OVERHAND vs UNDERHAND Tricep Extensions | What’s better?

**If you prefer reading instead of watching, here’s a transcript of the video above.**

Have you ever wondered whether you should do Tricep Extensions with a Pronated i.e palms over grip with a bar or with a Hammer grip using ropes? Ever wondered which of these is better?

Or better yet, have you seen someone do extensions with a Supinated i.e palms under grip and wondered if that works your Triceps any differently?

If you’ve answered yes to either of those questions then you definitely want to pay attention to what I have to say because I’m going to go SCIENCE up in this bitch!

In today’s article, we’re going to discuss whether different hand positions in Tricep Extensions affect the Triceps differently. And which is the best grip to use in this exercise.

You’ve probably seen different versions of Cable Tricep Extensions – with a straight bar, an EZ bar, with a rope or even with handles with an underhand grip.

You may have even heard a ‘bro’ in your gym saying:

BRO! Do the overhand grip to target your lateral head. Do the underhand grip to target your long head” or “BRO. Do them all for variation man.Variation! VARIATION!

Man that word peeves me off, SO much!

Anyway, let’s look into these ideas and if they have any merit.

Diving straight into that, lets first look at some anatomy here…

Supination and Pronation. This occurs due to movement in the bones of your forearms – the Radius and the Ulna around the Radio-Ulnar Joint – both the proximal (near elbow) and distal (near wrist).

When you Pronate, your Radius crosses over the Ulna . And when you Supinate, your radius bone is parallel to the Ulna. So both these movements occur via movement of the RADIUS bone around the Radio-Ulnar joints.

Supination and Pronation | OVERHAND vs UNDERHAND Tricep Extensions | What's better?

Now, the Triceps muscle attaches to the Ulna. It has no attachment to the Radius.

So I invite you to think about this…

How would the turning of this radius bone which is what happens in changing your grip between pronation and supination have any effect on the Triceps’ ability to extend the elbow?


The Tricep muscle is not influenced by any change in your wrist position.

What DOES happen when you change your grip is that your grip strength in that position becomes the limiting factor in the movement.

And out of the three, the strongest grip would be the pronated grip, followed by hammer and then the weakest would be your supinated position.

So when you decide to do Tricep extensions with a Supinated grip, all you end up doing is opting for the weakest grip which cuts down the amount of weight you can use and therefore provides LESS stimulus to the Triceps than you could have with a Pronated grip.

You just find it more difficult to extend that weight with this grip because your forearms and grip are giving way. Not your triceps.

And now to answer the question, what’s the best grip to use in Tricep extensions. Now while a Pronated grip is indeed the best grip out of the three mentioned above; there is another grip that works even better than pure pronation and that is what’s called as the NEUTRAL GRIP.

Pronation, Neutral and Hammer Grip | OVERHAND vs UNDERHAND Tricep Extensions | What's better?

This Neutral Grip is somewhat in between Pronation and Hammer position. Its basically just a slight upward tilt from pronation. And the reason why it’s the best grip to use is because it’s the MOST COMFORTABLE grip out of all especially in terms of stress on the wrist joint.

More comfort and stability on the wrist joint = Greater ability to lift heavier loads/perform better in the exercise.

And this is why, when opting to do Tricep Extensions, one should resort to the Neutral Grip – either by opting for an EZ bar if doing the movement bilaterally (both arms working together on a single object) or a single handle for unilateral movement  (one arm working at a time) and letting the wrist default to its most natural, comfortable position.

So there you go! That’s your comparison between the Overhand vs Underhand Grip on Tricep Extensions as well as the best grip to be used.

Hope you’ve found this piece informative and if so, please SHARE it so it can reach out to as many people as possible and together we can bust broscience and help spread the information.

Keep Learning, Keep Growing!

PS: What grip were you using for Tricep Extensions until now? Comment below and let me know J

Suneet Sebastian

Suneet Sebastian is a self-confessed fitness science nerd. His passion and desire for learning, educating and promoting critical thinking in the fitness industry is what sets him apart from the average "guru". He has made a name for himself as an elite Strength & Conditioning coach among professional athletes and regular enthusiasts alike with his extremely detailed and thorough advice backed by concrete science and leaves absolutely no stone unturned when it comes to educating and empowering those that seek to take their fitness to a whole new level. To know more about Suneet's background and the story behind the foundation of Sebastian Fitness Solutions, click here.

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Showing 9 comments
  • John

    Dear Sebastian,

    Thanks for this excellent write-up. Could you give advice about which grip to use during an isolation movement for targeting the biceps?

    Thanks and regards.

    • Suneet Sebastian

      Hey John,
      Unlike the triceps, the Biceps are affected by grip position due to them inserting into the radius bone of the forearm.
      A supinated(underhand) grip would target the biceps brachii the best due to this.

  • Rahul Alvares

    Great tip suneet! Thanks!

  • Jack

    Hey mate, do you have an explanation for as to why doing a supinated overhead tricep extension with an easy curl bar seems to activate my long head VERY noticeably more than a pronated grip, which I can feel instantly putting strain on my medial head? I suspect that the flexion in the biceps leads to more muscular irradiation, increasing tension in the long head. A biomechanical explanation is out of the question, as you’ve proved in your article, so maybe the answer is found elsewhere

    • Suneet Sebastian

      It is, in all probability, a form and technique issue. Subjective “feeling” of a muscles activation isn’t really a reliable method to ascertain whether a method is superior or not, to begin with. Biomechanically, a supinated grip puts you in a weaker position to exert force in elbow extension. That’s a fact. Now the ONLY scenario where this version might end up creating a better training stimulus is if it forces you to use stricter form than your pronated version.

      PS: You’ve misunderstood the principle of irradiation. That is more about properly utilizing the kinetic chain via preventing/reducing energy leakage/power dissipation between joints as opposed to a certain muscle’s contraction activating its neighboring muscles. If anything, activation of the biceps would INHIBIT/RELAX the triceps via the principle of reciprocal inhibition.

  • Ghaleb

    awesome ?
    Do overhead extension make more emphasis on long head?? because it’s the only head that attach the scapula.
    Am I right ??

  • Gabriella Borine Gergely

    Is there any benefit of doing underhand triceps extension, or do you recommend skipping it at all. Thank you 🙂

    • Suneet Sebastian

      Given all the facts mentioned above, I’d definitely say skip underhand extensions and stick to the overhand version

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