How to do tricep pushdowns the correct way
The tricep pushdowns are an integral part of your upper arm anatomy. They look incredibly sexy when toned and strong but are also a key functional muscle that helps with the flexion of your elbow. When it comes to building mass and strength, a combination of compound exercises with isolation moves like the tricep pushdown will have you reaching peak beast mode in no time. The tricep pushdown uses the cable machine to isolate the tris, with particular emphasis on the lateral head. It’s the ideal exercise to add to your upper body or arm day regime, in combination with some of the alternatives suggested below.
What is a Tricep Pushdown?
A tricep pushdown is a strength training exercise that lets you isolate and target the tricep pushdowns. It’s generally performed using a cable machine and adjustable weights so you can modify the exercise to meet your goals. Depending on your preference and what’s available, you can also choose from a straight bar, rope handles, EZ-curl bar, or V-bar. It involves facing the machine and pushing the handles down, with all movement focused on the elbow, thereby employing the triceps and moving them through the full range of motion for optimum results.
Benefits of Doing Tricep Pushdowns
Adding tricep pushdowns to your upper body or arm workout brings many benefits. Firstly, it helps emphasize the lateral head, which will give you excelled definition along the outside of your arm. Then, they’re also brilliant for engaging your core, back, and shoulders as stabilizers. Of course, doing tricep pushdowns will also help increase your upper body mass and give you that much sought-after horseshoe-shaped tricep pushdowns. Finally, you’ll also see improvement in your elbow, shoulder, and wrist stability, which in turn can improve performance in other exercises.
What Muscles Does the Tricep Pushdown Work?
The tricep pushdown will work all of the muscle heads in the tricep but puts the highest activation on the lateral head. While it isolates your tris, you’ll also get a secondary workout in your glutes, lats, abs, traps, and pecs, as they act as stabilizers while you work.
How to Do a Tricep Pushdown
Tricep pushdowns are a relatively simple exercise; however, a few tweaks to your technique will ensure you get the best results. As an isolation exercise for your triceps, it’s a great move to add after heavier compound exercises. However, it’s important to try to stop your other muscles from stealing tension. To do this, keep your elbows pinned to your sides to prevent lat involvement – holding the bar underhand with a wider grip, or using ropes or a V-bar can also help keep them tucked in. Next, keep your chest up and out, shoulder blades contracted, and torso tilted forward, so your shoulders and chest don’t take over. This will also increase your range of movement and maximize tension through the whole range of movement. Lastly, while pushing down, focus on keeping your wrists neutral to your forearms, so they don’t flex.
- Stand a couple of paces back from the cable machine, facing it with your chosen bar/handles in an overhand grip. You can stand with both feet together, or one dropped behind the other.
- Lean forward slightly, hinging at the hips with your chest up.
- Pull the bar down until your elbows are by your sides, and keep them locked there. Your arms will be bent around 90 degrees.
- Moving at the elbow joint only, push the weight down until your arms are straight and your triceps are fully contracted.
- Again, moving at the elbows only, allow the bar/handles to move back up until your arms are perpendicular to your body.
- Repeat for your chosen reps and sets.
How to do a Tricep Pushdown at Home
If you’re working out at home, it’s less likely you’ll have access to a cable machine. A great at-home alternative that requires minimal equipment is a resistance band cable pushdown. The mechanics and execution are the same; however, instead of the cable machine, you’ll use resistance bands attached very securely to a hook, door frame, or another alternative anchor point above your head. It’s important to make sure it’s securely and safely attached so that it doesn’t come flying off mid-pull and smack you in the face.
Bar vs. Rope Tricep Pushdown
One of the biggest questions about tricep pushdowns is what handle to use – straight bar, V-bar, EZ-curl bar, or ropes. What you choose depends on what’s available, what’s more comfortable for you, and your wrist flexibility. A straight bar has some limitations, especially if you have any wrist issues. This is because for many people, when the wrist is flexed, there’s a tendency for radial deviation, which makes holding a straight bar less comfortable, and can cause you to flare your elbows out. As such, the more natural hand position when holding ropes or even a V-bar can help your form. Another benefit of the rope is that research has found it slightly more effective in tricep engagement, and you can get a little extra activation at the bottom of the push as you naturally pull out. However, all handle types can have a place in your workout.
Tricep Pushdown Alternatives
Like training any part of your body, there are many alternative exercises that hit your triceps. Some are big compound moves that hit the whole muscle, while others are excellent isolation exercises that allow you to focus on one of the three heads. Incorporating tricep pushdowns with a combination of these other exercises will give you a well-rounded routine for increasing mass and strength. It’s also a good idea to mix things up occasionally so both you and your triceps don’t get bored with too much repetition. Finally, don’t forget to factor in some rest days to give your body a chance to recover and repair!
Lying Triceps Extensions
A classic triceps exercise is lying tricep extension, also known as skull crushers. It’s a killer move that takes the long head of the tricep through the full range of motion, from contraction to extension. This exercise involves lying on a bench, using dumbbells or a barbell, keeping your elbows in a narrow position, and lowering the weights to either side of your head. One downside of this move, though, is a lack of tension at the top of the move if you’re starting with your arms straight up. To combat this, move your arms slightly back at the shoulders or use an incline bench so there’s greater tension throughout the whole range of motion. Alternatively, you can also use resistance bands attached to the dumbbells to provide that tension as your arms reach 90-degree with your torso.
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