cable overhead triceps extension alternative
Alternative Exercises

8 Cable Overhead Triceps Extension Alternatives

When it comes to developing huge triceps, the long head of the tricep muscle is what provides mass. In order to fully develop it, you’ve got to fully activate the muscle. Lifting your arms overhead has been shown to be an ideal way to do that. The pulley overhead tricep extension is a great exercise that pre-stretches the muscle and provides tension through the entire range of motion. But not everyone has access to a cable pulley machine. Here are 8 cable pulley overhead extension alternative exercises you can do at home or in the gym.

1. Banded Overhead Triceps Extension

How To Do It

  1. Secure a resistance exercise band to the top of an internal door using the door anchor attachment. Stand in front of the door in a split stance and grasp the band with both hands in a pronated grip at head level with your elbows at the sides of your head and elbows bent. 
  2. Straighten your arms directly out to fully extend the triceps in the finish position.
  3. Reverse and repeat.
  4. Do 3 sets of 10-15 reps.

Training Tips

Do not allow your triceps to drift out to the sides of your head as you do this exercise. Adjust your starting position so that the band is taut in the starting position.

2. Dumbbell Single Arm Triceps Extension

How To Do It

  1. Sit on a bench with a dumbbell held in your right hand. Lift the weight overhead with your arm straightened and elbow by your head.
  2. Bend the elbow to bring the dumbbell down below your head to full triceps contraction. 
  3. Reverse to straighten the arm back up overhead in the finish position.
  4. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.

Training Tips

Be sure to maintain an upright torso with a  neutral spine position. Keep your elbow in at the side of your head at all times.

3. Bodyweight Triceps Extension

How To Do It

  1. Stand in front of a bench or other upright that sits at waist height, so that you are about four feet from it. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Place your hands on the bench with your thumbs about three inches apart and straighten your arms. Your body should now be at a 30-degree angle to the floor.
  3. Keeping your heels down, bend the elbows to bring your head down toward the bench.
  4. Push back to the start position.
  5. Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps
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Training Tips

This is a good finishing exercise to do after your cable or dumbbell triceps work. Perform the exercise slowly, getting a full extension and not allowing momentum to help you back up.

4. Reverse Dips

How To Do It

  1. Place two benches four feet apart. Stand between the benches then place your hands on one bench and your feet on the other. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart and feet together, with your knees slightly bent.
  2. From a starting position with your arms extending, bend the elbows to lower your body toward the floor.
  3. Push back through the triceps to full extension.
  4. Do 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

Training Tips

To make the exercise harder, straighten your legs. You can also increase the resistance on the triceps by wearing a weight vest or having your training partner place a weight plate on your waist.

5. Diamond Push Ups

How To Do It

  1. Get down on the floor in the push-up position, with your feet together, body in a straight line, and your hands together under your body with thumbs and first fingers touching. This should form a diamond shape between your hands.
  2. From a starting position with your arms fully extended, lower down to the bottom push-up position.
  3. Push through the triceps back to the start position.
  4. Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

Training Tips

Diamond push-ups are much harder than the standard push up and you will not be able to get as full a range of movement. Keep your elbows in at the sides throughout and move slowly.

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6. Dumbbell French Press

How To Do It

  1. Lie on a flat bench with a pair of dumbbells in hand. Lift the weights directly above your chest in a neutral grip.
  2. Bend at the elbows to bring the dumbbells down toward the sides of your head.
  3. Revere the action to push back to the start position.
  4. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.

Training Tips

Keep the elbows in as much as possible, not allowing them to flare out in the bottom position; don’t use momentum to get the weights back up. 

7. Unilateral Cross Body Triceps Extension

How To Do It

  1. Lie on a bench with a dumbbell in your right hand in a neutral grip with the arm straight up. Use your left hand to support the right arms just below the elbow.
  2. Bend at the elbow to bring the dumbbell down and across to your opposite cheek.
  3. Push through the triceps to return to the start position.
  4. D 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

Training Tips

Some people may feel discomfort in the elbow when doing this exercise. If that is the case, stop the downward part of the movement a little short of full contraction. Ensure that the whole of your back and glutes remain on the bench.

8. Band Unilateral Triceps Extension

How To Do It

  1. Secure a resistance band to the bottom of an internal door using the door attachment. Stand with your feet hip-width apart in a staggered stance. Bend forward with your torso to a 30-degree angle. Hold the band in your right hand at your side with your elbow bent.
  2. Extend your arms to full extension to fully contract the triceps.
  3. Do 3 sets of 12-15 reps on each arm.

Training Tips

Maintain a neutral head position, keeping your torso bent forward throughout. 

Conclusion

The eight cable overhead triceps extension exercises provided give your plenty of ways to train with an emphasis on the long head of the muscle, even if you don’t have access to a cable pulley machine. Experiment with the above-mentioned exercises to find out which are the most effective triceps exercise options for you. Then choose three of them to combine into a 9 set triceps workout program, with 3 sets of each exercise. Be sure to include exercises that also target the lateral head and medial head of the triceps muscle. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

How to do a rope extension pushdown?

To do a rope pushdown you will need to put a rope attachment onto a cable pulley machine. Set the pulley at its highest setting and stand in front of it, grasping the ends of the rope handle. With your elbows held at your sides, hold the handles at chest level. Keeping your elbows in at the side, push down to full arms extension. Without allowing your elbows to flare up, return to the start position.

Is the triceps made up of one or three muscles?

The triceps are made up of one muscle, the triceps brachii. This muscle has three heads or parts to it. These heads attach to the humerus (upper arm bone), scapula, and ulna. It extends the forearms at the elbow and helps to extend and adducts the arm at the shoulder.

What is the biggest mistake people make when training the triceps?

The biggest mistake people make when training their triceps is to use a weight that is too heavy. This often causes them to flare their elbows out. Whenever you are performing flexion and extension-based exercises, which you do on every triceps movement. You should keep your elbow and shoulder position fixed. Doing so will increase the amount of tension being laced on the target muscle, as well as helping to prevent stress to the elbow or shoulder joint.

Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss.

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