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Underhand Vs Overhand Triceps Pushdown

Which Builds Bigger Arms?

Posted by Scott_Herman - July 29th, 2017

Today I’m going to help clarify for you the best way to train your triceps when performing pushdown movements. Now pushdowns are great for isolating your triceps, and in most workouts are either used as a warm-up exercise to get the elbow joint and triceps ready for a heavier compound lift, like dips or close-grip bench press, or at the end of the workout as a burnout to finish them off.

Should Pushdowns Make Up Most Of My Tricep Training?

The last thing you want to do is spend too much time here, because you think you need to utilise different variations of this movement to properly train your triceps, and this is for a few reasons.

  • Reason #1

In order to maximize muscle growth, your focus should be on heavy compound movements like the close-grip bench press or dips, because these are the kinds of exercises that allow you to REALLY overload your triceps for future growth.

  • Reason #2

The function of the triceps is only to extend the arm. Unlike the biceps which are responsible for elbow flexion AND rotation (supination).

Why Is This Important?

So this means whether your hands are facing up or down when performing this movement, as long as your elbows and shoulders stay in the same position, you’re training your triceps, whether your hands are facing up, or facing down.

So the question then becomes, why do people choose to do multiple variations of this movement in the same workout? Well, the answer is just misinformation. At the end of the day, you should just pick the variation you feel like you are gaining the most benefit from, and that mainly has to do with form vs weight.

For example, if using an overhand grip, you will be able to cheat on the concentric portion of the movement for a bit more intensity on the eccentric portion. I have mentioned this many times before when discussing my cheat and recover training.

If you were to use an underhand grip, you’ll notice right away that this variation makes your form much stricter, because you can’t get on top of the weight like you could when doing the overhand version. So you’re basically forced to use proper form. As for the V-Bar and the rope, these attachments give you a bit more freedom and help reduce stress on your elbows and wrists. Some will say the rope offers more range of motion (ROM), but at the end of the day, as long as you can fully extend your arms (because that’s all full ROM is), you’re still doing the exercise properly.

What Is Proper Form For The V-Bar & Rope Variations?

If you’re using the V-Bar, try to slightly lean forward if you can’t fully extend because the bar is hitting your thighs. If you’re using the rope, there’s no need to bring your hands behind your hips, or to twist your wrists at the bottom. If you bring the rope past your hips, you’re just activating rear delts, and like we talked about earlier, the function of the triceps is elbow extension, so twisting your wrists doesn’t bring you any extra tricep engagement.

Will Wrist Position Help Me Isolate Specific Heads Of The Tricep?

I know many of you will want to know how to place more emphasis on specific heads of the tricep utilizing this movement. However, to be honest, wrist position doesn’t help isolate or emphasize different heads of the triceps. What it does do, is limit your grip strength. For example, if underhand (supine) grip is used during the tricep extension, the strength of the wrist extensors and grip become a limiting factor to how much weight you can use. For most people, if you go too heavy, the bar will just slip out of your hands if you try to pull it down.

The only thing you can do, that will make a noticeable difference when it comes to triceps, is change your arm position. For example, the more you elevate your arm above your head, the more you will emphasize the LONG HEAD of the tricep, like when performing an overhead extension. The more you bring your elbow behind your back, the more emphasis you can place on the LATERAL HEAD of the tricep, such as when performing a dip.


I hope this article helps you take your triceps training to the next level, because remember, the key to having really big arms that make your shirt sleeves burst, is a couple of  huge horseshoes!

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