Cable Triceps Pushdown Exercise


Cable Triceps Pushdown – Detailed Exercise Guide

Cable triceps pushdown is a very good warm-up for elbow joints and triceps, and next for working your muscles really hard. It is also perfect for use at the end of your workout because it isolates the triceps, especially their short lateral heads. As a result you can hit all three heads of the triceps with a good peak contraction. This exercise may have its own station in the gym, or you can use the lat pull-down area.

Proper Technique and Tips needed for Cable Triceps Pushdown

How To Do Rope Cable Triceps Pushdown?

STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Stand facing the cable stack with your knees and hips slightly bent and your torso leaning slightly forward. Grab the Y-shape rope handle with a neutral grip using both hands. Your forearms should be at a 45-degree angle to the floor, your upper arms and elbows close to your body and in line with your spine. Keep your head and chest up. That is your proper position to begin this bodybuilding exercise.

Cable Triceps Pushdown

Cable Triceps Pushdown

MOVEMENT (ACTION): Slowly and smoothly straighten your arms by pulling the rope down towards the floor and into your lap, while controlling the movement at all times and keeping the elbows in one position close to the body until you achieve full muscle tension. At the end of the movement you can stretch the cable while moving each hand to the side so as to hit and finish off the short heads of the triceps.

Useful Tips & Tricks

Remember to use adequate weight and maintain constant tension of the cable. The cable must move smoothly, without any sudden pulls. Also:

  • Look for your body (torso, hips, legs) to remain completely stationary. Only your lower arms (forearms) travel outwards and downwards in an arc to your legs.
  • The angle of your spine to be parallel with the path of the cable.
  • Avoid allowing your elbows to leave your sides.
  • Try not to shrug or round your shoulders.
  • Avoid leaning backwards.
  • Common mistakes: moving the elbows to get help from the back muscles and gain momentum, separating the elbows from the body to do a press-type movement, too short or too long a range of movement, and flexing or extending the wrists.

Muscles Targeted

The exercise effectively works all three heads of the triceps, although it is a little easier on the long head. If you want to work this head more, you can flex your trunk and shoulders, and move your arms forward. Some people flex the wrist when the elbow is fully extended. This has no effect on the triceps and can be counterproductive.

  • Main muscles: triceps
  • Secondary muscles: anconeus
  • Antagonists: biceps, brachialis, brachioradialis

Exercise Variations

This is a basic exercise for your triceps, the three heads of which form the bulk of your upper arm. You can perform the triceps pushdown with a rope (Y-shape), a V- bar (triangle shape bar), short straight bar attachment or a handle (to work one arm at a time if your arms are unevenly developed). It’s better to use the triangle-shaped bar than the straight one, it stresses less the elbow. In each case, the basic principle is the same. Your elbow joint acts as a pivot and should not move from your side.

Cable Triceps Pushdown Variations - using rope, V triangle bar, short straight barUsing the straight bar, a pronated grip (palms down) emphasizes the outer lateral head of the triceps, whereas a supinated grip (palms up) focuses effort on the inner long head. An angled V-shaped bar switches the hands into a neutral grip (thumbs up) that targets all three heads of the triceps equally. The rope attachment affords a forcible pronation at the wrist, which targets the outer lateral head of the triceps.

One arm cable triceps pushdown. Performing the exercise one arm at a time with the D-handle, using an overhand or underhand grip, focuses effort and improves isolation. However, there is no difference in the muscle work. Most people will need to use proportionally less weight than in the two-arm exercise, given the position of the body.

One arm cable triceps pushdown

One arm cable triceps pushdown

Replacement Exercise

Replacement exercise for the cable triceps pushdown can be found in our big triceps exercise database.

Closing Thoughts

Cable triceps pushdown is a great isolation exercise that works all three heads of the triceps muscle. It is suitable for both beginners and advanced athletes.

Unlike barbell or dumbbell triceps exercises, where the resistance varies during the lift, the cable provides a uniform resistance throughout the movement.

You can perform cable triceps pushdown using short straight bar or V-shaped (angled) bar. However, using the rope will allow you the very minor advantage of a longer extension at the end of the movement. It also provides a neutral grip (rather than overhand or underhand), but your hold on the rope may be weaker and less comfortable than a bar.

Finally, working the triceps with a pulley is less traumatic for the elbow joints than using your body weight (as in doing push-ups), dumbbells, a barbell, or any other kind of machines. A more complex pulley network reduces the forces and thus is gentler for the joints.


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