Triceps Pushdown Exercises

I think it would be safe to say that triceps pushdowns are many people’s favourite triceps accessory exercise and for a good reason! It is relatively simple to perform, it works all three heads of your triceps and you would have endless variations of exercises for this muscle group.

What is even better is that you can even do this exercise with a resistance band if you are training at home without a high pulley machine of some description. Alternatively, Spud Inc makes a great pulley set up that you can use if you have somewhere to hang it.

What works the outer head and the inner head?

For those trainers who are diving deeper into the technical aspects of training and are aware of that, there are three heads of the triceps, you will probably want to know how to work them. The truth is that there is no real way to isolate a specific head of your triceps.

Regardless of which attachment you are going to be using or exercise variation you are going to be doing – you will still be working the whole three triceps heads. Yes, some exercises might shift the focus and hit a more specific head than the others, but not enough to make a significant difference.

If you are going to be doing your compound exercises and throw a couple of accessory exercises into the mix you will work the whole three heads. There is no need to overcomplicate things when training, keep it simple!

But what about muscle imbalances?

The main two ways of how you can develop muscle imbalances would be improper form and sticking to the same exercises for too long.

The beauty of weight training is that you can perform hundreds of various exercises with pretty much the same equipment. So, if you change things around every few months and focus on form over weight lifted, you will work through any potential muscle imbalances.

Please note, if you have medical issues or any pain it is best to go to a doctor/physio and get it checked out.

What is the point of all these different cable attachments if any exercise triceps exercise will work all three triceps heads?

The human body is an extremely complicated machine. When we lift and move, we recruit multiple muscle groups as the nervous system fires off the commands. If we repeat these movements and progressively overload, the body gets more efficient and we get stronger and/or faster.

While these pathways get stronger, if we vary the movement slightly, new pathways are required that have not adapted. We will struggle for a period while these new pathways adapt.

The struggle is magnified if we significantly change the movement. An example would be going from a traditional barbell bench press to a bench press with a parallel grip. This change will hit muscle fibres that have been idle or underworked during the barbell bench press.

This variation brings the strength up of all pathways and thereby increasing overall strength. Best of all it makes training more interesting that leads to greater consistency. A true win-win situation.

Triceps Pushdowns Variations:

Revolving Straight Bar

Possible variations: Overhand Grip, Underhand Grip, wide and thumb width apart.

How to:

– Use an extension chain on a machine with a high pulley. You can use a lat pulldown, cable crossover or functional trainer – since the movement is quite short, the chain will help you get in the correct position to start the exercise. It will also eliminate any range of motion issues.

– Choose the most comfortable grip.

– Pull your shoulders back and push them down.

– Lock your elbows to the sides of your body.

– Tense your core.

– Push the handle down until you extend your elbows.

– Squeeze your triceps at the bottom of the movement.

– Remember to tense your core, keep your elbows and shoulders in the same place throughout the whole movement.

Triceps Rope Pushdowns

Possible variations – wide triceps rope pushdowns, single triceps rope pushdowns.

If you have a longer triceps rope, you can vary the grip width until you find the most comfortable position. If you have a shorter triceps rope and can’t find a comfortable position, also try using it for a single hand triceps rope pushdowns.

How to:

– The setup is very similar to your revolving straight bar pushdowns.

– Pull your shoulders back and push them down.

– Lock your elbows to the sides of your body, make sure that they stay there throughout the whole movement.

– Tense your core.

– Push the rope down and try to spread it at the bottom, this way you will be able to get a better triceps contraction.

The single-arm variant:

For this exercise, you could also use a stirrup handle if you find the grip uncomfortable.

– You can either stand facing the lat machine forwards or sideways. If you have shoulder pain, try standing with your side pointing towards the lat machine.

– Straighten your body and tense your core.

– Keep your elbow tucked into the side of your body.

– Push the rope down and fully extend your arm.

– If you cannot extend your arm fully, try lowering the weight.

Triceps V-Bar

Even though there is only one possible variation for the triceps V-Bar pushdowns, the movement would feel very different between different V-Bars.

V-Bars are great if you have wrist or elbow injuries. It places your palm into a more natural position.

How to:

– Pull your shoulders back and push them down.

– Tense your core.

– Lock your elbows into the sides of your body.

– Push the bar down and try to extend your arms fully.

– Return to the starting position.

How Many Reps Should I perform?

I would recommend doing somewhere between 8-12 reps for these exercises. If you can reach 12 reps with correct form, try increasing the weight.

If you cannot get to 8 reps, lower the weight.

Common Mistakes:

– It is a supplementary exercise, not your main workout.

– No need to set triceps pushdown PB’s every week – train your muscles, not your ego.

– Watch your form – do not activate unnecessary muscle groups by lifting a weight that is too heavy.

– Do not forget to tense your core – not only you will have more stability throughout the whole movement, but you will also protect your lower back!