post 7 Best Tricep Cable Exercises (Build Strength & Muscle)

7 Best Tricep Cable Exercises (Build Strength & Muscle)

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Published by Christiana Mikesch, CPT | Senior Coach
Last updated: February 19, 2024
Our content is meticulously researched and reviewed by an expert team of fact checkers and medical professionals. They ensure accuracy, relevance, and timeliness using the latest reputable sources, which are cited within the text and listed at the end of the article. Before publication and upon significant updates, we confirm factual accuracy, committed to providing readers with well-informed content. Learn more.

The triceps are a large muscle in the upper arm's dorsal part, so everyone should train the triceps regularly to build size and achieve proportionate arms.

As a fitness coach 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 seven best tricep cable exercises highlighted in the article include Cable Tricep Pushdown, Lying Cable Triceps Extension, Cable Concentration Extensions, Cable Overhead Triceps Extension, Cable Rear Drive, Cable Skull Crusher, and Cable Crossover.
  • Triceps brachii, consisting of three heads (long, lateral, and medial), are primarily responsible for elbow extension, enhancing arm strength and functionality.
  • The triceps also support the elbow joint in activities like writing, as highlighted by the National Library of Medicine.
  • In my opinion, regularly incorporating these cable exercises is a proven way to achieve well-defined and strong triceps.

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.

In my experience as a coach, I've noticed that strengthening the triceps brachii greatly improves the elbow joint's extension, enhancing overall arm functionality.

The triceps can also help support the elbow joint when the forearm and hand perform movements such as writing, according to the National Library of Medicine [1].

The triceps is composed of three heads:

  • Long head - The long head extends the elbow and will have a small action on the 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 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

Introducing a variety of tricep exercises, like cable skull crushers and cable crossover tricep extensions, into your routine can prevent muscle adaptation and encourage continuous growth. This variety keeps your workouts dynamic and ensures all parts of the triceps are effectively engaged.

1. Cable Tricep Pushdown

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

In my years of coaching, I've seen cable triceps pushdowns rapidly improve tricep definition in my clients.

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

Also Read: Cable Arm Workouts

2. Lying Cable Triceps Extension

The lying triceps extension, targeting the full tricep muscle group, begins with selecting a challenging yet manageable weight.

Personally, I find the lying triceps extension crucial for overcoming plateaus in arm development.

Lie on the bench, overhand grip the handle, and position the bar above your head.

Focus on moving only your forearms, keeping the rest of your body still as you extend your arms.

Perform this movement for your chosen number of sets and reps.

3. Cable Concentration Extensions

A person doing cable concentration extensions in the gym

Cable concentration extensions effectively work all tricep muscles. Many of my clients have praised cable concentration extensions for their intense focus on the tricep muscles.

Kneel with one foot planted, gripping the handle in your right hand.

Rest the arm's back on your thigh and extend it fully, then bend your elbow until your forearm is parallel to the ground.

Perform 8–12 reps for optimal tricep engagement.

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.

From my experience, the cable overhead triceps extension has been a game-changer for enhancing overall arm strength.

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. I often recommend the cable rear drive to those looking to work their triceps and shoulders simultaneously.

To perfect this exercise, find a cable machine or pulley system 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, 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.

In my training sessions, cable skull crushers are always a hit for targeting those hard-to-reach tricep areas.

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 your 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.

Learn more: Shoulder and Tricep Workout: Routine for Mass

7. Cable Crossover

A person doing a cable crossover in the gym

Cable crossovers primarily target the triceps while also engaging the lats, biceps, and traps. Cable crossovers have been a staple in my workouts for achieving well-rounded upper-body strength.

To execute, stand between two cable machines, adjust the pulleys to equal height, and hold a handle in each hand.

Face away from the machines with your arms slightly bent at shoulder level.

Cross your arms in front of your body to chest level, then slowly return to the start.

Remember to breathe out during the movement and pause briefly before each repetition.

What Are the Benefits of Triceps Exercises?

A person lifting weights in the gym

Through my years of training, I've seen how tricep exercises not only increase strength but also play a crucial role in injury prevention and enhancing daily 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.

Strong triceps contribute significantly to overall muscle efficiency and are key in preventing injuries, particularly during pushing and pulling movements. Incorporating a variety of tricep exercises into your routine not only builds these muscles but also helps stabilize the elbows and forearms, enhancing upper body strength and development.

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.

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

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.


Was this article helpful?

About The Author

You May Also Like

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *