How to do a triceps extension correctly?

The triceps extension is an intermediate-level isolation exercise that primarily targets the muscle on the back of your upper arm – the triceps. This exercise is also an effective way to work on the stability of your core and shoulders, heling reduce your chances of injuries and pain.

The most common way to do a triceps extension is by using a dumbbell or kettlebell while sitting or standing. You need to grab the dumbbell overhead by holding the inside plate surface with both your hands or by holding both horns (handles) of the kettlebell.

How to perform a triceps extension? Correct form and technique

Begin by standing tall with your feet in a split stance, with your right foot slightly behind the left and both your legs at a hip distance. Engage your core throughout the exercise so that you maintain the right posture during the move.

  • Lift the dumbbell gently overhead, and be sure that your head stays in a straight line with your chest.
  • Engage your core, and keep your shoulders relaxed.
  • Extend your arms fully, and slowly lower the dumbbell down, drawing the weight behind your head by bending at your elbows.
  • Make sure your chest stays aligned over your hips, and your spine does not bend.
  • Breathe easily, and reverse the movement when your elbow reaches a 90-degree bend or slightly further. Lift the dumbbell back to its starting position.
  • Be sure that the dumbbell does not touch the back of your head when it is at its lowest position.


The triceps extension can be performed in different positions. The basic version is the standing extension mentioned above; however, you can also do this exercise in a seated position or by lying down on the floor or on a weight bench.

You can also choose to do it with one arm or both arms together. You can increase or decrease the weight according to your fitness level to make the move more or less challenging.

Tips for beginners

  • When performing a triceps extension, always use a weight that allows you to easily move your arms overhead and one that safely gets you to the starting position. If the dumbbell is too heavy, it can increase the pressure on your shoulder joints and back.
  • Keep your speed slow, and avoid momentum to maintain the correct form and posture.
  • As you lower the dumbbell behind your back, make sure to keep your trunk steady.

Potential benefits of triceps extension

A triceps extension helps build muscles in the back and front of your upper arms, which results in increased arm strength and improvement in the shape of your arms. This exercise also helps enhance the stability and flexibility of your elbows and shoulders, and tones the entire arm.

Strong arms help you move comfortably throughout the day and assist you in undertaking daily tasks safely and efficiently. Without proper strength training, it is quite common for the triceps area to become weak with age. So building stronger and larger triceps muscles with isolating exercises such as the triceps extension can potentially strengthen and give this muscle a better definition.

Common Mistakes

Watch out for these mistakes when doing the triceps extension to perform the exercise correctly and safely:

Moving your head

Always keep your head stable, and isolate the exercise by moving only your elbow joints. Keep your head straight over the midline of your chest and your chest in a straight line with your hips. If your head still moves, do this exercise by lying down.

Elbows flared out

This is a very common issue and occurs when you allow your elbows to flare out to the sides.

Flaring out your elbows no longer isolates your triceps; instead, it draws your shoulders and biceps to do the extension and flexion. To avoid that, always keep your elbows tucked in, and try to use a lighter weight to maintain the right elbow placement.


A triceps extension is generally safe, but if you are returning to exercise after an injury or pregnancy, first consult your doctor to determine if weight exercises are safe for you. Also, if you are a beginner who is just starting a strength training programme, it’s best to work under a certified fitness trainer to seek proper guidance about the form and technique of the exercise.

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