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May 20, 2023

Build Your Triceps With The Tricep Pushdown: Benefits, Techniques & Workout

The triceps brachii is one of the most worked muscles by every fitness enthusiast. It’s empowering and its strength translates to other pressing movements such as bench presses and overhead presses. 

In this article, you’ll learn how to build your triceps with the triceps pushdown. The benefits, technique, and workout you can do anytime to take your arms training to the next level. 

Buckle up and get ready to grow horse-like triceps!

Triceps Pushdown: Step-by-step Guide

Triceps pushdowns are one of the easiest tricep exercises that people from all fitness levels can do. In most cases, you only need a pulley machine and a rope or any other attachment (see below). 

Assuming you’re doing a straight bar tricep pushdown, let’s break down the movement in a few simple steps. 

– Step 1: Grab the straight metallic bar and attach it to the pulley or cable machine.

– Step 2: Pick a challenging yet manageable weight.

– Step 3: Place both hands on the bar. You can use an overhand grip (pronated grip), or an underhand grip (supinated grip).

– Step 4: Place your feet at hip width, your elbows close to your torso, and your hips tucked in (core engaged.)

– Step 5: Press the bar down from chest level until your elbows are in a locked position (both arms straight.)

– Step 6: Go up slowly to chest level and repeat for the desired reps.

If you’re a beginner, the most important factor is avoiding poor form and keeping injury risk at a minimum. Eventually, you’ll grow big and strong triceps.

A man performing tricep pushdowns at the gym

Benefits of Tricep Pushdowns

Triceps pushdowns have a myriad of benefits that extend from aesthetics to improving pressing strength and strengthening. the elbow joint. Let’s take a closer look at them!  

Increase Pressing Strength

The healthier and stronger your triceps are, the easier the pressing-patterned exercises become. The reason is that the triceps extend the elbow which is a prerequisite to all pressing and pushing movements. 

If you’re someone who wants to improve and increase pressing strength, then triceps isolation exercises are a must. Over time this will translate to overall pressing strength which you’ll rapidly notice on your lifts. 

Upper body exercises like shoulder presses and bench presses will get noticeably better and with a lower risk of injury.

Strengthen Elbow Joint

The triceps are responsible for extending the elbow through the elbow joint. This joint is crucial for pressing and pushing movement patterns since all of them require elbow extension to some degree. 

Strengthening the elbow joint is commonly seen in sports like Olympic lifting, baseball, and basketball where athletes rely heavily on elbow extension.

There is no need to go to muscle failure to build strength. It all depends on the initial standpoint of the individual. Logically, the more experienced a person is, the more volume they’ll need to keep getting the desired results. 

But, for the vast majority of people, keeping the weight moderate and the reps between 12-20 should be more than enough to keep the joint healthy and strong.

Improve Arms Aesthetics

As many people know, the triceps are responsible for the better look of the arms. Since they take a bigger portion of the arms and are also bigger, they improve the arm’s aesthetics. 

If your goal is to look good with clothes on, then working on your triceps is a must. You should consider prioritizing your triceps development more than your biceps because they’ll offer greater benefits to your overall look.

A man doing one-arm tricep pushdowns

Exercise Variations Of Triceps Pushdowns

There are multiple variations for the triceps pushdowns and mostly all of them target the long head, medial head, and lateral head.

Rope Pushdowns 

Rope pushdowns are one of the most famous variations. It uses a rope attached to a cable machine. Both hands are holding one extreme of the rope and allowing for a smooth arm path. 

The typical rope comes in 26 and 36 inches. Usually made out of nylon with thick rubber end pieces to prevent sliding during the lifts. They also include a metallic attachment at the center which is what connects it to the cable machine. 

Resistance Band Pushdowns 

Pushdowns with the resistance band are one of the most practical ways to work the triceps. You can take them everywhere and simply wrap them around any tall surface and get going. 

The band increases the tension as you extend the elbow. Meaning, the movement gets harder as you straighten the arm. 

Although resistance bands (loop bands) are the most popular. Tube and mini bands are also great and affordable variations. One of the advantages of bands is that you can buy multiple sets of different resistance and play around with the difficulty of each. 

They’re cheap and durable as long as you keep them out of the sun or any extreme conditions.

Straight Bar Pushdowns

Using a straight metallic bar for pushdowns is another famous and effective variation that targets all heads of the triceps. The setup is the same as the rope. Every bar comes with an attachment to use on the cable machine. 

You pick a challenging weight and place each hand on the extreme of the bar while keeping your elbows close to your body. Then you proceed to extend the elbows, pushing the bar down until the arm is fully straight. Go up slowly and repeat.

Different from the rope (neutral grip), the straight bar has both hands in a pronounced position which makes the lateral head the principal target.

V-Bar Pushdowns

The v-bar is another metallic attachment used with a cable machine. The hand position is similar to the rope where both are using a semi-supinated grip. The v-bar has metallic ends that come off the bar to secure the grip while lifting.

This is a great variation to work on the long and lateral head of the triceps. It’s easy to do and you can combine it with other triceps exercises to get the most benefits.

Reverse Grip Pushdowns

Reverse grip pushdowns are a fantastic variation to work on the long head of the triceps. It usually requires a straight bar or resistance bands. Although this exercise is very effective, it does require a lot of forearm and wrist mobility that not all people have. 

Holding a bar with both hands completely supinated may be a challenge for some individuals which is why it’s considered an intermediate variation. 

However, using resistance bands may be a suitable modification since it allows one to work on the long head without having to fully supinate the forearm. Regardless, we could advise starting with a low weight until you can master the technique pain-free.

Common Mistakes

Although the tricep pushdown is an easy movement to master, there are common mistakes that can and should be avoided to maximize its benefits.

Weight Too Heavy

Using a weight too heavy is the most common mistake in the entire fitness world. People trying to impress others with outrageous weights without mastering the technique is a silent epidemic.

The best way to secure consistent and steady progress is to pick a weight you can control and only increase it once you have mastered it. The technique should always be your priority, especially if you’re just starting. 

It’s important to mention that this is how most injuries happen in the gym. Lifting too much weight too soon. Instead of defaulting to this mistake, pick a weight you can control and slowly increase it as your technique and form allow.

Short Range Of Motion

The range of motion is the distance your body travels during a movement. The shorter the range of motion, the less time under tension the muscle has. This is not ideal.

The higher the time under tension, the more stimulation the muscle gets which ultimately results in more growth. However, the range of motion can be both genetically predetermined or worked overtime. 

Some people have naturally more range of motion than others, and many individuals can gain range of motion as they get stronger, and this is exactly what you should aim for. 

Try to fully extend and flex the elbow on every rep so you can expose the muscle to greater muscle tension and thereby, growth. 

Elbows Flaring Out

Elbows flaring out is a typical mistake many people do when doing triceps pushdowns. They bend over and stick the elbows out which takes away tension from the muscle which is the opposite of what you’d want. 

To avoid this, make sure you’re using the right weight for you (not too heavy), and try to be mindful of your elbow’s position throughout the range of motion.

Lifting in front of a mirror has been shown to help with this sort of problem because it gives direct feedback that the individual can correct on the spot. Another option could be having someone spot you or keeping an eye on you so your elbows stay 30-45 degrees off your torso.

A man performing tricep pushdowns properly at the gym with a machine

Arching Your Back

Arching your back is another error many people do in pushdowns (and plenty of other movements.) What this does is take away the tension from the body making the exercise less stable and hence more difficult. 

Before starting the movement, make sure your hips are tucked in and your core is braced. This should prevent you or at least reduce the amount of arching your back does during the movement.

Another thing would be using a weight you can control so your body doesn’t look for ways to compensate.

Not Having A Tempo

A Tempo is a prescribed speed at which the movement should be performed. It contemplates the eccentric (muscle lengthens), concentric (muscle shortens), and isometrics (bottom and top of the rep).

The slower the tempo the harder the movement gets and the more tension the muscle endures thus inducing more growth. When performing the triceps pushdown, try to be explosive on your way down (concentric) and slow on your way up (eccentric.) 

This will secure a solid technique and your triceps will be screaming after a few reps.

A buffed guy performing tricep pushdowns

Triceps Pushdown Workout

Now that you have learned all about the tricep pushdown, it’s time to put everything into practice! Below you’ll find a workout that you can include at the end or any other part of your training. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or an advanced lifter, simply adjust the weight to your level. The goal is to target your arms (including the biceps), but the main focus will be the triceps. Let’s dive in! 

A1: Rope Tricep Pushdown 

A2: Alternating DB Biceps Curl

3 sets, 12-20 reps, 60s rest. 

B1: Straight Bar Pushdown 

B2: Straight Bar Biceps Curl

3 sets, 12-20 reps, 60s rest.

C1: Reverse Grip Tricep Pushdown 

C2: Diamond Push Up

C3: DB Hammer Curl

2 sets, 12-20 reps, 60s rest.

men performing tricep pushdowns

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Tricep Pushdown Is Best?

According to many fitness experts, the best tricep pushdown is the rope pushdown. This variation allows for the triceps to fully extend at the bottom of the movement which increases the overall muscle tension. It’s also convenient because it respects the person’s range of motion.

What Is Tricep Pushdown Good For?

The tricep pushdown is a good exercise for strengthening and growing the triceps muscle and elbow joint. This muscle plays a very important role in all pressing movements due to the extension of the elbow. The stronger the triceps the easier the pressing movement becomes.

How To Do Tricep Pushdown Correctly?

The best way to secure the correct form for a tricep pushdown is to pick a weight you can control. Then, aim to keep the elbows close to your body while avoiding using your back too much. Keep a neutral neck and fully extend the elbow at the bottom of the rep.

About Mauro Castillo Gonzales

I've been in the world of CrossFit since 2016. Started as a client, later became a coach, and eventually bought an affiliate with two friends from January 2020 to January 2022. In 2018 I won 1st place at a local competition in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. After I sold my shares in January 2022 I moved then to another city to run as the general manager of another affiliate STI CrossFit.