscle off. 

Cable Kickbacks

Tricep kickbacks using cables are slightly better overall than dumbbell tricep kickbacks. This is because with cables you can get constant tension on the muscle throughout the range of motion.

You will get a serious pump from this exercise, I would recommend giving this a try when you can at the end of a workout.

You should grab the pulley on the cable machine without any attachment on it. Lean over at the waist and perform your reps with constant tension on the triceps.

cable kickbacks

Effective Dumbbell Kickback Variation

A really effective tricep kickback variation is one that Matt Wenning demonstrates in the video below. It involves resting your chest on an incline bench, bringing your elbows back and doing strict kickbacks from here.

As Matt says in the video, he can bench press 600lbs but even using 15lb dumbbells feels fairly heavy for him in this exercise. The key in bodybuilding is to put the muscle under tension.

Sometimes you can get more out of less weight by focusing on putting the muscle under tension. You can do this through tempo training or by being very strict and deliberate with each rep.

This way you can focus only on working the muscle and not cheating by bringing in other muscle groups to aid with the exercise.

Final Thoughts

Are tricep kickbacks useless? After examining this topic it is clear that they are not useless. There are better isolation exercises out there for the triceps, but it is possible to hypertrophy the triceps through this exercise by performing it strict and under tension.

Tricep kickbacks are best used as a finishing movement to end your workouts. The idea is to pump a lot of blood into the muscles and really humble your triceps. A lot of people probably feel that this exercise is useless as you are using very light weight.

However, when it comes to bodybuilding, it is possible to get good results using light weight by focusing more on putting the muscle under tension and not cheating by bringing in other muscles.

If you are short on time in your workout or want to workout as efficiently as possible, then this exercise shouldn’t be included. There are simply better isolation exercises like pushdowns and extensions that would give you a better bang for your buck.

I would recommend the variation that Matt Wenning demonstrates in his video using the incline bench. I would also rotate it with cable kickbacks every once in a while. Overall, I would use tricep kickbacks as an exercise to hit the triceps from a different angle and keep things fresh.

If you have anything to say on this topic please leave them in the comments below. As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

>> RELATED: Tricep pushdown – why it is so great

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