reverse grip tricep pushdown

Reverse Grip Tricep Pushdown Exercise Guide

The reverse grip tricep pushdown is one of the lesser-seen tricep exercises in the gym; which doesn’t make sense as it’s one of the best ones you should be doing! 

This movement is similar to normal pushdowns except that it uses an underhand grip (supinated grip).  This tiny alteration is enough to humble the strongest of lifters.  

Due to the movement of the exercise, it places almost all of the load on the triceps by effectively minimizing any help from the shoulders.  

Muscles Worked In The Reverse Tricep Pushdown

Given the name, this is an isolation exercise that is going to primarily target the triceps.  Still, not every isolation movement is the same. 

tricep muscle anatomy

The tricep is made up of three (tri) heads; the lateral, medial, and long head (If you’re wondering, the biceps has two heads).  While the triceps as a whole is isolated, these three heads work a bit differently depending on how the movement. 

With this in mind, the reverse grip pushdown focuses on the medial head.

There are also quite a few stabilizing muscles involved including the back (traps and lats), shoulders, and even the core.  These muscles work together in an isometric fashion to prevent any movement.

Perform The Reverse Grip Tricep Pushdown With Perfect Form

Now that we know more about this movement, we need to go over how we should perform it properly to get the most of it.

Equipment Needed

There are really two ways that you can perform this movement.

1) Cable Machine w/ Straight Bar or EZ Curl Bar

This is the preferred method to use when performing this movement.  Using a cable machine is the easiest and most effective. Ideally, you can use a straight bar but an EZ-curl bar could also be effective.

2) Resistance Bands

If you don’t have access to a pulley machine or are doing a home workout, resistance bands are a great choice.  You’ll only need a higher support beam of some type to throw the band over.  This makes it perfect to include in a resistance band tricep workout.

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How To Perform The Reverse Grip Tricep Pushdown

1) Set up the pulley and bar: Have the pulley set plenty high enough so that the bar is above chest height. You want to have to pull the bar down to the original starting position.

2) Set-Up:  Grab the bar with an underhand grip so that your hands are straight out in front of your shoulders.  Retract your shoulder blades and place your elbow joint directly to the side of your body.  This is your starting position.

3) Push Down: While maintaining static elbow positioning right next to the body, extend your elbow all the way down.  Stop at full elbow extension

4) Come Back Up:  Allow the bar to come up in a slow and controlled manner

Common Reverse Grip Tricep Pushdown Mistakes

Even though this is a relatively exercise, trainees still manage to make a few common mistakes.  Here are the most common errors done when performing the reverse grip pushdown and what to do instead.

1) Bending the wrist

As mentioned above, when you perform this triceps exercise, you want to concentrate on keeping your wrists straight.  If not, you will be unable to fully extend your elbow (try it).  This will decrease the range of motion and muscle activity

2) Not fully extending the arm

This is in conjunction with number two.  Even when trainees do keep their wrists straight, they don’t fully extend their arms.  One reason for this may be due to the increase in difficulty the la

3) Allowing the elbows to move

Similar to other triceps (and biceps) exercises, you want the elbow to remain still as to completely isolate the muscles rather than incorporating other muscles on accident

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4) Bending over

Remain straight when you do this movement.  If you are bending over it means you are incorporating your shoulder muscles a bit.  If you are bending over with this movement, it is more than likely way too heavy.  Remember, the weight you use for this will be significantly less than a traditional pushdown

Best Variations And Alternatives

Even though the reverse grip triceps pushdown is an amazing exercise, it never hurts to have some other choices.  Here are the top alternatives to the reverse pushdown that are similar, but activate the muscle slightly differently.

1) The Tricep Kickback

via Gfycat

The tricep kickback is somewhat similar except that it’s a unilateral movement for the triceps.  This simply means you use one arm at a time.  You bend over slightly while holding a dumbbell with a neutral grip.  You the “kickback” the muscle by extending your arm.

2) Rope Pushdown

The triceps rope pushdown also utilizes a neutral hand grip and requires one of the many rope handle attachments.  Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands towards the bottom of the rope.  Extend all the way down and press outwards towards the bottom.

3) Overhead Tricep Extension w/ Rope

This is also going to utilize the rope attachment.  Set a pulley high above your head.  Turn away from the pulley while grabbing the rope.  Keeping your elbows up high, press the rope out in front of you until you hit full extensions.

When And How Many To Perform

You can perform this movement during an upper-body day or pressing day, whatever type of program you are on.  Remember, these are isolation movements so this means they are done with lower weight and high reps.  Anywhere from 2-4 sets and 8-15 repetitions is going to be perfect. 

If you are really trying to build your triceps, you’re going to need to give them special attention.  This means training them at least twice every week. However, you may get benefits from training them three times a week.

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Build Some Bigger And Stronger Triceps Now

This is a fairly easy movement to perform so you can start to incorporate it into your sessions immediately.   Save them until the end of the workout so that you can really train them hard without needing to worry about how it will affect other movements. 

Keep the weight light and concentrate on form…if you do that, you’ll see improvements fast!!!  Just remember to always use progressive overload with your training!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you do a tricep pushdown at home?

Tricep pushdowns are actually quite easy to do at home; all you need are some resistance bands and some sort of high structure you can hand the band.  Even using a tree limb can work.  Wrap the band through itself and then let the end hang.  You can now use the band in the same manner as the tricep pushdown of your choice.  This makes it a perfect upper body exercise for a home workout.

What part of the tricep does tricep pushdown work?

The triceps have three heads, the medial, lateral, and long head.  The regular pushdown will place more emphasis on the lateral head while the reverse pushdown places more emphasis on the medial head.

Is the tricep pushdown a push or pull exercise?

The tricep pushdown is a pushing movement.  The easiest way to think about this is to look at the joint.  Is it flexing or extending?   If the joint is flexing (closing), it it a pulling movement; if the joint is extending, it’s a pushing exercise.

Garett Reid

Garett Reid is a sports and performance consultant. He has over 10 years of experience working in the fitness industry and has worked in virtually every field; strength & conditioning coach, gym owner, educator, and consultant. Garett also has extensive experience working in the international sector in China and Thailand. Garett currently has his Masters in Exercise Science and holds his NSCA CSCS and CISSN certification. He will begin work on his Ph.D. this year.

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