Tricep push-downs are one of the most commonly performed exercises in the gym. Given their ease of setup, they are actually a great exercise for home workouts too since you can do them with a single resistance band hooked over a doorway pullup bar. The problem is, the triceps pushdown is also one of the most abused and misperform exercises which can quickly ruin your tricep gains if you don’t fix how you are doing them.
In this video , Jeff Cavaliere from YouTube channel Athlean-X show you how to perform a tricep pushdown properly so you can build your muscles without even having to use very heavy weights to do it.
The problem with the pushdown is that like with every other exercise you do for your triceps (or any other muscle for that matter), your body is always going to look for a way to make it easier. You may even start out doing this exercise for your triceps the right way and quickly find yourself doing an exercise that is training your chest and shoulders way more than your arms. It has to do with the fact that your body looks for ways to compensate and take strain off of a working muscle.
When doing pushdowns, in order to keep the tension on the triceps you want to keep your elbows pinned to your sides and slightly behind the body. Your hands should be at about the level of your chest and, most importantly, out in front of your body as far as you can. At the same time that this enables the right position to put the maximum amount of tension on the triceps it is also making the weight that you are lifting effectively the heaviest that it can be.
Now some people take this as a blow to their ego and they look for ways to bump that pin up the stack a few more plates. The compensation that comes with this adjustment however is that the body starts to hunch over the rope or straight bar and the elbows flare out to the sides a great deal. While you will find new found strength in this position it is not because your triceps became suddenly stronger. It is because you just recruited the strength of the pecs and deltoids by putting them in a much more advantageous position to help. This is good if you are looking to build your chest and shoulders, bad if you wanted to build your triceps.
Need even more convincing? See if you can identify what exercise this resembles when you position your elbows flared out to the sides and perform the exercise. If you’re drawing a blank I will help you out. This should look like a dip. Bring the hands just a little more out away from each other and the downward action of the hands and arms will look just like a dip or even moreso, a straight bar dip. Not that this is a bad exercise, especially if you are a parkour runner and need to build your strength for scaling to the top of a wall. For building your triceps however it just isn’t the best way.