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Pushdowns are the classic strength training exercise for isolating your triceps. You might be looking for alternative lifts for a number of reasons. If you're lifting has advanced over time, you might want a break from the elbow strain of heavy triceps pushdowns. If you've been training pretty regularly, you might be looking for some variety in your workouts. If your gains are slowing, you might be ready to add some lifts for increased training intensity or вЂњweak point trainingвЂќ on your triceps.
Triceps Cable Curl
Overhead triceps curls can be done with equipment setup similarly as the classic triceps pushdowns on a wall-mounted cable pulley. Instead of facing the pulley, lighten your weight significantly and turn your back to the cable. Use a towel or thick rope handle for better grip and more comfortable hand placement. These overhead cable curls will give you a fairly different feel from pushdowns in that your elbows will be overhead instead of pinned to your sides. You should also feel a significant difference in the angle and weight of this overhead movement. For more variety, you can do a similar movement with a light barbell.
Dumbbell Triceps Curl
If you're looking for a lift similar to overhead triceps cable curls that uses free weights, an effective option is the dumbbell triceps curl. This can be done while seated or standing, with all the weight variation of the individual dumbbells you have available. In this lift, you'll immobilize your elbows to isolate your triceps and raise the dumbbell overhead from a starting position behind your neck. Hold the dumbbell vertically, start with your forearms in a horizontal position and your palms facing upward for a comfortable hand placement on the top weights of the dumbbell.
Flat Bench Triceps Curls
You'll likely feel triceps curls working your triceps quite well with a lighter weight than you use for pushdowns. Triceps curls are a free-weights alternative to cable pushdowns. This lift is most commonly done while lying on a flat bench, but you may do it in a seated position as well. Start with your elbows to the sky, hands in a close grip on the bar and the bar at a comfortable spot above your eyes or forehead. Immobilize your shoulders to isolate your triceps and extend your arms to vertical.
A close grip weightlifting technique involves a hand placement that is narrower than the lifter's shoulders. Incline, decline and flat bench presses with a barbell or dumbbells lifted in close-grip hand placement are several alternatives to triceps pushdowns. The narrower your grip for these lifts, the more you shift exertion to your triceps. For barbell presses, align your hands as close together as you can comfortably balance the weight you're lifting. For dumbbell presses, start with your hands at shoulder width and lift your arms at an angle that brings the dumbbells together at the top of your lift.
This exercise can be an effective alternative to triceps pushdowns for lifters at all levels of strength and fitness. Make a minor adjustment to your standard pushup position by setting your hands as close together as you comfortably can to complete several pushups. As with close grip lifts, adjusting your pushup technique in this way will put more emphasis on your triceps and call for less exertion from the muscles of your chest and shoulders.
Weighted and Un-weighted Dips
With proper form, dips can be a very productive addition to your triceps workout. It's fairly common for beginners to lean forward while extending their arms to shift exertion from the triceps to the pectoral muscles. Balancing yourself with your spine as straight as possible through your dips will focus the exertion on your triceps. Dips can be added to your workout using a dip stand, or by gripping the edge of a flat bench behind you and placing your legs in a close to horizontal position in front of you. As you advance with these and other alternatives to triceps pushdowns, you can explore various combinations of exercises, weights and number of repetitions to keep your triceps workouts productive.
Before changing your physical activity level or exercise program, consult a professional trainer and request an in-person evaluation of your goals and ability level. This is especially important for the safety of beginners and for individuals learning new equipment, techniques or exercises.