Cable Tricep Pushdowns

Isolation exercise, Cable pull

This article is verified by 1 study/publication.




Required equipment

Main muscles

  • Triceps: Three-headed arm muscle
    (Musculus triceps brachii)

Training plans

Cable Tricep Pushdowns is a suitable substitute for similar exercises in or as a supplement to various training plans.

Cable Tricep Pushdowns: Basics and alternatives

: Involved main muscle groups Cable Tricep Pushdowns

Involved main muscle groups:
Cable Tricep Pushdowns

Cable tricep pushdowns are a popular exercise for isolating and targeting the triceps. The movement goes like this: You stand at the cable tower and move the weight by pushing down on the handle attached to the top cable, extending your elbows downward.

There are many variations of tricep pushdowns, including two-arm and one-arm dumbbell pushdowns, barbell pushdowns, and overhead cable pushdowns. You can also perform the movement lying down with skull crushers or while kneeling with kickbacks. Regardless of the variation, the movement is always similar and focuses on isolating the triceps.

Other exercises like bench press and dips can also be used to target the triceps, but Cable Tricep Pushdowns are a great way to isolate them.

Correct execution

When performing Cable Tricep Pushdowns, you have the option of using different grips and techniques. According to a study [1], muscle activation is greater when using the rope grip compared to a straight grip. This is because you can move your wrists closer to your hips, increasing the range of motion.

As for your feet, you can choose to stand with them side by side or place one foot back in a half step for added stability. However, this will not significantly affect the muscle activation in your triceps as the movement remains the same.

Video tutorial

GROW Your Triceps With The Tricep Pushdown (+BONUS TIP!)

Step-by-Step instructions

Stand in front of the cable tower in your preferred foot stance (refer to above).

Firmly grasp the rope attached to the top of the cable machine with both hands.

Pull the rope towards you by pressing your elbows to the sides of your torso. Your arms should be bent at about a 90-degree angle at the elbows. With this position, you’ve already lifted the weight a little off the block. You’re now in the starting position.

Press the rope down. Try to move the two ends of the rope towards your pockets. This will make the rope move slightly apart and your hands just to the side of your body. The pressing movement should only come from extending the elbows that are fixed to the sides. Don’t push your elbows forward or backward.

Move the rope down until your arms are fully extended. Hold the position for a moment, then move the rope back up to the starting position in a controlled manner.

Common mistakes

A common mistake is moving the elbows. The goal of the exercise is to isolate the triceps, which is best achieved by keeping the elbows in one fixed position. The movement of the forearms occurs only through bending and extending the elbows. Avoid moving the elbows forward and backward, as this activates the lat and weakens the isolation of the triceps.

Avoid a swinging downward movement of the handle. While you can move more weight with the swinging movement, the muscle stimulation will be weaker. Reduce the weight and perform the movement throughout the full range of motion in a controlled and steady manner.

If you’re using a rope for Cable Tricep Pushdowns, avoid excessive rotation of the wrists. The wrists naturally rotate a bit when pulling the rope apart. However, there shouldn’t be an extreme rotational movement just to pull the rope ends further apart. This won’t benefit your tricep training.


  1. Terrific Triceps. Brittany Boehler, B.S., John P. Porcari, Ph.D., Dennis Kline, M.S., C. Russell Hendrix, Ph.D., and Carl Foster, Ph.D., with Mark Anders. 2012. American Council on Exercise. accessed on 05.09.2021.