Triceps Dip Machine vs. Overhead Cable Extension
Both exercises work the triceps, but which one is better at targeting the lateral head?
By Jimmy Pena, MS, CSCS
Overhead Cable Extension
Arguably one of the best triceps movements is the overhead extension. Although this exercise can be done standing, to improve the isolation effect it should be done seated. Place a low-back bench facing away from the low pulley and blast away. You can either do this one arm at a time or with both arms simultaneously, using any number of bars or the rope as shown here. (The rope entails a neutral grip.) If you do the single-arm version, feel free to use your nonworking arm to spot yourself. To make sure the plates don’t touch down between reps, taking tension off the muscles, ensure the bench is far enough away before you start your set. You’ll find the constant tension the cable provides will burn your triceps as few other movements can.
Here’s a great example of one of the few multijoint exercises for the triceps. Multijoint means action is taking place at both the elbow and shoulder joints, and for that reason you can really overload the triceps. With the dip machine you don’t need to worry about balance, but you can simply blast away at the target muscle. The upright bench ensures you have perfect form throughout the set, and the handles rotate inward and outward so that you target the triceps according to your body size. Your main concern is simply making sure you’ve set the apparatus to fit your height, as most seats adjust up and down. The weight plates shouldn’t touch down between reps, so make sure the seat is high enough. This adjustment might require a few practice reps.
Advantage: Dip Machine
The dip machine wins, not so much because you can bombard your triceps with more weight than on the overhead extension, but because of the angle of your arms relative to the body. In the overhead extension your arms are raised and next to your head. That action automatically places a great deal of stress on the triceps’ long head. Even though you can’t completely isolate any single triceps head, you can effectively shift the emphasis to one or another. On the dip machine your arms are at your sides, forcing most of the work onto the triceps’ lateral head. Hence photo TK is correct. For complete triceps development be sure to incorporate both movements in your triceps routine. Start at the dip machine; then target the meaty long head with the overhead extension. Finish your session with reverse-grip pressdowns to focus on the triceps’ medial head.