New Study: Here’s Why Overhead Extensions Are Better Than Tricep Extensions


Overhead extensions are better for toning the triceps than tricep extensions, according to a new study. Getty Images/Michael Edwards

Overhead extensions may be a better exercise for building arm muscles than tricep extensions, according to a study published July 12 in the European Journal of Sport Science.

New research suggests that overhead lifting lengthens and thus grows muscle.

The result of the study: Participants achieved better muscle growth with overhead extensions – even if they lifted less weight.

Researchers from Ritsumeikan University and the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya, Japan, studied 21 men and women to compare two popular strength and muscle building exercises.

The participants, who hadn’t done any strength training in at least a year, went through a 12-week training program that focused on the triceps, the muscle group along the back of the arms.

Japanese study shows triceps grow faster with overhead extensions than with tricep pressdowns

For one arm, participants performed a tricep pushdown (tricep extension) starting with the arm in a neutral position at the side. They then bent and extended their elbow to move a weighted cable. For the other arm, participants performed an overhead extension. The arm was pointing up, the elbow was bent and the cable was behind the neck. In order to pull the cable over the head, the participants should straighten their arm.

Both types of training were based on the principle of progressive overload, increasing the weight each week to encourage the body to adapt. The result of the study: At the end of the program, the participants gained strength from both exercises, as measured by their maximum effort. However, according to MRI data, the arm that did overhead extensions grew 40% more than the arm that did pushdowns.

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According to the researchers, this reason could be responsible

Researchers theorized what the increase in muscle gain might be due to. They hypothesized that the overhead position lengthened the triceps more, creating more tension—even though the participants were able to lift heavy weights with the push-ups.

Another hypothesis: Raising your arm overhead may reduce blood flow to the muscle and, as a result, create more stress (similar to training to restrict blood flow). This, in turn, could generate muscle growth, the researchers said.

The results could help athletes lift lower weights at the right angle, build muscle and strength, while preventing injury and stress on the body, especially joints, the researchers write in their report.

However, more research is needed to compare different joint angles and muscle lengths for optimal gains and to see which training combinations might be more effective.

More exercises for strong arms

Other exercises to build bigger, stronger arms, according to personal trainers, include push-ups, dips, and pull-ups. For best results, you should incorporate multiple types of exercises, including lengthening (eccentric), shortening (concentric), and static (isometric) exercises.

And when you get a better range of motion, you can try mobility exercises. These are particularly gentle on the joints, injuries are prevented and you feel more stable and safer during strength training.

This text was translated from English by Julia Poggensee. You can find the original here

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