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More Effective Triceps Exercise

What does comparative analysis show?

Illustration of person doing overhead triceps exercise

What’s the best triceps exercise? The major muscle of the triceps grows more when working in the overhead position, even with lower loads, compared with training in a neutral arm position. This conclusion was reported in the European Journal of Sport Science (2022; doi:10.1080/17461391.2022.2100279).

Ritsumeikan University researchers in Kusastsu, Japan, compared the results of two types of triceps training to confirm whether training muscles in longer versus shorter muscle lengths promotes more hypertrophy, as growing evidence suggests.

Investigators compared results from 21 male and female healthy young adults ages 22–26. Participants had not strength-trained during the prior year. The program consisted of 10 reps per set for five sets, twice per week over 12 weeks. MRI measurements confirmed more hypertrophy in the overhead training position. Researchers concluded that muscle lengthening during exercise can be a strong determinant of training-induced muscle hypertrophy and recommended that cable elbow extensions be performed in the overhead rather than neutral arm position to maximize triceps brachii growth.

Study authors suggest that more hypertrophy gains may be due to greater metabolic stress, IGF-1 expression or even muscle blood flow from exercising in different body positions.

See also: The Ultimate Guide to Resistance Training Techniques

Shirley Eichenberger-Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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