If you’re weight machine–averse, the triceps rope pushdown probably isn’t part of your tri-building regimen. But if you’re relying solely on non-machine exercises to sculpt triceps muscles, you’re missing out. The triceps rope pushdown is one of the most effective (and versatile) ways to build big, powerful tris.
Since it specifically targets the triceps at a greater mechanical advantage than other similar exercises, the triceps rope pushdown is especially good for tacking on muscle mass and improving definition.
But beyond the aesthetics, having strong, defined triceps also allows you to better execute a variety of chest and shoulder exercises, says certified strength and conditioning coach Cody Braun C.S.C.S. “The triceps are often an untapped resource for those trying to increase their bench press or shoulder press,” he explains.
Read on for more on how to perform rope pushdowns, and how they may help you reach your resistance-training goals.
Triceps Rope Pushdown: Step-by-Step Instructions
Appears in: Sagi’s BOD exclusives – Chest and Tris
- Hook a two-handled rope attachment up to a cable machine, and set the pulley around shoulder height.
- Grasp the handles with your palms facing inward, and step backward a foot or two in order to create tension on the cable. Then hinge forward with your torso about 30 degrees.
- Keeping your elbows at your sides, extend your arms fully toward the floor.
- Reverse the movement to return to the starting position, and repeat.
How to Make the Triceps Rope Pushdown Easier (and Harder)
To modify the move, simply decrease the amount of weight. To progress the move, you’ve got a couple of options:
1. Increase the amount of weight, or
2. Grasp the rope at a higher point for an added grip-strength benefit. When you don’t have the end cap of the rope attachment for leverage, you have to grip the rope tighter to keep your hands from slipping.
Also, be sure to lift your forearms slowly on the eccentric phase of the move instead of relying on momentum. This will increase your muscles’ time under tension, a key trigger for growth.
Bonus Tips for Doing the Triceps Rope Pushdown
That 30-degree hinge at the waist is vital for fully activating all three heads of the triceps.
“The more you position your body over the rope, the greater the mechanical advantage,” Braun says. From there, make sure you complete the full range of motion each time.
Variations on the Triceps Rope Pushdown
Try using an E-Z bar, V-bar, or flat bar attachment, or reverse your grip. Each of these emphasizes the three heads of the triceps differently.
Benefits of the Triceps Rope Pushdown
The triceps rope pushdown works your muscles when your arms are in a locked position. The minor amount of shoulder extension required by the move helps engage the long head of the muscle specifically, which is key for fully developing your triceps as well as improving shoulder stability.
Plus, Braun adds, “The angle of force in a triceps rope pushdown allows you to lift heavier.” Contrast this with upward elbow extension exercises (like an overhead triceps extension), which can put added stress on your elbow joint if you go too heavy, and require considerable shoulder mobility.
What Muscles Does the Triceps Rope Pushdown Work?
The triceps account for roughly two thirds of your upper-arm musculature, and are comprised of three heads: the lateral, medial, and long. All three heads ultimately attach at the elbow, but the lateral and medial heads originate at the humerus (upper arm bone), while the long head originates at the scapula (shoulder blade).
The horseshoe shape commonly associated with well developed triceps is formed by the lateral (outside) and long (inside) heads. The medial head isn’t as readily visible as its counterparts, but it contributes substantially to the overall mass of the triceps.