Cable Triceps Pressdown Mistakes & Corrections

The triceps pressdown on a cable station is one of the fundamental exercises for building muscular arms. While it seems easy enough, there are actually several mistakes that could kill your progress.

That’s why I want to show you what not to do based on the 3 most common mistakes I see in the gym. As well as how to do the cable triceps pressdown with proper form.

With this information, you’ll get better results from every rep and build bigger arms in less time.

Cable Triceps Pressdown

What Is A Triceps Pressdown?

A triceps pressdown is an exercise where you extend your arms at a downward angle. Other terms include triceps pushdown or triceps extension.

Usually, a triceps pressdown is performed by holding a handle or rope attachment on a cable machine. So it’s sometimes called a cable pressdown or rope pressdown.

Triceps Pressdown Muscles Worked

Obviously, this exercise primarily targets the triceps muscle, which is actually a group of three small muscles on the back of your arm. Including the long head (upper), lateral head (outer), and medial head (inner).

Generally, a cable triceps pressdown hits all three heads. But you can emphasize specific heads by changing the cable attachment and/or your hand position.

Triceps Pressdown Muscles Worked

How To Do A Cable Triceps Pressdown

To do a cable triceps pressdown, first, adjust the pulley to about head level. Then hook on the attachment handle you want to use. This could be a v-bar, straight bar, EZ bar, or rope.

Next, grab the handle and take a step or two back away from the pulley. This is important in order to create the right angle between the cable and your arms as I’ll explain below.

Lean forward slightly and start with your arms bent. Now extend your lower arms by squeezing your triceps until your arms are straight. Squeeze for a second before letting the weight back up to the starting position.

Throughout the movement, keep your elbow joint and upper arms fixed in the same spot. Your legs and torso should not move either. Only your lower arms should move during the exercise.

To recap, here are the step-by-step directions:

  1. Adjust the height of the pulley
  2. Grab the handle, step back, and lean forward slightly
  3. Extend your lower arms by squeezing your triceps
  4. Let the weight back up to the starting position
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps

Cable Triceps Pressdown Video

3 Triceps Pressdown Mistakes

Sometimes your form deteriorates as you gain experience and try to lift more weight.  But taking shortcuts to lift heavier doesn’t put as much of the load on the target muscle.

Admittedly, I used to be guilty of these errors myself and it probably stalled my progress. So make sure you avoid the following issues or correct them ASAP.

  • 1. Standing Too Close To The Cable

    When you stand right up next to the cable, you have more leverage to push down heavier weights. But the problem is that the cable and your arm are pretty much lined up at the bottom of the movement, which takes the load off the triceps.

    Basically, it’s the same reason your quads don’t get bigger from just standing. Because the force of gravity pulls straight down through your leg bones and your muscles don’t do much work.

    In the same way, your arm muscles don’t do much work if the force is in line with the bones.

Cable Triceps Pressdown Mistake
  • 2. Using Momentum

    Another way you can cheat to lift more weight is by using momentum. Most often it’s leaning your upper body into the cable to get the weight moving. But it can also be pulling with your upper arms to involve the chest or back muscles.

    Again, this helps you move more weight. But it takes the load off the tricep muscles and that defeats the purpose of the exercise!

  • 3. Partial Range of Motion

    A third common mistake is only moving the weight through part of the range of motion. Usually, in the range where the least amount of load is applied. When this happens, the tricep is no longer under tension and won’t respond to the training.

Proper Triceps Pressdown Form

Now that you know what not to do, let’s get into how to do the triceps pressdown with proper form. Below I’ll address how to fix each of the 3 mistakes we just covered.

  • 1. Step Back From The Cable

    It’s important to realize that the load on your tricep is maximized when the cable and your forearm make a 90-degree angle (perpendicular). And the further you get from 90-degrees, the less force is applied to your tricep.

    So, in order to make your triceps work harder, you need to step back from the cable so it’s not straight up and down. Another way to achieve this is to lower the pulley.

  • 2. Only Move Your Lower Arms

    During the movement, imagine your elbows are pinned to their current location in space. This will prevent you from using your torso or shoulder joint and isolate the tricep.

    If you’re doing the triceps pressdown right, only your lower arms should be moving.

  • 3. Keep Constant Tension On Your Triceps

    When doing the triceps pressdown, you should feel like your triceps are working the whole time. Don’t let them rest at the top or bottom of the movement.

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Triceps Pressdown Variations

As I alluded to earlier, there are certain cable attachments and hand positions that enable you to target specific parts of your triceps. Below are some of the most common triceps pressdown variations along with what part of the muscle they work.

Tricep Rope Pressdown

One of the most popular cable triceps pressdown attachments is a two-ended rope attachment. A benefit of the rope is that each hand can move somewhat independently.

Also, the rope puts your hands in a more neutral position where your palms face inward. This neutral grip is great because it balances the load between both the inner and outer tricep heads.

Reverse Grip Pressdown

A reverse grip means your palms are facing up. This underhand grip is also referred to as a supinated hand position. For tricep exercises, the reverse grip targets more of the lateral or outer tricep.

Usually, this variation is performed with a straight bar or EZ bar attachments.

One Arm Reverse Grip Pressdown

Another way to do the reverse-grip pressdown is using a single handle. This still works the outer tricep. But the individual handle forces each arm to work independently.

Also, it allows more possibilities for moving your body relative to your arm. So you can easily adjust the exercise to feel maximum contraction in the tricep.

Wide Grip Triceps Pressdown

A wide grip triceps pressdown involves using a long bar attachment similar to what you would use for a wide grip lat pulldown. With this variation, you use a grip wider than shoulder width.

In addition, I recommend using an overhand grip, called a pronated hand position. This combined with the wide grip really targets the medial or inner tricep.

Overhead Cable Triceps Extension

Lastly is the overhead cable triceps extension. Unlike the pressdown, this exercise involves extending your arms up and out over your head. Often, this is done with the rope attachment, but you can use a bar as well.

The overhead extension loads the triceps in the bent position. And this puts more focus on the long head or upper tricep.

Hypertrophy Training Program

The cable triceps pressdown is an awesome exercise for beefing up your arms. But if you really want to reach your fitness goals, you need a complete resistance training plan designed for muscle gain.

In order to maximize muscle growth (aka hypertrophy), you should adjust 10 specific training variables. Check out my free hypertrophy training program to see how to optimize your workouts.

Hypertrophy Training
Build More Muscle

With this information, you’ll be well on your way to building a better lower body. And if you found this article useful, I hope you’ll check out some of my other informative content below!

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