How to Do Overhead Cable Extension Properly

The overhead cable extension is a cable workout that targets the tricep muscles. It is an ideal isolation drill that allows for a distinct tricep stretch at the eccentric phase of the motion.

This workout is a great muscle builder for the upper arms since it targets all three tricep heads. The overhead motion involved aims to target specifically the long head.

When you perform the exercise while seated, the chances of using momentum are minimal. Exercisers usually aim for moderate to high reps as part of the arm emphasis workout point.

Also known as Cable overhead triceps.

Targeted Muscle Groups: Triceps Brachii

Exercise Mechanics: Isolation

Exercise Type: Strength

Required Equipment: Cable system, Rope

Difficulty Level: Beginner


  • Attach a double rope to a cable machine that is near or just above your head.
  • Grasp the rope with both hands using a neutral grip and move forward. Push forward at the hips at a 45-degree angle and step away from the pulley. Ensure your elbows are near your head. Your arms should be vertical to the floor and your knuckles should be pointing upward.
  • Assume a split stance with one foot in front and the other foot back to keep you steady. Maintain the tightness in your core muscles.
  • Inhale as you bring the rope behind your head slowly Ensure your upper arms are stationary. When you feel you’ve stretched your muscles fully, pause for a moment.
  • Exhale as you flex your triceps to resume the starting position.
  • Repeat for the recommended sets of reps.


  • Load the right amount of weight where you can maintain body stability as you work out. Being an isolation drill, the overhead cable extension does not require very heavy loads. Going too heavy can pose a significant danger to your elbows.
  • To ensure maximum engagement of the tricep muscles, keep your hands close to your head.
  • Preferably, extend your arms straight ahead. Avoid stretching upwards or downwards.
  • If it is convenient, be sure to do some warm-up drills before performing this extension exercise. This loosens up the triceps and helps them work better as you exercise.


The main muscle targeted in this exercise is the triceps. Triceps are made up of three heads: a lateral, a medial, and a long head. They are located opposite the biceps.

Triceps are responsible for elbow extension and stabilizing the joint as you perform the workout.

Much as your triceps receive much of the tension, your shoulders are worked too, but to a lesser degree. Your deltoids will squeeze and shorten consequently activating the muscle fibers.

Overhead cable extensions also engage your core muscles. The abdominal muscles are engaged to stabilize the motion as you work out.

When you work out while seated, your core will disengage.



The most common gain out of overhead cable extension is tricep hypertrophy resulting from the motion.

Unlike other tricep workouts, extending the triceps recruit all three tricep heads, consequently strengthening your entire triceps as you work out.

This exercise is ideal whether you’re looking to improve your upper body, perform better or simply develop bigger arms.


Since you will be standing while performing this drill, your core muscles will be recruited to stabilize your back and core as you do it.

Overhead cable extensions improve your posture as you will be keeping your back straight, your shoulders lifted and your core engaged.

Even if you decide to perform the exercise while seated, you will have to maintain the right posture to access the full range of motion.


When the joint around your elbow is stable, it is an advantage to your health and key for injury prevention. Many lifting exercises challenge your elbows in some manner.

Therefore, it is essential to improve your muscle strength and control the muscles that aid elbow extension and stability as you flex your elbows.


Be sure to check out these tricep workouts that have similar benefits to those of overhead cable extension.


Requirements: Pulley Machine


  • Stand with your shoulders hip-width apart facing a pulley machine. You can alternatively use a resistance band with handles. Ensure the handles are parallel to your chest.
  • Grip the handles. Ensure your palms are facing downwards.
  • Squeeze one tricep to lower the handle until your arm is extended fully. Ensure your elbows are tucked at your sides as you squeeze.
  • When you are about to finish the rep, flex your tricep to ensure you contract your bicep fully.
  • Release the handle gently and resume the starting position. Repeat the process on the other arm and alternate until you attain the desired sets of reps.


Requirements: Dumbbells


  • Lie on a flat bench and plant your feet firmly on the floor.
  • Hold out the dumbbells right above your chest and engage your core. Ensure your palms face each other.
  • Your elbows should be stationary. Hinge them to gently lower the dumbbells behind your ears.
  • Squeeze your triceps to extend your arm to resume the starting position.
  • Repeat until you get the desired sets of repetitions.



This is one common mistake beginners often make. Drifting the elbows outwards puts unnecessary tension on the shoulders and removes it from the targeted tricep muscles.

The shift of tension defies the goal of the workout. Focus on keeping your elbows inwards to achieve the maximum benefits out of this workout.


Many lifters often arch their lower backs when completing the tricep extension. Arching the back is usually traced back to using very heavyweights that are not appropriate for you.

Using heavy weights places unnecessary tension on your spine and puts you at risk of sustaining spinal injuries. Correct this mistake by tightening your glutes and abs tight in all reps to ensure you’re performing the exercise correctly.


Lifters often perform half reps because they have learned over time that half reps work the muscles better and maximize the pump.

Partial reps will definitely increase your pump, but you will not work your muscles to your full potential unless they are implemented as a hypertrophy workout program.


Overhead cable extensions are a great isolation workout if you’re looking to build muscle mass or get perfectly sculpted good-looking triceps at the end of the workout.

It is an ideal option to include in your regular workouts. There are many different variations that you could try out depending on your convenience and choose the one that works best for you.

Best of luck!