Top 17 Tricep Extension Exercises | Triceps Extension Variations Guide

Top 17 Tricep Extension Exercises | Triceps Extension Variations Guide

Nov 22, 2023

tricep extension variation

The Top 17 Triceps Extension Variations for Bigger Arms

Want to build bigger, stronger triceps and arms?

Adding triceps extension variations into your workout routine is key. The triceps extension targets the two heads of your triceps muscle, working this essential arm muscle through its full range of motion.

While the standard triceps extension effectively works your triceps, switching up the exercise with variations provides more comprehensive training. Trying new triceps extension variations activates different muscle fibers, enhances muscle recruitment, and prevents plateaus. It also reduces repetitiveness for more interesting, well-rounded arm workouts.

This guide covers the top 17 most effective triceps extension variations to add size and definition. There are options for every fitness level.

What Muscles Do Triceps Extensions Work?

Before getting into the top extension variations, let's quickly review what the exercise does. The triceps extension primarily targets your triceps muscles on the back of your upper arms.

The triceps muscle has three heads - the lateral, medial, and long head. The long head extends the elbow and moves the upper arm bone (humerus). It allows for full straightening of the elbow joint and arm.

When doing triceps extensions, all three triceps heads contract concentrically to straighten and extend the elbow against resistance. This dynamic movement builds triceps strength and size for bigger, more defined arms.

Check out our full article on the 30 best Triceps Exercises

Benefits of Switching Up Your Triceps Exercises

While sticking to standard triceps extensions has benefits for progressive overload, changing exercises over time maximizes growth.

Variation keeps training interesting and challenges your triceps in new ways. Hits different angles and contractions. Breaks through plateaus.

It also enhances mind-muscle connection for better activation and muscle recruitment. Adds time under tension.

Doing new movements also prevents overuse injuries or strains by altering joint angles and ranges of motion.

Extending lockout emphasizes peak contraction. Partial reps focus on stretched position for mass. Changes in grip/width shift emphasis.

In short - more well-rounded stimulus and development!

Now let's get into the top 17 triceps extension variations for bigger, stronger arms!

1. Flat Dumbbell Tricep Extensions (Skullcrushers)

Lie down holding dumbbells above your chest. Lower the weights to your head by bending elbows. Press back up fully extending arms.

Muscles Worked: Triceps Contract Dynamically

Triceps extend the elbows against gravity. Hits all three heads effectively. Pecs/shoulders stabilize.

Benefits: Isolate Triceps, Progressive Overload

Lying isolates triceps. Flat bench reduces cheating. Allows progressive overload by adding weight.

2. Standing Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extension

Hold a dumbbell overhead, elbows pointing up. Straighten arms using triceps to extend weight back. Return controlled.

Muscles Worked: Overhead Hits Triceps Hard

Overhead forces triceps to extend elbows. Shoulders/core stabilize upper body.

Benefits: Great Stretch, Long Head Focus

Hits long head well. Stretches triceps first allowing better contraction. Challenges stability.

3. Standing Single Arm Overhead Tricep Extension

Same as above but hold one dumbbell at a time overhead. Perform all reps on 1 arm then switch sides.

Muscles Worked: Unilateral Focus

Triceps extend elbow. Shoulders/core stabilize. Works one triceps at a time.

Benefits: Prevents Imbalances

Allows you to progress each arm independently. Eliminates strength imbalances side to side.

4. Incline Dumbbell Tricep Extensions

Lie on incline bench holding dumbbells over chest. Lower to head by bending elbows, press back to start.

Muscles Worked: Hits All Triceps Heads

Incline bench hits all 3 triceps heads uniquely. Pecs/shoulders stabilize.

Benefits: New Angle, Strict Form

Supported upper arms prevent cheating. Incline changes shoulder angle for varied stimulus.

5. Seated Cable Overhead Tricep Extensions

Attach straight bar to top pulley. Face away gripping bar next to ears. Extend arms, slowly return.

Muscles Worked: Cable Resistance Targets Triceps

Triceps extend arms against cable resistance. Shoulders/core stabilize upper body.

Benefits: Consistent Tension, Versatile Grip

Cable resistance is smooth/consistent. Bar allows different grip - palms face inwards.

6. Tricep Extension (Rope)

Grip rope handle attached high. Keeping upper arms static, push rope down by straightening elbows. Return slow.

Muscles Worked: Full Triceps Contraction

Targets all 3 triceps heads. Shoulders stabilize upper arms.

Benefits: Changes Grip, Burns Out Triceps

Rope shifts grip hitting triceps new ways. Great for high rep muscle burn!

7. Dumbbell One-Arm Tricep Kickback

Hold a single dumbbell bending arm, elbow near side. Kick arm back straightening elbow. Slowly return to flexed position. Alternate arms.

Muscles Worked: Triceps Extend Against Resistance

Triceps straighten elbow while shoulders stabilize upper arm still.

Benefits: Isolates Triceps, Prevents Imbalances

Works one triceps at a time allowing independent progression. Great stretch!

8. Low Cable Tricep Extension

Attach rope handle to low pulley. Stand sideways gripping handle in both hands. Push down extending arms.

Muscles Worked: Triceps Contract Against Resistance

Triceps extend arms against cable resistance. Shoulders stabilize upper arm static.

Benefits: Consistent Tension, Range of Motion

Low pulley provides greater stretch, pre-tensioning the triceps. Burns!

9. Banded Tricep Extensions

Loop band pullup bar. Grip band near ears, elbows bent. Straighten arms against band resistance. Return slow.

Muscles Worked: Resistance Band Targets Triceps

Triceps extend elbows. Shoulders stabilize upper arms isometrically.

Benefits: Band Tension Increases Through ROM

Band provides more resistance when fully extended. Challenges stability.

10. One-Arm (Supinated) Dumbbell Tricep Extension

Lie down holding one dumbbell in hand. Lower to head, palm angled down. Return to full extension.

Muscles Worked: Supinated Grip Shifts Focus

Triceps extend elbow against gravity. Supinated grip hits muscle uniquely.


Benefits: Prevents Overuse Injuries

Supinated grip trains triceps through different, safer angles reducing strain.

11. Cable Rope Overhead Triceps Extension

Grip rope high on cable stack, elbows bent. Face away extending arms overhead. Squeeze and return.

Muscles Worked: Cable Resistance plus Stability

Triceps extend arms against cable resistance overhead. Shoulders/core brace.

Benefits: Tension from Multiple Angles

Rope shifts grip hitting triceps new ways. Challenges stabilization muscles.

12. Single Arm Hammer Grip Chest Supported Cable Tricep Extension

Lie chest down against fully inclined bench. Hold single arm gripping D-handle. Start with arm near your face, straighten against resistance.

Muscles Worked: Chest Support Isolates Triceps

Triceps extend elbow. Supported arm isolates triceps contraction. Stabilizers.

Benefits: Reduces Strain on Elbows

Supported arm takes pressure off elbow joint. Hammer grip changes stimulus.

13. Chest Supported Tricep Extension Rope

Lie prone on a bench holding rope attached high. Upper arm remains still - only bend/straighten elbow.

Muscles Worked: Triceps Contract Against Resistance

Triceps extend elbows. Supported arm isolates triceps contraction. Stabilizers.

Benefits: Reduces Strain, Burns Out Triceps Fast

Supported arm takes pressure off elbows. Rope grip changes stimulus. Great burn!

14. Decline Dumbbell Tricep Extensions

Lie on decline bench pressing dumbbells up over your chest. Lower weights to head by bending elbows. Lift back.

Muscles Worked: Triceps Extend Against Gravity

Triceps contract to straighten elbows. Supported arms reduce cheating. Pecs/shoulders stabilize.

Benefits: Allows Heavier Loads, Progressive Overload

Decline allows bigger loads than flat. Focus on progressive overload for mass.

15. Single Arm Incline Dumbbell Tricep Extension

Lie on incline bench. Lower one dumbbell at a time behind head, press back to full extension. Alternate sides.

Muscles Worked: New Angle plus Unilateral

Unique angle maximizes triceps contraction. Works one triceps at a time preventing imbalances.

Benefits: Allows Independent Progression

You can progress each arm separately. Eliminates side imbalances. New stimulus!

16.Laying Cable Tricep Extension

Lie perpendicular to low pulley. Single arm presses cable straight up, slowly return to stretched position.

Muscles Worked: Cable Resistance plus Gravity Resistance

Triceps contract against cable resistance and gravity in the descent. Shoulder/pec stabilize.

Benefits: Smoother Resistance, Prone Reduces Strain

Low pulley provides consistent tension through whole ROM. Prone position reduces elbow strain.

17. Sled Overhead Tricep Extensions

Load sled bar with plates. Stand upright, clean bar overhead. Lower behind head by bending elbows, press back up.

Muscles Worked: Heavy Overhead Loading

Triceps extend a heavy load. Delts/traps support bar overhead. Core braces forcefully.

Benefits: Maximal Overhead Resistance

Tests true overhead triceps strength. Forced maximal contraction!

Get Bigger and Stronger Triceps!

There you have it - 17 highly effective triceps extension variations for robust arm development!

Mix up these movements hitting different contractions, angles and techniques for more well-rounded triceps growth.

Keep constant tension on those triceps with controlled motions and full range. Don't let gravity do the work - keep everything strict and squeezed. Extend fully, squeeze hard and feel that burn!

For faster arm gains combine these into your pressing workouts 1-2 times a week to fully fatigue and overload the triceps through varying exercises. This variation drives growth by hitting all the angles.

Give these top triceps moves a try with proper form - shock those triceps to new levels of size and power!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Triceps Extension Exercise?

The triceps extension is an isolation exercise that targets the triceps muscle on the back of the upper arm.

It works by having you extend your arms fully against resistance using the triceps to straighten the elbow joint. This strengthens and grows the triceps.

What Muscles Does the Cable Triceps Kickback Work?

The cable kickback primarily works the triceps muscles. It also involves the shoulders to stabilize the upper arm in position. This exercise lets you isolate the triceps muscle well with the cable resistance.

How Should I Structure My Triceps Training?

Train triceps directly 1-2 times per week for adequate volume to maximize growth.

Do multi-joint and single joint exercises like overhead extensions and pushdowns.

Progress weight and reps over time. Always train triceps after larger muscle groups.

What's the Best Dumbbell Triceps Exercise?

Overhead dumbbell extensions are one of the best for triceps. Lying extensions, kickbacks, and seated techniques are also top moves.

Choose weight that allows 8-15 reps for muscle building ranges. Brace core and go through full range slowly.

Which Head Makes Up Most of the Triceps Muscle?

The long head makes up over half of the triceps muscle mass. The lateral head is over a quarter while the medial head is the smallest portion. Target all heads through different exercises and angles.

How do You Hit your Triceps with Overhead Exercises?

Overhead triceps extensions like the seated dumbbell version place maximal emphasis on the triceps by working against gravity. Lower the weight behind your head then use your triceps to extend your elbows fully. Control the motion.

What are Some Triceps Extension Variations?

Top variations include cable pushdowns, lying extensions, dips, kickbacks, overhead movements, straight bar pushdowns, resistance band extensions and more. Choose exercises hitting different contraction angles and techniques.

How do Triceps Extensions Relate to Bench Pressing?

Your triceps are heavily involved in benching and presses to extend the elbow straight during the concentric. Strengthening them with extensions increases pressing power off the chest. But train triceps after benches since fatigued arms limit chest training.

Are Triceps Extensions an Essential Triceps Exercise?

Yes, extensions directly target the triceps dynamically through its fullest range of motion. Varying the exercise with different angles/grips hits all the muscle heads effectively. Controlled extension concentrically contracts triceps for growth. Combine with presses.

What Muscles do Triceps Extensions Work?

Primarily works the triceps brachii muscle on back of the arm. The long, lateral and medial heads extend the elbow straight. Secondarily works shoulders, pecs, and core muscles stabilizing the body isometrically during the motion.

I hope these answers help explain more about the highly effective triceps extension exercise and the muscles it targets!

Let me know if you need any clarification or have additional questions.

For More Training Advice + Diet and Lifestyle visit us RIPL Fitness

PS: Make sure you check out the rest of our Tricep Training Guides:

12 Best Long Head Tricep Exercises

The Best Tricep Workouts

30 Best Tricep Exercises

Perfecting the Triceps Pushdown

10 Best Medial Head Tricep Exercises

10 Best Lateral Head Tricep Exercises

The Best Triceps Stretches to Loosen and Improve Flexibility

Triceps Tendonitis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Tricep Dips Exercise Guide