Seated E-Z Bar Overhead Triceps Extension

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Seated E-Z Bar Overhead Triceps Extension

Seated E-Z bar overhead triceps extension is an isolation (single-joint) exercise for the triceps, the long head in particular.

We don’t recommend this triceps exercise (specially for people who have elbow or shoulder pain). This variant has become increasingly uncommon, because the position is uncomfortable, and balance is difficult. It places excessive stretch on the triceps tendon and the shoulder joint is in a vulnerable position for injury. It also offers no obvious advantage. Instead we recommend performing this exercise on an incline bench and lowering the bar to the top of your head instead of behind it. You can also perform seated dumbbell triceps overhead extension instead.

Seated E-Z Bar Overhead Triceps Extension – Proper Technique

STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Sit on a low-back seat (or on the flat bench) while holding an E-Z bar with an overhand grip no wider than shoulder width. Make sure you use collars because balance can be tricky. Begin with the bar overhead and your arms extended. Your upper arms should be just outside your ears.

Seated E-Z bar overhead triceps extension

Seated E-Z bar overhead triceps extension

ACTION (MOVEMENT): Inhale and bend the elbows to lower the bar behind the head (until your elbows reach just past 90 degrees). Keep your upper arms parallel to each other; do not let your elbows flare out as you lower the bar. Pause, then return to the initial position. Always keep your elbows high (completely facing the ceiling), still, and ideally, the same distance apart throughout the lift. Also, use the fullest range of motion available without any elbow movement.

Muscles Involved in Seated E-Z Bar Triceps Extension

The vertical position of the arm stretches the inner long head of the triceps, so this exercise preferentially targets this section of the muscle.

  • Main muscles: triceps (inner long head)
  • Secondary muscles: anconeus, deltoid, forearm
  • Antagonists: biceps, brachialis, brachioradialis

Exercise Key Points & Common Mistakes

  • Motion should occur at the elbow only (keep your upper arms parallel to each other and perpendicular to the floor).
  • Always keep your elbows close to your head (don’t let your elbows flare out to the sides) and your upper arms stationary.
  • Contract the abdominal muscles and avoid arching the lower back. If possible use a bench with support for the low back. If one is not available, you can straddle a flat bench, but be sure to sit in an erect position with your feet flat on the floor. Do not lean back or lift off the bench as you extend your elbows.
  • Lowering the barbell too fast can cause it to “bounce” off the back of your neck, potentially causing serious damage to your vertebrae. Always work within your capabilities and lower the weight under strict control to the upper back position.
  • When you complete the set, allow the spotter to take the bar from your hands.

Exercise Variations

You can also do this exercise standing, although there’s more of a tendency to cheat in that position. In other words, you will be less likely to use momentum while seated.

  • Standing E-Z Bar Overhead Triceps Extension. Stand upright and grasp the bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip, holding it overhead with straight arms. Perform the same movement as described in the main exercise. If you feel off balance or if you find that you arch your back too much on the movement, you can rest your butt against a sturdy, stable support, such as preacher bench.
Standing E-Z Bar Overhead Triceps Extension

Standing E-Z Bar Overhead Triceps Extension

  • Reverse Grip Seated E-Z bar Overhead Triceps Extension. Grasp the bar with a narrow hand spacing (about shoulder-width), underhand grip (palms facing upward).
Seated E-Z bar Overhead Triceps Extension

Seated E-Z bar Overhead Triceps Extension

Replacement Exercises

Closing Thoughts

Seated E-Z bar overhead triceps extension works the triceps of both arms simultaneously. You can perform this triceps exercise using a regular (straight) barbell, but the E-Z bar lets your wrists and forearms assume a more natural position.

As already mentioned in the introduction, performing triceps extension behind the head using the straight or E-Z bar (in both standing and seated version) is not really recommended because of the excessive stretch on the triceps tendon and the shoulder joint. Furthermore, it is quite difficult to balance using the bar.

Lowering the barbell too fast can cause it to “bounce” off the back of your neck, potentially causing serious damage to your vertebrae. Always work within your capabilities and lower the weight under strict control to the upper back position.

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