tricep long head exercises

If you’re looking to pack size onto your triceps and maximize the development of your upper arms, building up the long head of the triceps is an important step in the process.

This is because the triceps make up 2/3 of your overall upper arm mass, and the long head is the largest of the three individual heads it contains.

Although all 3 heads perform the basic function of elbow extension, the tricep long head is unique in that, unlike the lateral and medial heads, it crosses the shoulder joint and also assists in the function of shoulder extension.

tricep long head

For that reason, the best tricep long head exercises are those that begin with the shoulder in a flexed position, as this lengthens the long head and causes it to take on the majority of the load during the lift.

In other words, if you want to get the best tricep long head workout possible, you’ll want to place your primary focus on overhead extension exercises.

Now, keep in mind that whenever you perform ANY basic exercise involving elbow extension, you’ll always be hitting all three heads of the triceps to a certain degree. So whether it be overhead extensions, skull crushers, pushdowns, kickbacks or narrow-grip presses and dips, the tricep long head will always be activated regardless.

However, if your goal is to specifically emphasize the long head and shift more focus onto that particular portion of your arms, the 5 exercises below are my top picks…

(You can either watch the video below for a live demonstration of the 5 tricep exercises or use the pictures and written descriptions beneath it)

The 5 Best Tricep Long Head Exercises

#1 – One-Arm Overhead Cable Extensions

overhead cable extension

Whenever it comes to isolation exercises for the triceps, cables are always my preferred choice. This is because they provide a more consistent resistance curve in comparison to free weights, and most lifters find that they place less stress on the elbow joints as well.

One arm overhead cable extensions are a great option to target the long head because they’ll keep the triceps under constant tension throughout the entire exercise while also working each arm independently to prevent/treat potential size and strength imbalances.

In order to execute these with proper form, simply grab onto a cable without using any attachments and stand facing away from the machine.

From there, while keeping your back straight, simply extend the cable upward with your elbow until your triceps are fully contracted, and then lower it back down until you feel a good comfortable stretch.

You don’t have to keep your elbow completely tucked in, but don’t allow it to flare out excessively either.

#2 – Overhead Rope Extensions

overhead rope extensions

This is another highly effective cable variation and is executed using the same basic form, except that you’ll be using a rope attachment and performing the exercise with both arms at the same time.

Again, just make sure that your back is straight and elbows are not excessively flared, and for an added contraction in the tricep long head, focus on pulling the rope apart at the top of each rep.

#3 – One-Arm Overhead Dumbbell Extensions

one arm overhead dumbbell extension

If you don’t have access to cables (or if you’d just prefer to use free weights) then an overhead extension using dumbbells will be your next best bet.

I prefer the single arm variation for the same reason listed above (preventing size/strength imbalances) and because it allows your arms and shoulders to move in a more natural motion.

The basic form here is the same. Just grab a single dumbbell with one hand and extend it overhead, and then slowly lower it behind your head until you feel a comfortable stretch before pressing it back upward.

#4 – Two-Arm Overhead Dumbbell Extensions

seated overhead dumbbell extension

This exercise is done with a single dumbbell using both arms at the same time. It can be done seated or standing, but because you’ll be a handling heavier weight here it will likely be easier to get into position using the seated version.

To perform them, place both hands on either side of the inner plate of a dumbbell and then press it overhead. From there, lower the dumbbell behind your head by bending at the elbows as far as is comfortable, and then extend the dumbbell back up until the triceps are fully contracted.

#5 – French Presses

french press

Last on the list of tricep long head exercises is a basic overhead extension using an ez-curl bar or straight bar. I personally put these as my last choice on the list since I find it a bit awkward having the hands locked onto a fixed bar like this, but if you can perform the exercise comfortably then it is certainly an acceptable option.

I would recommend going with an EZ-cur bar if you have one available since the angled handles will put your wrists into a more natural position.

Simply sit against a bench ideally with a back support, press the bar overhead, and then perform a standard tricep extension by lowering the bar behind your head and extending it back up.

Additional Tips To Keep In Mind

tricep long head workout

When it comes to any overhead extension exercise for the triceps, the emphasis should always be on control.

These movements should NOT be performed explosively or with large amounts of momentum, as this can very easily overstress the shoulders and elbows and lead to issues down the road.

Keep the weights moderate and train with slightly higher rep ranges of at least 8 per set, and perform each rep with the goal of maximizing tricep long head tension rather than simply moving the weight point A to B.

Also keep in mind that skull crusher movements are effective tricep long head exercises as well, but since overhead extensions place the shoulder into a fully flexed position, they’ll still be the superior choice you’re looking for maximum long head activation.

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