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7 Best Tricep Cable Exercises (Build Strength & Muscle)

Christiana Mikesch
Published by Christiana Mikesch
Last updated: May 19, 2023

The triceps is a large muscle in the upper arm's dorsal part. Train the triceps regularly to build size and achieve proportionate arms.

As a fitness trainer with over a decade of working with athletes and highly active people, I’ve gathered a list featuring the best tricep cable exercises that build strength and muscle like no other.

Quick Summary

  • The triceps brachii consists of a long head, a lateral head, and a medial head. Its primary function is elbow extension.
  • Some of the best tricep exercises include cable tricep pushdown, lying cable triceps extension, and cable concentration extensions.
  • A tricep cable workout will help you build upper body strength, prevent injuries, and improve flexibility.

What is the Main Function of the Triceps Brachii?

A person lifting dumbbells in the gym

The main function of the triceps brachii is the extension of the elbow joint.

The triceps can also help support the elbow joint when the forearm and hand perform movements such as writing [1].

The triceps is composed of three heads:

  • Long head - The long head extends the elbow and will have a small action on shoulder joints. It also helps with the extension and adduction of the arm at the shoulder joint.
  • Lateral head - The lateral head is considered the strongest head of the three. It is active during the forearm extension at the elbow joint when the forearm is pronated or supinated.
  • Medial head - The medial head may not be active on the glenohumeral joint with stabilization or movement. It plays an essential role in extending the one’s forearm at the elbow joint when the forearm is supinated or pronated.

“All skeletal muscles connect to bones via tendons. Each head of the triceps has a separate short tendon that attaches the muscle heads to the shoulder blade and arm bones where they originate. All three heads merge together and form one thicker and longer tendon that attaches the entire muscle to the elbow.”

- Kristen Gasnick, Doctor of Physical Therapy

7 Best Cable Tricep Exercises

A person doing cable triceps exercise

1. Cable Tricep Pushdown

The cable triceps pushdown is an efficient exercise for targeting all three components of the triceps [2].

The starting position requires you to have your elbows tucked close to your sides and arms extended.

Then, pull down on the cable so that only your forearm is moving. After each repetition, slowly bring your arms back into the starting position.

Repeat for 8-12 repetitions for 3 sets or more to build muscle mass and strength in your triceps.

2. Lying Cable Triceps Extension

The lying triceps extension is a cable machine exercise that engages the entire triceps muscle group in the upper arms.

To start, choose a weight that challenges you without overstressing your muscles.

Hold the handle using an overhand grip and lie face-up on the machine's bench so the bar is over your head.

Make sure to keep only your forearms moving throughout this movement; keep everything else still as you slowly extend your arms upright, then repeat for as many sets and reps as desired.

3. Cable Concentration Extensions

A person doing cable concentration extensions in the gym

Another efficient exercise for targeting all your triceps muscles is the cable concentration extension.

To perform this exercise, kneel and plant one foot while gripping a single handle in your right hand.

Place the back of that arm on your inner thigh, then thrust it straight out - flexing those triceps until arms are entirely extended.

Then slowly flex your elbow until your forearm is parallel to the ground.

Aim for 8-12 reps in this cable tricep workout to make significant gains.

4. Cable Overhead Triceps Extension

The Cable Overhead Triceps Extension is a widely used exercise designed to help you build tricep strength and maximize total muscle mass.

To perform this exercise, select a cable column with the appropriate weight and stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart.

Next, pull the cable down towards your body until your triceps are fully extended, and keep your back straight throughout the entire motion.

Then, slowly bring the cable back to its original overhead position while always controlling the weight.

5. Cable Rear Drive

A man doing the cable rear drive in the gym

Cable rear drive targets your triceps and rear deltoids.

To perfect this exercise, find a cable machine or cable pulley and adjust the cable height to shoulder level or slightly lower.

Choose a weight of your choice depending on your current strength and fitness level and hold onto the cable handles with your right hand, and step back until there is tension on the cable.

Exhale as you pull your elbow back in a controlled motion, then inhale as you slowly return your arms to their starting position.

6. Cable Skull Crusher

The Cable Skull Crusher is an exercise for building arm muscles and strength as it targets all three parts of your triceps.

This movement can also strengthen your wrists, forearms, and shoulders to a lesser extent.

Cable Skull Crushers are also quite simple; first, you'll need a cable machine set up to your desired weight.

Then with your palms facing each other and elbows pointing back behind you, grab a handle with a pronated grip above your forehead.

Find a comfortable position for your feet and torso before performing a tricep extension by pushing down away from your face.

7. Cable Crossover

A person doing a cable crossover in the gym

While the primary muscle group activated by cable crossovers are triceps, other secondary muscle groups are worked by this exercise, including lats, biceps, and traps.

To perform them correctly, start by standing straight between two cable machines and adjusting the pulleys that attach to each machine to the same height.

Take one handle in each hand and step forward, so you're facing away from the machines with a slight bend in your arms at about shoulder height.

Then pull both arms across your body towards each other, meeting in the middle at chest level.

Exhale slowly throughout this movement and pause for a few seconds before returning to starting position.

What Are the Benefits of Triceps Exercises?

A person lifting weights in the gym

The benefits of tricep exercises are increased strength, prevented injury, and improved functional fitness.

Increased Strength & Endurance - Tricep exercises are essential in building upper body strength and increasing stability. You can increase your max weight output by building greater tricep strength, and other muscles used in pulling or pushing motions.

Improves Functional Fitness - Strong triceps are essential in any movement that involves extending the forearms; they allow us to perform various daily activities, such as carrying groceries or lifting an object off the floor.

Prevents injury - Along with the deltoid, the triceps help stabilize the shoulder joint and prevent injuries caused by instability or repetitive stress, both of which may be harmful in the long run if not properly cared for.

Toned Arms - Regular workouts focusing on your tricep muscles will help you achieve your desired toned appearance. You'll also benefit from improved posture and less risk of developing bad habits such as rounded shoulders.

Related post: Tricep Killer Workout for Muscle Growth


Are Cables Good For Triceps?

Yes, cables are good for triceps as they provide a key factor that other resistance workouts, such as free weights or traditional machines, cannot match: angles. Cables are also a lot more fluid and smooth compared to free weights.

How Do You Work Your Triceps With Cables?

You can work your triceps with cables through different exercises such as triceps cable pushdown, skull crushers, standing overhead cable triceps extension, straight arm cable pull-down, and cable concentration extensions.

Get the Best Out of Your Tricep Cable Exercises

Tricep cable workouts can help you build bigger arms, bring stability to your shoulders and arms, and increase your range of motion.

Remember to warm up and complete smooth and controlled repetitions for the best results.

Consider incorporating eating healthy and adding one of the following protein powders to promote muscle recovery after tough training sessions and reduce soreness while improving muscle growth.

We have tried these supplements ourselves, and after several months of testing, we carefully picked the ones with the best ingredients that helped us achieve the best results.


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