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Fitness 101: How To Do a Triceps Pushdown

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Triceps

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Cable machine

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Whether you’re a certified personal trainer or you’re just hitting the gym – if you want to build your triceps, triceps pushdowns are a great option to have in your toolbox.

If you’re not sure how to properly do a pushdown, don’t worry. I’m going to show you how to do it correctly.

In this blog, I’ll answer the following:

  • What is a triceps pushdown?
  • What muscles do pushdowns work?
  • What are the benefits of pushdowns?
  • What is the proper technique for pushdowns?
  • What variations can you do?

So let’s get started!

What is a Triceps Pushdown?

A triceps pushdown is an isolation movement that targets the triceps, with extra emphasis on the medial and lateral head of the triceps.  

It’s most commonly performed on a cable with a rope, v-bar, or straight bar attachment, and involves simply pushing down the weight via extension of the elbow.

Progressions and regressions of a pushdown are relatively limited. The movement can be progressed by increasing weight, slowing down the movement, or by removing the back support (if present) for additional core stabilization.

What muscles do Triceps Pushdowns work?

There are three heads of the triceps – the lateral, medial, and long head, named from their insertion point. 

Any overhead triceps movement primarily targets the long head, while other triceps movements, including the pushdown, primarily target the medial and long heads.

The long head  of the triceps is still activated during  a pushdown but to a lesser degree.

What are the benefits of Triceps Pushdowns?

benefits-of-Triceps-Pushdowns

Pushdowns are a great isolation movement for building the triceps. They’re often used in supersets or circuits given their ability to be performed at high reps and go to failure; this also makes them a great movement for hypertrophy.

Additionally, if performed freestanding without leaning against a pad, pushdowns can serve as a great core stabilizer as it adds extra pressure to maintain control and a strong posture throughout the movement.

How To Do A Triceps Pushdown

  1. Stand in an athletic stance with your feet roughly hip width apart, or in a slightly staggered stance with the cable in front of you.
  2. With your elbows bent, grab the rope or bar and press it down until your elbow is fully extended, keeping a strong posture and slight forward lean.
  3. Maintaining control of the weight, bring it back to the starting position. 
  4. Repeat for desired number of sets and reps.

Tips and Tricks

Here are a few things to keep in mind for proper form:

    • Control your body throughout the movement. Don’t allow your body to sway or the weight to fall without your control. 
    • Avoid too much movement in your arms outside of elbow extension.
    • Keep your wrists neutral throughout the movement, don’t flex or extend them.
    • If you feel elbow pain during the movement, listen to your body. Either lower the weight, ensure you’re using proper technique, or choose a different triceps movement all together. 

Variations

  • Kneeling Triceps Pushdowns: This variation has you kneeling vs. standing throughout the movement. This is often utilized as a regression of a standard pushdown, but is also great for focusing on isolation and removing body sway.
  • Resistance Band Pushdowns: This variation swaps out the cable and attachment for a resistance band. This is also often utilized as a regression, or for those who may not have the equipment at home. The only caveat is that the band must be anchored to some kind of high point, such as a door.
  • Wide or Close Grip Pushdowns: This variation has you adjusting the distance of your hands on the cable attachment. These are simple ways to put a slightly different emphasis on the triceps with a similar movement.

Final Notes from a Certified Personal Trainer

Triceps pushdowns are a great movement to consider adding to your or your clients’ routines. They build strength and hypertrophy in the triceps, primarily the medial and lateral heads, are versatile, and activate a good amount of core stability during freestanding variations.
For most, using a rope or v-bar attachment is a great starting point. To regress the movement, you can lower the weight, do the movement seated, or regress completely to a triceps dip on a bench with no weight at all.

To progress the movement, you can increase the weight, slow down the movement, or try a variation you or your client isn’t used to.

Finally, ensure you stay in control throughout the movement – there’s no rush. And listen to your body for any cues of pain or unnecessary discomfort.

 

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