10 Best Triceps Cable Exercises To Grow Those Horseshoes

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For total triceps development, you’ve got to work the muscle from all angles with constant tension and progressive overload. Cable machines allow you to do all three better than any other type of equipment. By prioritizing tricep cable workouts, you’ll be able to stimulate all three heads optimally to promote maximum gains.

As a veteran personal trainer, I’ve worked with a lot of bodybuilders over the years. Switching from dumbbell to cable exercises has often been the key to bringing up lagging triceps for many of them.

In this article, I’ll lay out ten cable tricep exercises to work every triceps muscle fiber. I’ll also explain why cables are so effective for triceps training and provide some personal trainer tips for working the triceps.

Top Ten Triceps Cable Exercises

  1. Two-Arm Cable Extension
  2. Seated Cable Extension
  3. Single-Arm Cable Extension
  4. Triceps Pushdown
  5. Overhead Tricep Extension
  6. Lying Cable Tricep Extension
  7. Cable Tricep Kickbacks
  8. One-Arm Reverse Grip Pushdowns
  9. Kneeling Overhead Tricep Extension
  10. Cable Concentration Extension

For the first two versions of a cable machine pushdown, you’ll need to machine with a double-weight stack, ideally with the weight stacks shoulder-width apart.

#1: Two-Arm Cable Extension

best cable exercises for triceps

  1. Set the heights of the pulleys slightly higher than your head. Place a rope handle on the end of each cable. Stand facing away from the machine, about two feet from it.
  2. Grab the rope handles with a hammer grip and bend your elbows so your hands are at chin level.
  3. Extend your arms down on an angle that aligns with the cable angle until your elbows lock out.
  4. Return to the start position, controlling the eccentric part of the movement.

    #2: Seated Cable Extension

    triceps exercises cable machine

    1. Place a back-supported bench about three feet in front of the machine, facing away from it. Set the heights of the pulleys slightly higher than your head when seated. Place a rope handle on the end of each cable.
    2. Sit on the bench and lean back so your shoulder blades are on the back pad. Grab the rope handles with a hammer grip and bend your elbows so your hands are at chin level.
    3. Extend your arms down on an angle that aligns with the cable angle until your elbows lock out.
    4. Return to the start position, controlling the eccentric part of the movement.

      #3: Single Arm Cable Extension

      triceps exercises with cable

      1. Set the height of a single cable pulley slightly higher than your head. Place a rope handle on the end of the cable. Stand facing away from the machine, about two feet from it.
      2. Grab the rope handles with a hammer grip in your right hand and bend your elbow so your hand is at chin level. Grab the frame of the machine with your left hand for support.
      3. Extend your arm down on an angle that aligns with the cable angle until your elbow is locked out.
      4. Return to the start position, controlling the eccentric part of the movement.
      5. Do all of your reps on the right arm and then repeat with the left arm.

        #4: Triceps Pushdown

        tricep exercises cable

        1. Set the height of the cable pulley slightly above your head level. Place a rope handle on the end of the cable.
        2. Stand facing the cable pulley machine, about two feet away from it. Hold the rope handle at the base with both hands. Bend your elbows to bring your hands up to your chin level in the start position.
        3. Keeping your elbows in at the sides of your waist, extend your arms down and out in line with the angle of the cable. Lock out your elbows in the fully contracted position.
        4. Return to the start position, controlling the eccentric part of the rep.

          #5: Overhead Tricep Extension

          cable machine tricep exercises

          1. Set the height of the cable pulley slightly above your head level. Place a rope handle on the end of the cable.
          2. Stand facing away from the cable pulley machine, about two feet from it. Grab the rope handle, holding it at its base in each hand. Bring your hands up to your forehead, keeping your elbows in line with your hands.
          3. Extend your arms out in line with the angle of the cable. Lock out your elbows in the fully contracted position.
          4. Return to the start position, controlling the eccentric part of the rep.

            #6: Lying Cable Tricep Extension

            triceps exercises cable

            1. Set the pulley on a cable pulley machine to its lowest setting and place a short handlebar on the end of the cable.
            2. Lie on the floor with your head about 18 inches from the base of the machine. Reach up to grab the handle and bring it to the level of your forehead in the starting position.
            3. Extend your arms out in line with the angle of the cable. Lock out your elbows in the fully contracted position.
            4. Return to the start position, controlling the eccentric part of the rep.

              #7: Cable Tricep Kickbacks

              tricep exercises with cables

              1. Set the pulley on a cable machine to its lowest setting and place a rope handle on the end of the cable.
              2. Stand about three feet away from the machine in a staggered stance, with the knee furthest away from the cable forward. Grab the base of the rope handle and bring it to the side of your waist with your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle.
              3. Extend your arm back to full extension. Be sure to keep your elbow at your side throughout the movement.
              4. Return to the start position, controlling the eccentric part of the rep.

                #8: One Arm Reverse Grip Pushdowns

                cable tricep exercises

                1. Set the height of the cable pulley slightly above your head level. Place a ‘D’ handle on the end of the cable.
                2. Stand facing the cable pulley machine, about two feet away from it. Hold the handle in your right hand with your palm up. Bend your elbows to bring your hands up to your waist level in the start position.
                3. Keeping your elbows in at the sides of your waist, extend your arms down and out in line with the angle of the cable. Lock out your elbows in the fully contracted position.
                4. Return to the start position, controlling the eccentric part of the rep.

                  #9: Kneeling Overhead Tricep Extension

                  best cable tricep exercises

                  1. Set the height of the pulley on a cable machine just above your head when you are in a kneeling position. Place a rope handle on the end of the cable. Now, position a flat bench about three feet in front of the machine so it is perpendicular to the machine.
                  2. Kneel about two feet from the machine, facing away from it. Reach up to grab the rope handle above your head, with your elbows resting on the bench and bent back to fully contract the triceps.
                  3. Extend your arms out and in line with the angle of the cable. Lock out your elbows in the fully contracted position.
                  4. Return to the start position, controlling the eccentric part of the rep.

                    #10: Cable Concentration Extension

                    triceps exercises on cable machine

                    1. Set the pulley on a cable pulley machine at head height. Place a ‘D’ handle on the end of the cable.
                    2. Grab the handle in your right hand and then kneel on the floor with your left knee on the floor and your right knee bent at a right angle with the foot planted on the floor.
                    3. Press your elbow into your knee with the elbow bent at a right angle.
                    4. Extend your elbow down to full extension, holding the end position for a two-second count.
                    5. Return to the start position under control to take advantage of the eccentric part of the movement.

                      Triceps Anatomy

                      best triceps cable exercises

                      The triceps is a three-headed muscle group located at the back of your upper arm. It consists of the following triceps heads:

                      1. Lateral head
                      2. Medial head
                      3. Long head

                      The function of the triceps is elbow extension. It is the antagonist to the biceps muscle so that when the triceps muscles are flexed, the biceps relaxes, and vice versa.

                      The long head of the triceps is the part of the muscle closest to your torso. It originates on the scapula and runs all the way to the elbow joint.

                      Unlike the other heads, the long head crosses both the shoulder and elbow joints. As a result, it plays a part in shoulder and scapula stabilization.

                      The other two heads originate at the top of the upper arm bone (humerus) and insert into the elbow joint.

                      The Benefits of Using Cables for Triceps Exercises

                      When you use a cable machine to work your triceps, you provide yourself with a number of benefits over free weights like dumbbells and barbells. Here’s a breakdown:

                      1. Constant Tension

                      When you’re using a cable, you are working against the resistance of the machine from the second the weight lifts off the stack until it returns to it. This is different from free weights, where the resistance is determined by gravity. That means that there are points throughout a free-weight exercise where there is no resistance at all.

                      The constant tension that you get with cables makes sure that your triceps are engaged throughout the entire exercise.

                      2. Angle Variety

                      A cable machine allows you to adjust to a variety of angles. This means that you can work the triceps in accordance with the direction of the muscle’s natural movement pattern. To optimally load a muscle, the muscle should be directly opposite the resistance. This is the principle of opposite position loading.

                      Cables allow you to align the direction of your resistance with your muscle’s direction of movement in accordance with this principle. For example, the two-arm cable extension, the first exercise on our list, provides a direction of movement that is perfectly opposite to the direction of the cable.

                      The variety of angles available on a cable machine also allows you to focus on each of the three triceps heads separately.

                      3. Triceps Isolation

                      A cable machine allows you to work your triceps in isolation more effectively than free-weight alternatives. When you use dumbbells or barbells, you can’t help but bring other muscle groups, such as the deltoids and core, into the movement.

                      Compare this to a tricep pushdown, which allows you to completely isolate the backs of the upper arms.

                      4. Adjustable Resistance

                      When you’re using a cable machine, you are able to quickly adjust the resistance on the weight stack. This makes using cables ideal for techniques like drop sets.

                      This is when you do the maximum number of reps you can achieve with a certain weight, then immediately lower the weight and push out a few more reps. You perform 4-5 drops within your set.

                      The triceps pushdown is extremely effective when done in a drop-set fashion.

                      triceps cable exercises

                      Tricep Training Tips (from a Certified Personal Trainer)

                      1. Vary Your Weights and Reps

                      The triceps are made up of both fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers, with the fast twitch being slightly more numerous. Fast twitch fibers respond best to heavy weights and low reps, with the opposite being true for slow twitch fibers. To work the muscle completely, you need to do a combination of high and low reps.¹

                      Here’s a suggested tricep workout set and rep scheme for all versions of press downs that has been very successful with my bodybuilding clients:

                      • Set One: 30 reps
                      • Set Two: 20 reps
                      • Set Three: 12 reps
                      • Set Four: 10 reps
                      • Set Five: 8 reps
                      • Set Six: 6 reps

                      Increase the weight on each succeeding set.

                      2. Keep Your Elbows In

                      When you are doing any type of triceps pressing exercise, you should consciously keep your elbows tucked at the sides of your body. Doing so forces the triceps to take all of the load.

                      When you allow the elbows to flare out, other muscles in the shoulders and chest are brought into play. Flared elbows also place undue stress on the shoulder joint.

                      3. Use Full Range of Motion

                      I see a lot of people in the gym who pile too much weight on and then only do half, or sometimes quarter, reps of an exercise. You don’t want to be one of these people. Unless you fully extend the muscle from full contraction to full extension, you’ll be leaving most of your gains on the table. So, never sacrifice the full range of motion in order to lift more weight.

                      In order to get ready for your workout, discover the eightbest stretches for your triceps.

                      triceps exercises with cables

                      Wrap Up

                      Few things are as impressive as fully defined, shirt-splitting triceps. To get them, you’ve got to train smart as well as hard. That means prioritizing cable tricep workouts. Cables allow for the ideal resistance angle, versatility, constant tension, and isolation ability you need to promote optimum muscle growth.

                      I recommend including at least two cable machine exercises in every triceps workout. Then, add in a dumbbell exercise, such as the skull-crusher, to round out the session. Do a total of 10-14 sets for triceps twice per week, with at least 72 hours rest between sessions. Do this consistently, and you’ll be rewarded with a pair of muscular horseshoe-shaped triceps.

                      References:

                      1. Lucas-Osma AM, Collazos-Castro JE. Compartmentalization in the triceps brachii motoneuron nucleus and its relation to muscle architecture. J Comp Neurol. 2009 Sep 20;516(3):226-39. doi: 10.1002/cne.22123. PMID: 19598170.

                      (All image credits to original owners)

                      #Triceps #Cable #Exercises #Grow #Horseshoes

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