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Lying Triceps ExtensionsLeave a Reply

Of the many variations of the triceps extension, one of the better ones is the lying triceps extension. It is especially beneficial for the midsection of the muscle.


One major muscle is involved: the triceps brachii, a large muscle that covers the entire back of the upper arm. It is divided into three parts, the lateral, medial and long heads.

At the upper end, the long head is attached to the scapula (shoulder blade) just below the shoulder joint (under the armpit). The lateral and medial heads do not cross the shoulder joint. The lateral head attaches to the upper half of the humerus (upper-arm bone) in the middle of the bone shaft and the medial portion attaches to a wide area of the lower part of the humerus, extending nearly two-thirds the length of the bone. Because of the inside area of attachment, this portion of the triceps is most powerful in elbow extension, especially at the beginning of the movement.

At the lower end, all three heads run into a common tendon, which inserts on the olecranon process of the ulna.


In the elbow joint the major action is extension, in which the upper and lower arms move away from each other. In this exercise the upper arm undergoes slight extension and the lower arm moves away from the upper arm until the arm is fully extended (straightened).


Elbow and shoulder joint extension and the muscles involved are needed in all activities that require downward-and-backward or upward-and-forward pushing actions. Examples are pushing yourself upward and forward out of a chair or pushing a weight overhead.

More specifically, this motion is needed in gymnastics in execution of many stunts on the apparatus and in free exercise. It is critical in the iron sports, in the jerk in weightlifting, for example, and in the bench press in powerlifting. It is very important in all racquet sports for backhand and overhead strokes, even though it does not exactly duplicate the sports actions. The lying triceps extension is also very important for bodybuilders in developing and defining the back of the upper arms, especially the middle portion.


Lie on your back on an exercise bench. Your feet should be flat on the floor. Hold a dumbbell or barbell (with a narrow grip), with arms bent behind and below the head. There should be considerable flexion in the elbow joint and a slight pull in the shoulder joint.

Once in position, pull the weight up and forward over the head. You will notice some action in the shoulder joints together with elbow joint extension. Raise up until your arms are straight with the hands directly over the shoulders. Lower slowly with shoulder and elbow flexion so that you don't hit your head with the weight.


  1. To do this exercise correctly, you must think elbow extension. Start the action with elbow extension. Starting with shoulder extension gets the weight moving, which makes it easier for the elbow extensors to work, but as a result, you do not work the triceps through the full range.
  2. To work the triceps most effectively, you must use a narrow grip. This will allow you to go through a greater range of motion. With a wide grip, most of the action takes place in the shoulder joint and the exercise more closely resembles the bent-arm pullover. (This will also happen if you rely more on shoulder extension than elbow extension.)
  3. Breathing should be as follows: Inhale, then hold your breath as you raise the weight. Exhale at the top and as you return the weight to the starting position. If you use very heavy weights, use this double breathing cycle: Inhale and hold your breath as you raise the weight; exhale as your arms fully extend; inhale and hold your breath as you lower the weight; exhale when you hit the bottom position and then inhale to begin the next repetition.
  4. Using excessively heavy weights decreases range of motion. In most cases, you will not be able to raise heavy weights above the level of your head unless you use shoulder extension. In many cases, you will not be able to fully extend your arms. This defeats the purpose of the exercise since a limited range of motion works only the lower and middle portions of the triceps. In addition, continued execution through a shortened range of motion will decrease your flexibility.
  5. This exercise is maximally effective for the middle portion of the triceps muscle. However, if you also fully extend at the conclusion of the up phase, you can get good development of the long head. In fact, the sooner you can fully extend your arms, the greater the involvement of the long head. You cannot do this, however, if you use excessively heavy weights.

Thus, by doing the lying triceps extension correctly, through the full range of motion, with full elbow joint extension and minimal shoulder joint extension, you will get the most effective results.

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