Name of Exercise—Free weight triceps extension

Purpose—To develop strength in the back of the upper arms

Muscles Used—Muscles of the back of the upper arms (triceps brachii)

Starting Position:

This exercise can be performed using a barbell or a dumbbell.

© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
  • While sitting down on a bench, pick up one dumbbell in each hand or grasp the barbell with your hands about 12 to 14 inches apart.
  • Lie down on the bench on your back and bend your knees so your feet are flat on the bench.
  • Start with the dumbbells or barbell positioned over your chest and your arms fully extended.
  • Keep your feet and low back flat on the bench.

Downward Movement:

  • Let your elbows flex enabling the bar to be lowered toward your face.
  • Keep your elbows pointing away from your face during the exercise.
  • Lower the bar until it touches your forehead.

Upward Movement:

  • Extend the elbows and push the dumbbells or barbell upward until your arms are fully extended.
  • Remember to keep your feet and back flat on the bench and do not raise your chest.

Trainer Tip:

Remember to initiate the movement with the muscles in the back of your upper arms and not with your hands.

Repetitions, Sets, and Weight:

The number of repetitions (reps) and sets you should do depends on your strength goals. In general, muscle strength works to increase basic function of the muscle and is the typical workout choice. Muscle endurance is important to people who participate in endurance activities such as running or biking, and muscle power is beneficial for athletes who need to use sudden quick movements (eg, sprinting, basketball, football). Beginners should begin with a basic routine and gradually move toward a strength, endurance, or power routine.

Beginner: 1 set of 8 to 10 reps 

Muscle Strength: 1 to 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps

Muscle Endurance: 1 to 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps

Muscle Power: 1 to 3 sets of 3 to 5 reps

Use a weight that is heavy enough to perform the desired number of reps and sets for your skill level using good form. Once you are able to perform more reps and sets than is outlined in your category, try to increase the weight you lift by 5% to 10%. Your strength goals may change as you progress.