Tricep Press Down vs Push down –
Ask most lifters and they'll tell you that there's no contest because they are
the same exercise; but are they right?
The short answer to this question
is “no.” While both exercise movements look similar in execution, they are
different and can influence the Triceps in slightly different ways.
I’m Psymon H., the
50-something-year-old war-horse, making his name from improving physiques and
growing natural muscle with minimal equipment. In this article, we’ll take a
quick look at both exercises and why they are different, and then we’ll
determine which exercise may do a better job at building muscle.
What Is A Tricep Press Down?
The Tricep Press Down is almost a
cross between a close grip bench press and a dip. It is done on an overhead
cable using either a straight or a cambered bar attachment.
Cable Tricep Press-Down Muscles
While the Tricep Press Down hits
all three tricep heads, it mainly targets the lateral and medial heads. It also
hits the front delts, chest, back, and traps muscles.
Items Needed: Overhead
Cable Pulley System and a straight bar attachment.
Cue 1: Grab
the straight bar with a pronated shoulder-width grip and step back from the
station. Start by flaring your elbows out to the side and have the bar about
Cue 2: Hunch
over the bar and take a straddle stance.
Cue 3: Press
the bar down and fully extend your elbows in front of you. Squeeze the triceps
before bringing the arms back to the start position.
Is The Press Down Good?
The Push-Down is a great compound
movement that allows you to overload the muscle by using a lot more weight than
you would normally do on other tricep press down variations.
The Tricep Pushdown:
Both the Press Down and the Push
Down work the triceps, but target the muscle heads in slightly different ways.
If done correctly, the Pushdown focuses on the long tricep head, whereas the
Press down targets more of the lateral head. As the long tricep head makes up
most of the triceps, it's imperative to know how to contract and work this
Unlike the lateral and medial
tricep head that originates on the humorous, the long tricep head attaches to
the back of the shoulder. A simple extension of the arm in front of you won't
fully contract the long tricep head.
To get a full contraction of the
long tricep head, you have to bring the insertion point on the Ulna bone closer
to the back of the shoulder. The best way to do this is by extending the
shoulder joint by bringing your arm behind the line of your body.
Now we know the science behind
working the muscle, let’s get back to the Tricep Pushdown.
We're using a modified unilateral
version of the movement to stress the long tricep head.
Items Needed: Overhead
pulley system and one rope attachment. You could also use the cable without the
rope attachment to help keep your hand in a neutral position and bring it
behind the line of your body.
The Setup: Lower
the pulley to shoulder height so when you fully contract the muscle, you are at
a 90-degree angle to the resistance. This will provide maximum contraction of
Cue 1: Grab
the rope with a neutral grip and step back from the station. So you get a full
extension of the muscle before you start the contraction, start the exercise by
leaning forward and having your arm bent at the elbow.
Cue 2: To
ensure that you don’t bring your back muscles into play, keep your elbow tight
at your side throughout the movement.
Cue 3: Once
your arm reaches the neural position beside you, squeeze your Triceps and drive
your arm behind you to get a maximal contraction.
A common mistake is to have the
pulley set too high. As you work your muscles best when you are pushing or
pulling 90-degrees to resistance, by the time your arm travels behind your
body, it's almost parallel to your body and offering little resistance when it
comes to contracting the long tricep head.
Another mistake to avoid is
swinging the weights and using momentum.
As you can see, there are some cool
differences between the Tricep Press Down and the Tricep Pushdown mainly in the
setup and execution of the exercises.
Which Tricep Pushdown is Best?
Both the Tricep Press Down and
Tricep Pushdown have their merits and can provide good overall stimulus to the
triceps when combined. If you want to work the long tricep head,
the Tricep Push down is the way forward. If you wish to overload and
target the Lateral head, the Tricep Press Down is the movement for you.
Modeled on its older sister, the
close grip barbell press, the Dumbbell Tricep Press is an attack-minded
exercise that brutalizes the medial and lateral Tricep head. There’s no doubt
that this upper body mass builder will cause collateral damage to other muscle
groups such as the chest along with the anterior Deltoid, but this is what
makes the exercise a perfect marriage made in workout heaven.
Items Needed: One
pair of dumbbells and a flat bench
Cue 1: Lay
back on a flat bench as if you are about to do a dumbbell press. Tuck your elbows
in, and have the dumbbells at a 45-degree angle touching the edge of your
Cue 2: Keeping
the dumbbells close to you, tense your Triceps, and press the dumbbells
Cue 3: Bring
them down with the same narrow plane, keeping the dumbbells close to your body.