Overhead Tricep Press

If you're trying to build a better upper body, ditch the bicep curls and focus on your triceps. Sure, not only do they make up two-thirds of your upper arm mass, but they're also critical to overall strength and power. The overhead tricep press, also known as the overhead triceps extension, helps you do exactly that.

Since two-thirds of your upper arm size comes from this muscle, it's important to isolate it during training. The best movements for getting bigger, stronger triceps are dips and the overhead tricep press.

Troy taking a selfie showing his biceps and shoulders

If you want to build barrel-shaped triceps — the kind that stand out when you wear a tank top or sleeveless shirt — one of your best bets is the overhead tricep press. It's a great move for buffing the backs of your arms. What's more, the overhead tricep press will help you nail your bench press form for increased gains in the chest and shoulder muscles.

How To Perform The Overhead Tricep Press

Overhead Tricep Press

Sit on a box or bench with your feet shoulder-width apart and core tight. Hold a dumbbell in both hands, arms extended forward with palms facing up. This is the start position.

Slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head, bending at the elbows and squeezing your triceps to get it as low as you can. The goal is to get the dumbbell as close to touching or grazing the back of your head without hitting it.

Aim for 5 sets of 8-12 repetitions.

Form Tips For The Overhead Tricep Press

Troy doing an overhead tricep press with correct back posture

Keep your back straight. By sitting on top of a short box, you can place your upper back against the wall, which will allow you to sit upright without rounding your upper back. For even more support, try sitting criss-cross, which will force you to sit upright and keep your back straight.

If you have bad posture, it can lead to tension and pain in your shoulders and arms. This is because many of the muscles in your shoulders and arms are connected to your spine, so poor posture can cause pain or tension in these muscles.

The overhead press is a compound exercise that also works the triceps. It’s a great exercise to strengthen your shoulders and back, but it’s important to be careful when doing them back-to-back with seated rows (which also work the triceps).

I love when I can teach something that is both easy and effective. Lateral arm lifts are great for toning your arms and improving the appearance of your triceps. To get the most out of this exercise, you need to hold the position for a beat when your arms are fully extended.

The overhead tricep press is a great exercise for working your triceps and giving you a nice shape to your arms. The only problem is that it can put a lot of stress on your wrists, which can lead to injury. One way to avoid this is to keep your wrists straight and not bend them to the side.

Muscle Groups Worked By The Overhead Tricep Press

This exercise hits all the major muscle groups of the body — shoulders, back, core, and upper arms — making it an interesting addition to your weekly workout routine. Standing with the dumbbell above your head during each repetition, you will strengthen your upper body and core muscles.

Troy doing an overhead press for triceps

The triceps press primarily engages the triceps muscle, one of the three muscles that make up the upper arm. However, there are many other smaller muscles that also work to stabilize the movement and give the arm more strength during the overhead triceps extension.

The primary function of this muscle is elbow extension, but it also assists in shoulder stabilization and adduction (bringing the arm down).

The overhead triceps press is the best exercise for targeting the long head of the triceps. It works all three heads of the muscle, but this exercise, in particular, focuses on the long head.

Although your triceps receive most of the tension during the exercise motion, your shoulders play a secondary role as well as they contract and shorten at the top of each rep.

Benefits Of The Overhead Tricep Press

The overhead triceps extension is multifaceted, strengthening all three heads of your triceps, as well as engaging your core and shoulder muscles to maintain stability. It's ideal for correcting imbalances and forcing each arm to work independently — with no leg assistance — for optimal results.

More Rapid Triceps Growth

There's no denying which muscle experiences the most growth during an overhead tricep press. In fact, the long, medial, and lateral heads — respectively — are responsible for its development. But how they do so differs slightly depending on a number of factors, including your grip, body position, and the plane of movement.

The triceps muscle is made up of three heads: a long, lateral, and medial head. The long head starts on the scapula (shoulder blade) and attaches at the elbow to facilitate elbow extension. The lateral head originates at the humerus (upper arm), and the medial head also starts at the humerus, attaching just below where the lateral head begins. These three muscles collectively form a horseshoe shape.

Better Deltoids

Troy performing a cable rear delt fly at the gym

There are three sections to the deltoid muscle: the anterior (front) deltoid, which helps raise your arm forward; the lateral deltoid, which helps raise your arm out to the side; and the posterior (rear) deltoid, which helps raise your arm behind you. In an overhead tricep press, the anterior delt receives the majority of work while the lateral and posterior delts help stabilize.

Superior Strength Gains

Bodyweight Bicep Exercises

The overhead tricep press is a single-joint movement that allows you to target the triceps through a full range of motion. By lifting the weight above your head, you can stimulate the entire triceps, including all three heads — the lateral (outer), long (inner), and medial (middle) heads.

Whether you want to build mass in your arms or just improve your upper body strength, you'll benefit from incorporating this simple exercise into your routine.

More Mobility In The Arms

Troy playing basketball

The overhead tricep press is superior to other triceps exercises because of its ability to activate all three heads of the muscle. By working all parts of the triceps, this exercise leads to better-looking arms and improved performance in sports like tennis, golf, or baseball. This is because when you're swinging a tennis racquet or throwing a baseball, your entire arm is engaged — including the triceps!

Better Posture

Troy flexing his back muscles at the gym

The overhead tricep press is the perfect exercise to learn about proper posture. Engaging your core muscles during this workout ensures that your back and spine remain straight, while engaged shoulders help you lift your shoulders instead of hunching forward.

Even when you're seated, you can benefit from performing the overhead tricep press. With a bit of practice, you'll notice an improvement in your posture.

Low-Impact Workout

Don't sacrifice form for comfort. During the overhead tricep press, your wrists maintain a neutral position, and you can focus on proper form and alignment. If you suffer from wrist pain or discomfort, the overhead tricep press is ideal for you.

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