The overhead tricep extension cable is a seated cable exercise that targets the triceps muscles. When hitting all three heads of the triceps, the overhead position helps target the long head in particular. The seated position helps eliminate the use of momentum. It’s usually done for medium to high reps as part of the arm-focused portion of a workout.
About this overhead tricep extension cable
- Muscles Worked: Arms
- Difficulty: Medium
- Required equipment: Cable
Attach a rope handle to the high pulley of a cable station. Grasp the handle and step away from the machine with your hands at shoulder level. Extend your arms fully forward and in front of your head, then return to the starting position in a controlled manner.
Benefits of overhead tricep extension cable
- Builds strength and size in the triceps
- Great move to focus on the mind-muscle connection with light to moderate weight
- The cables provide constant tension on the muscles
- Targets the long head of the triceps
How To Perform Overhead Tricep Extension Cable
The cable rope overhead triceps extension exercise works the tricep muscle by reaching behind your neck and helping build stronger and bigger arms.
- Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, keeping your back straight and abs tightly drawn in.
- Grab and hold onto a rope extension with both hands with your palms facing up and raise the rope over your head as this will be your starting position.
- Slowly lower the rope attachment in an arc motion behind your head, feeling a stretch and isolating your tricep muscles.
- Hold this position for a count, then slowly raise the rope back up to the start.
- Repeat for as many reps and sets as desired.
Expert tips: Keep your torso locked and your upper arms and elbows stable. Only your forearms should move.
Overhead tricep extension cable muscles worked
The overhead tricep extension cable exercise works all three heads of the triceps brachii muscle due to its elbow extension component. However, because you’re shoulders are in flexion during an overhead tricep extension cable, the exercise gives extra emphasis to the long head of the triceps because this is the only head of the triceps that crosses the shoulder joint.
As such, when you place your arms over your head and perform any kind of elbow extension, the long head naturally receives an intensified eccentric stretch because it’s the only head that can act on the shoulder joint. Thus, the long head of the triceps performs most of the lifting during the overhead tricep extension cable.
Best 9 Overhead tricep extension cable Exercises variations
Learn the pros and cons of the different attachments and pulley positions by checking out 9 additional variations of cable overhead extensions. Which version is optimal for building the triceps?
Like many things in strength training, the best exercise depends on your goals, equipment availability, and individual weak points. More on that right now.
Here are the Best 10 Overhead tricep extension cable Exercises variations you can do to train your triceps.
1. One arm cable overhead tricep extension
The single-arm overhead cable triceps extension is the best choice for developing symmetrical triceps because the exercise forces you to work each arm separately. This means your strength won’t be able to dominate the movement, which means both your triceps will receive a similar amount of stimulation.
Why only similar and unequal stimulation?
Because you’re likely to have a better mind-muscle connection with one of your triceps, meaning you’ll have an easier time activating that particular triceps muscle. Well, even given equal reps and sets, the muscle you can activate more easily will receive more tension because you can make it work harder.
It takes longer to do a one-sided rope stretch, but it’s the best way to develop symmetrical triceps.
Still, this disparity in the mind-muscle connection can help unravel exactly the single-arm overhead cable triceps extension.
Your brain doesn’t need to split its focus into the two arms, as you’re training each of your arms on your own. This means you can expend more energy and focus on doing your best with both triceps.
So, if you have muscle imbalances or just want to sculpt symmetrical triceps, the single-arm overhead rope stretch is an excellent exercise to develop more proportional arms.
The only downside is that you have to double the number of sets when training on one side. However, as there is no need to rest between arms, the additional time commitment isn’t huge and probably worth the symmetry gains.
2. Seated tricep rope extension
The seated overhead cable extension requires less abdominal work than the standing cable triceps extension, allowing you to focus solely on working your triceps. This is because your back is supported against the cushion of the bench.
When you don’t need to contract your core muscles that hard, in other words, you don’t have to work so hard on the stability part of the exercise, you can put more effort into training the target muscles, which is, after all, the whole point of an isolation exercise like an overhead cable rope stretch.
The downside to not stabilizing your torso that much (depending on your perspective) is that you won’t burn as many calories.
The standing rope overhead tricep extension burns more calories than the seated version. However, it also requires more abdominal exertion.
Similarly, your abs won’t be overworked when you do the cable stretching exercise seated (of course, you can work your abs separately).
So if you’re training for fat loss, it’s a good idea to stick with the standing cable triceps extension. After all, if you’ve built a solid mind-muscle connection through years of lifting weights, you won’t take much of a hit on triceps activation.
It still makes sense to do the seated version for maximum triceps isolation. The only real downside is that the sit-down variation is more complicated to set up, as you need access to a row and a column of cables.
3. Kneeling cable overhead triceps extension
The kneeling cable triceps extension has two main use cases: First, those who want to increase the activation of their abdominal muscles, and second, those who use a non-adjustable cable station.
Taking a long kneeling position and then holding a heavyweight cable attachment behind your head takes a lot of core strength. So, if you want to give your abs a good isometric workout while working your triceps, the above-knee triceps cable stretch is a great exercise for the job.
On the other hand, if your gym doesn’t have an adjustable cable station, it makes sense to use a low pulley instead of a high pulley because doing the exercise with a low pulley puts your triceps under a more significant eccentric stretch.
Of course, you can perform the overhead triceps rope stretch while standing and still use the low pulley. However, it’s easier to get the rope behind your head (especially if you’re lifting heavy) when your arms and shoulders are closer to the pulley, so the kneeling position is recommended for those using non-adjustable cable machines.
4. V bar overhead cable tricep extensions
Overhead v bar extensions are very similar to cable rope tricep extensions. In fact, the two exercises are the same in terms of lifting techniques.
The difference is that the v-bar version requires less stabilization than the rope variation because the v-bar is one solid attachment, the rope has two separate ends and you have to lift it on each arm.
Therefore, the cable rope triceps extension provides better overhead contraction and more balanced muscle stimulation, while the v-bar version allows you to lift a little heavier because the bar is easier to balance for your triceps and shoulders than the rope.
Of course, when using any bar attachment your hands may not be comfortable for your wrists, being forced into a predetermined position. Using a rope allows you to keep your wrists in a neutral or semi-pronation position while forcing both your triceps to lock in their respective sections of the rope, thereby promoting even muscle growth.
5. Reverse grip cable triceps extension
Doing a reverse grip overhead triceps extension with cables gives your triceps a great pump because cables naturally provide constant tension because the pulley always puts some kind of force on your muscles.
However, using a reverse grip for triceps cable extensions makes it harder to hold the bar. Because you can’t push the bar with your palm when using a reverse grip, you can’t apply as much force, which means you can’t lift as much weight. As a result, your triceps are less stimulated when you do standing cable stretches with a supinated grip.
Using a reverse grip helps keep your elbows in and makes it easier to feel your triceps working.
But wouldn’t using a reverse grip help you keep your elbows in?
Using a reverse grip for over-the-cable triceps extensions encourages you to keep your elbows in. However, since the triceps do not act on the wrist, changing your hand position does not actually force you to change your elbow position.
In other words, it’s entirely possible to rotate your hands without moving your elbows an inch.
Now, he said, the body likes to work in sync. Therefore, when you rotate your wrists, your elbows and shoulders are likely to move as well, unless you consciously resist.
Anyway, a moderate elbow pop during a rope extension exercise is fine if you don’t overdo it, in which case you may experience elbow pain after your triceps workout.
6. Incline tricep cable extension
The cable incline triceps extension is a cross between the triceps rope upper extension and the lying cable extensions; you are not laid horizontally, but your torso is not completely vertical either.
The incline rope extension (you can also use a bar) is ideal if you have shoulder pain, as it doesn’t require you to flex your shoulders as much as the cable overhead extension does.
The main drawback is that the setup is more complex and in more ways than one.
First, you have to bring a bench to the cable station, which is easier to do during the gym’s busiest times (and during which time you have to hope someone doesn’t jump on your cable machine).
Second, unless you’re doing the exercise from a low pulley (in which case it would be a nightmare to snap the rope into place), the incline extension doesn’t stretch your triceps with the same intensity that the standing cable triceps extension does.
Therefore, the incline rope extension exercise puts less pressure on the rotator cuffs, while not as much on the triceps.
7. Isolateral cable overhead extension
If you want to work your triceps evenly without spending extra time training your triceps unilaterally, then the isolateral overhead rope triceps extension is the best exercise for the job.
During an isolateral cable overhead triceps extension, you must lift a cable reel with each arm, which helps you improve triceps size asymmetries. However, because you’re working both arms together (like doing a dumbbell exercise), it won’t take any longer to tackle your sets.
All you need is a compact cable station so you can hold the pulleys behind you so you can position the long head of your triceps under optimum eccentric stretch. If you were to do this exercise using a long cable run, your elbows would protrude excessively and it would be more difficult to snap the cables into place.
Similarly, there is no need to use any plug-ins for isolateral overhead cable extensions; rubber balls at the ends of the cables are ideal for gripping. If your machine doesn’t have these, you can use two single handles or two single ropes if you are rich in attachments.
8. Alternating cable overhead extensions
The alternate cable triceps overhead extension is strikingly similar to the isolateral version you see above.
The difference is that the alternating variation allows you to do more reps per set as each triceps works and the other rest briefly while the other works.
But to get this benefit, you need to keep your non-working arm out so it has a chance to rest. If you leave your arm flexed behind your head, you’ll actually get more fatigued, which naturally means you’ll be doing fewer reps per set (the opposite of what we’d like).
9. Overhead cable pulls
The overhead rope pull is a variation of the standard tricep overhead cable extension where your torso is completely straight and the pulley is at waist height.
In overhead cable pulling, you will place the pulley on the top of the machine and bend from the waist.
The biggest advantage of overhead cable pulling in this context is that they are easier to install since you don’t have to reach down to hold the rope.
The downside is that the eccentric triceps stretch (the most critical part of the overhead rope extension repetition for hypertrophy) isn’t as intense when you do the exercise from a high pulley. This is because the cable doesn’t have to travel that far when your hands are closer to the pulley.
However, you can always do the twisted cable triceps extension in a superset with the standing cable extension, because once you get tired of the standing version (which is a harder exercise), you’ll still have the strength to do the twists. variation.
Conclusion: Should you do overhead tricep extension cable for your triceps?
Whether you want to build mountains of muscle or get a good triceps pump at the end of your workout (these goals aren’t mutually exclusive, by the way), the overhead cable extension is an exercise worth including in your workout. program.
With so many possible variations, the overhead cable triceps extension is an arm-strengthening exercise that just about every gym-goer can benefit from.
The rope attachment is most recommended as it promotes muscle symmetry and produces a strong peak contraction. But if for some reason you don’t like the overhead rope tricep extension, you can do the exercise with a bar.
Aim to position the hoop as waist-high as possible (i.e. avoid using a high hoop), as this will better flex your triceps while maintaining a firm, upright torso conducive to lifting with proper form.
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