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How to do a Tricep Extension

What is a tricep extension?

What is a tricep extension

See all tricep extension variations

Whenever you push, pull, bend or straighten your arms, you're using your tricep muscles. Located at the back of your arms, the tricep muscles start at your shoulders and end at your elbows and contain three heads that are responsible for keeping your upper arms active.  

Strengthening your tricep muscles won't just make it easier to perform everyday tasks, you'll also benefit from increased strength, flexibility and circulation.

The location of the tricep muscles means that as your triceps grow in strength you will also notice an improvement in the strength and stability of your chest, back and shoulders

Plus, because the tricep muscles make up a massive two-thirds of your arms, if your goal is bigger arms than tricep extensions are a must.

As an isolation exercise, the tricep extension targets your tricep muscles by repetitively flexing the elbow joint against resistance. To give your triceps a workout try out the exercises below.

If you're a beginner start with the overhead tricep extensions, before moving on to the skull crushers - which aren't as scary as they sound!  


Commonly asked questions about triceps

  • Many chest exercises involve using the triceps but doing those exercises alone isn’t enough to make them bigger. Make sure to include exercises which specifically target your triceps such as the close grip bench press, cable tricep pushdown, cable overhead tricep extension and dumbbell kickback, and make sure to train these consistently over time to see results.

  • There are many ways to stretch your triceps. Examples include the: overhead tricep stretch, cross body stretch, and lean body stretch.

  • The following exercise hit all three heads of tricep: narrow grip bench press, skull crushers, tricep pushdown, weighted dips, tricep pushdown and tricep kickback.

Tricep extension tips

  • Try to keep your elbows as still as possible throughout the exercises to ensure you're isolating your tricep muscle
  • To get the most from each extension, hold the position for a beat when your arms are fully extended.
  • Be aware that shoulder presses also work your tricep muscles so be careful not to overload your triceps with back-to-back exercises

Tricep extension variations

how to do Overhead tricep extensions

Level: Beginners to Advanced

Equipment: Set of dumbbells

  1. With feet shoulder-width apart and core tight, hold a dumbbell with both hands
  2. Lift the dumbbell until your arms are fully extended with palms facing the roof and elbows pointing forward. This is the start position
  3. Bending at the elbows and squeezing your triceps, slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head
  4. Slowly return to start position and repeat

How to do Skull crushers

Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Equipment:  Set of dumbbells (or a weighted barbell)

  1. Lie flat on the bench with a dumbbell in each hand (or a weighted barbell with both hands). Make sure you head is near the edge of the bench.
  2. Carefully extend your arms so the weight is above your head. 
  3. Bending at the elbows slowly lower the dumbbells towards your shoulders and pause
  4. The return to start position and repeat.

How to do a tricep kickback

Level: Beginners to Advanced

Equipment: A dumbbell and a bench

  1. Grab a dumbbell in the right hand. Rest the left knee and left hand on the bench. Your palms should be in line with your shoulders. Head should be in line your back.
  2. The arm holding the dumbbell should be close to your body, with elbows bent at 90 degrees
  3. Brace your core and engage the triceps as you lift the dumbbell up and back as you try to straighten your arm.
  4. Pause, then lower back to 90 degrees. Repeat for however many reps and sets required and complete with the other arm

How to do a tricep pushdown

Level: Beginners to Advanced

Equipment needed: Cable machine and cable attachment (you can use cable rope, v-bar or straight bar).

  1. Connect a cable bar attachment to the cable machine. Stand with feet hip width apart with a slight bend in the knees.
  2. Grip the bar with palms facing downwards, about shoulder width apart.
  3. Keeping your elbows close to your body, take a slight forward lean, and exhale as you push the bar down till your arms full extended. When doing this, focus on just using your triceps to push the bar down whilst keeping your shoulders and arms still.
  4. Allow the muscles to sufficiently contract by holding for a pause, then slowly release the bar back to starting position as you inhale. Repeat the exercise for however many repetitions required. 

How to do a tricep dip

Level: Beginners to advance

Equipment required: Bench or chair

  1. Sit on the side of a bench and grip your hands on the edge of the bench, about hip distance apart.
  2. Keeping the arms extended, shuffle your feet forwards so you have room to lower your torso to perform a dip. You can have your legs straight or knees bent for an easier version of the exercise.
  3. Lower your body whilst keeping your chest high and open to avoid hunching forward. Keep your elbows tucked directly behind your shoulder blades to protect your joints. You should feel your arms and triceps working.
  4. Pause before extending your arms back up to starting position. 


If you’re not sure if any of the above exercises are suitable for you, please consult your doctor before you start it. Need guidance on how to perform the exercise? Ask a personal trainer at your gym.