How to Do the Single-Arm Overhead Triceps Extension for Optimal Arm Gains

You possibly can construct large muscle groups with small actions. That’s a truth. Whereas giant, compound lifts must be your bread and butter as a bodybuilder, carving out the best particulars of your physique requires equally-precise train decisions. 

Should you’ve packed your arm workouts with workout routines like dips, pressdowns, or heavy presses, you most likely have well-developed triceps already. However are you neglecting your overhead sport and lacking out on beneficial properties consequently?

Single-arm overhead triceps extension with cable.
Credit score: Ajan Alen / Shutterstock

The only-arm overhead triceps extension would possibly simply be the best triceps movement you aren’t doing. You may make some actually impressive gains with this train if you know the way to optimize it. 

Easy methods to Do the Single-Arm Overhead Triceps Extension

You need to use a wide range of totally different implements for the single-arm triceps extension, however your finest guess might be to move for the cable station. Cables present constant rigidity to the muscle and help you customise your setup. Right here’s how it’s best to do your overhead triceps extensions with a cable. 

Step 1 — Get Set Up

A person doing the single-arm overhead triceps extension with a cable.
Credit score: Constructed To Bloom Well being + Health / Youtube

Set an adjustable cable station so the pulley is at round waist top. You need to use a deal with attachment, a single-arm rope, or seize onto the cable fixture itself. From right here, seize the cable together with your working arm and twist your physique round.

You need to be standing a foot or two away from the cable, going through away, together with your working arm pulled behind your head as if you have been unsheathing a sword. You need to really feel a considerable stretch in your triceps right here.

Coach’s Tip: So as to interact the goal muscle, your higher arm must be parallel to your torso. 

Step 2 — Lengthen and Squeeze

A person doing the single-arm overhead triceps extension with a cable.
Credit score: Constructed To Bloom Well being + Health / Youtube

When you’ve adjusted your self into a snug beginning place, full the overhead single-arm extension by squeezing your triceps to straighten your arm. Pause for a beat on the high together with your elbow straight, after which slowly permit the cable to drag your forearm again to the beginning place.

Coach’s Tip: Keep away from transferring your higher arm at any level throughout the train. 

Single-Arm Overhead Triceps Extension Units and Reps

Like with any train, the way you program the single-arm overhead extension will have an effect on the outcomes you glean from it. An train like this isn’t essentially the most versatile on the market from a programming perspective, however you possibly can attempt these two set and rep schemes for your self to see:

  • For Muscle Progress: Go for two or 3 units of 10 to 12 reps with a strong mind-muscle connection.
  • To Pump Up: Do 5 units of 10 reps with solely 30 seconds of relaxation between units. 

Frequent Single-Arm Overhead Triceps Extension Errors

Regardless of being a single-joint isolation movement, there are many alternatives to mess up the single-arm overhead triceps extension. To get essentially the most worth out of each rep you carry out, be sure you’re steering clear of those widespread errors. 

Lifting Too Heavy

You’d be clever to depart your ego behind throughout this train. You possibly can actually load up heavy weights and go to city on sure triceps movements, however relating to the single-arm overhead extension, much less is extra.

You’d be stunned at how mild you possibly can go and nonetheless torch each single fiber in your triceps. Furthermore, the place of your higher arm isn’t essentially the most secure, and a heavy weight might distract you from contracting your triceps on the expense of your shoulders. Begin lighter than you suppose you want and construct up conservatively. 

Shifting Your Higher Arm

The only-arm overhead triceps extension is potent for muscle progress due to the posture you are taking throughout your set. Putting your shoulder into a lot flexion (as in, holding your arm up behind your head) additionally stretches the triceps muscle. Making use of load to that stretched place is vital for high quality hypertrophy.

So, in case your higher arm strikes throughout the set, you’re liable to lose a few of that muscular rigidity alongside the best way. It gained’t diminish the worth of the train altogether, however it’ll dampen your outcomes to a point. Focus exhausting on conserving your higher arm very nonetheless the entire time. 

Improper Setup

There’s a couple of approach to arrange for the single-arm overhead extension when you use a cable tree, true sufficient. Nonetheless, when you don’t set the cable fixture on the correct top, you gained’t get an excellent contraction in your triceps.

A person working out with a cable machine.
Credit score: Yuliia Hurzhos / Shutterstock

It could take some trial and error, however it’s best to be sure you verify the next bins earlier than you carry out your set: 

  1. You will get your higher arm comfortably up and again, parallel together with your torso.
  2. You’re feeling a powerful stretch in your triceps and lats within the beginning place.
  3. You could have secure footing and a secure core brace to stop any undesirable motion.

Single-Arm Overhead Triceps Extension Variations

The only-arm overhead triceps extension is, mainly, a variation in and of itself. It’s by-product of the overhead triceps extension that you just’d usually do bilaterally (with each arms directly). That stated, the gear you select to work with does have an effect on the way you carry out the motion and what advantages you possibly can count on. 

Your finest guess is to work with cables by default, however that doesn’t imply you possibly can’t head for the dumbbell rack or seize a resistance band as a substitute. 

With a Dumbbell

Should you decide to do the single-arm overhead triceps extension with dumbbells, you’ll alter the resistance curve of the train, which can be preferable in some circumstances.

Cables present constant mechanical rigidity to the goal muscle, however free weights like dumbbells should obey the forces of gravity. As such, if you work with dumbbells, you’ll discover that the motion is tough in the course of the range of motion and straightforward in the beginning and finish

With a Resistance Band

Resistance bands don’t provide as a lot hypertrophic potential as different implements, however that doesn’t make them ineffective. Not solely do bands present a novel type of rigidity to your triceps, in addition they make for an superior warm-up device.

Bands apply increasingly more rigidity to your triceps as you progress via the vary of movement of the single-arm overhead extension. This may help you cue your self to extend your elbows forcefully, which can carry over to heavy presses or different compound actions. 

It’s possible you’ll wish to attempt doing single-arm overhead extensions with a band as a part of your warm-up routine earlier than hitting the bench press

Single-Arm Overhead Triceps Extension Options

The only-arm overhead triceps extension supplies a phenomenal arm-building stimulus, however it isn’t the one approach to load up your weapons with new muscle tissue. Any good triceps coaching routine ought to have at the very least one overhead motion; you possibly can attempt any of those alternate options and get comparable outcomes. 

Single-Arm Cranium Crusher

If your gym is packed to the brim and the cable stations are all occupied, you would possibly wish to follow the free weights to your triceps coaching. An train just like the single-arm skull crusher can do the trick in a pinch.

This motion intently mimics the single-arm overhead triceps extension that you just’d usually carry out with cables. It additionally occurs to be fairly grab-and-go; all you want is a dumbbell and a flat bench to lie on. 

Deficit Handstand Push-Up

This one could seem a bit “on the market,” however the deficit handstand push-up does provide a possibility to diversify the way you prepare your arms. Particularly, an train like this not solely thrashes your triceps, however helps you develop different worthwhile athletic qualities like balance and coordination.

Throughout a handstand, you place your shoulder into the identical type of flexion that prompts your triceps throughout an overhead extension. The deficit (as in, putting your fingers on two elevated surfaces to provide your head extra room to journey via house) is what supplies your triceps with ample vary of movement. 

This train isn’t an ideal alternative for the single-arm overhead triceps extension, however when you needed to construct up your gymnastics skills and prepare your arms on the similar time, it’s an incredible start line. 

French Press

The French press isn’t a espresso maker (although it actually appears like one) — it’s a triceps-building exercise that hits all three heads of the muscle. Consider, mainly, combining a close-grip press with a regular cranium crusher.

The primary half of the French press, if you permit the resistance to float behind your head, will get the lengthy head of your triceps into the sport. Then, you comply with it up with a regular press on the finish to emphasise the remainder of the muscle. 

Muscular tissues Labored by the Single-Arm Overhead Triceps Extension

Spoiler alert: The only-arm overhead triceps extension is a triceps train. Nonetheless, understanding the mechanics of the motion itself (in addition to how your triceps reply to it) would possibly inspire you to push a bit more durable throughout your units. 


Your triceps, named for his or her three heads that insert on totally different elements of various bones, sit on the again of your higher arm. They’re the first antagonist of the biceps brachii; your biceps bend your elbow, and your triceps straighten it again out once more.

Any time you carry out a bench press, push-up, dip, or another motion that requires you to straighten your arm in opposition to resistance, you prepare your triceps. Nonetheless, the angle of your arm can drastically have an effect on which head of the triceps performs essentially the most work. 

The Lengthy Head 

The lengthy head of the triceps truly makes up the majority of the muscle itself. Nonetheless, you possibly can’t adequately goal your triceps’ lengthy head with out performing overhead actions typically.

A person flexing his arm muscles.
Credit score: – Yuri A / Shutterstock

It is because that portion of the triceps attaches to your scapula as effectively. Due to this fact, the angle of your shoulder will apply extra (or much less) stretch to the lengthy head of the triceps. (1) You’ll even really feel your lengthy head engaged on non-triceps workout routines that require shoulder extension as effectively, corresponding to straight-arm pulldowns or dumbbell pullovers. 


The only-arm overhead extension could also be an isolation train to your triceps, however there’s nonetheless some rigidity and cargo positioned upon your shoulder. As such, the small muscle groups that management and stabilize your scapula (that’s your shoulder blade) should contract isometrically that will help you carry out the motion. 

This doesn’t imply that the overhead extension will grow your upper back, however you do get a small quantity of “free” stability coaching alongside the best way. 

Advantages of the Single-Arm Overhead Triceps Extension

Area of interest isolation workout routines just like the single-arm overhead triceps extension are distinctive at assembly one or two particular wants. On this case, you should utilize this train to blow up your arms with out having to sling round heavy weights. Nonetheless, there are a number of different unique advantages on provide as effectively. 

Focused Muscle Progress

Sure research have proven that overhead triceps workout routines — when your shoulder is held in a flexed place beside your head somewhat than tucked in opposition to your torso — might build “substantially” more muscle. (2)

A person doing the single-arm overhead triceps extension with a dumbbell.
Credit score: YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV / Shutterstock

This can be attributable to the truth that your lengthy head has higher leverage to contract on this place, whereas the opposite two heads of your triceps can nonetheless contribute to elbow extension simply positive. Your lengthy head is considerably pushed to the sidelines throughout arm-down triceps extensions, at the very least insofar as muscular activation goes. 

Helps Right Imbalances

Any single-arm (or single-leg) train has the potential that will help you determine, assault, and treatment muscular imbalances. Bilateral, or two-limbed, actions can masks these imbalances by enabling your stronger aspect to compensate for weaknesses elsewhere.

Between using only one arm and the setup of the train itself, the single-arm overhead triceps train ought to put any discrepancies in triceps energy on full show nearly instantly. Should you discover you possibly can’t use the identical weight with each arms, you might need an issue to sort out. 

Straightforward to Carry out

The setup is essentially the most intricate a part of the single-arm overhead triceps extension. When you get your self in an excellent place, the motion itself is basically fairly easy: Hold your higher arm nonetheless and prolong your elbow.

As such, the training curve for this carry is sort of front-loaded. Get the setup down pat and you’ll carry out this motion any time with relative ease. Keep in mind that single-arm lifts do take extra total time to finish than when you labored bilaterally. 

Who Ought to Do the Single-Arm Overhead Triceps Extension

Should you’re after supreme, high-quality muscle progress — or simply need your arms to be a bit greater and stronger — the single-arm overhead triceps extension is for you. Right here’s why. 

Normal Gymgoers

A correct resistance training program ought to rely primarily on multi-joint compound exercises. These actions interact plenty of muscle tissue directly and train you the way to use your physique as a synchronized unit.

A coach demonstrating how to do the French Press.
Credit score: put on it out / Shutterstock

Nonetheless, that doesn’t imply it’s good to shrink back from the “small” workout routines, both. Isolation actions just like the single-arm extension train you the way to activate particular person muscle groups and might convey up your weak points


For the muscle-minded, actions just like the overhead triceps extension are invaluable. Building a complete physique means mentioning each single muscle in your physique. That you must look past push-ups and dips if you need triceps that basically pop. 

Overhead workout routines are your finest guess for hitting the lengthy head of your triceps, so the single-arm overhead extension ought to most likely be a mainstay motion throughout your arm workouts

Power Athletes

There’s one thing to be stated for incorporating a number of well-crafted “mirror muscle” actions when you train for strength. Should you’re a powerlifter, strongman, or weightlifter, your triceps are a useful assistive tissue that enable you push heavy weights. 

You need to use the single-arm overhead triceps extension as an accessory movement to shore up weaknesses in your arms, or as a part of a warm-up circuit earlier than a heavy urgent session. 

Attain for These Positive aspects

Huge issues have small beginnings. That is doubly true to your muscular potential. If you wish to build arms that flip heads and push loopy weight, it’s good to go away your ego on the door and be prepared to work with isolation workout routines just like the single-arm overhead triceps extension.


Nonetheless scratching your head in regards to the single-arm overhead triceps extension? These are some widespread questions in regards to the train, plus the solutions you search.

Is the single-arm overhead triceps extension unhealthy for my shoulders?

Under no circumstances! There’s nothing intrinsically harmful about holding your arm above your head except your doctor or bodily therapist advises in opposition to loading that vary of movement. Your higher again muscle groups contract to stabilize your shoulder blade so you possibly can concentrate on coaching your triceps.

When ought to I take advantage of the single-arm overhead triceps extension as a substitute of two arms?

You would possibly wish to work with one arm at a time you probably have an imbalance between the energy or measurement of your triceps muscle groups. Utilizing one arm additionally helps you concentrate on growing an excellent mind-muscle reference to the goal tissue. When you’ve got the additional time to spare, there aren’t any downsides to working your triceps unilaterally.


  1. Kholinne, E., Zulkarnain, R. F., Solar, Y. C., Lim, S., Chun, J. M., & Jeon, I. H. (2018). The totally different function of every head of the triceps brachii muscle in elbow extension. Acta orthopaedica et traumatologica turcica, 52(3), 201–205. 
  2. Maeo, S., Wu, Y., Huang, M., Sakurai, H., Kusagawa, Y., Sugiyama, T., Kanehisa, H., & Isaka, T. (2022). Triceps brachii hypertrophy is considerably larger after elbow extension coaching carried out within the overhead versus impartial arm place. European journal of sport science, 1–11. Advance on-line publication. 

Featured Picture: Ajan Alen / Shutterstock

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