What Are the Benefits of the Tricep Extension Exercise?

The tricep extension is a single-joint exercise that targets the triceps, the muscles on the back of your upper arm. Benefits of the tricep extension exercise include its isolation effect, convenience and variety. Although a basic exercise that only involves extending the elbow, the tricep extension has many variations so you won't get bored with the exercise.

A man is doing tricep extensions.
Credit: Zinkevych/iStock/Getty Images


The tricep muscles run from your shoulder, down the back of your arm, to your elbow joint. These muscles are called triceps because the muscle group consists of three heads: the long head, the lateral head and the medial head. This muscle group is responsible for extending, or straightening, the elbow joint. The tricep extension exercise involves straightening your elbow joint against resistance. Your arm can be in most any position -- overhead, at your side or parallel to the ground -- during the extension exercise.


Variety is one of the main benefits of the tricep extension exercise. You can do this exercise with your arm in a variety of positions using almost any type of resistance. Use a dumbbell, barbell, EZ bar or cable machine for the lying tricep extension. At the gym, do the standing tricep extension on a cable machine, but at home, you can use an exercise band. For a seated overhead tricep extension, grab a dumbbell, EZ bar or even a medicine ball.


Because you can do the tricep extension exercise with different types of resistance and in several body positions, it is a convenient exercise to incorporate into your workout routine. Other triceps exercises require specific equipment. For example, it is difficult to do a close-grip press without a barbell. But you can always find an alternative for the tricep extension exercise. If you don't have barbell, use a dumbbell. If you don't have a weight bench, do a seated or standing variation of the exercise.


The tricep extension is an isolation exercise; the movement occurs at only one joint and targets one muscle group. This allows you to focus your efforts on just your triceps muscles. Other exercises work the triceps as secondary muscles, such as the chest press or push-up. The tricep extension targets only the triceps without assistance from any other muscle group. Use this exercise to strengthen the tricep muscles and to even out any unbalances between sides.

Benefits of Strengthening

The triceps help stabilize your shoulder joint and they act as an extensor of the elbow and shoulder. As your triceps become stronger with these exercises, the strength and stability of your shoulders and elbows increase. The functionality, flexibility and range of motion of your arm increases the more you work and strengthen these muscles. As a result, your performance improves in sports that require arm movements and upper body strength such as tennis, swimming, volleyball and basketball.

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