- Standing or sitting grasp a dumbbell of desired weight. Be sure to keep the core tight throughout the entire lift.
- Raise the weight vertically into the starting position. (If the weight is heavy, getting it into position overhead may be tricky. Grasp the barbell with both hands and forcefully pull the weight upward. Once the weight is about level with the forehead, carefully but quickly rotate the wrists so that the hands are facing upward and are supporting the bar, thereby supporting the weight overhead.)
- Lower the weight downward (behind the head) until the forearms reach horizontal (or as far as is comfortable), inhaling throughout the movement.
- Press the weight upwards to the starting position, exhaling throughout the movement.
- Repeat steps 3-4 for as many reps as desired. (Sets should generally fall between 3 to 6 with 6-12 repetitions.)
A few things to note for overhead extensions:
- This exercise produces maximum elbow strain. If you have previously injured your elbow joints or ligaments or simply have weak ones, do another exercise until you have completely healed and/or strengthened your elbow(s).
- Keep the core tight throughout the lift!
- The weight should be lowered behind the head, not over it. This is both safer and allows for full range of motion.
- The wrists can experience great stress as well - particularly hyperextension, where the dorsal (back of the hand) moves too far towards the forearm - with this exercise. Take care to keep the wrists in a relatively neutral position so as to best keep injury at bay (It is unnatural and anatomically difficult to keep the wrists entirely neutral with a free weight exercise such as this, especially when lifting heavy weight, but stay mindful of how the wrists feel during the lift and either lighten the weight or cease the lift if pain is experienced.)
If you are a beginner, it is imperative that you attempt this exercise with a weight that is substantially lighter than you believe you can successfully lift because of the crushing tension this lift puts on the joints and ligaments of the elbow. In time, the joints and ligaments will strengthen and you will be able to safely increase the amount of weight you lift for this exercise.