Q: The lead-off exercise for the triceps sweep workout [in the X-traordinary Arms e-book] is lying extensions, or skull crushers. You describe the best grip width and how to use an EZ-curl bar for more long-head involvement, but I don’t like dragging a bar over to a flat bench. Can I use dumbbells for lying extensions instead of a bar?
A: Magnetic resonance imaging shows that lying extensions on a flat bench with a bar (skull crushers) mostly stress the triceps’ long head, so we classify it as a sweep exercise in the X-traordinary Arms e-book. You would think using dumbbells would be the same—but that’s not the case.
With dumbbells your palms face each other, which forces your upper arms inward (see the in-for out/out-for-in rule in X Arms). That throws more emphasis onto the lateral, or outer, head, so it’s more of a width exercise (the outer triceps head is most noticeable from the front when your arms are at your sides, creating a wide-arm look).
You could try rotating your hands to a palms-up position once the dumbbells get past the sides of your head near the bottom of the stroke, but that can be awkward. If you’re after the most triceps sweep, use a bar or EZ-curl bar on a flat bench, elbows flaring out slightly. By the way, the long head is the most massive segment of the triceps muscle, so it contributes a lot to overall arm development.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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