- Assume a stable supine position on an exercise bench with the feet in full contact with the floor.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip and with the arms fully extended.
- The arms should be fully extended (or locked in the elbow) and held vertical with the hands directly above the shoulders or slightly out to the sides.
- Inhale slightly more than usual and hold your breath as you bend the elbows to lower the dumbbells until they are alongside your shoulders.
- Hold the upper arms in place as you lower the weights being careful to keep the weights from hitting your head or shoulders.
- Upon reaching the bottom position, keep holding your breath and then extend the arms until they are once again straight and the dumbbells directly above the shoulders.
- Exhale when the arms are fully extended or as you approach the final up position and then pause momentarily to prepare for the next repetition.
- Do not use too much weight as it will present you from maintaining proper arm position or fully flexing the elbows during the lowering phase.
- Fully extending the arms at the end of the movement is needed to maximally shorten all heads of the triceps muscle. When the arms are locked you can relax somewhat as the bones then support the weights.
- Moving the elbows back and then forward during execution makes the exercise easier but less effective. You should feel triceps muscle tension at all times during execution. This is why a stable vertical arm position is so important.
- The exact distance between the arms as you lower the dumbbells depends on their size The bulkier the dumbbells the further support the arms and vice versa.
- For even greater tension on the triceps do the lying 45-degree triceps extension. When the arms are angled backwards 45-degrees the triceps undergoes stronger tension and remains under greater tension during the entire movement and especially as you extend the elbows while holding the same shoulder joint angle. This results in a stronger, fuller contraction of the entire muscle.
PRIMARY MUSCLES INVOLVED Only one major muscle is involved in this exercise, the triceps brachii. The triceps has three separate sections known as the medial, lateral and long heads which fill the entire back side of the upper arm. The triceps is assisted by the anconeus, a relatively small muscle located at the elbow joint that locks or fully extends the arm to achieve full contraction of the triceps.
MUSCLE AND JOINT ACTION There is only one action is this exercise, elbow joint extension. In this action the upper arm remains stationery while the forearm travels away from the upper arm in an arm straightening action.
SPORTS USES In bodybuilding, the lying triceps extension is important for full development of all the triceps. Distinct definition of the three heads, but especially the long head, is the key value of this exercise in shaping the overall appearance of the arm.
Elbow joint extension and the muscles involved are very important in all arm straightening actions as seen in overhead shots in the racquet sports, in volleyball and basketball. Elbow joint extension is the key action in pushing movements as seen in the shot put, press up to a handstand in gymnastics, pushing in football, the final pushoff in the pole vault to clear the bar, and others. This action is also important in throwing and hitting actions when straightening the arm and in punching in boxing and in the martial arts.
For more information on this and other exercises, see KINESIOLOGY OF EXERCISE by Dr. Michael Yessis.