The biarticular triceps brachii long head (TBLong) is lengthened more in the overhead than neutral arm position. We compared triceps brachii hypertrophy after elbow extension training performed in the overhead vs. neutral arm position. Using a cable machine, 21 adults conducted elbow extensions (90-0°) with one arm in the overhead (Overhead-Arm) and the other arm in the neutral (Neutral-Arm) position at 70% one-repetition maximum (1RM), 10 reps/set, 5 sets/session, 2 sessions/week for 12 weeks. Training load was gradually increased (+5% 1RM/session) when the preceding session was completed without repetition failure. 1RM of the assigned condition and MRI-measured muscle volume of the TBLong, monoarticular lateral and medial heads (TBLat+Med), and whole triceps brachii (Whole-TB) were assessed pre- and post-training. Training load and 1RM increased in both arms similarly (+62-71% at post, P = 0.285), while their absolute values/weights were always lower in Overhead-Arm (-34-39%, P < 0.001). Changes in muscle volume in Overhead-Arm compared to Neutral-Arm were 1.5-fold greater for the TBLong (+28.5% vs. +19.6%, Cohen's d = 0.61, P < 0.001), 1.4-fold greater for the TBLat+Med (+14.6% vs. +10.5%, d = 0.39, P = 0.002), and 1.4-fold greater for the Whole-TB (+19.9% vs. +13.9%, d = 0.54, P < 0.001). In conclusion, triceps brachii hypertrophy was substantially greater after elbow extension training performed in the overhead versus neutral arm position, even with lower absolute loads used during the training.HighlightsGrowing evidence suggests that resistance training at long muscle lengths promotes muscle hypertrophy, but its practical applications are yet to be explored.Triceps brachii muscle hypertrophy was substantially greater after cable elbow extension training performed in the overhead than neutral arm position, particularly in the biarticular triceps brachii long head, even with lower absolute loads lifted (i.e. lower mechanical stress to muscles/joints).Cable elbow extension training should be performed in the overhead rather than neutral arm position if one aims to maximise muscle hypertrophy of the triceps brachii or to prevent atrophy of this muscle.
Keywords: Bi- and monoarticular muscles; muscle length; muscle volume; training load.