When it comes to arm day, most triceps exercises will be performed with the cable pulley. Believe it or not, but only a few triceps exercises are done using dumbbells or body weight – the rest are done with cables. We’re going to talk about the best triceps cable exercises you need in your training program to build more size and strength.
The triceps brachii is a major muscle of the upper arm. In fact, your triceps make up 60% of your arm. The triceps run along the humorous bone, from the shoulder down to the elbow. Along with the biceps, it allows for extension and retraction of the forearm. The triceps muscle is a voluntary muscle, meaning it’s a muscle you choose to move.
“Triceps” means “three heads”, which refers to the segmentation of the triceps muscle into three different muscles. The triceps consist of the long, lateral, and medial head.
- Long head:Running from the shoulder blade down along the length of the humerus (upper arm bone)
- Lateral head: Positioned on the outer side of the back of the arm
- Medial head:Located on the inner side of the back of the arm
Your triceps assist in elbow extension (straightening your arm at the elbow) and shoulder extension [R].
The long head originates from the infraglenoid tubercle of the scapula, while both the lateral head and the medial head both originate from the humerus. The three heads converge into a single tendon, which attaches to the proximal portion of the olecranon process (the bony prominence of the elbow) located on the upper portion of the ulna [R].
Perhaps the biggest benefit of utilizing the cable pulley for triceps exercises, is developing upper body and arm strength. Cables allow you to increase time under tension, which is one of the crucial variables, in addition to range of motion, that actively recruits muscle fiber and fosters muscle development and growth. Cable pulleys also assist in greater range of motion, to elongate muscle fiber and increase strength. You can also angle the cables to allow for greater emphasis on specific areas of your triceps, which is a distinct advantage over free weights.
Cables provide more versatility through direct muscle control and isolation. With greater isolation, you can focus on building specific muscles and muscle groups, for enhanced muscle development and hypertrophy. You can target a wide array of muscle groups with the cable pulleys as opposed to free weights, giving you more options, to build bigger and stronger arms.
Isolating specific muscles can help overcome muscular imbalance and aesthetic imbalances, developing better body composition and functional strength.
As I mentioned a huge variable to muscle growth and strength is time under tension. There is no better way to increase time under tension, than using the cable pulley. Cables also allow you to manipulate rep timing and count, increasing the pace to further coincide with your fitness goals.
Cables provide way more versatility when it comes to exercise options and placing specific emphasis on segments of your triceps. For example, you can control several variables with cables, such as hand position, whether supinated or pronated, rep timing, pause increments, hand grip either close grip or wide grip, etc. Each variable will have an impact on muscle development and overall aesthetics.
The triceps pushdown is an isolated strength training movement that specifically targets your triceps. Isolated movements are often used in bodybuilding since the overall goal is body aesthetics and muscular balance. Usually performed on a cable pulley you can also use resistance bands at home and a multitude of attachments for added variations which can include the triceps pushdown using a straight bar, v-bar, or single arm variation with the cable pulley.
The triceps pushdown has many variations, namely with different cable pulleys emphasizing alternative grips and focal points or targeted areas of the triceps. You can use a straight bar, v-bar, pronated or supinated grip, as well as unilateral single arm, or bilateral positions.
- Attach a double-sided rope to a high pulley and grab with an overhand grip (palms facing down) at shoulder width.
- Standing upright with the torso straight and a small inclination forward, bring the upper arms close to your body, elbows tucked towards the body and perpendicular to the floor. The forearms should be pointing up towards the pulley as they hold the rope. This is your starting position.
- Brace your abdominals with a deep breath in.
- Using your triceps, bring the rope down until it splits the front of your thighs, and the elbows are fully extended and locked out perpendicular to the floor. The upper arms should always remain stationary next to your torso and only the forearms should move. Exhale as you perform this movement.
- After a second hold at the contracted position, bring the rope slowly up to the starting point. Breathe in as you perform this step.
- Repeat for the recommended number of repetitions.
The straight-bar triceps pushdown mimics the same movement pattern as the triceps ropes cable pushdown; the only difference is that the handle is exchanged with a straight bar. You can grip the bar shoulder width apart, palms faced down, or you can also grip the outside of the bar for a wider extension. Form is impeccable to stimulate all three heads of the triceps. The key to this exercise, is to keep your elbows positioned and stationary as you push the weight down.
- Using the cable machine, attached the short bar to the cable
- With your hips hinged and knees slightly bent, hold onto the bar with your elbows bent at 90 degrees.
- Keeping your elbows stationary, push the bar down contracting your triceps and extending all the way through the movement, pushing the weight towards your body.
- Bring the bar back to chest level without moving your elbows and repeat.
Single arm triceps pushdown is a unilateral triceps exercise performed with no cable pulley attachment, but only with the cable itself. Single arm pushdown is one of the most effective triceps exercises, due to the increased range of motion you can achieve. As opposed to the bar or rope, you can position yourself and place more emphasis on your triceps for better contraction and hypertrophy.
- With a single arm, reach up and grab the cable pulley with your thumb and forefinger wrapped around the ball attachment (you can use a grip attachment as seen in the video, however in my experience, no attachment works better).
- Pushdown the ball attachment all the way down to your sides, keeping your elbow tucked tightly to your body
- Raise the cable pulley parallel to the floor then push back down and flex your triceps and contract the muscle holding for a one – two second count, then bring back to parallel
The wide grip straight bar triceps cable pushdown, (wow what a mouthful) is one of the best and most effective triceps exercises that stimulates the long head extremely well. If you want to work the back of your triceps for bigger and better gains, wide grip straight bar triceps pushdown is a must have in your workout program or arm day training split.
- Attach a straight bar to the cable pulley
- Grab each end with your hands gripping the end of each side
- Slightly bend your knees and bend slightly over
- Breath out and push the bar down towards the top of your thighs
- Contract your triceps and hold for a one second count, breath out and let the bar back up to parallel.
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