Jimmy Peña, MS, CSCS
STEP 1: Sit erect on a low-back bench with your knees bent 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor.
STEP 2: Have a spotter hand you a loaded EZ-bar above your head. Grasp the bar with an overhand (pronated) grip about shoulder width apart with your thumbs wrapped around the bar for safety.
STEP 3: Hold the bar straight up toward the ceiling with your elbows close to the sides of your head. Keep your head straight and eyes focused forward.
STEP 1: Slowly lower the EZ-bar behind your head toward the floor until your arms reach 90-degree angles and you feel a good stretch in your triceps.
STEP 2: Your upper arms should remain fixed by the sides of your head with your elbows in tight and as close as possible.
STEP 3: Flex your triceps to forcefully press the weight back up to the starting position. Squeeze your triceps hard at the top and repeat for reps.
STEP 4: Your partner can assist you with forced reps if desired and take the bar from your hands at the end of the set.
The EZ-bar places your hands halfway between a pronated and neutral grip, so it’ll feel slightly easier on your wrists than the straight-bar version. Adjust your hands on the bar for your preferred position.
Hit the overhead extension early in your triceps workout when you’re the strongest. Because this focuses on the long head, be sure to follow it with moves that target the lateral and medial heads such as the triceps dip (lateral head) and reverse-grip pressdown (medial head).
Biggest Training Errors
1. Allowing your elbows to flare.
Too often we feel that no matter the exercise, a little body english won’t hurt. With this isolation move, however, you want to try and stay as strict as possible by keeping your elbows in tight because excessive elbow flare means the workload on the triceps is being reduced.
2. Bringing the bar too low.
You always want to get a good, full stretch on your triceps, but not at the expense of tension. Going too far back decreases tension by allowing you to actually rest, not to mention putting undue stress on the elbow joints.
3. Not sitting up straight.
It might sound elementary, but the fact is, this exercise is best performed when your hips form a 90-degree angle. That better enables your arms to be in perfect alignment as well. You’ll have plenty of opportunity for lying triceps exercises and standing moves, but for this one, don’t let your butt slide down the bench. Make sure your lower back is tucked tightly and flush against the upright portion at all times.
Seated Overhead Dumbbell Extension
Probably the best alternative in keeping with the benefits of free weights is the dumbbell version. This move is also great if you don’t have the luxury of an experienced spotter. The single-arm overhead dumbbell version allows you to use your non-working arm to self-spot yourself, and to force an additional 2–3 reps beyond initial failure. It’s also easier to dismount a single dumbbell at the end of the set if you’re working out alone.