How To Do The Cable Overhead Triceps Extension Properly

The cable overhead triceps extension is without doubt one of the best ways to work your tricep muscles.

It isolates your triceps by keeping them under constant tension provided by the resistance from the rope attached to a low pulley on a cable machine.

Required equipment: Cable pulley machine, rope attachment

How to do it:

  • Position the pulley on the machine around waist height. If the pulley is not adjustable, go for the low pulley rather than the high one.
  • Fasten the rope attachment to the pulley.
  • Stand in front of the machine with your back to the pulley.
  • Lean forward slightly, and then grab the rope behind your head with both hands. Your upper arms should be right next to your ears.
  • Tuck your elbows in, and then flex out your triceps until your elbows are completely extended.
  • At the end of the rep, split the rope by moving its ends away from each other.
  • Slowly and with control, lower the rope. You should feel an intense stretch in your triceps as you descend.
  • Do 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps each.



The cable overhead triceps extension works the three (long, medial and lateral) heads of the triceps brachii since it allows you to fully extend your elbows.

However, it emphasizes a bit more on the long head because your shoulders are in flexion throughout the exercise.

This is made possible by the fact that the long head is the only head that crosses your shoulder joint.

As such, whenever you place your arms overhead and perform any movement that involves elbow extension, the long head will likely receive an intensified stretch compared to the other heads.

Some secondary muscle groups this exercise works are the deltoids and core muscles, which contract and shorten as the muscles fibers activate.



Performing the cable overhead triceps extension helps you develop symmetrical triceps because you have to lock out your arms independently at the end of each rep by “splitting” the ends of the rope so that each arm goes out separately.


The standing variation of this movement requires that you contract your core muscles hard to gain enough stability so you don’t topple forward as you lean and extend your arms against the resistance from the rope attachment.

When you tighten your core, you will also be working your muscles by isolating and strengthening them.


Do you suffer from or have a history of wrist pain? If you do, the cable overhead triceps extension is an ideal tricep exercise for you.

Throughout the movement, your wrists stay in the same angle which means you place very little stress on them.



This is an equally amazing movement you can use to work your triceps if you are unable to do the cable overhead triceps extension.

How to do it:

  • Stand facing a cable pulley machine, with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Grab the handles of the machine with an overhand grip.
  • Tuck your elbows in to your sides and then contract one of your triceps to bring the handle down until you achieve full extension on that arm.
  • Pause for a few seconds at the bottom of the rep and flex the triceps on that arm for maximum contraction.
  • Release the handle slowly and return to the original position.
  • Repeat these steps on the other arm and keep alternating the two.


Skull crushers are known to be one of the best workouts for your upper body.

Add dumbbells to them and then follow the steps below for a good tricep workout:

  • Lie down face up on a flat bench with your feet firmly planted on the ground.
  • Hold dumbbells in each hand above your chest. Your arms should be facing each other.
  • Engage your core.
  • Maintaining the elbows in a fixed position, hinge them to bring the dumbbells downward, just below your ears.
  • Contract your triceps to fully extend your arms back into a straight position. This is a complete rep.
  • Repeat for your desired number of reps.



If you use momentum to extend your arms and flex your triceps, you might end up overusing and injuring your joints.

Additionally, using momentum does not allow your triceps to be under enough tension for them to experience the deep stretch that works them.

Instead of using momentum, make slow and controlled motions that will protect your joints and focus on optimally working your muscles.


Performing the cable overhead triceps extension with the pulley at waist height or below places your triceps under more tension, which increases the eccentric stretch at the top of the rep.

While setting the pulley at a height above your waist may not necessarily be wrong, it does not allow for optimal training of the long head.

This is because when your torso is bent at 90 degrees, your triceps will not be able to get that deep stretch they should be getting as you perform this exercise.


Many lifters perform half reps during this exercise because they believe it maximizes muscle pump and gives the target muscles a better workout.

Doing partial reps may not work the long head of the triceps brachii. It would also mean you’d be skimping on the eccentric portion of the exercise which receives the most growth-stimulating stretch.

For the best results, you should bring the rope behind your head and flex your triceps until your elbows are fully extended.


Whether you are looking to build your tricep muscles or just to give them a good stretch at the end of your upper body workout, the cable overhead triceps extension is a movement that is worth including in your fitness program.

It allows you to stretch your triceps and work your core using a weight you can comfortably control so that you don’t injure your joints, spine and lower back muscles.

What’s more, using a rope attachment will enable you work your arms independently and promote muscular balance and symmetry in your triceps.

For optimal results, aim at positioning the pulley at waist height or lower since this provides  a better stretch to your triceps.

This position will also enable you to maintain an upright, rigid torso which contributes to proper form for this exercise.