Today I want to talk to you about 3 of the most commonly made mistakes when it comes to the triceps pushdown.
Mistake #1: Twisting Wrists Out
The first mistake comes when doing a triceps pushdown with a rope and honestly, most of the mistakes I see are made while using a rope, so we’ll start here. The mistake I see a lot of people make is when they get to the bottom of a rope pushdown, they twist their wrists out, go back to the top and then every time they go back to the bottom of the movement, they twist their wrists out.
When you get to the bottom of the movement and twist your wrists out like that, that’s not doing any extra triceps activation. If it were, you could do this with no weight, fully extend your arms and then move your wrists around. Will you feel any extra triceps engagement? No. The only reason you might THINK you’re feeling more engagement when you’re doing it with the rip is because the weight is pulling your arms back up as you try to fully extend.
The function of your triceps is elbow extension and this is going to play into the next two mistakes as well. For the rope pushdown though, as long as you’re extending your elbow and getting a full extension, you’re maximizing the exercise. For me, I can push straight down and lock out my elbows. For others of you who might have flexibility issues or you’re a bit bigger, it might be useful for you to twist your wrists in order to get that full extension of your elbow. For most people though, the twist will be useless. One thing you can do is bring the rope apart and to your sides instead, but that itself isn’t creating more triceps activation, it’s just ensuring you are fully locking out your elbows and flexing your triceps harder. This is actually a really great way to improve your mind-muscle connection!
Mistake #2: Overloading / Too Much Weight
A triceps pushdown, in any form, is not an exercise where you’re supposed to overload. You save that for the big compound movements like a close-grip bench press or a triceps dip. Also, even though it’s not a compound movement, you can overload quite a bit with an overhead triceps extension (powerbomb).
If you’re trying to overload with too much weight, especially with the rope, that will force you to twist your elbows out in order to get that full extension. You should only really use the rope if you’re trying to get a little more triceps engagement, but if you’re trying to lift as heavy as you can with this exercise (as intended, hopefully at the end of your workout), you need to use a V-bar.
The V-bar is going to allow you to press more weight because it’s a stationary bar. With the rope, you have a lot of movement in the rope which means you’re not able to really get on top of it and push down as much as possible. With a V-bar, however, you can do that, as it keeps your hands in place and you can actually get on top of it and push straight down. Just don’t overload it too much to where you turn the movement into a chest press. Keep in mind you might only lift 20lbs – 30lbs more by using a V-bar, but even that little bit of overloading is still helpful.
Mistake #3: Straight-Bar Confusion
You can use either a V-bar or a straight bar to overload as much as you want, but I know some of you might not like to use the straight bar as it might bother your wrists, whereas the V-bar doesn’t. If you don’t have those wrist flexibility issues though, I prefer a straight-bar over a V-bar.
If you are using a straight bar, it’s the exact same form as you would use with a V-bar, but the mistake comes when people think that if you reverse your grip while using the straight bar, that it becomes a different exercise. Remember what we talked about in the beginning of this article – elbow extension is the function of your triceps. Whether pulling down OR pushing down, you’re still extending the elbow and activating the triceps the same way.
The only time I would recommend an underhand-grip is if you want something new and you’re sick and tired of the same old overhand-grip. The only thing is you can’t overload as much when pulling the weight rather than pushing, but like I’ve already said, this isn’t an overloading exercise, so that’s not a totally bad thing. The main reason I would tell someone to use and underhand-grip though is if they’re falling into a habit of getting too far over the bar and turning it into a chest pushdown rather than a triceps pushdown.
These are the 3 most common mistakes I see when it comes to this exercise and if you’re making any of these mistakes, now you know how to correct them. That’s what MuscularStrength is all about, no BS, just straight to the point, showing you what works and what doesn’t work, as well as how to fix the things that don’t work!