Overhead Tricep Extension: How To Do, Muscle Worked, Variations

The overhead tricep extension is an isolation exercise that works the muscle on the back of the upper arm, known as the triceps. It is a targeted workout that helps improve the tricep muscle strength, stability and athletic performance.

The Overhead tricep extension is a versatile movement that targets your tricep muscles by repetitively flexing the elbow joint against resistance.

In this guide, we will dive into the following:

Table of Contents

What Is Overhead Tricep Extensions

The overhead tricep extension is a weight-training exercise that targets the tricep muscle. In this exercise, a weight is lifted overhead, which engages the tricep muscle and helps build strength.

Tricep overhead extension can be performed with a variety of equipment, including a dumbbell, barbell, Cable or resistance band.

The exercise can also be performed standing or seated, and there are various variations that can be done to target the tricep muscle in different ways. The most common way to perform this exercise is with a dumbbell while standing or sitting.

There are different ways to do an overhead tricep extension to build a bigger and stronger tricep.

Know Your Calorie Requirement To Build Muscle Mass

Overhead Tricep Extension Muscles Worked

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 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 Extension

The standing dumbbell tricep extension is performed while standing and requires the use of a pair of dumbbells.

Standing overhead dumbbell tricep extension is a great way to add resistance and increase the intensity of your tricep workout.

Standing Dumbbell Tricep Extension
  1. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell with both hands.
  2. Raise the dumbbell overhead so that your arms are fully extended.
  3. Slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head, keeping your elbows close to your ears.
  4. Pause briefly at the bottom of the movement, then press the weight back up to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, making sure to maintain proper form throughout the exercise.
Know More: 21 Best Triceps Exercises for Muscle Mass and Strength

Tips and Technique For Doing Overhead Tricep Extension

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 on your form.

1. Start with light weight

When starting out, use a lighter weight to focus on proper form and technique.

You can gradually increase the weight as your strength improves.

2. Warm up before exercising

It is important to warm up your muscles before starting your workout routine to avoid injury.

3. Avoid Flaring Out Elbow

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.

4. Avoid Excessive Elbow Movement

Many people let their elbows sway back and forward during the movement.

With this momentum, you can lift more weight, but you are actually doing the exercise with your lats.

5. Maintain proper form

During the exercise, keep your back straight, your abs engaged, and your elbows close to your ears.

6. Use a full range of motion

Move through the full range of motion, from fully extended arms to fully flexed arms.

A full range of motion will make sure that you are working the entire tricep muscle and getting the most out of the exercise.

7. Avoid locking out your elbows

It is important to avoid locking out your elbows at the end of the movement in order to avoid injury and maintain tension on the tricep muscle.

8. Focus on the tricep muscle

Do not swing the weight or use momentum. Keep your arm straight and focus on engaging the tricep muscle.

Incorporate variation

You can mix up your routine by incorporating different variations of the Overhead Tricep Extension, such as the DB Tricep Extension or the Barbell Overhead Extension.

Use Our Free Calculator To Know Your BODY MASS INDEX

Overhead Triceps Extension Variations

There are several variations of the overhead tricep extension exercise that can be performed with different types of equipment.

As mentioned before, you can do this exercise sitting and standing. You can do the tricep extension with both arms or just one arm.

Below, you will find the best ways to do overhead tricep extension exercises that will help you build stronger and bigger triceps.

1. Rope 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.

Attaching the tricep rope to a cable machine provides the athlete with a grip that is very effective for maximizing the effectiveness of a triceps workout.

The benefit of a tricep rope when performing lifts is that the flexibility of the rope allows for a freer range of motion than most other cable machine attachments.

Cable overhead triceps extension

How To Do Cable Overhead Triceps Extension

  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.
  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.
  • Keep your arms close to your head for maximum triceps engagement.
  • Perform slow and controlled movement from start to finish.

2. Cable High Pulley Overhead Extension

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

The long head of the triceps is especially targeted by overhead tricep extension variations. The denser your long head muscle is, the overall larger the triceps appear.

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.
  5. Then slowly lower under control back to the starting position.
  6. 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 Extensions

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

The single arm overhead tricep extension helps to target each side of the triceps separately. This will balance the strength of each arm and will give you an asymmetrical look.

One-arm Cable Overhead Extensions

How To Do

  1. Attach a stirrup (handle) to a cable pulley at a lower level.
  2. Grasp the stirrup with one hand and press it up, over your head.
  3. Turn away from the pulley, stagger your feet for balance, and lower your hand behind your back.
  4. Your elbow should be raised high, the cable should be pulled taut.
  5. As you exhale, raise the stirrup above your head by extending your elbow.
  6. Inhale as you flex your elbow to lower the stirrup towards the starting position.
  7. Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions.
  8. 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.
Read More: How To Do Overhead Cable Tricep Extension Proper

4. One-Arm Overhead Dumbbell Triceps Extension

The one arm dumbbell overhead triceps extension is a single-joint exercise that works the triceps and also increases stability in the core and shoulder areas.

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

How To Do

  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. Keep your upper arm right beside your head, and 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.


  • During the exercise, the chin should remain parallel to the floor and the core should brace.

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.

The triceps extension with a dumbbell adds variety to your tricep workout routine, prevents stagnation, and keeps your workout challenging. It is one of my favourite tricep workouts and helps to build my tricep muscle size.

Two Arm Dumbbell Extension

How To Do

  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.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat the desired number of sets and reps.


  • Do slow and controlled movement.
  • Keep the head in a fairly neutral position, don’t allow the neck to jut forward.

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 arm 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

How To Do

  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.
  3. Then slowly lower the dumbbells behind your head by bending your elbows.
  4. Hold this position for a count and then with a controlled motion raise your arms back up to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for as many reps and sets as desired.


  • 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 Tricep Extension

The barbell overhead triceps extension or the triceps press is a relatively simple yet effective exercise for the development of the triceps.

This exercise allows you to lift relatively heavy weights, which stimulate muscle growth and help build stronger arm muscles.

This exercise can be performed seated or standing and is commonly used in strength training programs to increase triceps muscle size and strength.

Overhead Barbell Triceps Extension

How To Do

  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.


  • 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. Dumbbell Lying Triceps Extension

The dumbbell lying triceps extension is an excellent move to begin your triceps routine. It can be beneficial for fixing imbalances in the triceps or rehabilitating from injury.

Dumbbell tricep extensions put no pressure on the wrists, so they are an alternative for people with wrist strain or injury.

Dumbbell Lying Triceps Extension

How To Do Dumbbell Lying Triceps Extension

  1. Lie on a flat bench with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand and hold them directly above you with your palms facing inward (neutral grip) and your arms extended.
  3. Slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head.
  4. Pause and squeeze the triceps, and then raise the dumbbells back to the starting position.


  • Keep your elbows close to your body.
  • Slowly lower the weights and do not use momentum

9. Resistance Band Tricep Overhead 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.

Resistance Band Tricep Extensions

How To Do

  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.
  4. Extend your arms to raise your hands, stopping just before your elbows lock out.
  5. Shorten the length of the band between your foot and hand if there’s not enough resistance.
  6. Bring back down and repeat.


  • Keep your upper arms as still as possible.
  • The chin should remain parallel to the floor and the core should brace during the exercise.

Set, Reps And Frequency For Tricep Overhead 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

Beginner2-38-121-2 times per week
Intermediate3-48-122-3 times per week
Advanced4-58-152-3 times per week

How To Add Overhead Tricep Extension Into Your Workout Routine

They can be incorporated into your workout routine in a variety of ways. Here are some options:

  1. As a standalone exercise: Do on 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.
  2. As part of a tricep workout: Do them along with other tricep exercises.
  3. As part of a full-body workout: Do them with other compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses.

1. Tricep Focused Workout Routine

Bench Dip48-10
Reverse-Grip Triceps Pushdown3-410-12
Dumbbell Kickback410-12
Single Arm Overhead Extension38-10

2. Upper Body Workout Routine

Barbell Rows48-10
Dumbbell Bench Press38-10
Seated Cable Rows312-15
Dumbbell Tricep Extension310-12

3. Full Body Strength And Stability Routine

Bench Press38-10
Incline Overhead Extension312-15
Incline Dumbbell Curl38-10
Plank330 sec

Benefits of Tricep Overhead Extension

There are numerous reasons you should incorporate tricep overhead extension into your workouts. Here are just a few:

1. Improved tricep strength

Using the overhead tricep extension can help improve tricep strength and stability, as it specifically targets the tricep muscle.

2. Increased arm stability

They focus on strengthening the tricep muscle in conjunction with the shoulder and elbow joints, which can help improve overall arm stability.

3. Better athletic performance

Tricep extension can improve athletic performance in activities that require upper body strength and stability by strengthening the tricep muscle.

4. Increased flexibility

The Overhead Tricep Extension can help increase flexibility in the upper body, as well as the shoulders and arms.

Best Alternative of Overhead Tricep Extension

If you’re looking for an alternative to the Tricep overhead extension, here are some exercises that you can consider:

1. Diamond Push-Ups

Diamond Push-Ups are a bodyweight exercise that targets the triceps, chest, and shoulders.

This exercise is named for the diamond shape formed by the hands on the ground, which places extra emphasis on the triceps muscles.

2. Dips

Dips are a bodyweight exercise that target the triceps, chest, and shoulders. They can be performed using parallel bars or the edges of a bench (Bench Dip).

Each of these exercises provides a different challenge for the triceps and can be incorporated into your workout routine for increased effectiveness and variety.

3. Triceps Pushdown

The tricep pushdown is the best alternative to overhead tricep extension and is used to build the triceps muscles. Well-built triceps also have a lot of positive carryover into your pressing movements, such as bench press variations and shoulder press variations.

4. Close-Grip Bench Press

The Close-Grip Bench Press is a weight training exercise that targets the triceps, chest, and shoulders. It can be performed using a barbell or dumbbells.

The Close-Grip Bench Press is named for the narrow grip that is used during the exercise, which places extra emphasis on the triceps muscles.

5. Tricep Kickbacks

Tricep Kickbacks is a strength training exercise that specifically targets the tricep muscle.

The exercise can be performed using dumbbells and works by extending the arm behind the body while keeping the upper arm stationary.

6. Skull Crushers

Skull crusher exercise targets the triceps and can be performed using a barbell or dumbbells, respectively. Simply lie on a flat bench and lower a barbell or dumbbells towards your forehead, then extend your arms back to the starting position.


What does overhead tricep extension work

The over-head tricep extension works the triceps, especially the long head of the triceps.

What head does the overhead tricep extension work

The overhead tricep extension works the long head of the triceps, which is the largest head of the triceps and is responsible for extending the elbow joint. It also works the medial and lateral heads of the triceps, but to a lesser extent.

Are overhead extensions good for triceps?

Yes, overhead extensions are good for the triceps. They are a great way to isolate the triceps muscles and work them through a full range of motion. Overhead extensions also help to strengthen the long head of the triceps.

How many sets and reps should I do for overhead tricep extensions?

A good starting point is 3 sets of 10-12 reps. As you get stronger, you can increase the number of sets and reps.

Is the overhead tricep extension a compound or isolation exercise?

The overhead tricep extension is an isolation exercise, as its main focus is on working the triceps.

Is overhead tricep extension push or pull?

Overhead tricep extensions are push exercises. Push exercises involve moving your arms away from your body, such as when you do a push-up or a bench press


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.


  1. Maeo, Sumiaki & Wu, Yuhang & Huang, Meng & Sakurai, Hikaru & Kusagawa, Yuki & Sugiyama, Takashi & Kanehisa, Hiroaki & Isaka, Tadao. (2022). Triceps brachii hypertrophy is substantially greater after elbow extension training performed in the overhead versus neutral arm position. European Journal of Sport Science. 1-26. 10.1080/17461391.2022.2100279.
  2. Alves D, Matta T, Oliveira L. Effect of shoulder position on triceps brachii heads activity in dumbbell elbow extension exercises. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2018 Sep;58(9):1247-1252. doi: 10.23736/S0022-4707.17.06849-9.
  3. Kassiano, W., Nunes, J. P., Costa, B., Ribeiro, A. S., Schoenfeld, B. J., & Cyrino, E. S. (2022). Does varying resistance exercises promote superior muscle hypertrophy and strength gains? A systematic review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research36, 1753–1762. 

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