The triceps are an often-neglected muscle group that sits in the back of the arm between the shoulder and the elbow. So many compound exercises will target your biceps and overall upper body. However, if you want to target your triceps, you have no choice but to include isolation exercises.
That means you’ll need dumbbells. If you have access to a gym, you can use whatever they have available. If not, deciding which dumbbell weights are right for you can be intimidating. With all the different brands, shapes, and sizes, you’ll want to be sure you’re making the right investment.
Different Motivations for Weightlifting
The first thing you’ll want to decide when choosing dumbbells is what your fitness goals are. If you want to train for muscle strength or size, you’ll need specific weights. If you want to train for muscle endurance, you may need different weights altogether.
For bodybuilders and modern-day “gym rats,” aesthetics is the main goal when going to the gym. This means that the focus is on visible growth rather than overall strength.
To accomplish this goal, you’ll need to lift differently than those lifting for strength or endurance.
In fact, you’ll want to push your muscles LESS than someone lifting for strength. This is because the more you break down your muscles, the larger they’ll get. This can be great for bodybuilders but not so great for those who want a leaner, more chiseled look.
To train for muscle growth, choose a dumbbell that you can lift between 8 and 12 repetitions without sacrificing your form. Since you’re relying more on isolation exercises for your triceps, start at a lighter 10 lb. dumbbell and work your way up from there.
Strength training means you don’t necessarily care whether or not your muscles grow in size. Your focus is building a stronger body and the ability to lift more and more weight over time.
For this, you’ll need a consistent combination of compound and isolation exercises. If you aren’t doing bench presses, push-ups, and dips, no amount of weighted triceps curls will get you the results you want.
Once you’ve included some compound exercises into your routine, it’s time to add those isolation exercises. Since you’re training for strength, you’ll want to choose a heavier weight, something you can handle for a maximum of 6 repetitions. If you’re a beginner, don’t be afraid to start with 15-20 lb. dumbbells and work your way up from there.
While size and strength are often the focus for men at the gym, these aren’t the only two options. The third option is lifting weights for muscle endurance. This means that, while your muscles don’t grow in size, they will be able to perform longer before becoming fatigued.
This, along with general strength training, is known as functional fitness and can benefit people of all ages. For this method, you’ll use the least amount of weight for the highest number of repetitions. When choosing your dumbbells, select a weight that allows you to do between 15 and 20 repetitions without sacrificing form.
If you’re a beginner, don’t be afraid to start with 5 lb. dumbbells. The goal is to fatigue your muscles over time without facilitating any kind of substantial growth.
There are 3 different muscles that make up the triceps:
- Long Head: the largest muscle that covers the majority of the area.
- Lateral Head: a smaller, thinner muscle that circles the side of the triceps.
- Medial Head: a small, supporting muscle that lies just under the Long Head muscle.
No matter what your fitness goals are, it’s best to start by building a strong foundation. If you have never targeted your triceps before, it’s unwise, to begin with more weight than you can handle. Jumping the gun and lifting too heavily can lead to muscle strain and even serious injuries.
A general rule of thumb is to use heavier weights for your compound exercises to strengthen the general area. Common compound exercises for triceps are dips, bench presses, and push-ups. Then, once you can confidently perform those, start adding isolation exercises like overhead triceps extensions and bodyweight triceps extensions.
If you aren’t sure where to start, there are plenty of resources for triceps exercises for beginners.
Shape and Size
Depending on your fitness goals, there are multiple different options when purchasing dumbbells. If your focus is on muscle endurance, you can get away with using lower weights. In that case, you will require fewer sets and should purchase fixed-weight dumbbells.
However, if your focus is strength and/or muscle growth, you will need a much greater variety of weights. In this case, it would be easier to buy an adjustable weight set that you can manipulate as needed.
Adjustable weight sets are generally far more expensive than fixed-weight dumbbells. However, they don’t take up nearly as much space, and you’ll only need to purchase 1 or 2 sets. Depending on your goals, an adjustable weight set can be a great investment.
The last thing to consider when choosing which dumbbells to buy is the level of intensity you want to reach when training. If your goal is for muscle growth or strength, you need to always be increasing resistance over time.
Every 2 to 3 weeks, check back in with your body to feel how hard or easy an exercise is. If the exercise is still strenuous, you’re on the right track. However, if it’s become easy and even pleasant, it’s time to move to heavier dumbbell.
For this reason, adjustable weight sets can be a better purchase if you want to incorporate weightlifting as a permanent lifestyle change.
The Right Dumbbell Weight for Triceps Training
No matter what results you want, always remember that the body you have now is the only one you’ll ever have. It must be treated with kindness and respect.
For that reason, the perfect dumbbell for training your triceps is simply the one that feels right. If it’s too light, you may not even feel like you’re exercising. If it’s too heavy, you might get discouraged and quit altogether. Find a weight that is challenging AND that doesn’t make you feel miserable, and you’ll reach your fitness goals in no time!