Overhead Bar Extension Exercise Guide — Muscles Worked, Benefits, & Alternatives

overhead bar extensions

Using an EZ bar to perform overhead bar extensions will reduce wrist strain and optimize the range of motion. 

Numerous exercises can be performed using various gym equipment. Take the overhead extension exercise, for example. It can be executed with kettlebells, dumbbells, EZ bars, resistance bands, cables, or barbells. The overhead bar extension variation is a potent exercise for isolating the arms. The overhead position primarily focuses on the long head of the triceps, leading to significant muscle growth. Furthermore, it enhances the definition of the triceps, thereby refining the overall appearance of your arms.

When performing overhead bar extensions with barbells, discomfort in the shoulders, wrists, and elbows may arise. The barbell accentuates any mobility challenges during the full overhead extension. Conversely, using an EZ bar can significantly ease wrist strain and enhance your range of motion.

This article explicitly uses the EZ bar to maximize gains through overhead bar extensions. It explores the significance of this exercise, delves into techniques, and identifies the muscles engaged. Additionally, the guide presents intriguing alternatives for effectively targeting your triceps.

Techniques & Muscles Worked

The overhead tricep extension is an isolation exercise for the triceps. It specifically works on the long head of the triceps, which helps improve shoulder stability. Using an EZ bar for this routine also helps increase the range of motion, as your wrists will be in a natural position.  

You can do overhead bar extensions sitting or standing, but in this guide, we’ll focus on the standing variation. This variation also targets core muscles like the abs and obliques, which keep your body stable as you lift. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to do overhead bar extensions correctly.

  1. With your feet shoulder-width apart, grab the EZ bar with a neutral grip. Ensure that you use a grip closer than the shoulder-width length.
  2. Lift the EZ bar well above your head until you fully extend your elbows and arms. This is your starting position.
  3. Next, slowly lower the EZ bar behind your head. Control your elbows as they bend to a 90-degree angle, then pause. At this position, your forearms should touch your biceps.
  4. Remain in this position for about 1 to 2 seconds, then slowly return the EZ bar to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for as many reps as you desire.


Overhead bar extensions can help you build bigger arms and triceps. However, you must ensure you’re doing them with the correct form. Below are other benefits of this exercise.

Build Bigger Triceps

The triceps are important stabilizers for the shoulder joints. Overhead bar extensions primarily target the triceps, which helps develop them. As an isolation exercise, the focus on the load helps build and increase the triceps’ size. This study shows increased muscle hypertrophy in the triceps when you do overhead bar extensions (1).

Arm Hypertrophy

When doing overhead bar extensions, your arms grow significantly. As shown above, this exercise targets the triceps, leading to greater muscle hypertrophy. The triceps make up as much as two-thirds of your arms, so increasing their size will lead to bigger arms. 


If you find the overhead bar extensions exercise in the standing position too challenging, you can do it sitting. The only downside is that it almost eliminates your core muscles, but you still achieve the same results on the primary targeted muscles. Also, if you still find using the EZ bar too hard, you can use dumbbells, kettlebells, or even resistance bands. 

Improves Posture

You’ll need a lot of balance and coordination when raising the EZ bar over and behind your head in the standing position. This is how the overhead bar extension builds your core muscles. It also strengthens the muscles that affect your posture, improving your posture.

Carryover to Other Exercises

Overhead bar extensions are an effective way to build arm muscles. Stronger arm muscles, specifically the triceps, increase upper body strength on push-ups and bench presses.

Overhead Bar Extension Alternatives

Overhead bar extensions increase the range of motion and induce arm muscle hypertrophy. However, they shouldn’t be the only routine in arm-building exercises. Studies show that athletes need to vary their exercises to prevent training monotony and a plateau (2). Below are some other alternatives.

Close-Grip Bench Presses

The close-grip bench press is a compound exercise that works your shoulders, chest, and triceps. However, the closer grip biases the triceps. Lie on a flat bench with your hands tightly gripping the barbell to perform it. Then, lift the barbell from the rack and move it up and down to load the target muscles.

Triceps Kickbacks

The triceps kickback is an isolation exercise for the triceps that helps build strength in the arms. You need dumbbells, which you hold using a neutral grip to do this exercise. Then, leaning towards the bench on a knee, extend your arms by lifting the dumbbells. Repeat this movement multiple times.

Cable Tricep Pushdowns

Cable tricep pushdowns target the triceps. To do this exercise, you stand at the cable machine and pull the cable downward with the required weight, extending your elbows. Repeat this movement for as many reps as possible to grow your arms.


What do overhead extensions workout?

Overhead extensions are arm exercises. They work your triceps, focusing on the long head, which helps with stability. For more information, check the exercise guide above.

How do you do overhead barbell tricep exercises?

To do overhead barbell triceps exercises, ensure the barbell is over your head with your arms and elbows fully extended. Then, slowly drop the barbell behind your head. Look at the guide above for an extensive guide, but replace the EZ bar with a barbell.

What muscles does the EZ bar overhead extension work?

EZ bar overhead extensions work on and strengthen your shoulders and triceps muscles. This variation is more accessible for mobility, as wrist positions are more natural on the EZ bar than the straight bar. If you do the EZ bar overhead extension standing, it could also build your core. 

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  1. Maeo, S., Wu, Y., Huang, M., Sakurai, H., Kusagawa, Y., Sugiyama, T., Kanehisa, H., & Isaka, T. (2023). Triceps brachii hypertrophy is substantially greater after elbow extension training performed in the overhead versus neutral arm position. European journal of sport science, 23(7), 1240–1250. https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2022.2100279
  2. Krzysztofik, M., Wilk, M., Wojdała, G., & Gołaś, A. (2019). Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(24), 4897. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16244897
Terry Ramos
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.