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Triceps Pushdown Alternatives (8 Best Variations)

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: September 28, 2022

As a personal fitness coach, I work with many amateur bodybuilders, and it often happens that I notice them doing the exact same tricep pushdown exercise on their arm days.

While the triceps function and movement are relatively simple, only sticking with the triceps pushdown will get boring and might not give you the best results.

That's why our team here at TotalShape has come up with a list of triceps pushdown alternatives that you can start doing immediately for better results on your next arm day.

Let's get right to it.

Quick Summary

  • We have researched the impact of eight different exercises that will help to build up triceps strength and muscle mass.
  • Switching around your triceps exercise routine will help you avoid boredom and also muscle adaptation that could limit your progress.
  • With the right approach to training frequency and reps, you'll be in a better position to sculpt your arms.

8 Alternatives For Triceps Pushdowns

Here are the best tricep pushdown alternatives that you can easily do at home or at the gym, and most of them won't require much equipment at all.

1. Diamond Push-Ups

man in a push up position

Diamond push-ups are a surprisingly effective way to add most of the tension onto your triceps, with secondary muscle groups like your chest muscles having a lot less work to do.

  • Get into a normal plank position with your hands under your shoulders.
  • Move your hands closer together and form a diamond by allowing your thumbs and index fingers from each hand to touch.
  • The diamond should be right below your chest, and then you slowly lower your upper body down.
  • Try to get your chest to touch the diamond before you push back up again.

2. Military Push-Ups

This is another push-up variation, but this time your elbow joint won't flare out but stay close to your body.

  • Get into a plank position with your arms shoulder-width apart and hands on the ground directly below your shoulder joints.
  • Tuck the elbows in against your torso and slowly lower your body down as far as you can go.
  • Push yourself back up again and feel the tension and burn in your triceps.
  • Make sure you maintain the same movement pattern for all reps and don't sacrifice quality for quantity.

3. Close-Grip Bench Press

man in a close grip bench press position

The close grip bench press is a lot more difficult, especially for beginners, and you definitely need to have a spotter in case you start to lose balance.

  • Pick a significantly lower weight than you would normally bench press.
  • Grip the bar with each hand directly above your pecs.
  • Slowly lower the bar down and focus on not allowing your elbows to flare out; they should keep pointing towards your toes.
  • When you get to the bottom of the close grip bench press, your hands should be right above your nipples.
  • Push the bar back up and feel how the close grip bench presses engage your triceps.

4. Overhead Triceps Extensions

The overhead extension is ideal for doing at home, and if you don't have dumbbells, then resistance bands will work perfectly fine as well.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart to help you maintain balance and stability.
  • Raise a dumbbell straight up above your head; alternatively, step on a resistance band with one foot and draw the tension up along your back.
  • Slowly lower your hand down behind your head so that your elbow points straight up.
  • Then push the weight back up again to complete one rep of the tricep extension.

5. Lying Triceps Extensions

man doing Lying Triceps Extensions

This is a slight variation of the overhead tricep extension, and some people find that lying down on the ground makes it feel safer.

  • Get into the starting position by lying flat on your back with a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Lift the dumbbells straight up above your shoulders so that your arms are stretched out.
  • Now lower the weight down by bending your elbow and making sure that the joint keeps pointing to the ceiling throughout the movement.
  • Push the weights back up in slow motion until you're back at the starting point.

6. Triceps Kickbacks

You can do kickbacks either with a dumbbell or resistance band, and the effect and setup are very similar.

  • Get into a runners' stance by taking one step forward with your left leg and then leaning on your left knee with your left elbow.
  • Alternatively, lean on a bench or a chair to provide more stability and support for your back.
  • Keep your elbows tucked into your torso so that your ​​upper arms don't move up and down.
  • Slowly lift the dumbbell backward while not allowing your elbow to move up or down.
  • Release the weight back down to your starting point.

7. Weighted Dips

shirtless man doing weighted dips

Parallel bar dips are a tough exercise, but even if you can't complete one with just your own body weight, they are still worth doing while using your feet to support some of the weight.

  • Balance your body between the dip bars with your arms straight and elbows pointing backward.
  • Slowly lower your body down as far as you can while still being able to push back up again.
  • This will target the triceps as the primary muscle group, but you'll also feel it in your chest and shoulders.
  • If you can complete ten or more dips before failure, then consider adding a weighted vest to make it tougher.

8. Resistance Band Triceps Pushdowns

Athletes shouldn't underestimate the effect of the resistance band triceps pushdown, and I personally love the way the tension gradually increases throughout the movement.

It's also the perfect solution if you don't want a large cable machine at home or don't have a spotter to make sure you don't get hurt.

  • Attach the band to a hook on the wall or door frame.
  • Grab hold of the handles at face height and add some pre-tension to the band.
  • Slowly push the handles down until your arms are straight.
  • Hold the tension for a second, and then release your hands back to the starting position.

“While resistance bands can be used to warm up your muscles prior to weightlifting, they can also replace your need for dumbbells entirely. Not only are dumbbells bulky and difficult to transport, but they take up a lot of space in your home.”

- Julia Guerra, Fitness Writer, & Editor, insider.com

Why Is It Important To Alternate Triceps Exercises?

man showing his body muscles

Don't get me wrong, the cable tricep pushdown is highly effective, and using a cable machine is generally a lot safer than working with free weights [1], e.g., doing a modified bench press.

But always doing the exact same thing for your triceps muscle will become monotonous and boring. There's simply nothing to look forward to or concentrate on.

And then, there's the impact of potential muscle adaptation [2].

As your muscles get used to doing the exact same movement every time, the strain simply won't have the same effect on your arm muscles.

That's why I recommend that you pick two or three of the above exercises for your arm day and switch them around each week.

Related Guide: How to Get Bigger Triceps in 30 Days

Other Triceps Workout Tips

woman using dumbbells for her triceps

Here are another three tips to keep in mind for your triceps training.

Reps And Sets

So, depending on how many exercises you want to fit into a gym session, I generally advise people to do three sets for each exercise. What's more important to focus on is the number of reps.

If you want to bulk up your triceps muscles and overall upper body strength, then aim for six to eight reps; and if your goal is toning and fat loss, then go for 12 to 15 reps [3].

Training Frequency

If you're going to be working out five days a week, then I would recommend that you work on your arms twice a week to achieve a balance between body parts. But if you're going to be working out just two or three times, then stick to one day a week for your arms.

Balancing The Triceps And Biceps

Some of the triceps pushdown alternatives above will give you some benefits of compound movements [4]. That means they will also add tension to other muscles, especially your shoulders and pecs.

But you also need to make sure that you always keep a balance between your triceps and biceps and that your arms maintain a nice proportion.

FAQs

Are Dips the Same as Tricep Pushdowns?

No, dips are not the same as the triceps pushdown. With a cable or band pushdown, you end up isolating the triceps [5]. Dips are a compound exercise that involves multiple joints and muscles, including your shoulders and chest [6].

Can You Do Tricep Pulldowns with Dumbbells?

No, you can't do tricep pulldowns with dumbbells. You could do kickbacks or overhead extensions with dumbbells, but you'd have to use a cable machine or bands to do triceps pushdowns.

Are You Going To Try Our Replacement Exercises For Triceps Pushdowns?

With the right set of triceps pushdown alternatives, you'll be able to achieve a lot more success for bulking and toning your arms. The other advantage is that you won't get so easily bored with doing the exact same routine on your arm days.

Try out a few of the above recommendations and switch them around over the coming weeks to see which ones you feel most comfortable with.

And if you want to get even more out of your new triceps routine, then consider adding some pre-workouts to your supplement stack. Check our article and find the best option for yourself.

With all-natural and safe ingredients, these can give you a boost in strength and endurance to push your body that little bit harder.


References:

  1. https://www.issaonline.com/blog/index.cfm/2019/weight-machines-vs-free-weights-which-is-better
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12436270/
  3. https://blog.nasm.org/toning-vs-bulking-up
  4. https://www.columbiaassociation.org/blog/what-are-compound-exercises
  5. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/tricep-pushdown-guide
  6. https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/how-to-do-a-perfect-dip-no-tobacco-required/

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