If you’re looking to build strong, thick triceps, you’ve likely come across an exercise known as the triceps pushdown, or triceps pressdown. It’s an old-school bodybuilder exercise that isolates the triceps, forcing you to simply straighten your arms and squeeze your triceps.
It’s also frequently done in a manner that lets you cheat yourself out of valuable muscle-building stimulus. And that’s why Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. has slightly tweaked the move. “Triceps pushdowns are great,” he says, “but you can’t use body lean. That’s what too many people do.”
Indeed, very often, you’ll see somebody at the gym, torso leaned over the weight, pushing it down more with body position than with triceps. “They’re suddenly making a triceps isolation motion into a multijoint motion,” says Samuel, “recruiting other muscles to make it easier on their tris. That has a purpose, but it’s not the best way to learn the move.”
That’s why Samuel has this hack: Use an incline bench to set up for the move. “Once you do this, you instantly eliminate your body’s ability to cheat with body position. Suddenly, you’re set to get max triceps burn. You’ll need an incline bench and a cable machine to get this done of course. But if you have that, you’ll set yourself up for monster triceps burn.
The triceps pushdown, whether you do it standing or on the incline bench, can fit into your workouts in a variety of ways. It’s a perfect accessory exercise to throw in on a chest or upper-body day, after you’ve done larger exercises, like bench presses, pushups, and incline presses. It can also fit into just about any arm day, but even then, don’t make it your first exercise; do it as one of your final exercises on arm day. Or do it during any total-body workout as one of your final exercises in the set. You’ll be blasting an underappreciated muscle group with a killer pump.
For more tips and routines from Samuel, check out our full slate of Eb and Swole workouts. If you want to try an even more dedicated routine, consider Eb’s All Out Arms program.
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