You *Really* Need To Stop Ignoring This Muscle During Your Arm Workouts

Good things always come in threes: fairy godmothers, parts of a combo meal, boy bands made of brothers (Hi Jonas and Hansen!). So it’s no surprise the most eye-popping muscle in your arms is, in fact, three parts that join together.

“There are three heads to the triceps muscle, all of which combine into the triceps brachii tendon,” says Cara Bonney, CSCS, a Club Pilates master trainer in Dallas. “The three converging creates that coveted horseshoe shape at the back of your arm.”

Score that sculpted shape with the overhead triceps extension move.

How To Do A Triceps Extension

How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding one dumbbell in your hands. Bring the weight overhead, extending your arms straight so the dumbbell is above your head. Keeping everything from your shoulders to elbows still, slowly bend your elbows, lowering the weight behind your head until your arms are just lower than 90 degrees. Your elbows should point forward, not out to the side. Pause, and raise back to straight. That’s one rep.

Form tips: Make sure your shoulder blades stay anchored the entire time, and engage your core so your torso doesn’t move or overarch. And be sure your elbows are tracking forward, not flaring out wide, in order to protect your shoulder joints.

Reps/sets for best results: If your goal is strength and endurance, aim for 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps. If you’re going for size, use a heavier weight for 3 to 5 sets of 4 to 5 reps.

Benefits Of Triceps Extension

The overhead triceps extension is a strength move that targets the back of your upper arm, where your triceps brachii muscles are located. The three heads of the triceps muscles all come together to help extend the elbow, so it’s a really effective move, says Bonney. Plus, strengthening the tendon will help you with functional strength, like pushing things away.

There are a ton of moves to sculpt your triceps, but overhead extensions are also great to challenge the stability of your shoulder girdle. And because you’re working against gravity, overhead triceps extensions can feel more challenging than other moves working the same muscle, she adds.

Make Triceps Extension Part Of Your Workout

Work triceps extensions into your upper body days—ideally two to three times a week. Like all triceps moves, these are great to pair with a bicep exercise for balance, Bonney says. And they can be integrated with pretty much any type of routine including total-body, HIIT, and even barre.

The real fun comes in changing out equipment: Trade the dumbbell for a weight plate; or try placing a resistance band under your feet and pressing the handles overhead. Bonney’s favorite: Reaching for a TRX suspension trainer. To do triceps extensions with TRX, face away from the anchor point with your hands in the handles and thumbs at temple height. Then, extend your elbows as you press your body away from your hands and back. “This challenges the core a lot more,” says Bonney.

One note: If you have limited shoulder mobility or a previous injury, Bonney says to skip overhead triceps extensions and opt for a different tri-burner (like triceps kickbacks) instead.

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