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Master the Incline Cable Overhead Extension

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Try this exercise that hits all three triceps heads with emphasis on the long head.

By Jimmy Peña, MS, CSCS; Photography by Michael Butler; Model: IFBB Pro Dan Hill

THE START

1. Set an adjustable incline bench to about 45 degrees and back it up facing away from a lower pulley. Attach an EZ-bar to the lower pulley.
2. Lie faceup on the bench with your feet flat on the floor. Your body should be fully supported from your hips up to your entire head.
3. Have a partner hand you the EZ-bar and grasp it with an overhand grip. Be sure to wrap your thumbs around the bar for safety.
4. With your arms extended hold the bar directly above your head; you’ll immediately feel tension in the cable. Lock your upper arms in this position for the duration of the set.

EXECUTION

1. Keeping your upper arms stationary, unlock your triceps as you slowly lower the bar down behind your head.
2. When you reach a 90-degree bend in your elbows, pause for a moment and then forcefully extend your arms and press the bar back to the start.
3. Hold the peak-contracted position for a count, then slowly lower and repeat.

IN YOUR ROUTINE

* The incline cable overhead extension should be performed early in your workout with heavy weight following a thorough warm-up or at the end of your workout with lighter weight to flush the triceps.
* You can follow the overhead extension with pressdowns, reverse-grip pressdowns, kickbacks and dips to fully exhaust your triceps.
* Because you’re working with cables from a seated position, we highly recommend you have a spotter, especially to assist at the end of the set. Your spotter can help you accomplish a few more reps after initial failure (forced reps) and ensure that you can safely terminate the set without putting yourself at risk of injury.
* Performed at the start of your workout, do for 3–4 sets of 8–12 repetitions. If you save it for the end of your session, do three sets of 15–25 reps.

BEST ALTERNATIVES

Incline Dumbbell Overhead Extension:

When you raise your arms overhead, you engage the long head immediately, and the angle of the bench allows you to hit the target through a longer range of motion. In fact, because of the angle of the bench, when you raise the dumbbell to the start position, the triceps are immediately engaged, so there’s constant tension placed upon the target muscle; a phenomenon typically reserved solely for cable-driven moves. To enhance that constant tension, begin each set with your arms farther back behind your head. The dumbbell extension also requires additional stabilizer activity, helping add mass and strength to your tri’s. You can do the dumbbell version with a dumbbell in each hand or go heavier and use both hands with a single weight.

45-Degree Skull-Crusher:

To simulate the incline extension and in order to target the long head of the triceps with better accuracy during a flat-bench version, it’s best to shift your arms to 45-degree angles (rather than keeping them perpendicular to the floor), keeping your upper arms at that angle throughout. As in all of these variations, it’s the long head that we’re trying to target. The 45-degree skull can be done using a straight bar, dumbbells or even an EZ-bar, which might be a little easier on your wrists. As opposed to the standard skull-crusher you’re probably used to, during this version you actually take the bar to the top of your head or the end of the bench as opposed to your forehead. Not only will you feel your triceps better engaged but your elbows will also feel less stress and strain because of your angled arm position relative to your torso.

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