How to Do Rope Pushdowns for Your Triceps

The triceps pushdown is one of the best exercises for triceps development. Variations include grip position and a rope handle instead of the horizontal bar. Done properly, this one really burns.

The triceps brachii muscle is located at the rear of the upper arm and comprises three heads. It is a bigger muscle than the biceps at the front of the arm. Building big triceps is the key to bigger all-round arms if that’s your aim.

Be cautious with this exercise if you have an elbow injury or if you develop persistent elbow soreness over time. If you're new to this exercise, as always, start with light weights to get the feel of the proper form.


Positioning the Body for the Triceps Pushdown

woman doing triceps exercise in gym
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  • Face the triceps pushdown cable machine and grasp the horizontal cable bar with an overhand grip. Adjust the bar so that it rests at about chest level.
  • Tuck the elbows into the sides and position the feet comfortably, slightly apart.
  • To start with, set a low weight with the pin and plate adjustment and practice a few repetitions to see how the device works. Versions of this machine may include other weighting mechanisms.

Body Movement, Check Points, and Variation

Body Movement

  1. Brace the abdominals.
  2. Push down on the handlebar until elbows are fully extended but not yet in the straight, locked position. Bend the knees slightly on the pushdown but stay as upright as possible with back straight. Don’t recruit the back and shoulder muscles by bending too far forward. Keep the elbows close to the body and exhale on the way down.
  3. Allow the bar to return to the starting point under control, and try not to clash the weights. (those triceps may be burning back there!)

Check Points

  • Don’t allow the elbows to flare outward on the downward push as this will negate the work on the triceps and place unwanted stress on the shoulder.
  • Push down smoothly and evenly on both sides.
  • Don’t bend over at the back and shoulders in order to force the weight down; this is an arm exercise!
  • Do allow the knees to bend slightly on the pushdown.

Give your triceps a break and move onto the seated cable row.

Rope Attachment Variation

If your gym has the cable and pulley machine used in this exercise, then it probably also has a selection of grip attachments. These can include an E-Z bar, a V-angled bar, and a rope attachment.

You can add variety to your triceps pushdown exercise by using the rope attachment. It looks like a short length of thick rope, knotted at each end with a metal loop at the center for attaching to the cable.

Using the rope attachment can introduce a bit more exertion on the triceps at the bottom of the pushdown if you pause at the bottom of the move. The form and movement are the same for the rope attachment as the bar version.

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