What Are Tricep Pull Downs And How To Do Them

What are Tricep Pull Downs and How to do Them

The tricep pull-down is also referred to as a tricep pushdown, cable pushdown, rope pushdown, and tricep pull-down. Even though some of these workouts might vary a little, all of them offer similar benefits to the tricep pull-down. These workouts target the triceps muscle and help the upper arm gain strength, and this article can help anyone learn how to perform any one of the triceps pushdown variation exercises without the need for a personal trainer. 

What are Tricep Pull Downs

Tricep pull-downs are one of the best workouts for the arms that fitness enthusiasts can partake in performing. This type of workout is great at helping you build your arm strength. To build muscle mass in the arms, you’ll need to work your triceps and your biceps. Often times arm workouts also offer strength-building benefits to other muscle groups as well as tons of additional health benefits. 

Muscles Worked

Tricep workouts target the triceps, which has three components making it up. There are the long, lateral, and medial heads of the tricep that complete it. This is the largest muscle in the arm, and if you’re looking to gain a lot of arm strength, the tricep is the best way to do so. 

While tricep pull-downs obviously aid the tricep muscle, they also work other body parts. For example, the tricep pull-down works the core, back, and shoulder muscles as well. Since you have to tighten your core while doing these workouts, your abs and obliques can get significantly stronger when you practice tricep pull-downs. Also, as long as you keep your back in the correct position, your back and shoulders can gain muscle mass quickly as well.

Overall this workout can help build the pecs, abs, lats, and glutes. If you want a full-body workout, there are much better options, but if you’re looking for a workout that will help you strengthen your arms and get target a few bonus muscle groups, the tricep pull-down is an excellent choice. This workout is also a great way to strengthen your overall endurance. 

Man working out his triceps in the gym

Additional Tricep Pull-Down Benefits

In addition to all the muscles you get to work out, this workout also helps strengthen the majority of your upper body and build lasting endurance. Also, many people struggle with breathing correctly when weight lifting, and this can be an excellent workout to practice your breathing while working out. 

This exercise is also adaptable for beginners if you’re new to working out. As you practice more and increase your strength, you can start really bettering your overall strength and increase the weights you lift as well as your repetitions and sets. 

The Equipment Needed to Complete this Exercise

When preparing to work out your triceps, you’ll need the right tools. Most people don’t own cable machines in their home gyms, so you’ll need access to a standard gym area. If you don’t have a gym membership or access to one, you can try to re-create this workout at home with a resistance band and a strong hook.

Either way, you’ll need plenty of space and isolation to complete this workout. When in the gym, find a push-down machine or cable machine to prep for your tricep pull-downs. 

If you’re a beginner fitness enthusiast, you should start with small weights to make sure you don’t strain yourself by accident. Even if you regularly work out your arms, if you don’t use machines regularly, you should still start with smaller weights until you’re sure your form is good. If you don’t have proper form, you might accidentally strain your back. As you feel more confident that you know what you’re doing in your tricep pull-downs, then you can add weight.

Woman working out her triceps at gym

Tricep Pull Downs 

There are a few simple steps to keep in mind while doing tricep pull-downs. First, you want to locate a cable machine and find the rope or cable attachments on them. You’ll want to grab the attachments with an overhand grip and adjust your bar, so your grips are at chest level. 

You should use the weights adjustments to lower the weight to practice your first set of tricep pull-downs. Keep in mind that although many machines use the same pin and place weight mechanism, not all gyms have this standard change.

When you’ve got your weight set, and you’re ready to practice your workout, get your stance right.

You’ll need to keep your knees soft and place your feet about shoulder-width apart. Tighten your core so you can brace yourself for your pull-down. Make sure you tuck your elbows at the sides as you pull the grips down. You might want to move your feet closer together to challenge your balance more as you get better with your form. 

While you push down, inhale and wait until you are fully extended, but don’t allow them to completely straighten or lock in place. Resist any urge to bend forward, as this takes the weight off your core and shoulders and will cause your back to strain uncomfortably.

Remember to keep your elbows loose to your body and allow your back to feel neutral but maintain a straight poise. Slowly push down and once you reach the extent of your workout, exhale and slowly return to your starting point. The more controlled your movements are, the more work your muscles will have to do and the better the results your exercise will provide. Do not allow your weights to crash together, and try to complete at least eight repetitions of this movement for four sets. You can do less if you don’t feel you’re ready to do so many, but the more you do, the harder your triceps will have to work.

Things to Avoid When Performing Tricep Pull Downs

There are going to be things you should make sure to avoid while doing your tricep pull-downs. First of all, make sure not to bend over. You can lean into your pull-downs, but the second your backbends, you risk straining it and developing issues. 

While you’re pulling the weights, don’t allow your elbows to flare out, and make sure you’re pushing down equally on both sides. The best way to ensure you’re equally working both arms is to try to go slowly in a very controlled motion. 

It might be hard to get through the last few repetitions of this workout, but do not use your shoulders or back to force a weight down. This workout is supposed to be difficult the more you practice the sets, so if you’re getting tired toward the end of your sets, you can rest assured knowing you’re doing hard work. 

Man touching his lower back in pain

Variations of the Tricep Pull Down

There are plenty of variations to this workout if you’re tired of trying tricep pull-downs. One of the most common examples is using a resistance band at home or while traveling to complete these pull-downs. You’ll need a secure, sturdy hook to put your band on and make sure it’s at least chin height, but it’s better if the hook is over your head.

One Hand Tricep Pull Down

Another great variation for this workout is to perform a one-handed pull-down. You can really perfect your form by performing this workout with one hand and ensuring you’re maintaining even strength in both muscles. When you do this, you can also have a better understanding if you have equal strength in each arm. This is also a great way to help a recovering injury so you can adjust for each arm.

Alternative Workout Options

Tricep Dips

A great alternative workout option is tricep dips. You can perform tricep dips at home or in a gym by using a chair or weight bench. You’ll need to grip the edge of the seat next to your hips and make sure your fingers are pointed toward your feet. Keep your legs extended and your feet about hip-width apart. Keep your heels on the ground, and be sure to look straight forward with your chin up. 

Press into your palms and lift your body up as you slide forward far enough so your butt can clear the edge of the chair. Lower yourself down in a controlled motion and tilt your elbows until they are bent between a 45 to 90- degree angle. Slowly push yourself back up until your arms are almost straight, and repeat this movement for the required amount of repetitions. 

Man doing tricep dips in the park

Cable Pull Down

Another workout you can try is the cable pull-down. This exercise requires you to access a cable frame and use any supplied hand attachments to grasp the pull-down handle. 

You’ll want to ensure the attachment point is above your head and you can reach it with outstretched arms, then choose the correct weight and pull down. You should be able to pull the cable down to around the thighs while doing this workout, and it should require sustained effort. Then make sure your abs are tight and your grip is overhand. Similar to the tricep pull down, you want your elbows to be locked and your arms straight but maintain soft knees. 

Remember to breathe when pulling the cable down to your thighs in a smooth motion, then remain straight. When you do this work out properly, your abs will have to work hard. As you get to your thigh level, inhale again and allow the weights to return to the beginning position. 

The main difference between the cable pull-down and the tricep pull-down is that your hands are typically further apart on the cable pull-down, so it targets more of your arms rather than focusing a lot on the triceps.

Skullcrusher Lying Triceps Extension

Another great tricep workout is the skull crusher lying tricep extension workout. You want to lie face up on a gym bench when doing this. Your entire body should be on the bench, with the exception of your lower legs. Your knees should be bent with your feet flat on the floor, and your arms should be extended above your chest. Then, as your elbows are not locked ad stay shoulder-width apart, both of your hands should be holding one end of a dumbbell.

After this step, flex your elbows and lower the weight towards the top of your head, but keep in mind that your upper arms should remain relatively perpendicular to your body to keep tension on your tricep muscles. Making sure your upper arms remain perpendicular helps prevent you from putting weight on your shoulders. 

Continue to lower this weight until it’s behind your head. You should be able to follow this motion through until the bottom of the dumbbell is about in line with the top of the bench or a little higher if you don’t feel very secure. You’ll want to reverse this movement until the weight is above your chest in the original starting position to finish one repetition.

If you haven’t practiced this motion often, try doing so without or with a very small weight because you might seriously hurt yourself if you drop the dumbbell. 

Man doing lying tricep extensions

Reverse Grip Tricep Pushdown 

Another great workout is the reverse-grip tricep pushdown. This workout is the same as a regular tricep pushdown, but with an underhand grip rather than an overhand grip. This way, you have even more weight out on the medial head of the triceps. 

How to Incorporate These into Your Regular Workout Routine

There are plenty of ways to incorporate the tricep pull-down into your regular fitness routine. You can always have one or two arm days a week to really target your arm muscles, and you might benefit from spending one of those days targeting the triceps in particular. In this case, you can perform this workout as well as two or three more tricep workouts. Any of the alternative workout options would be a great way to really provide this special strength training to your triceps. 

Suppose you aren’t interested in creating multiple workout days specifically for your triceps. In that case, you can also use the tricep pull-down exercise as a nice warm-up to your weight-lifting workouts or as an end workout to finish out your regular sets. 

If you are doing a day dedicated to full body workouts, then workouts like this might be an excellent place to start since it includes so many muscle groups but won’t tire out all of your muscles at once. 

Also, if you’re interested in working your core more often, you can incorporate tricep pull-downs into core workouts. This exercise is a great way to give yourself a break from super core-heavy workouts while still providing your core muscles with stimulation.

Group of Women doing working on their triceps at gym


As long as you regularly work out and practice a tricep pushdown, you’ll see this tricep workout will help your build muscle quickly. Of course, there are alternative methods to the classic triceps pushdown exercise, like the skull crusher tricep extension, reverse-grip tricep pushdown, straight arm pull-down, triceps extension, tricep dips, or other elbow extension type workouts. You can try a dumbbell tricep extension or a close grip bench press. All of these tricep workout exercises will help you get stronger over time. 

The most important thing is to stay consistent and maintain proper form. As long as you regularly work out and don’t overwork or injure yourself, you’ll see progress no matter how slow it may feel it takes. 

If you’re new to these workouts, keep in mind that starting small will help you grow so much faster than starting with heavier weights and preventing yourself from completing the exercise correctly. A good rule of thumb is to increase your weight a little every two or three weeks to create a steady level of growth until you feel you’ve maxed out. You can feel confident in your ability to work your tricep muscles.

Having a regular fitness regimen is a wonderful way to stay active in a healthy manner. Working out benefits your physical health and mental health and aids you in proper aging. When you create a workout routine that excites you, you’re even more likely to work out, making it better for you in the end regularly. If you are feeling bored in your workout, try adding something to spice it up, like tricep pushdowns. If you have been doing tricep pushdowns, try mixing your regular routine with some of the many options you can pick from. There are tons of ways to stay excited about your workout routine, and you have to have the passion and focus on finding out what will work best for you. Remember that no matter your goal, whether it be strength training, overall fitness, or bettering your endurance, you can always benefit from a workout like tricep pushdowns.

But most importantly, staying patient is the best way to better yourself. Be patient, and you will see your results, be patient during your workout to better your form, and be patient with your exercise routine. If you need to try something new, there are tons of options you can look for. The worst you can face is not knowing what workout to try next. In this case, most gym machines have instructions for different exercises you can perform on them, so you can always try using a new machine. It’s like picking a mystery candy flavor, you might hate the random workout you find, or you might find a new flavor you love. 

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