If you want to maximize triceps growth, the overhead triceps extension can result in greater muscle growth with less weight being used than the standing triceps extension.
An exciting new study found that overhead triceps extensions were better than cable triceps extensions for muscle growth. Before delving deep into the research, it’s crucial to set the stage by discussing some foundational concepts. While the pillars of muscle growth have traditionally been recognized as training intensity, volume, and effort, there’s an emerging factor that’s gaining traction in the fitness community: the range of motion (ROM). This element plays a pivotal role in determining the effectiveness of a workout and its impact on muscle development.
A growing body of research suggests that muscles grow more in the stretched position than in the shortened position. (1) For example, the hamstring gets more muscle growth in the stretched position than in the shortened position.(2) Researchers compared two different triceps exercises to determine if training the triceps in the stretched position would have greater muscle growth than training the triceps in a neutral position.
Overhead Triceps Muscle Growth Study
Researchers had 21 subjects train their triceps with either cable overhead triceps extension (i.e., stretched triceps) or a neutral triceps position (i.e., cable triceps pushdown) for 12 weeks. Participants performed the elbow extensions 10 repetitions/set for 5 sets, taking 2 seconds for each of the concentric (elbow extending) and eccentric (elbow flexing) phases without a pausing phase. 2-min rest intervals were taken in between sets. Each set was trained to complete muscular failure, and a spotter was present to ensure each person was trained to complete failure. If the participants could complete all the prescribed protocols without the examiners’ assistance in the third session, a +5% of 1RM was added to the subsequent sessions. The researchers used MRI to measure muscle growth before and after the 12-week training session.
The training load increased over the 12 weeks for both exercises, but the overhead triceps exercises used a lower training load or weight over 12 weeks. Both exercises increased triceps 1 RM strength, with no differences between the groups. The overhead triceps extension resulted in more muscle growth than the neutral grip triceps extension, despite using a lower training weight throughout the training protocol. The triceps growth for the overhead triceps extension was +19.9% vs. 13.5% for the neutral grip triceps extension exercise. This resulted in a 1.5%-fold greater increase in triceps growth for the overhead triceps extension compared to the neutral grip triceps extension. The different areas of the triceps were also analyzed, and the long head of the triceps experienced the greatest growth. In contrast, the lateral and medial areas of the triceps experienced growth but to a lesser extent. (3)