How to Do Triceps Pushdown: Form, Muscles Worked, and More

The triceps pushdown is a simple movement, but it can go wrong. Here's how to do it properly!

The triceps pushdown exercise can be used by strength, power, and fitness athletes to add valuable strength and hypertrophy to the triceps. The triceps, in addition to the chest and shoulders, are a key muscle group for bench press strength, overhead stability and performance, and more.

In this triceps pushdown exercise guide, we’ll cover multiple topics including:

  • Triceps Pushdown Form and Technique
  • Benefits of the Triceps Pushdown
  • Muscles Worked by the Triceps Pushdown
  • Who Should Do the Triceps Pushdown?
  • Triceps Pushdown Sets, Reps, and Programming Recommendations
  • Triceps Pushdown Variations and Alternatives
  • and more…

How to Perform the Triceps Pushdown: Step-By-Step Guide

The below step-by-step guide discusses how to perform the triceps pushdown, using resistance bands.

Step 1. Get Set Up

Stand erect with the chest up and the shoulders back. The elbows should slightly in front of the body, with the elbows flexed.

Do not allow the elbows to get pull up too high in front, but rather think about keeping the strength on the triceps and maintain a strong upright position.

Coach’s Tip: Flex your arm like the top of a curl, this can help you figure out the best starting point.

Triceps Pushdown Exercise Guide - Set Up
Triceps Pushdown Exercise Guide – Set Up

Step 2. Hand Placement

Depending on the special bar/rope/band you are using, your grip may vary.

The hands can be in the neutral position when using bands or the rope. 

Coach’s Tip: Be sure to keep the chest up and the elbows slightly in front of the body.

Triceps Pushdown Exercise Guide - Grip Placement
Triceps Pushdown Exercise Guide – Grip Placement

Step 3. Push Down

When ready, extend the elbows so that they straighten, making sure to not let the shoulders and chest up not allowing it to fall forwards.

A lot of lifters will want to allow the elbows to travel backwards, which indicates trying to use the chest and shoulders to assist in the movement. This is not correct.

Triceps Pushdown Exercise Guide - Pushdown
Triceps Pushdown Exercise Guide – Pushdown

Step 4. Squeeze

Once you have reached to bottom and fully extended position, pause briefly and flex the triceps to maximally contraction them.

Notice how the hands are slightly off the body at the bottom position. 

Coach’s Tip: Slightly rotate the elbows out or change the end position be a few degrees and notice how the muscle tension changed 

Triceps Pushdown Exercise Guide - Elbow Extension
Triceps Pushdown Exercise Guide – Elbow Extension

3 Benefits of the Triceps Pushdown

Below are three (3) benefits of the triceps pushdown that strength, power, and fitness athletes can benefit from.

1. Improved Lockout Strength

The triceps are responsible for elbow extension and elbow/shoulder/wrist stability in the extended position, both of which are necessary for a strong lockout in the bench press, overhead press, and all of the overhead loaded positions (snatch, jerk, etc)..

2. Increased Upper Body Mass

The triceps pushdown can help to increase upper body arm size (see below), enhance general pressing strength, and ultimately improve performance of the shoulders and chest muscles as they are often the secondary muscle group for most mass building movements like bench press, push press, push ups, dips, etc.

3. Bigger Arms (nuff said…)

The triceps make up more than half of the arm, making them key muscle groups to train for increased arm size and development. While the biceps curl is important, athletes should also be sure to prioritize single joint triceps work via the triceps pushdown to further enhance muscle growth.

Muscles Worked – Triceps Pushdown

The triceps pushdown is a single-joint accessory/hypertrophy exercise that can be (when done correctly, see above) highly effective at targeting the arms, specifically:

  • Triceps

Who Should Perform Triceps Pushdowns?

The triceps pushdown can help increase overall arm and lockout strength and upper body mass for strength, power and fitness athletes. In addition, the triceps pushdown can be done to offer added injury resilience and performance training for lifters who may be susceptible to elbow and/or injuries overhead (weak triceps can create instability in the overhead position and add stress to the shoulders and wrists).

Strength and Power Athletes

Below are a few strength and power athletes who can benefit from the inclusion of triceps pushdowns within their current training program.

  • Powerlifters and Strongman Athletes: Increased upper body strength and size is key in the strength sports. Increasing upper body mass and lockout strength can improve bench performance, increase overhead stability, and even help limit excessive strain on the elbows and wrists (often seen with poor elbow extension abilities).
  • Olympic Weightlifters: Similar to the above strength athletes, weightlifters can perform pushdowns to increase upper body hypertrophy, improve overhead stability in the jerk and snatch, and minimize injury to the elbows (poor extension and stability).

General and Functional Fitness

Increased triceps strength and performance can not only improve pressing strength, it can help to enhance the shape, size, and muscular force of the triceps, which are key muscles in the bench press and overhead press/lifts.

Triceps Pushdown Exercise Guide
Triceps Pushdown Exercise Guide

Triceps Pushdown Sets, Reps, and Programming Recommendations

Below are two (2) primary training goals and programming recommendations when programming triceps pushdown into training programs.

Strength – Reps and Sets

Below are recommendations on how to program triceps pushdown to develop arm strength.

  • 4-6 sets of 3-8 repetitions
  • While there are no exact guidelines as how to strengthen the triceps, using an array of heavier pushdowns, dips, and triceps accessory exercises can increase strength.

Hypertrophy – Reps and Sets

Below are recommendations on how to program and train for triceps hypertrophy using the triceps pushdown.

  • 5-10 sets of 8-20 repetitions
  • Once again, there is a wide array of loading, sets, and rep schemes available to coaches to train the triceps for size and strength. The key here is to focus on the muscle contractions and “pump”, rather than just mindlessly moving weights. Additionally, the loads themselves do not need to be heavy to have an effect.

Triceps Pushdown Variations

Below are three (3) triceps pushdown variations that can be done to improve strength, size, and overall muscle growth.

1. Rope Pushdown

The rope pushdown is an attachment variation that can be done to change the angle and wrist position in the push down, increasing the ability to customize the movement (often done with a straight bar) to fit the needs of the athlete.

2. Reverse Grip Triceps Pushdown

The reverse grip triceps pushdown has the lifter pushdown the bar with the hands supinated, increasing the demands on the inner head of the triceps (rather than the outer/lateral heads).

3. Partial Rep Triceps Pushdown

Performing partial repetitions of the triceps pushdown can lead to increase training volume, enhanced strength at specific angles, and further isolation of weaker/smaller aspects of the triceps.

Triceps Pushdown Alternatives Alternatives

Below are three (3) triceps alternatives that can be done to vary programming, challenge lifters, and more.

1. Close Grip Bench Press

The close grip bench press is a compound upper body alternative the targets many of the same strength and hypertrophy aspects of the pushdown. The pushdown however, specifically targets the triceps whereas the close grip bench press targets the triceps and pectorals (chest).

2. Skullcrushers

The skullcrusher is an single joint triceps movement that is done to increase the size and strength of the triceps in very similar ranges of motion of the pushdown. Both can be used to enhance triceps size and strength.

3. Dips

The dip is a compound triceps exercise that involves the larger muscles of the upper body (triceps, pectorals, and shoulders). While this is a compound exercise, it still can do a great job at increasing overall triceps mass and strength while still allowing the chest and shoulders to assist harder training to further enhance muscle growth.

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