Overhead Tricep Extension: How To, Variations & Benefits

The overhead tricep extension is an isolation exercise that works the muscle on the back of the upper arm, known as the triceps.

Triceps brachii, or simply Triceps is a three-headed muscle opposite of the biceps and is responsible for 2/3 of upper arm mass. It consists of 3 head : the medial, the lateral, and the long head.

Big Triceps make the arms look big, contrary to the popularity of big biceps, which are smaller in comparison. So it’s essential to focus on and work the three tricep head muscles for maximum gains.

The Overhead tricep extension is a versatile movement that targets your tricep muscles by repetitively flexing the elbow joint against resistance. To give your triceps a workout, try out the exercises below.

You can do the triceps overhead extension standing, sitting or lying down, and either flat or on an incline/decline. You can also do it with different types of weight, like cable, rope, Dumbbells, barbells or an EZ-bar.

Overhead tricep extension

Muscles Worked During the Overhead Tricep Extension

The overhead tricep extension is an isolation exercise rather than a compound motion. This makes it a great exercise for targeting your triceps.

The primary muscle group worked by the tricep extension is your Triceps.

There are a variety of secondary muscle groups that activates during overhead tricep extension are biceps, forearms, lats, abs (rectus abdominis), obliques, pecs, and traps (trapezius). These secondary muscles engage to stabilize and support the motion.

How To Do Overhead Tricep Extensions

The most common way to perform this exercise is using a dumbbell (or kettlebell) while standing or sitting. But can also do the same with cable and barbell to add the variations in it.

Depending on what type of weight you use (dumbbell, cable, barbell, etc.), sometimes the most difficult part is getting the weight into position. Use a weight that allows you to get to the starting position safely.

For overhead tricep extensions, begin by using a weight that you can control for 3–4 sets of 8–12 repetitions. Choose a weight that allows you to maintain good technique throughout all sets and repetitions.

Hold the weight overhead. Slowly bend your elbows and lower the weight behind your head as far as you can. The weight should follow the path of your spine.

Then, at the lowest point, straighten your elbows and extend the weight back overhead. Hold the fully extended position for a moment, then repeat.

Keep the speed of movement relatively slow, and avoid momentum to focus on your form.

Overhead Tricep Extension With Proper Form

It is crucial to know the mistakes made by athletes and weight lifters while performing overhead tricep extensions. It will help you gain a better perspective about your form.

Elbow Flaring Out

During a downward push, people tend to flare their elbows outwards. This can put unnecessary stress on the shoulder as well as the chest muscles.

Excessive Elbow Movement

Many people let their elbows sway back and forward during the movement. While you can technically lift more weight using this momentum, you are actually using your lats to complete the exercise.

Too Much Weight

Adding more weights than required might not be a good idea. Overdoing this exercise can strain your muscles, making them sore, and may cause injury.

Overhead Triceps Extension Variations

You can perform the triceps extension in several positions. As mentioned before, you can do this exercise sitting and standing by using any type of weight. You can do the overhead tricep extension with both arm and single arm as well.

The exercise can also be done by substituting a cable machine. Be sure to adjust the height of the cable pulley, so it doesn’t have to travel as far to get to the overhead position.

Here are the best Overhead tricep extension exercises that help you to build stronger and bigger triceps.

1. Cable Overhead Triceps Extension

The overhead rope tricep extension is a variation of the tricep extension and an exercise used to build the muscles of the triceps.

Overhead tricep extension variations are especially good at targeting the long head of the triceps. The denser your long head muscle is, the overall larger the triceps appear.

Cable overhead triceps extension
Execution Technique
  1. Attach a rope to the bottom pulley of the cable machine and face away from the pulley.
  2. Hold the rope with both hands with palms facing each other (neutral grip), extend your arms until your hands are directly above your head.
  3. Your elbows should be in close to your head and the arms should be perpendicular to the floor with the knuckles pointing to the ceiling.
  4. Slowly lower the rope behind your head as you hold the upper arms stationary. Inhale as you perform this movement and pause when your triceps are fully stretched.
  5. Slowly return to starting position and repeat the desired number of sets and reps.
Tips
  • Never load up to where you cannot maintain a stable body position. This is an isolation exercise that does not require maximum loads.
  • Keep your arms close to your head for maximum triceps engagement.
  • Perform the exercise using a slow and controlled movement from start to finish.

2. Cable High Pulley Overhead Extension

The overhead rope tricep extension is a variation of the rope tricep extension and an exercise used to build the muscles of the triceps.

Overhead tricep extension variations are especially good at targeting the long head of the triceps. The denser your long head muscle is, the overall larger the triceps appear.

Cable High Pulley Overhead Extension
Execution Technique
  1. Attach a rope to a cable stack as high as possible and assume a standing position.
  2. Utilize a split stance, grasp the rope overhead with a neutral grip (palms facing), and lean forward by hinging at the hips.
  3. Initiate the movement by extending the elbows and flexing the triceps.
  4. Pull the rope downward until the elbows are almost locked out, and then slowly lower under control back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions
Tips
  • Don’t allow the rope to pull you backwards or cause you to overarch throughout your lumbar spine.
  • You may need to tuck the chin slightly to allow the rope to travel overhead and not graze the back of your head.

3. One Arm Cable Overhead Extensions

When doing an overhead tricep extension with a cable machine, then you must add single-arm exercise to correct potential imbalances.

You can use this exercise to target each side of the triceps separately. This will balance the strength of each arm and will give you an asymmetrical look. This exercise can be done standing or seated.

One-arm Cable Overhead Extensions
Execution Technique
  1. Attach a stirrup (handle) to a cable pulley that is a little lower than chest high. Grasp the stirrup with one hand and press it up, over your head.
  2. Turn away from the pulley, lean a little forward, stagger your feet for balance, and lower your hand behind your back.
  3. Your elbow should be raised high, the cable should be pulled taut, and you should be feeling a stretch in your triceps brachii.
  4. Keeping your elbow close to your head, exhale as you raise the stirrup over your head by extending your elbow.
  5. Inhale as you flex your elbow to lower the stirrup towards the starting position until you feel a mild stretch in your triceps brachii.
  6. Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions. Repeat the exercise with your opposite arm.
Tips
  • Keep your body and upper arm still. Only your forearm should move.
  • Keep your elbow close to your head.

4. One-Arm Overhead Dumbbell Triceps Extension

The dumbbell overhead triceps extension is a single-joint exercise that targets the triceps while increasing stability throughout the core and the shoulder regions.

By using dumbbells instead of an EZ-bar for the overhead extension you work each arm separately and ensure one stronger side isn’t carrying the weaker one, but it’s also worth doing the exercise with one arm at a time. This lets you focus on perfect form in that one arm and allows for a greater range of motion.

One-Arm Overhead Dumbbell Triceps Extension
Execution Technique
  1. Stand shoulder width apart and lift a dumbbell overhead with your right hand.
  2. Hold it straight overhead with an overhand grip (palm facing forward).
  3. Keeping your upper arm right beside your head, lower the dumbbell behind your head and toward your left shoulder until your elbow forms a 90-degree angle.
  4. Then slowly lift it back to full arm extension. Repeat for as many reps and sets as desired.
Tips
  • The chin should remain parallel to the floor and the core should brace during the exercise.
  • Keep your upper arms as still as possible, allowing your forearms to drive the movement.

5. Two Arm Dumbbell Extension

The seated dumbbell tricep overhead extension is a variation of the tricep extension and an exercise used to isolate the muscles of the triceps.

Overhead extension exercises are particularly useful in targeting the long head of the triceps muscle. Having a larger and denser long head will give you an overall appearance of a larger tricep.

Two Arm Dumbbell Extension
Execution Technique
  1. Sit on a flat bench, grab a dumbbell with both hands
  2. Lift the dumbbell until your arms are fully extended with palms facing the roof and elbows pointing forward.
  3. Bend at the elbows and squeeze your triceps, slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head.
  4. Slowly return to starting position and repeat the desired number of sets and reps.
Tips
  • Perform the exercise using a slow and controlled movement from start to finish.
  • Keep the head in a fairly neutral position, don’t allow the neck to jut forward, as this may place excessive pressure on the cervical spine.

6. Incline Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extension

The incline dumbbell overhead tricep extension is an isolation exercise that builds muscle and strength in all three tricep heads. It can be used by both those looking to build bigger triceps and those looking to increase their tricep strength.

The benefit of doing extension movements is that you can get a deeper stretch in the muscle to hopefully activate more muscle fibers.

Incline Dumbbell Tricep Extension
Execution Technique
  1. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and lie against an incline bench, face up, with your feet firmly planted on the floor.
  2. Extend your arms over your shoulders with your palms facing each other, and then slowly lower the dumbbells behind your head by bending your elbows.
  3. Hold this position for a count and then with a controlled motion raise your arms back up to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for as many reps and sets as desired.
Tips
  • Keep your upper arms fixed, with your elbows close to your head.
  • Do not use excessively heavyweight as this is dangerous for your elbows.

7. Overhead Barbell Triceps Extension

The overhead triceps extension or the triceps press is a relatively simple yet effective exercise for the development of the triceps. The overhead triceps extension works all three heads of the muscle, it especially targets the long head of the triceps.

Overhead Barbell Triceps Extension
Execution Technique
  1. Sit on a low-back bench and extend a barbell overhead, holding it with a shoulder-width grip.
  2. Keep your upper arms right beside your head.
  3. Slowly lower the bar behind your head until your elbows form 90-degree angles, then lift it back to full arm extension.
  4. Repeat for as many reps and sets as desired.
Tips
  • Keep your body and upper arms still. Only your forearms should move.
  • Using the EZ bar instead of a standard barbell can be easier on your wrists.

8. Resistance Band Overhead Tricep Extensions

Resistance Band tricep overhead extensions are an upper body exercise that focuses mainly on the triceps.

Tricep extensions with the resistance band help to isolate the tricep muscle and avoid cheating with different areas of the body.

You can perform resistance band tricep extensions at home, at the gym.

Resistance Band Tricep Extensions
Execution Technique
  1. Secure the band with an object, or place one foot in the middle of the band to secure it to the floor.
  2. Hold both handles, Bring your hands behind your head.
  3. Your elbows should be pointing forwards on either side of your head. Keeping your elbows as close to your head as possible, extend your arms to raise your hands, stopping just before your elbows lock out.
  4. Shorten the length of the band between your foot and hand if there’s not enough resistance. Bring back down and repeat.
Tips
  • Keep your upper arms as still as possible, allowing your forearms to drive the movement.
  • The chin should remain parallel to the floor and the core should brace during the exercise.

Takeaway

The overhead tricep extension is a fantastic isolation exercise. It’s the perfect option to include in your triceps workouts, and you’ll definitely see a difference in your muscular development.

It’s also a great way to work on stability in the shoulders and core. This helps minimize your risk of injury.

Try out the different variations as well to see which one works best for you, or include them all for variety in your training.

How To PROPERLY Overhead Dumbbell Tricep Extension

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