T Nation

Hand Position and Triceps Exercise


Why do people feel that hand position has an effect on triceps movements? For example, reverse grip tricep pushdowns. Your grip position does not alter the movement of the tricep. I guess if you had really poor flexibility/stability, it could help you keep your elbows closer to your body in certain movement, but that's all. Any one have a different opinion or insight?


Varying your hand position, whether it be in terms of width, or pronation vs. supination, does indeed recruit different aspects of a muscle, or different muscle groups entirely.

Take the bicep curl vs. reverse curl for example. The "movement" is basically identical, but the muscle recruitment is quite different based purely on whether your palms are facing up or down. The same goes for triceps.


Sure hand spacing could play a role, but not suppination and pronation (for the tricep). The position of the upper arm would play a bigger role (ex. overhead extensions vs. pulley pushdowns)


If hand placement affects muscle recruitment for the bicep, why wouldn't it affect the tricep? It's the antagonist muscle to the bicep and located directly behind it!


If you are doing a press down and have a really wide grip - you cannot keep your elbows in, and you use less tricep.

CGBP's - the wider the grip the more the chest and shoulders are recruited.

Skull crushers - the wider the grip - the less effective you will be at keeping your elbows in, and the more you will recruit the lats.

Hand spacing is very important for targeting the proper muscle in any given exercise.




Have you ever tried single hand pulldowns for the tricep and supinated or pronated? I promise you it plays a factor. Even slight little changes in grip, spacing, tempo or anything will change the mechanics and the muscle fiber recruitment of the exercise.


The biceps and triceps being antagonist is irrelevant. The Bicep, along with the brachioradialis play a role in the motion of suppinating the hand. There is no such reciprical role in relation to the tricep. Try it yourself "make a muscle", now rotate your forearm, notice how your bicep muscle flexes and relaxes? Now do the same thing, but use your other hand to feel your tricep. No change? It's because the tricep plays no role in suppination, or pronation of the forearm, while the bicep and brachioradialis do. Which is why hand position plays no direct role in tricep activation, outside of your ability to control your elbow position, or get a better grip on a heavier load.


As far as hand placement, I am not talking about placement on the bar, as in CGBP. More along the lines of suppination , neutral or pronated grip as they would relate to a pulley pushdown or french press.


I can't quote the physiology, but I know that when I do bench dips with wide grip (wider than shoulders) it feels very different from if I put my hands irectly behind my shoulders. The wider it is, the more I feel it in the shoulders instead of the tri's.


It may have somethig to do with the position of the radius and ulna, the ligaments, and how much more stress is being placed on the different heads of the tricep.


although the triceps may not play a role in pronation or supination of the forearm , different hand positions on cable extensions STILL will create different degrees of EMG activity in different heads of the tricep. the tricep inserts in the ulna , and therefore supinated and pronated grips will place the triceps in a slightly differing position.

how relevant/significant is this when developing a training program? i'd say this seems like ultra micromanagement, and i do not consider this factor when choosing which grip to use on a cable extension, but there IS a difference in tricep activation between overhand and underhand grips.


If hand position didn't make a difference than you'd be able to use the same amount of weight for pressdowns as you would reverse pressdowns which isn't the case. Just the slightest angle or varied grip can activate more of a certain muscle than another. This is nowhere more evident than squats where just the slightest angle of your foot position can place a majority of the stress load on the medialis. This is why it's good to vary grips and bench angles.


it can also activate one area of a given muscle more than another area.


Hand position for arm extension has no scientific or practical application on muscle group (long, medial, or lateral head)recruitment or isolation. anytime arm extension is performed, the triceps are recruited equally to some extent to perform the motion. It is not the hand postion that affects which head is recriuted or targeted more, but the position of the of the shoulder joint.

Shoulder extention (Kickbacks) shortens the longe head of the tricep at the inferior base of the scapulae near the glenoid fossa. Because of this shortening, it's contribution to arm extension is limited slightly, so the medial and lateral heads will do the majority of the work in this postion. In a neutral position (Cable pushdowns) all three heads work equally. Any hand position other than neutral or pronated with hands slightly wider that shoulder width will cause internal rotation of the shoulder joints, foward head posture, and an exaggerated kyphotic position, thus reducing the resistance being placed on the triceps.

And lastly, shoulder flexion (Overhead extensions)stretch the longe head of the triceps more, but there is no scientific proof that this strech position will elicit a greter strength gain in this paticular muscle. Because of this stretch position, the long head acts mor as a shoulder stabilizer and anchor while arm extension is being performed by the medial and lateral heads. Both which are primarily act soley on the olecranon joint. So, in short it's not the hand position that affects the muscle recruitment. It's the shoulder joint position.


that makes a lot of sense, actually.


Yeah, what Truet said! Sums it up for me.


i stand corrected!


not to bump this thread up again, but since the tricep inserts into the olcranon process of the ulna, there is a difference in the positioning of the tricep between pronated and supinated grips.

again, i don't think this is a very significant factor to consider when designing a training program, but there must be some difference in tricep work between supinated and pronated grips.


I feel a much greater stretch in the triceps when I use a wide grip. Skull crushers, overhead extensions and even pressdowns feel much better with a wide grip.

It is especially important to keep the elbows in and let the forearms and wrists flare out.

I happen to feel more chest and shoulders w/ a narrow grip and alot less stretch.