The front to back tricep extension is a convenient exercise for training the tricep muscle because you only need a dumbbell to perform it. This means that front to back tricep extensions are ideal if you're training at home with minimal equipment.
The real question is, are front to back triceps extensions any better than the regular one arm tricep extension?
Since working the biggest head of the triceps optimally (the long head) requires you to put your shoulders into maximum flexion, there's little point in doing the “front” portion of this exercise if maximum triceps hypertrophy is your goal.
In other words, you may as well just do the “back” part of the exercise because it's more effective than the front part of the rep seeing as it puts the triceps under a greater stretch.
Nonetheless, front to back tricep extensions are a good exercise, and changing from the front to back position after every rep certainly improves your motor skills.
Related: Bent over tricep extension
Front to back tricep extension exercise details
- Main Muscles: Triceps
- Exercise Type: Strength
- Exercise Mechanics: Isolation
- Difficulty Level: Beginner
- Equipment Needed: Dumbbell
How to do front to back tricep extensions
- Grab a relatively light dumbbell and stand up straight.
- Press the weight over your head so that your elbow is locked out.
- Lower the dumbbell in front of your face by bending your elbow.
- Reverse the movement by flexing your triceps until your elbow is once again extended.
- Now lower the dumbbell behind your head by breaking at your elbow.
- Finish the rep by flexing your triceps until your elbow reaches full extension.
- Perform 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps.
Variation: Seated front to back tricep extension
Seated front to back tricep extensions require less abdominal exertion than the standing version and, as such, enable you to better focus on working your triceps.
The drawback is that seated exercises like the seated single arm tricep extension burn fewer calories than standing exercises because they don't activate as many core and leg muscles. So if you're trying to burn fat and tone your triceps, then you might want to stick with the standing version so that you can increase your energy expenditure.
On the other hand, if you want to maximally isolate your triceps, then seated front to back tricep extensions are preferable because you don't have to brace your abs as hard when your torso is already stabilized by the bench's backrest.
A weight bench, of course, is entirely optional. If you're training at home with only basic equipment, then you can do the exercise on a chair instead.
Are front to back tricep extensions effective?
Front to back tricep extensions are an effective exercise for toning and strengthening the backs of your arms because they're a pure elbow extension exercise, which means that they completely isolate the triceps.
The only fault is that lowering the dumbbell in front of your face doesn't elicit the same kind of triceps stretch as bringing it behind your head does.
As such, there's little point in performing the front part of the exercise from a muscle growth perspective because you don't get the same quality of eccentric muscle stretch, which is the most crucial part of the rep.
Still, front to back triceps extensions improve your motor skills because you're constantly switching shoulder positions, which in turn may increase your skill on other exercises, especially those that have a larger neurological component.
Read More: Side leaning tricep extension
Since every rep of front to back tricep extensions is essentially like doing two regular reps, you should perform moderate reps (8-12) most of the time.
So, in reality, 8-12 reps is more like 16-24 reps, which gives your triceps plenty of time under tension to grow and develop.
Since they're a high-rep exercise, front to back tricep extensions are best performed at the end of your workout as a finishing movement so that you can recruit any remaining, stubborn muscle fibers.