You can do plenty of exercises to target every major muscle in the body.
However, few are as effective, versatile, and fun as overhead tricep extensions. But what is that exercise, and what makes it so good?
Read on because we are breaking it all down for you today.
What Are Overhead Tricep Extensions
Overhead tricep extensions are an isolation exercise that primarily develops the triceps. The activity is highly versatile because you can perform it in a couple of ways (standing or seated) and use various types of resistance: dumbbells, kettlebells, straight or EZ bar, cable machine, resistance band, etc.
Aside from developing the triceps, overhead extensions work the shoulders to some degree because they engage to keep your arms in position.
How Overhead Tricep Extensions Differ From Other Tricep Exercises
One notable distinction between overhead extensions and other tricep isolation exercises is that the movement provides a significant stretch.
The long head of the triceps originates from the scapula, crosses the shoulder joint, and inserts into the elbow. Because of its anatomy, having your arm up lengthens the long head.
The advantage is that a superior stretch can lead to a more pronounced hypertrophic response, leading to more triceps growth.
This is probably also why you might experience more tricep soreness in the following days than if you do tricep kickbacks, rope cable extensions, diamond push-ups, and similar.
How to Perform Overhead Extensions (Step-by-Step)
- Grab a dumbbell and sit with good posture and legs close together. You can also stand for this exercise.
- Lift the dumbbell overhead with your elbow pointing forward and slightly to the side.
- Place your free hand on your hip or lift the arm to the side for balance.
- Bring your chest out, take a deep breath, and engage your abs.
- Slowly lower the weight behind your head until you feel a stretch in your tricep.
- Pause briefly and extend your arm fully as you exhale.
Some people find that placing themselves at a 45-degree incline (such as lying on an incline gym bench) leads to superior tricep activation. Test it to see if it works better than having your torso upright.
Safety and Final Tips
Despite being an isolation exercise done with a light weight to emphasize the triceps, the overhead extension can still pose some risks. Hence, it’s important to prepare before training and follow safety rules.
Most importantly, begin by warming up your body through some dynamic stretching and light tricep training. Do some arm swings, elbow rotations, and wrist twists to prepare your shoulders, elbows, and wrists for the workout. (1)
Then, proceed to some light tricep work to warm up the muscle. For example, you can use a light resistance band or dumbbell for some tricep extensions.
Once you’ve warmed up and feel ready, start with a light weight you can handle comfortably for at least 12 to 15 slow and controlled reps. As an isolation exercise, the objective with overhead extensions is to focus on the triceps. The only way to do that is to do the exercise with proper form. (2)
Using a heavy weight you can barely handle will only force other muscles to contribute, making the overhead extension less effective for the triceps.
Some more dumbbell workouts:
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- Elizabeth Quinn, M. S. (2020, March 13). Prevent injuries. Verywell Fit.
- Compound vs. isolation exercises: Benefits and differences. 8fit. (n.d.). https://8fit.com/fitness/compound-vs-isolation-exercises-benefits-and-differences/#:~:text=What%20are%20isolation%20exercises%3F,multiple%20muscle%20groups%20and%20joints.