If you’ve trained triceps, then chances are at some point you’ve hoisted a heavy dumbbell over your head, lowered the weight down behind your head to your shoulder blades, and pumped out reps of overhead extensions. Although this mass-building exercise remains a reliable move in any arm day workout, the traditional version of the triceps overhead extension is still not quite the perfect triceps exercise it could be with a few quick tweaks.
There are two particular issues that keep the overhead extension from being an ideal movement for your triceps-building goals, according to Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. The first problem is that hoisting a heavy dumbbell over your head doesn’t always put your elbows in a great position. The other is that when the joints are stacked at the top of that contraction, the triceps are no longer doing a lion’s share of the work, which oftentimes leads to a less than ideal pump that we strive for in our workouts.
Samuel has a few tweaks that can make the overhead triceps extension more effective. First, replace the dumbbell with a kettlebell, then wrap a towel around its handle to hold the weight. This allows us to control our wrists a bit more freely while at the same time keeping our palms in a neutral position, which will greatly reduce elbow stress.
The other change eliminates the postural issue that come with standing or seated positions. Instead, this version of the overhead triceps extension requires you to lie on a bench—an immediate benefit for those who may suffer from shoulder mobility issues with the standard overhead position.
How to Do the Overhead Triceps Extension
●Lie down on a bench as you would for a skull crusher.
●Hold the kettlebell directly over your chest, gripping the ends of the towel in each hand. Squeeze your glutes and abs to create full-body tension.
●Raise the weight up above your chest, then extend your your arms back as far as possible over your head. You should stop when you come to the limit of your range of motion; if you can’t hold the weight in place, swap for a lighter one.
●Bend your elbows to lower the weight down, then straighten them out so that your arms are fully extended. Focus on the squeeze in your triceps at the top of each rep.
●Work up to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps.
What makes this variation of the overhead triceps extension so effective is that when your arms are in the straight position, you’re forced to fight against gravity differently due to the orientation of the weight. Here, however, this becomes your most challenging position. It’ll make you fight even harder for that peak contraction, but your tris will thank you afterward.
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