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March 09, 2023 8 min read

A triceps pushdown is an isolation exercise designed to target your triceps muscles. The triceps pushdown exercise can be beneficial for athletes of all types in terms of helping to build strength and size in their triceps.

As triceps are important for activities such as bench pressing and keeping overhead stability, strengthening them can be beneficial for performance in such activities, not to mention a score of functional movements in our everyday lives.

The banded triceps pushdown is a practical and powerful exercise to target the triceps.

Compared to the rope pushdown, the band pushdown doesn't require any costly apparatus like machines with cables and pulleys or a gym membership, not even an equipped home gym, allowing you to do it almost anywhere.

Which Muscles Work in Resistance Band Pushdowns?

The primary muscle that works when performing resistance band pushdowns is the triceps brachii (Latin for “three-headed muscle of the arm”), but the shoulders, back, and abs are also activated to a lesser degree.

  • The triceps are a large muscle group located on the back of the upper arm.

  • They are comprised of three heads, the long head, medial head, and lateral head.

  • This group of muscles is responsible for extending the elbow, which is the opposite of flexing the elbow.

  • This muscle group is also used when pushing heavy objects away from the body, such as performing bench presses.

  • The triceps also help to stabilize the shoulder joint and provide support for other upper body movements.

  • The long head of the triceps originates from the back of the shoulder blade, while the medial and lateral heads originate from the back of the humerus.

  • The triceps are an important muscle group for overall upper body strength and power.

Triceps Brachii - Image from Shutterstock

Who Should do Resistance Band Pushdowns?

Our triceps are used in many daily tasks, but becoming stronger and more efficient in this muscle group can bring many other benefits. It can help with pressing strength, as well as improve the size, shape, and power of the triceps. This is important for exercises such as the bench press and overhead press.

Strength and power athletes can improve their performance by adding triceps pushdowns to their current workout regimen.

The triceps pushdown can be beneficial for strength, power, and fitness athletes looking to increase their arm and lockout strength, as well as build upper body mass. It can also help lifters who may be prone to elbow and shoulder injuries by offering injury resilience and performance training, as weak triceps can create instability in the overhead position and add strain to the wrists and shoulders.

Olympic Weightlifters

Weightlifters can use pushdowns to boost their upper body size, provide more stability when doing jerks and snatches, and help protect their elbows from harm due to insufficient extension and stability.

Strongman Athletes and Powerlifters

Gaining greater muscularity and power in the upper body is a must for strength sports. Boosting strength and size in the upper body can enhance bench press performance, enhance steadiness in overhead movements, and even reduce strain on the elbows and wrists which often occurs with poor elbow flexion capabilities.

Dead lift – Image from Shutterstock

How to do Resistance Band Pushdowns

If you don't have access to a gym or a pushdown machine, you can do this workout using a resistance band at home or on the go. You'll need a sturdy object to attach the band to, such as a metal bar, rod, or hook that can be used as a door anchor.

Attach the resistance bands to a secure anchor point above your head. Grab the band with both your hands while looking towards the anchor point, and take a step back to ensure tension in the resistance band.

Starting position: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with only a slight bend forward in your hips. With your upper arms down at your sides and your forearms and hands up at your chest holding the band, tuck your elbows in at your sides.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Inhale and brace your core.

  2. Execute the pushdown by extending your arms by only pivoting at your elbows, using your triceps.

  3. Push down toward your hips until your elbows are fully extended but not yet in the straight, locked position.

  4. Keep your elbows close to your body and bend your knees slightly on the pushdown.

  5. Resist leaning forward. Try to keep your back as straight as possible as you push down.

  6. Pause with your arms extended for a moment.

  7. As you exhale, return to the starting point using a controlled movement.

Beginners can aim to complete 4 sets of 8 reps. As you gain fitness, you can increase the strength of the resistance band and also the number of repetitions you do.

Here you can learn about pushdown variations.

Proper Form for Resistance Band Pushdowns

To do resistance band triceps pushdowns, start by standing a few feet behind the anchor point of the resistance band. Keep your back straight and slightly tilt forward at the hips. Keep your arms close to your sides and only move the lower half of your arms.

Pull your shoulders back and down, and into a stable position. Flex your triceps, which will cause your arms to stretch out. Keep tensing the triceps until your arms are completely straight. Slowly lower your arms back to the starting position.

Common Mistakes in Form for Resistance Band Pushdowns

Proper form is crucial in any exercise. It ensures that the targeted muscles are activated. The smallest error in form can work different muscles, and in some cases, such mistakes can lead to injuries.

  • Lack of Tension: Make sure to keep the band taut at the beginning of the exercise to ensure your muscles stay engaged for the duration of the motion. If you're unable to complete the exercise without the band slacking at the start, you should use a lighter band.

  • Overworking your back:  To make sure you're engaging your triceps completely, it's a good idea to lean forward a bit and slightly bend your knees as you lower the weight. Doing this will help to make sure your back and shoulders stay in a straight line and all parts of the muscle are being worked equally.

  • Uneven Force:  Be certain to use both arms in a controlled manner when performing the pushdown. If you feel like you are struggling, it could be due to an uneven strength distribution between your sides. To help balance this out, try doing single-arm triceps pushdowns on the weaker side to correct imbalances.

  • Not maintaining control:  Control is important for two reasons – controlling the full range of motion with tension and actively working against it ensures the muscles are getting the most out of the exercise. Additionally, controlling the motion throughout will help ensure that you stay safe and reduce the risk of injury.

  • Flaring Elbows:  Ensure your elbows remain close to your body during the downward push and don't let them move outward. Doing so will reduce the workload on your triceps and also avoid putting strain on your shoulders. Keep your elbows close to your sides for the entire exercise.

Flaring elbows – Image from Shutterstock
  • Using Momentum: Moving your elbows in a swinging motion will make the exercise easier because momentum instead of muscle power is used. This allows the back muscles to work harder than the triceps. To ensure that the triceps are doing the majority of the work, keep your elbows in a fixed position at your sides.

  • Push, Don’t Press:  This exercise should not be done with a band that has too much resistance. It is a triceps exercise, not a chest press. To get the chest muscles out of the movement, you should keep your upper body upright and rotate your shoulders back. Do not lean forward and press down with your arms.

Keeping these dos and don’ts in mind will let you optimize the benefits of resistance band pushdowns.

Benefits of Resistance Band Pushdowns

The following are benefits strength, power, and fitness athletes can gain from performing the triceps pushdown:

1. Tone and Build Stronger Arms

The triceps are the main muscle of the arm, taking up two-thirds of our arm. To get a defined and toned look, focusing on strengthening the triceps is essential. Since the triceps are located on the back of the upper arm, working out this area can have a prominent effect on your overall appearance. This is especially important for bodybuilders looking to add size and strength to their arms. Therefore, the triceps should be the main focus of arm training routines.

2. Improved Elbow Lockout Strength

The triceps muscles are important for elbow extension and providing stability in the extended position, which are important components of a strong lockout in exercises like the bench press, overhead press, and any overhead-loaded movements like snatching or jerking and other barbell exercises.

To strengthen the triceps, you can increase the number of reps and use thicker bands to increase resistance. Research has found that slowing down the speed of exercise can increase the length of time the muscles remain under tension, which is helpful for building strength.

3. Improve Functional Strength

The triceps is the biggest muscle in the arm and is responsible for bending the elbow. We use our triceps for virtually all our activities – from opening doors to pushing a lawn mower, zipping a suitcase, and shutting a car trunk. These routine tasks require considerable triceps strength, so we must stay strong to be able to do them without any difficulty.

4. Improve Bone Health and Strength

By engaging in resistance training exercises on a regular basis, your bones will adapt by growing more bone and becoming denser. This can have a positive impact on physical performance and overall quality of life, including a decreased risk of fractures, disability, and even death.

The Royal Osteoporosis Society states that to keep bones strong, they must be regularly put to work. To maximize the benefits of exercising for bone health, two types of exercise should be incorporated into one's routine: weight-bearing activities which involve impacts and those that focus on strengthening muscles.

As we get older, the strength of our bones diminishes, so it is important to stay active to maintain our muscles and bones, which will reduce the chances of fractures.

You can gain even more benefits by adding Whey-Pro protein into your daily routine and start seeing more rapid muscle growth.

Some of the best strength training exercises like bodyweight exercises and those done on cable machines can be replaced with banded variations, such as Pushups, Pull-ups, Chin-ups, Pulldowns, Shoulder presses, Lat pulldowns, Band pull thru, Deadlifts, Dumbbell rows, and more.

Safety Precautions

Take care when doing this exercise if you have an elbow injury or ongoing elbow discomfort. Even if discomfort seems insignificant, it is wise to reach out to a personal trainer who can ensure you use the proper form or even suggest slight adjustments to avoid discomfort.

However, if discomfort or pain persists, it's important to speak to a healthcare provider before beginning or altering your triceps workout routine if you have a medical condition or have recovered from an illness, surgery, or injury.

Bottom Line

Resistance band pushdowns are an excellent tool for training programs for building strength and muscle hypertrophy in the arms and shoulders. They can be done anywhere with minimal equipment. When performing pushdowns, it is important to maintain the proper form to ensure proper technique and maximize the effectiveness of the exercise.

When done correctly, resistance band pushdowns can help to increase strength and muscle mass in the arms and shoulders, while also helping to improve overall muscular endurance and stability. Ultimately, resistance band pushdowns are an effective exercise for building strength and muscle in the arms and shoulders.