The triceps are a major muscle group of the human body. It’s what enables you to extend and contract the forearm. When you extend and straighten your arm, the triceps engage. The tricep pressdown is an exercise that can help you strengthen the back of your arms, making the triceps pressdown one of the most effective triceps exercises when it’s properly executed in a solid exercise routine.
Tricep Basics – What are the Triceps?
When you straighten your elbow and extend your forearm, you are contracting the group of muscles known as the triceps. When you flex your biceps and release the triceps, the elbow bends and you can have a sip of that beverage you’ve been holding while you read this article. Just like deadlifts will strengthen your core, the triceps also play an important role in stabilizing your shoulder joints. The shoulder, though an amazing piece of human architecture, is relatively unstable by itself. The triceps is a key component of ensuring stability in the shoulder joint.
If you work out your biceps, you have to work the triceps, too, to balance the workout and ensure overall stability of the arm, elbow, and shoulder joint. The triceps comprise nearly two-thirds of your upper arm, making them a larger muscle group than the biceps. They are important for doing just about any activity you can think of, from doing pushups to carrying out the garbage.
Properly Executing the Triceps Pressdown:
The triceps pressdown is exactly what it sounds like: An exercise using resistance of some type in which you press down toward the ground against the resistance, then release back up to the starting position for a full rep. The triceps pressdown works the entire triceps group, and there are several ways to perform the pressdown, depending on whether you have a gym with a cable station and bar attachment handy, or whether you’re going to be doing this at home using exercise bands or resistance cables. The principles are the same.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll be describing how to execute the triceps pressdown using the bar attachment on a cable station.
First, a couple of notes: As large as the triceps are, they’re surprisingly easy to injure if you don’t follow proper form. During the pressdown you’ll keep your upper arms and elbows firmly pressing into the side of your upper body. It’s likewise important to avoid locking the elbows out as you perform the pressdown.
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Here’s how to do the triceps pressdown:
- Stand with your feet about hip width apart. Ground yourself by focusing your attention on the center of your feet and grasping with your toes slightly, as though you could grab the floor through your shoes with your toes.
- Draw your kneecaps up toward your up your thighs toward your waist. Tighten your glutes.
- Keep your body erect. Imagine a line running straight through the crown of your head to the floor between your feet, pulling gently upward to keep you upright and properly aligned.
- Grasp the bar with both hands about shoulder-width apart, palms out. Inhale from the belly. In one motion as you exhale through the press:
- Pull the bar down to chest level, keeping your feet grounded and glutes and abs engaged.
- Keeping the elbows firmly against the sides of your upper body, press the bar all the way down to the tops of your thighs.
- Hold at the bottom of the press down for 3 seconds. Then, inhale as you allow the bar to raise back up to chest height and so to its starting position. Do not let it spring up. For maximum effect, allow the bar to come up slowly.
Repeat this cycle until you have performed 10 to 12 repetitions. Rest and do another set. Add a third and you’ll have done a great triceps workout. Two triceps workouts a week are enough to get them – and keep them – in top shape.
Scott Herman Fitness does a good job of breaking down the tricep pressdown with proper form in the instructional video below.
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You can also do one-arm pressdowns easily with bands or cables. The process is the same, except you’ll perform the exercise first on the right side, observing proper form, and then on the left side. A set is 10 to 12 reps on each side.
It’s recommended that you alternate biceps and triceps workout days to avoid injury and get maximum benefits from the workout.
Now that you know how to properly execute the triceps press down, try supplementing them with pushups, pullups, and other exercises to stabilize your shoulders and give you the upper body strength and flexibility you’ve been after.