It’s a great triceps workout that requires a cable pulley machine with a rope attachment, EZ bar, or straight bar.
Many people focus solely on traditional tricep exercises, such as the pushdown, skull crusher but the cable tricep extension offers a unique and highly effective way to target your tricep from a different angle.
If you’re not already doing cable tricep extension, you’re missing out on some serious gains. The cable provides a unique training stimulus that many other tricep exercises don’t offer. This can help you build a bigger, stronger tricep.
We will explore the following in this blog:
- What is Cable Tricep Extension
- Muscles Worked
- How To Do
- Mistake To Be Avoided
- Best Cable Tricep Extension Variations
- Set, Reps And Frequency
- How To Into Your Workout Routine
- Frequently Asked Question
- What is Cable Tricep Extension
- Cable Tricep Extension Muscles Worked
- How To Do Cable Overhead Tricep Extension
- Mistake To Be Avoided While Doing Cable Tricep Extension
- 1. Wrist Positioning
- 2. Not Focusing On All Three Heads
- 3. Elbow Flaring Out
- 4. Excessive Elbow Movement
- 5. Too Much Weight
- 6. Incomplete Range Of Motion
- 7. Rest And Recover
- 8. Straining your Back
- 5 Best Cable Tricep Extension Variations
- 1. High Pulley Cable Overhead Extension
- 2. One Arm Cable Overhead Extensions
- 3. Cable Concentration Triceps Extension
- 4. Cable Lying Triceps Extension
- 5. Incline Cable Triceps Extension
- Benefits Of Cable Tricep Extension
- Set, Reps And Frequency For Cable Tricep Extension
- How To Add Cable Tricep Extension Into Your Workout Routine
- 1. Tricep Focused Workout Routine
- 2. Upper Body Workout Routine
- 3. Full Body Strength And Stability Routine
- Best Alternative Of Cable Tricep Extension
- Cable Tricep Extension vs Pushdown
- Cable Tricep Extension
- Key differences between the two exercises:
- Frequently Asked Question
- Are cables better for triceps?
- Are overhead cable tricep extensions good?
- Best Cable Tricep Exercises For Strong And Defined Arms
What is Cable Tricep Extension
A cable tricep extension is a movement in which the tricep is targeted for strength and hypertrophy through extension of the elbow. Tricep cable extension can be done using one arm at a time or both arms simultaneously using a cable machine set up.
There are different ways to do a single arm tricep extension to build a bigger and stronger tricep.
- Overhead Cable Tricep Extension
- One Arm Cable Extension
- Reverse Grip Cable Extension
- Lying Cable Tricep Extension
- Single Arm Tricep Extension
- Rope Tricep Extension, and others.
Cable tricep extension can be performed in either a seated, kneeling or standing position, although there are also other variations that we will discuss.
Cable Tricep Extension Muscles Worked
The cable 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 cable extension is your triceps.
There are a variety of secondary muscle groups that activate during cable tricep extension are biceps, forearms, lats, abs (rectus abdominis), obliques, pecs, and traps (trapezius). These secondary muscles engage to stabilize and support the pushdown motion.
How To Do Cable Overhead Tricep Extension
Cable overhead triceps extensions are another great exercise for your tricep cable extension workout. Overhead Cable 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.
- Attach a rope to the bottom pulley of the cable machine and face away from the pulley.
- Hold the rope with both hands with palms facing each other (neutral grip), extend your arms until your hands are directly above your head.
- 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.
- 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.
- Slowly return to the starting position and repeat the desired number of sets and reps.
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Mistake To Be Avoided While Doing Cable Tricep Extension
It is crucial to know the mistakes made by athletes and weight lifters while performing cable tricep extensions. It will help you gain a better perspective on your form.
1. Wrist Positioning
As long as your elbows are extended, you need not move your wrists in any direction. A neutral wrist position is favourable and recommended.
2. Not Focusing On All Three Heads
Training all three parts of the triceps is absolutely pivotal to overall arm progression. Developing all three heads will give your arm a more symmetrical, aesthetic and proportional appearance.
3. Elbow Flaring Out
People tend to flare their elbows outwards. This can put unnecessary stress on the shoulder as well as the chest muscles.
4. 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.
5. Too Much Weight
Adding more weight than required might not be a good idea. Overdoing this exercise can strain your muscles, making them sore and may cause injury.
6. Incomplete Range Of Motion
It is important to fully extend your elbows at the bottom. Feel the deep stretch at the top and the hard contraction at the bottom.
7. Rest And Recover
Incorporate proper rest, and nutrition into your exercise program. Rest for 24 to 48 hours before training the same muscle groups to allow sufficient recovery.
8. Straining your Back
Always remember that this is a tricep workout and not back training. Do not bend your back while pushing down the weights.
5 Best Cable Tricep Extension Variations
Here are 5 different ways to do cable triceps extensions. It’s a good idea to change up these variables throughout your training to keep your muscles guessing.
1. High Pulley Cable Overhead Extension
Cable High Pulley Overhead Extension is one of the best two-arm tricep cable extension exercises that you can do during your upper body workout.
This is the more advanced exercise works not only your triceps, but also your torso, legs, and shoulders in fixing your body in position.
Using the cable allows your triceps to be exercised under tension throughout the entire range of motion (ROM).
How To Do Cable High Pulley Overhead Extension
- Attach a rope to a cable stack as high as possible and assume a standing position.
- Utilize a split stance, grasp the rope overhead with a neutral grip (palms facing), and lean forward by hinging at the hips.
- Initiate the movement by extending the elbows and flexing the triceps.
- Pull the rope downward until the elbows are almost locked out.
- Then slowly lower under control back to the starting position.
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions
- Don’t allow the rope to pull you backwards or cause you to overarch throughout your lumbar spine.
- You may need to tuck your chin slightly to allow the rope to travel overhead and not graze the back of your head.
2. One Arm Cable Overhead Extensions
When doing a tricep extension workout with a cable machine, there are plenty of single-arm exercises you can add 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.
How To Do One Arm Cable Overhead Extensions
- 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.
- Turn away from the pulley, lean a little forward, stagger your feet for balance, and lower your hand behind your back.
- Your elbow should be raised high, the cable should be pulled taut, and you should be feeling a stretch in your triceps brachii.
- Keeping your elbow close to your head, exhale as you raise the stirrup over your head by extending your elbow.
- Inhale as you flex your elbow to lower the stirrup towards the starting position until you feel a mild stretch in your triceps brachii.
- Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions. Repeat the exercise with your opposite arm.
- Keep your body and upper arm still. Only your forearm should move.
- Keep your elbow close to your head.
3. Cable Concentration Triceps Extension
If you’re looking for a way to get more creative with your cable extension exercises, why not try cable concentration triceps extension?
It is a unilateral exercise (i.e., an exercise with which you train one side of your body at a time). As with all unilateral exercises, start with your weak side. To promote equal strength on both sides, do not perform more repetitions with your strong side.
Make sure that you kneel in such a place and position to ensure optimal resistance throughout the exercise’s full range of motion.
How To Do Cable Concentration Triceps Extension
- Attach a stirrup handle to a cable pulley and adjust the pulley up high.
- Kneeling on your left knee (with the left side of your body turned towards the machine), keep your right bent and the upper portion of your thigh parallel to the floor.
- With your right elbow and upper arm pressed against your inner thigh just above your knee, pull the cable down towards the floor in a slight arcing motion.
- Slowly to return to the starting position. Repeat and switch arms.
- If you want to keep more tension in the triceps, don’t lock the elbows entirely.
- Keep your back straight and your upper arm fixed against the inside of your thigh.
4. Cable Lying Triceps Extension
Cable Lying Triceps Extension is a perfect variation of regular skull crushers done with the bar. The lying tricep extension primarily works the triceps brachii with an emphasis on the long head of the tricep.
This cable version will create constant tension on your triceps and will help you in improving your mind and muscle connection.
How To Do Cable Lying Triceps Extension
- Attach a bar at the lower end of the cable machine and place a bench in front of the cable machine.
- Lay down on the bench and hold a bar with on overhand grip.
- Your elbow should face up, and your arms should be at a 90° angle. This will be your starting position.
- Move the bar down until the bar reaches below your head. Keep your elbows tucked in.
- Press the bar up by squeezing your triceps and extend full at the top.
- Do not lock your elbows out, and repeat for desired reps.
- This exercise should be done slowly and carefully under good control.
- You can also do this with ropes. That will target your lateral head more than the long head.
5. Incline Cable Triceps Extension
Finally, if you’re looking for one more effective tricep extension exercise, try the incline tricep extension.
One of the best exercises for drawing and pumping triceps is the extension of the hands due to the overhead extensions.
Triceps extensions can be beneficial for fixing imbalances in the triceps or rehabilitating from injury. It puts no pressure on the wrists, so they are an alternative for people with wrist strain or injury.
How To Do Incline Cable Triceps Extension
- Attach the rope handle to the lower block, grasp it with your hands, sit on the bench with your back.
- Bend your hands at the elbows, so that the ends of the handle are located behind your head.
- Slowly straighten your arms, keep your elbows in a fixed position.
- At the final point, prolong the peak contraction, withstood a short pause.
- Return to the starting position.
- Concentrate on keeping your elbows stable.
- Do not allow your elbows to flare out to the sides.
- Slowly lower the weights and do not use momentum.
Benefits Of Cable Tricep Extension
The cable tricep extension exercises offer an effective way to train the triceps, let’s have a look at some other benefits of cable tricep extension.
- Depending on the pulley attachment, cable tricep extensions build grip strength as you can maintain an overhand grip or a neutral grip throughout the pulldown, activating muscles in your hands and forearms.
- The main benefit of the triceps extension is the hypertrophy of the triceps that comes with the motion. Unlike other triceps exercises, the triceps extension activates all three heads of the triceps, which means that your entire triceps will become stronger through this exercise.
- The cable triceps extension offers almost unmatched versatility because you can change up the load, angle, grip positioning and body positioning easily.
- The Cable tricep extension is an ideal exercise for all athletes, bodybuilders, or anyone attempting to build arm strength. Whether you are throwing a ball, lifting heavy objects at work, or simply want to boost the aesthetic appeal of your arms.
- Strong triceps help with shoulder stability and improve your range of motion.
- Cable tricep exercise variation on the overhand keeps constant pressure on the triceps, increasing time under tension, helping to work the muscle harder and stimulate growth.
Set, Reps And Frequency For Cable Tricep Extension
The number of reps you should do depends on your goals, whether they are to increase strength or build muscle mass and endurance.
- For muscle growth, it is best to do for around 6–12 reps per set.
- For strength, around 3–8 reps per set are recommended.
- Muscle Endurance, do 15-20+ reps per set.
Here are some general guidelines for the single arm cable tricep extension exercise, including sets, reps, and frequency, in order to enhance muscle mass
|Beginner||2-3||8-12||1-2 times per week|
|Intermediate||3-4||8-12||2-3 times per week|
|Advanced||4-5||8-15||2-3 times per week|
How To Add Cable Tricep Extension Into Your Workout Routine
They can be incorporated into your workout routine in a variety of ways. Here are some options:
- As a standalone exercise: Do on 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.
- As part of a tricep workout: Do them along with other tricep exercises.
- As part of a full-body workout: Do them with other compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses.
1. Tricep Focused Workout Routine
|Reverse-Grip Triceps Pushdown||3-4||10-12|
|Single Arm Overhead Extension||3||8-10|
2. Upper Body Workout Routine
|Dumbbell Bench Press||3||8-10|
|Seated Cable Rows||3||12-15|
|One Arm Cable Tricep Extension||3||10-12|
3. Full Body Strength And Stability Routine
|Incline Cable Extension||3||12-15|
|Incline Dumbbell Curl||3||8-10|
Best Alternative Of Cable Tricep Extension
- Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extension
- Cable Tricep Kickback
- Barbell Skull Crusher
- Tricep Kickback
- Barbell Overhead Tricep Press
- Dumbbell Tricep Extension
- Cable Tricep Pushdown
- Barbell Close-Grip Bench Press
Cable Tricep Extension vs Pushdown
The cable tricep extension and the tricep pushdown are two exercises that target the triceps. Both exercises are effective for building muscle and strength in the triceps, but they have some key differences.
Cable Tricep Extension
Cable tricep extension targets all three heads of the triceps (lateral head, long head, and medial head), with a particular focus on the long head due to the overhead position of the arms during the movement.
Cable tricep extension is performed by attaching a rope to a low or high pulley on a cable machine.
Grasp the rope or handle with an overhand grip, elbows bent. Take a few steps from the cable machine and turn to face away from it and push the rope forward.
Pushdown primarily targets the lateral head of the triceps, with some involvement of the medial head and long head.
Pushdown is also performed on a cable machine, but it involves a bar attachment. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip, elbows bent at 90 degrees, and pushing the bar downward.
Key differences between the two exercises:
Range of Motion
- Cable tricep extension allows for a greater range of motion, as the arms are raised overhead, targeting the long head more effectively.
- Pushdown, on the other hand, has a more limited range of motion, focusing on the lateral head.
- Cable tricep extension often uses a rope attachment, which allows for a natural rotation of the wrists.
- Pushdown uses a straight bar attachment, which keeps the wrists fixed in a straight position.
- In cable tricep extension, the arms are elevated overhead, while in pushdown, the arms are at your sides.
Frequently Asked Question
Are cables better for triceps?
The cable triceps exercises offer an effective way to train the triceps, let’s have a look at some other benefits of triceps exercises with a cable machine. Triceps cable exercises are more evenly distributed, and you have more of a constant load on your shoulder muscles throughout the whole range of motion.
Are overhead cable tricep extensions good?
Yes, overhead tricep extensions are an excellent way to target all three heads, and a great exercise to add to your fitness routine. I also recommend including Cable Lying Triceps Extension into your routine.
The cable setup gives your muscles almost uninterrupted time under tension, and a huge pump — each of which can help optimize muscle growth.
The cable triceps 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.
Try out the different variations as well to see which one works best for you, or include them all for variety in your training.
If done consistently, the results will speak by themselves.
Thanks for reading, enjoy!
- American Council on Exercise: ACE Study Identifies Best Triceps Exercises (source)
- The different role of each head of the triceps brachii muscle in elbow extension
- Tiwana MS, Sinkler MA, Bordoni B. Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Triceps Muscle. [Updated 2021 Aug 6]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK536996/
- Kholinne, E., Zulkarnain, R. F., Sun, Y. C., Lim, S., Chun, J. M., & Jeon, I. H. (2018). The different role of each head of the triceps brachii muscle in elbow extension. Acta orthopaedica et traumatologica turcica, 52(3), 201–205. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aott.2018.02.005
Best Cable Tricep Exercises For Strong And Defined Arms
Manish brings over 10 years of hands-on experience in weight lifting and fat loss to fitness coaching. He specializes in gym-based training and has a lot of knowledge about exercise, lifting technique, biomechanics, and more.
Through “Fit Life Regime,” he generously shares the insights he’s gained over a decade in the field. His goal is to equip others with the knowledge to start their own fitness journey.