Cable Tricep Extension: How to Do It?

by Matt Wilson
Last Updated: 18/04/2021
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The triceps are some of the most popular muscles and those that most people seek to grow. While there are many ways to build muscle mass and increase strength (of the triceps), the cable tricep extension seems to work magnificently for most people. 

Below are instructions on how to perform the cable tricep extension. 

Key Takeaways 

  • The cable tricep exercise is effective at growing triceps with the correct form and movements. 
  • Maintaining slow and steady motion for all the positions for this exercise’s full benefits is essential.

Understanding The Cable Tricep Extension

The overhead and standing tricep extension exercises are isolation workouts that target the back of the upper arm muscle. 

This muscle, the triceps, has three heads. These heads work together to facilitate the extension of the forearm at the elbow joint [1].

It is an isolation exercise because it involves movement in a single joint, in this case, the elbow joint. This exercise is designed to build muscle mass in the triceps, essential for stabilising the elbow joint and shoulders [2]. 

How To Do The Cable Tricep Extension Exercise

Like other cable machine exercises, the cable tricep exercise requires you to take the proper form with each movement. Here are the steps you should follow to correctly complete a rep of cable tricep extension. 

Starting Position

Standing beneath the rope pulley of the equipment, grab the rope attachment with both hands in a neutral grip. Ensure you achieve a neutral grip by facing your palms inwards. Your trunk should be in a neutral form too. 

Also, ensure your elbows are very close to your body, straight, and aligned with the shoulders. 

Concentric Motion

This is the downward motion and the first move. Keep your elbows tight to your body and pull the rope pulley downward. Do this until your hands extend fully downwards. Ensure to keep your trunk straight all through.

Bottom Position

Once your hands extend fully, hold this position for two to three seconds. At this point, squeeze your triceps and stretch your arms as far as possible. This is the active stage of the workout and where the muscles are fully engaged. 

Eccentric Motion

This is the upward position coming back up from the bottom position. During this movement, bend your elbows slowly to bring your hands back to your chest height. Try and maintain a stable, gradual movement to engage the muscles back up. 

It is essential to keep your breathing regular throughout the movement. It can be tempting to hold your breath when pulling the rope back to starting position, but this will only make it more challenging to bring your arms back up. 

End Position

At this stage, you have completed a full rep of cable tricep extensions. Repeat the steps until you have completed the desired number of reps. Rest, and repeat the process once you feel comfortable. This works for overhead extensions too.

Essential Tips

If you have not worked on your triceps before, you may find it challenging to do overhead cable tricep extensions. You might try to cheat, and this could result in an incomplete range of motion. 

The best way to solve this is to concentrate on the upward motion as much as the downward motion. That way, you will engage the muscles fully and increase the time they spend in tension. 

Ensure your elbows do not float forward towards your face!

When this happens, you are probably engaging the shoulder and chest muscles more than the triceps (to bring the rope back behind).

When you grab the rope pulley back to the starting position, make sure the elbows do not flare out to the sides. When the elbows extend away from the ears, you engage the biceps and shoulders more than the triceps, which shouldn’t be the case. 

Instead, tuck in your elbows to isolate the triceps and engage them fully. If this still comes across as a challenge, reduce the weight to ensure proper elbow placement. 

Lastly, ensure you have enough room to use the cable machine. It is pretty bulky, and you need enough space to stretch your elbows. Also, start with little weight and add as your muscles adapt to the exercise. 


What Are The Benefits Of The Cable Tricep Extensions

This exercise builds strength and size of the triceps. It isolates the triceps and engages them in the full range of motion, exerting tension in the muscles. The cables provide constant tension on the muscles in the upward, downward, or forward position. 

This exercise works on all three heads of the triceps. It exerts more tension on the long head of the triceps, which can be challenging to grow. 

Is The Tricep Machine Worth It?

The tricep extension machine is a valuable piece of fitness equipment for working out your triceps at the end of your exercises. It is conveniently easy to use, but you need to understand how it works. 

The Bottom Line

The cable tricep extension exercise and its variations are beneficial strength training workouts for the triceps. Understanding how to go about the movements allows you to build strength and increase muscle mass (in your triceps) faster and more consistently. 


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