Overhead Cable Tricep Extension: Muscles Worked, Form and Alternatives

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

This exercise requires a cable machine, a tricep rope attachment. The overhead position and resistance from the cable isolate the triceps and challenge them to work through the full range of motion.

In this article, we will go over the steps for properly performing the overhead cable tricep extension, as well as tips for maximizing results and variations of the exercise.

Know About Tricep Muscles

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 heads : the medial head, the lateral head and the long head.

Big Triceps make the arms look big, contrary to the popularity of big biceps, which are smaller in comparison.

Strengthening the tricep muscle can improve overall arm definition and functional strength, making it a crucial part of any upper body workout.

medial, lateral, and the long head of tricep

What Is Overhead Cable Extension Exercise

  • Also, Known As: Overhead cable pull, overhead rope press, overhead tricep pull
  • Main Muscles: Triceps
  • Exercise Type: Strength
  • Exercise Mechanics: Isolation
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner
  • Equipment Needed: Cable column, rope attachment

The overhead cable extension, often referred to as the cable overhead triceps extension or simply cable triceps extension, is an exercise targeting the triceps muscles.

This exercise is typically done using a cable machine, which provides consistent resistance throughout the movement.

It is also a versatile exercise that can be modified to target different areas of the triceps. Also, the overhead cable extension is a low-impact exercise, so it’s a good choice for people with joint pain.

Overhead Cable Tricep Extension
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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 activate during overhead cable extension pull are biceps, forearms, lats, abs (rectus abdominis), obliques, and traps (trapezius).

These secondary muscles engage to stabilize and support the motion.

How To Do Straight Bar Overhead Cable Tricep Extension

The straight overhead cable Tricep Extension involves extending the arms straight overhead using a cable machine and straight bar attachment.

By keeping the arms straight throughout the entire movement, this exercise targets the triceps.

This causes the triceps to be put under more tension and increases the isolation of the muscle.

Straight Bar Overhead Cable Tricep Extension

To perform the straight bar overhead cable tricep extension:

  1. Stand face away from the cable machine and attach a tricep rope to the low pulley.
  2. Grasp the rope with both hands, keeping your arms straight and close together.
  3. Keeping your elbows locked, extend your arms straight overhead, contracting your triceps.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for the desired reps.

Reps And Sets

  • Endurance training: 12–20 reps, 2–3 sets
  • Hypertrophy training: 8-12 reps, 3-4
  • Strength training: 4-8 reps, 4-6
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Tips and Technique For Doing Cable Overhead Extension

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

1. Avoid 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.

2. Avoid 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.

3. Don’t Use 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.

4. Avoid Swinging The Weight

Focus on using controlled, deliberate movements to curl the bar.

slow controlled descent will increase time under tension, leading to more effective sets, and less risk of injury.

5. 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.

Cable Overhead Extension Variations

In this section, we will discuss the various ways of doing overhead cable tricep extension.

1. Low Pulley Overhead Cable Triceps Extension

Overhead rope triceps extension are another great exercise for your tricep cable extension workout.

Overhead cable rope 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

How To Do

  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 the starting position and repeat the desired number of sets and reps.


  • 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. 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).

Cable High Pulley Overhead Extension

How To Do

  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


  • 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.

3. One Arm Cable Overhead Extension

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.

One-arm Cable Overhead Extensions

How To Do

  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.


  • Keep your body and upper arm still. Only your forearm should move.
  • Keep your elbow close to your head.

4. Lying Overhead Tricep Extension

The Lying overhead tricep extension is a variation of the cable overhead extension that involves lying on a flat bench while extending the arms.

Lying down takes the stabilization muscles out of the equation and helps the triceps to become even more isolated.

Cable Lying Tricep Extension

How To Do

  1. Lie face up on a flat bench with your head near a cable machine.
  2. Attach a tricep rope to the high pulley and grasp the rope with both hands.
  3. Extend your arms straight overhead, keeping your elbows close to your ears.
  4. Keeping your elbows locked, slowly lower the rope behind your head.
  5. Repeat for desired reps.

5. Kneeling overhead cable tricep extension

With the kneeling cable tricep extension, you kneel while lifting your arms overhead with a cable machine and tricep rope attachment.

The kneeling tricep extension is a similar exercise to the standing overhead tricep extension, but the stabilizing muscles are challenged as the body is in a more unstable position.

Cable Kneeling Tricep Extension

How To Do

  1. Kneel down and attach a tricep rope to the low pulley.
  2. Grasp the rope with both hands, keeping your arms straight and close together.
  3. Keeping your elbows locked, extend your arms straight overhead, contracting your triceps.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for the desired reps.

6. Seated Cable Overhead Tricep Extension

The Seated overhead cable tricep extension is an isolation exercise that targets the triceps muscle group.

This exercise is performed by sitting on a bench or seat with a cable machine and extending your arm overhead to perform the movement.

How To Do

  1. Adjust the cable machine so that the pulley is at the lowest point and attach a straight bar to the cable.
  2. Sit on a bench or seat that allows your arms to reach the pulley.
  3. Grasp the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  4. Keep your elbows close to your head and your upper arms stationary, slowly extend your arms overhead.
  5. Pause at the top of the movement and then slowly lower the bar back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.

Overhead Cable Triceps Extension Alternatives

If the cable stack not be accessible to you. You may also be searching for an alternative of cable tricep extension, below you will find some suggestions.

1. Two Arm Dumbbell Extension

The seated dumbbell tricep extension is one of the best alternative to the cable overhead triceps extension and used to isolate the muscles of the triceps.

It is 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

2. Bench Dip

Bench dips are a bodyweight exercise designed to activate muscles in your arms, shoulders, and chest. They are also known as triceps dips. If you don’t have cables, this is a great bodyweight exercise to do at home.

Tricep Bench dips are an exercise that you can use to build your arms at home, at the gym, or even on a park bench during your morning run.

Tricep Dip

3. 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.

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.

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


Overhead cable tricep extension low pulley vs high pulley

The difference between an overhead cable Tricep extension performed on a low pulley and one performed on a high pulley lies in the position of the cable and the angle of the exercise.

  • When using a low pulley, the cable is positioned at a lower height, which changes the angle of the exercise.
  • On the other hand, the high pulley variation places the cable at a higher height, which changes the angle of resistance.
  • There is very little difference in how much the tricep muscle is activated during exercise.

Is the Overhead Cable Tricep Extension safe for people with elbow pain?

The overhead cable tricep extension is a safe exercise for people with elbow pain, but it is important to approach this exercise with caution and proper form

If you have any pre-existing elbow pain or injury, it is best to consult a physician or physical therapist before performing the exercise.

You should ensure that you use a light weight and focus on using proper form to avoid additional strain on the elbow joint.

Can the Overhead Cable Tricep Extension be performed at home

Yes, the Overhead cable tricep extension can be performed at home with a resistance band.

You will need a resistance band and a stable surface to anchor the band to perform the exercise.

If you don’t have a resistance band, there are alternative exercises that can be performed at home to target the triceps, such as bodyweight tricep extensions or dumbbell tricep extensions.

Try This: 15 Bodyweight Triceps Exercises: Beginner To Advanced


The Overhead cable tricep extension is a highly effective exercise for targeting the triceps and building arm strength.

You can perform this exercise in a variety of ways. Each variation offers a slightly different angle of resistance and challenges the triceps in a unique way, allowing for balanced development and a more complete workout.

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