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Cable Triceps Extensions

Cable Triceps Extensions

What is a cable triceps extension?

Cable triceps extensions it’s an exercise where we’re using the triceps muscle flex (or extend) the elbow joint using a cable machine. The interesting thing about this exercise is that there are so many different ways to perform it.

These can range from sitting, standing and kneeling variations, as well as different angles and handles/grips. Each variation will have its own pros and cons which we’ll cover in the variations section. cable triceps extensions

How to do a cable triceps extension

Here we have Scott Herman demonstrating the movement with a v bar. You can use a variety of handles and we’ll be covering these options later. “But what about overhead triceps extensions?”. If you’re interested in other variations, feel free to skip to the variations section where we have plenty of different options.

It’s really common for people to engage either the shoulders and chest or the lats in this movement, depending on their form. If we lean over the weight and let our elbows flair our to the sides, we’re going to turn this exercise into something similar to a dip.

Furthermore, if we let our elbows rise forward at the start of the rep then pull them back, we’ll be recruiting the lats. cable triceps extensions

We obviously don’t want to do either of these things so please take note of the below form.

Cable triceps extensions are an exercise to pump up the heads of the triceps brachii. It is good for developing the arms and for gaining a lot of strength, although it is not usually used in strength exercise routines.

Cable triceps extensions are not a typical exercise that can be done easily at home, as we will need one with a pulley to be able to do it. But to all of you who have enough space in your homes and money to get hold of it.

The similarity of cable triceps extensions and pulley extensions are evident. They are very similar, although they can be used simultaneously in arm exercise routines, since it is not a similar stimulation.

How are cable triceps extensions performed?

To correctly perform the cable triceps extensions, we must configure the desired weight with the rope or cable at the appropriate height to be able to complete a complete route and that the posture is comfortable.

Keep your back straight and lean forward very slightly, grabbing the rope with a neutral, shoulder-width grip. We must keep our arms straight and close to our body. The forearms should be parallel to the ground. This is the starting position. cable triceps extensions

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We will lower the rope down using only the elbows and the forearm to make the movement. We will continue to push down until we almost reach the extension of the arms. At this point, we must pull with each of the arms to the sides, twisting the rope to achieve it.

It is important that we get to congest the triceps to the maximum and hold on for a second in that position. Later, we will return to the original position. cable triceps extensions

Cable Tricep Extension Variations

Overhead cable triceps extension: Perform overhead tricep extensions by holding a pair of dumbbells and standing with your feet shoulder-width apart.

Raise the dumbbells over your head. Keep your upper arms in place and hinge your elbow, lifting the dumbbells overhead through a full range of motion.

Although this triceps exercise is typically performed with a pair of dumbbells, you can also use a resistance band, a pulley on a cable machine, or a barbell. cable triceps extensions

Lying tricep extension: Lying triceps extensions are also known as “skull crushers.” Lying triceps extensions are performed by lying on your back on a flat bench and lifting dumbbells from behind your head to full extension above you.

With proper form, this strength-training exercise can be more than just a triceps exercise—it can also work muscle groups like the deltoids in your shoulders and the latissimus dorsi muscle in your back.

Some lying triceps extension variations substitute dumbbells for a barbell or a pair of kettlebells.cable triceps extension
Reverse-grip triceps pushdown:

Reverse-grip tricep pushdowns can be practiced with a resistance band or by placing a straight bar attachment on a pulley machine in a high pulley position. To practice reverse-grip triceps pushdowns, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, grip the straight bar or resistance band with an underhand grip, and pull it down toward your quads.cable triceps extension.

What muscles do cable triceps extensions work?

The cable triceps extensions are an isolation exercise to work especially the muscles of the arms:

triceps brachii
Long head of the triceps
wrist flexor muscles

Common cable triceps extension mistakes

Leaning over the weight and letting our elbows flair out

If we do this our delts and pecs are going to get involved (see shoulder press guide and smith bench press guide). You see this a lot in the gym and you can guarantee that this isn’t the activation they’re looking for.

When you look at this mistake you can see the similarities to a chest dip. cable triceps extensions

Keep those elbows in and make sure you’re torso is positioned that your hands can move as far away from your chest as possible.

Letting your elbows rise forward with every rep

What muscle pulls our humerus (upper arm bone) back to our torso when it’s out in front of us? That’s right, the lats. It’s common to see people recruit the lats in this movement without even knowing doing this mistake. Keep your elbows at your sides and don’t let them rise up. cable triceps extensions

Cable triceps extension workout

We have the option here to train for hypertrophy or strength here. If you’re looking to build size and strength, follow a hypertrophy workout. If you’re only interested in low rep, explosive power and don’t want to increase triceps size, go for the strength workout.

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For hypertrophy, aim for 10 – 12 reps, for 3 – 4 sets with a 1 – 2 minute rest time.

For strength, aim for 1 – 5 reps, for 3 – 4 sets with a 2 – 5 minute rest time.

Why an underhand grip is better for triceps growth

Technically, whether the forearm is pronated (palms down) or supinated (palms up) shouldn’t affect the activation of the triceps in isolation. This is correct, however, we don’t perform this movement in isolation as our elbows and shoulders are also involved in the movement. cable triceps extensions

The truth is, an underhand (supinated) grip does a better job of keeping our elbows to our sides. Keeping our elbows to our sides leads to more long head activation. The long head of the triceps is the biggest and strongest part of the muscle. If we’re looking for size and strength we should be focusing here.

Cable triceps extension benefits

It’s one of the most effective exercises at building the triceps

The triceps main function is to extend the elbow. When we’re talking about triceps extensions, we basically talking about exercises that focus on this one function. Therefore, it stands to reason that this exercise is perfect for building the triceps if done correctly. cable triceps extensions

There is also a range of variations and handles we can use to target the triceps in different ways. This is no-one trick pony. cable triceps extensions

The cable helps us to keep constant tension on the muscle

There are plenty of triceps exercises that could be considered as inefficient as they include rest throughout reps due to their design. This is usually when a joint takes all the weight or gravity negates the need for muscle activation. A few of these exercises would be a bent over DB triceps extension or some variants of skull-crushers.

This cable variation on the overhand keeps constant pressure on the triceps, increasing time under tension, helping to work the muscle harder and stimulate growth. cable triceps extensions

Cable triceps extensions muscles worked


The clue is in the name…

As mentioned, this is an isolation exercise for the triceps. The main function of the triceps is to extend the elbow joint.

With the correct form, this should be the one key movement of this exercise.

Cable triceps extension variations

Overhead triceps extension with cable

Lifting our humerus (upper arm bone) above our head is a great way to stretch the long head of the triceps, helping us to activate the muscle to a greater degree. It’s also useful to try different triceps extension angles to ensure we’re functional in different planes of motion. cable triceps extensions

Single-arm triceps extension with cable

This variation can be helpful for a couple of reasons. You may use this to find imbalances between your arm and remedy these imbalances by focusing on one arm more than the other. cable triceps extensions

You may also use this so that you can really focus on the movement, ensuring the perfect form and contraction.


Cable cross body triceps extension

We’re looking to load the triceps with heavier weight over a shorter distance with this move. Be sure to keep your elbows by your sides and keep your scapular stable. cable triceps extensions

Reverse grip cable triceps extension (supinated grip)

As we discussed earlier, an underhand/reverse/supinated (whatever you want to call it!) is going to help us keep our elbows in which leads to better long-head triceps activation. cable triceps extensions

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Lateral cable triceps extension (or horizontal cable triceps extension)

This variation can be useful for improving our functionality in different planes of motion. Most cable triceps exercises that you see performed in the gym are some variation of a pushdown, either in front of us or overhead.

This variation is training the same muscle but in a different plane of motion. Incorporate different planes like this now and then to ensure for the maximum transfer to everyday life. cable triceps extensions

Lying cable triceps extension

This variation is essentially a cable skull crusher. cable triceps extensions

The brilliant thing about this exercise is that you can maintain even more pressure on the triceps throughout the movement. This is because at the start of the rep the triceps are already working to stop the elbow from closing.

Different grips and handles for the cable triceps extension

Rope cable triceps extension

The great thing about using rope for the extension is that we usually get a more complete range of motion. This is because we’re more likely to fully extend our elbows in the middle of the rep. This is harder to do with some other grips. cable triceps extensions

The drawback is that we’re using a neutral grip, which isn’t quite as good as the underhand/supinated grip for long-head triceps activation. cable triceps extensions

Straight bar cable triceps extension

The effectiveness of this grip will depend completely on your technique and grip type. Review the form at the top of this blog to ensure you’re getting it right. cable triceps extensions

We would recommend using a supinated (underhand) grip for maximum activation

EZ bar cable triceps extension

Both the pronated and supinated grips can be taxing on the wrists. If you’re finding some discomfort during an extension with either of these, it may be worth trying the EZ bar as you may find a more comfortable grip.

Cable v bar triceps extension

To be honest, this is my least favourite handle for a few reasons. It’s harder to fully extend the elbows than other grips, reducing the range of motion. cable triceps extensions

If you can find a wide v bar like the one in the video, this can negate some of the range of motion issue.

Cable triceps extension alternatives

Skull crushers

If you’re looking for another brilliant triceps isolation exercise, look no further. The skull crusher is performed with an extremely similar technique to the overhead cable triceps extension.

Form tip: when performing this on a bench with free weights, make sure that your elbows are pointing slightly towards your head rather than directly upwards. This will keep constant tension on your triceps rather than allowing your joint to lockout and take the weight. cable triceps extensions

Triceps dips

Moving onto a more functional movement, the triceps dip will be incorporating more stabilisation work than the other exercises we’ve been talking about. cable triceps extensions

Be sure to keep your torso upright and don’t lean forward. The more you lean forward, the more this will become a chest dip.

If you found this blog helpful, then do share it with your friends or share it on social media so that we can reach more people and can grow our website. Also, if you know of any other alternative exercises, then do mention that in the comment section below. cable triceps extensions

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