Dumbbell Lying Extensions

Start Position
End Position

Starting position:

  1. Lie on your back on a flat bench.
  2. Grasp the dumbbells with a closed, neutral grip.
  3. Place both feet flat on the floor on each side of the bench to balance to your body.
  4. Press the weight up from your body, extending elbows. Position dumbbells parallel to your body. Keep a slight bend in your elbows.
  5. Tilt arms back slightly, just behind shoulder level.
  6. Keep elbows and arms tucked in.

Downward movement/eccentric phase:

  1. In a controlled fashion, allow the elbows to bend, lowering the dumbbells toward your head.
  2. Keep the elbows tucked in and upper arms stationary throughout the entire movement.
  3. Maintain feet flat on the floor.

Upward movement/concentric phase:

    1. Extend elbows, pushing the dumbbells upward, returning the dumbbells to starting position.
Do not hold your breath. Exhale during the concentric/phase phase and inhale during the eccentric/lowering phase.


Exercise Data

  • Primary Muscles: Triceps brachii
  • Synergists: Anconeus
  • Stabilizers: Deltoids, Rotator cuff muscles
  • Type: Strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance
  • Mechanics: Elbow extension
  • Equipment: Two dumbbells
  • Lever: 1st class lever
  • Level: Intermediate to advanced
  • FAQ'S & FACTS ABOUT Dumbbell Lying Extensions

    What Is A Triceps Dumbbell Lying Extension?

    A lying dumbbell triceps extension is a resistance exercise, which involves the primary elbow extensor, the triceps brachii. This exercise is performed with two dumbbells. 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 lying dumbell triceps extension is to strengthen the triceps while promoting hypertrophy (increases in size) of triceps.

    Why Do A Triceps Dumbbell Lying Extension?

    Lying dumbbell triceps extensions provide a variation in exercises that activate the triceps brachii. It is also a variation of the seated and standing overhead extension exercises. Lying dumbbell triceps extensions allow the lifter to perform the exercise with stricter technique, isolating elbow extension more effectively compared to the standing variation.

    Performing lying 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 arms positioned slightly behind shoulder level, places greater stress on the long head. The long head of the triceps makes up the top and inner portions of the “horseshoe”.

    Lying dumbbell triceps extensions strengthen and increase the size of the triceps brachii. They also serve as an auxiliary exercise that can increase strength involved in other multi-joint exercises.

    Anatomy Of A Triceps Dumbbell Lying 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 Dumbbell Lying Extension

    Lying EZ bar triceps extensions, Lying barbell triceps extensions, seated overhead extensions, standing overhead extensions.

    How To Improve Your Triceps Dumbbell Lying Extensions

    Tilting the arms backwards, just behind shoulder level, at the starting position allows the lifter to fully contract the triceps with elbow extension. Therefore, the tension is increased, maximizing the contraction. Otherwise, if the starting position is at shoulder level, the triceps are not working against gravity when nearing full elbow extension on the concentric portion of the lift.

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

    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.

    Strategically vary your overhead extension grip width and angles (e.g. seated, standing) to improve your overall triceps exercise performance.

    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 Dumbbell Lying Extensions

    Placing dumbbells too close together (i.e. narrower than shoulder width) does not enhance triceps activation and can also stress the shoulders. A shoulder width grip is appropriate for optimal triceps activation.

    Bouncing the dumbbells at the bottom of the movement before the upward phase 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 Dumbbell Lying Extensions

    If proper technique is not adhered to (e.g. arching of the back, 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 dumbbells too far and/or positioning the upper arms too far back 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.