Cable Overhead Extension

Start Position
End Position

Starting position:

  1. Adjust the pulley height just above your waist level.
  2. Grasp the rope ends with a closed grip and pull it overhead as you turn your body away from the cable.
  3. Stand straight with feet flat on the floor in a stable stance, placing one foot in front of the other.
  4. Face straight ahead with elbows bent, keeping arms tucked in and fists behind your head.

Downward movement/concentric phase:

  1. Extend elbows, pushing the rope ends in a vertical fashion (straight up and overhead).
Do not hold your breath. Exhale during the concentric/phase phase and inhale during the eccentric/lowering phase.

Upward movement/eccentric phase:

    1. In a controlled fashion, allow the elbows to bend, lowering the rope behind your head to the starting position.
    2. Keep the elbows tucked in and upper arms stationary throughout the entire movement.


Exercise Data

  • Primary Muscles: Triceps brachii
  • Synergists: Anconeus
  • Stabilizers: Deltoids, Rotator cuff muscles
  • Type: Strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance
  • Mechanics: Elbow extension
  • Equipment: Cable crossover station and rope
  • Lever: 1st class lever
  • Level: Intermediate to advanced
  • FAQ'S & FACTS ABOUT Cable Overhead Extension

    What Is A Triceps Cable Overhead Extension?

    A cable overhead triceps extension is a resistance exercise, which involves the primary elbow extensor, the triceps brachii. This exercise is performed at a cable crossover station with a rope attachment. The concentric portion of the lift is elbow extension, which involves the lifting of the weight. The eccentric portion is elbow flexion, which involves the descent of the weight.

    The purpose of the cable overhead triceps extension is to strengthen the triceps while promoting hypertrophy (increases in size) of triceps.

    Why Do Triceps Cable Overhead Extensions?

    Cable overhead triceps extensions provide a variation in exercises that activate the triceps brachii. Performing overhead triceps extensions places emphasis on the long head of the triceps. The long head of the triceps is the only one of the three triceps heads that crosses the shoulder joint, attaching at the scapula. Therefore, performing elbow extensions with the upward positioning of the arms places greater stress on the long head. The long head of the triceps makes up the top and inner portions of the “horseshoe”.

    Cable overhead triceps extensions strengthen and increase the size of the triceps brachii. Overhead extensions performed with a cable provide constant resistance throughout the entire range of motion. Cable overhead triceps extensions also serve as an auxiliary exercise that can increase strength involved in other multi-joint exercises.

    Anatomy Of A Triceps Cable Overhead Extension

    The triceps brachii is located on the back of the upper arm, originating at the shoulder and inserting in the elbow joint. It consists of three heads, the long, medial and lateral head. The medial head lies beneath the long and lateral head. The long head origin is located at the infraglenoid tubercle of the scapula (shoulder blade). The original of the lateral head is located at the posterior shaft of the humerus. The medial head origin is located at the radial groove of the posterior humeral shaft.

    The long and lateral heads make up the “horseshoe” portion of the triceps. All three heads merge, sharing insertion into the olecranon process of the ulna, located at the elbow joint.

    The triceps brachii extend the elbow joint. The long head assists in arm adduction.

    The anconeus is a short, triangular muscle located at the elbow joint. Its origin is located at the lateral epicondyle of the humerus, inserting at the lateral aspect of the olecranon process of the ulna.

    The positioning of the shoulders in a flexed position requires the deltoids and rotator cuff muscles to ensure stability of the joint capsule throughout the movement.

    Variations Of A Triceps Cable Overhead Extension

    Cable overhead triceps extensions with a straight bar attachment.

    How To Improve Your Triceps Cable Overhead Extensions

    Focus on the concentric portion of the contraction, concentrating on “squeezing” at the end of the flexing portion.

    Adjusting the pulley height just above waist level allows the lifter to place a greater stretch on the long head of the triceps as the arms are extended vertically overhead. Performing this exercise with the pulley height at shoulder level is acceptable, however, does not place as much tension on the long head of the triceps as the elbows extend with arms parallel to the floor.

    Emphasis on eccentric contractions, prolonging the eccentric portion of the contraction, may also be incorporated in a training program focused on increasing strength. This should be implemented accordingly and with adequate muscle recovery as eccentric contractions cause substantial damage to muscle tissue.

    It’s important to note that your repetition and set volume will depend on your goals (e.g. strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance). It is also important to allow adequate recovery days in between triceps and chest training to allow muscles to repair.

    Common Mistakes When Doing Triceps Cable Overhead Extensions

    Returning the weight too quickly to starting position can result in elbow, triceps and/or shoulder injury. Therefore, it is important to control the downward and upward phases of the exercise.

    Flaring your elbows out to the side can minimize triceps activation. Keep elbows tucked in to maximize triceps contraction.

    Injuries Or Ailments & Their Effects Regarding Triceps Cable Overhead Extensions

    If proper technique is not adhered to (e.g. dropping the weight quickly instead of controlling the descent on the eccentric portion of the lift, lifting a load too heavy for the lifter), the likelihood of injury increases.

    Although rare, triceps tendon rupture and/or injury to rotator cuff muscles may occur if warm-up is not sufficient and/or if intensity (load) is increased inappropriately. Lowering the rope ends too far behind the head should be avoided as it results in excessive shoulder flexion, which can place great stress on the overall joint.

    If proper technique and recovery are not adhered to, injuries such as impingement syndrome, rotator cuff injuries, and glenoid labrum tears may result.