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Exercise of the Month: Overhead Triceps Extension

The Overhead Triceps Extension is a great exercise for strengthening and toning the back of the upper arms. It can be performed using one dumbbell (shown) or two, or with a resistance band.


Starting Position (Photo 1): Stand with arms straight and overhead, holding a dumbbell with hands wrapped around the handle, or with hands securely cupped around one end. To help maintaining normal posture/alignment of the spine, pull the shoulder blades down and back slightly, and engage the abdominal muscles.

Lowering phase (Photo 2): Bend elbows in a slow, controlled manner, allowing the dumbbell to travel downward, behind your head. Throughout the exercise, look straight ahead, and as you are lifting and lowering the weight, keep upper arms stationary and close to your head, with elbows in.

To complete the repetition, slowly straighten the arms and press the dumbbell overhead to starting position. Repeat.


The Overhead Triceps Extension can be performed one arm at a time. In this case, while lifting and lowering the weight weight with the right arm, use the left hand to hold the upper arm/elbow in place.

If you have existing joint problems or medical conditions, get clearance from your doctor before starting an exercise program. If you are not comfortable attempting this exercise, seek the advice of a professional or use a spotter who has experience with strength training to help ensure proper form.

Do your best to maintain a normal lumbar arch. If your low back tends to over arch, you can try doing the exercise in a seated position, using a chair with a back rest low enough so that it will not get in the way of the moving weight.

During the lowering phase of the exercise the triceps are lengthening/stretching, while during the pressing phase, they are contracting/strengthening. For the fullest strengthening effect and optimal range of motion, be sure to lower weight to its furthest comfortable range of motion, and tighten the back of the upper arms once the weight has come to a stop overhead.

Beginners should start with one to two sets, performing eight to 12 repetitions or as many as possible with good form. This exercise does not require heavy weight in order to be effective.

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