Cable Tricep Pushdown: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

A very popular exercise for developing the triceps muscles, the cable tricep pushdown is a must-have for building bigger and stronger arms. In this guide, we’ve explained how to do cable tricep pushdown exercise with tips, variations, and the best way to incorporate it into your workout.

The cable triceps pushdown is a commonly used exercise that works all three heads of the triceps muscle. Many new lifters think that biceps make the arms look impressive, and it’s true. However, the triceps contribute 3/4 of the upper arm mass. Therefore, if you want to keep your arms strong, attention should be paid to the triceps as well as the biceps.

It goes without saying that the triceps are heavily involved in all pressing exercises (eg bench press, shoulder press, push-ups, etc.). Therefore, the stronger they are, the more progress you’ll make overall because the pushdown has a lot of transfer to compound presses.

We’ve explained how to do the wired triceps pushdown exercise, along with tips, variations, and little information on how to incorporate it into your workout for best results.

Cable Triceps Pushdown


The cable triceps pushdown goes by many names: tricep pulldown, tricep rope pushdown, cable triceps pushdown, and others. Whatever the name, the triceps pushdown is one of the best exercises for triceps development.

Although most commonly done using a cable system, it is possible to use a resistance band for triceps exercises at home. The triceps pushdown is an essential exercise for people of all fitness levels.

Muscles Worked by Triceps Pushdown


Cable Tricep Pushdown: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Primary Muscle Groups:

The triceps pushdown is an isolation exercise rather than a compound move. This makes it a great exercise to target your triceps. The primary muscle group worked by the triceps pushdown is, as you might guess, your triceps.

The scientific term for the muscle is tricep brachii (Latin for “triceps of the arm”). Each time you extend your arm, the lateral, medial, and long heads of the triceps work together.

However, the triceps pushdown isolates the medial and lateral heads of the triceps during the pushdown movement.

Secondary Muscle Groups:

However, this exercise also activates various secondary muscle groups such as the lats (latissimus dorsi), abs (rectus abdominis), obliques (external obliques), pecs (pectoralis major and pectoralis minor), and trapezius (trapezius).

These secondary muscles come into play to stabilize and support the downward thrust. However, using your back, shoulders, or chest to reduce weight increases the risk of injury and negates the core benefits of triceps presses.

How to Do Cable Tricep Pushdown


To create:

  • With your feet shoulder-width apart, facing a pulley machine with a rope, v-bar, or straight bar suspended at chest level.
  • If using a string, hold the string against the butt end with your palms facing each other. If using a bar, hold the bar with your palms facing down.
  • Make sure your chest is high, your shoulder blades are together, and you lean forward slightly to start the exercise.

Action:

  • With your elbows firmly clamped at your sides, lower the attachment until your arms are fully extended.
  • Pause at the end of the rep and flex your triceps for maximum contraction. Make sure to maintain a neutral wrist position the entire time.
  • Slowly release the weight and return to the starting position.

Recommendation:

For beginners, perform 3-4 sets of 8-10 repetitions. As you become more comfortable with the exercise, try different set/rep combinations and tempos to challenge your muscles.

Benefits of Cable Tricep Pushdown

1. Power Gains

There are many benefits to strengthening your triceps.

Strong triceps help stabilize your shoulder joint by acting as extensors of the elbow and shoulder. As you strengthen your triceps, the stability of your shoulders and elbows will increase.

Having strong triceps allows you to lift more weights and add more strength to other muscle groups in your arms.

The triceps pushdown is an ideal exercise for all athletes, bodybuilders, or anyone trying to build arm strength. Whether you’re throwing a ball, lifting heavy objects at work, or just wanting to increase the aesthetic appeal of your arms, this exercise can help you get stronger to reach your goals.

2. Insulation

As mentioned earlier, the triceps pushdown is an isolation exercise. This is helpful because if you have any strength or muscle size imbalances, you can specifically target your triceps.

For example, if your chest is much stronger than your arms, you can do triceps pushdowns to compensate for the imbalance.

This way, your chest-targeting barbell bench press will improve significantly if you strengthen your triceps as they are synergistically involved in the bench press movement.

3. Convenience

Some triceps exercises require expensive, heavy equipment that can only be found at the gym. While the traditional triceps pushdown uses a cable system, all you need to do this exercise is a resistance band.

With a fixed hook or bar, you can attach the lightweight resistance band and increase the strength of your triceps wherever you are.

Common Cable Tricep Pushdown Mistakes


Extreme Elbow Movement

Many people allow their elbows to swing back and forth during the movement. While you can technically lift more weight using this momentum, you’re actually using your lats to complete the exercise.

If you want to prioritize your triceps, squeeze your elbows against your body and you will feel the triceps contract much better.

Outward Elbows

Another mistake with elbows is the notorious elbow flare. When the elbows expand to the side, the chest and shoulder muscles are engaged. As a result, the triceps push-down exercise becomes a hammer-like movement.

Proper form is essential if you want to effectively build the triceps muscle.

Curl Wrists

Many people tend to curl their wrists under each push-down, seemingly in hopes of doing a more “full” rep. In reality, curling your wrist takes the strain off your triceps and puts unwanted pressure on your wrist.

Make sure to keep your wrist neutral on each rep!

Rope Pushdown Vs. Straight Bar Pushdown


A study by ACE that identified the most effective triceps exercises in May 2012 found a difference in push-down effectiveness when performed with a bar with a rope. The researchers tested several different triceps workouts, including triceps kickbacks, overhead triceps extensions, bar pushups, rope pushups, closed-grip bench press, and lying barbell triceps extensions.

When the researchers analyzed the results, they found that muscle activity was highest when the subjects did triangle push-ups. Kickbacks were ranked as the second most effective exercise. The rope down push was ranked number five, and the straight bar push down was number six. Therefore, rope presses are thought to be more effective at working the triceps muscle than straight bar presses.

Triangle push-ups: So what exactly is triangle push-ups? Traditional push-ups, imagine torso in plank position, hands turned inward and touching, essentially forming a triangle. Keeping the torso still, lower the torso, bend at the elbows, then straighten the arms upward.

Cable Tricep Push-Down Variations


Cable Tricep Pushdown: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

1. Resistance Band Pushdown

As mentioned earlier, this exercise can be done with a resistance band instead of a cable system. The resistance band triceps pushdown provides a different form of resistance than the standard cable pushdown.

The longer the tape, the greater the resistance, whereas a cable provides the same resistance throughout its variation. The resistance band is a cheaper and more convenient method for anyone who travels a lot or just likes to exercise at home!

2. Alternate Triceps Pushdown

The triceps pushdown can be easily done with just one arm. Drop the weight and stick to the same form with the two-arm triceps pushup. This one-arm triceps exercise is a great way for athletes to eliminate muscle imbalances between a stronger and weaker arm.

3. Reverse Grip Triceps Pushdown

The reverse grip triceps pushdown is another great variation on the standard. With palms facing down, palms facing up for a reverse grip.

You won’t be able to lift a lot of weight with this variation, but it’s a great way to help those struggling with elbow shins keep their elbows tight and mindfully work the triceps muscle.

The reverse grip triceps pushdown can also be performed with handles or a straight bar!

Looking for a Complete Cable Tricep Pushdown Workout?


Here is a quick 15-minute tricep mass workout that includes the triceps pushdown while maximizing training volume!

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