The Most Effective Triceps Pushdown Alternatives for Building Big Arms

The triceps pushdown is an isolation exercise that targets the tricep muscles on the back of the arm. This exercise requires a cable and pulley machine with loaded weights and a straight bar. Users grasp the bar and pull their arms down until the upper arms are nearly parallel with the body, then straighten the elbows to push the bar down to extend their arms. 

Tricep pushdown alternatives work the same muscles. A bodyweight triceps pushdown alternative requires no equipment, while other variations and exercises like the barbell triceps pushdown alternative require only dumbbells or a barbell.

This list has no kettlebell triceps pushdown alternative exercises or trap bar triceps pushdown alternative movements. Still, there are exercises using that equipment that similarly targets the tricep muscle.

Because most of these exercises don’t need much equipment, many of them are a popular choice for triceps pushdown alternatives for home gyms and workouts.  

The triceps pushdown and its alternatives, in their correct form, target the triceps and engage other muscles. These movements work the latissimus dorsi muscles in the back, the trapezius muscles in the shoulder, abdominal muscles, obliques, and pectoral muscles.

Tricep pushdown alternative exercises are good choices for those who have had an elbow injury and want to avoid overextending or locking the elbow on the pushdown movement. These exercises are also good home gym replacements for workouts that use expensive cable and pulley machines. 

Some tricep cable pushdown alternatives include these seven exercises. 

  1. Dips  
  2. Close Grip Bench Press
  3. Triceps Kickback  
  4. Diamond Push-Up  
  5. Skull crusher  
  6. Triceps Overhead Extension  
  7. Cable Overhead Extension 

All these tricep cable pushdown alternative exercises except the tricep dips and the diamond push-up, which use bodyweight, can be intensified by using heavier weights, so they’re suitable for bodybuilders or weightlifters and as strongman exercises.  

1. Dips

Dips are a triceps pushdown alternative that engages several muscles in the body, like the pectoralis major and minor, the deltoids, and the rhomboid. They are useful for athletes who want to strengthen their backs in addition to the triceps.

Triceps dips don’t require workout equipment. This triceps pushdown variation uses a low, flat surface like a weight bench if one’s available, or a chair.

Stand in front of a chair (or bench), and face away from it. Place the palms on its edge with your fingers pointing toward you. Then, extend the feet until you’re holding yourself up primarily with the arms. 

Bend the elbows to lower yourself in front of the chair or bench as far as is comfortable, then push back up until the arms are as straight as possible. This exercise requires considerable arm strength, so beginners might be unable to do many or any movements this way. 

A triceps dip variation for beginners is to sit on the floor. Place the hands behind the hips in the same position, fingers pointing toward you. Keep the feet on the floor with knees slightly bent, then straighten the elbows to lift the hips off the floor.  

A common mistake is lifting or rotating the hips forward each time. Keeping the body tight and letting the arm muscles do the work of pushing the bottom off the floor, use the feet to keep from sliding but without pushing against them. 

Doing this exercise improperly or before achieving good arm strength risks a shoulder injury, so beginners should opt for floor dips or other beginner exercises before attempting standard triceps dips. 

2. Close Grip Bench Press

The close grip bench press is a triceps cable pushdown alternative that engages several upper body muscles like the triceps, the deltoids, and the pectoralis major and minor. This exercise benefits athletes who want to work on their chest and upper body strength. 

Close Grip Bench Press
Close Grip Bench Press

The close grip bench press uses a barbell instead of a cable machine. Athletes, bodybuilders, and weightlifters can make it challenging by increasing the weight. Beginners should start with the lowest weight possible or the bar without weights until the movement feels natural and comfortable. 

To perform the close grip bench press, lie on your back on a weight bench as you would while doing a bench press. Next, grip the bar with your hands closer together than during a bench press. Arms should extend straight up at the top of the press. The closer grip takes more weight off the bicep muscles and transfers the bulk of the movement to the triceps. 

Pointing the elbows out when lowering the bar to the chest is a common mistake. Elbows should remain tucked at the sides while lowering the bar and squeezing shoulders throughout the movement. 

3. Triceps Kickback

The triceps kickback is a tricep cable pushdown alternative focusing on the triceps brachii muscle. The isolation exercise benefits athletes, but it’s effective for bodybuilding, weightlifting, and strongmen training when done with heavier weights to build the tricep muscle. 

Hold a dumbbell in each hand and bend slightly at the waist to perform the exercise. Next, bend the elbows to raise the dumbbells to chest level, with the upper arms parallel to your sides. Straighten the arms to extend parallel with the torso, and repeat. 

Always keep the movement slow and controlled. Snapping the arms or overextending the elbows on full extensions are common mistakes. Another form mistake is bending over too far from the waist during the movement. 

A variation of the triceps kickback is a one-armed version that’s good for focusing on the movement of one arm at a time or lifting heavier weights. Performing this version requires putting a knee on a weight bench or other platform and a hand on the bench for support, then leaning forward and performing the motion with one arm instead of two. 

4. Diamond Push-Up

The diamond push-up tricep pushdown alternative engages the triceps, pectoralis major and minor, the deltoids, and the quadriceps in the legs. The exercise is suitable for athletes and bodybuilders who want to quickly build upper-body strength, as well as beginners who’ve mastered the proper form of a regular push-up. 

This exercise uses body weight as resistance and requires no equipment, making it a good choice for tricep pushdown alternatives at home. 

Most strongmen, bodybuilders, weightlifters, and athletes will move beyond this exercise and prefer the alternatives that allow increased weights in the movements. However, beginners and those without equipment can still get a good triceps workout with this exercise. 

People who perform the diamond push-up get in the push-up position they prefer, whether using the toes or the knees. Then, they put their hands together and splay their fingers. 

By touching their thumbs and forefingers, they create the diamond shape that gives the movement its name. They lower themselves and push up slowly with tight muscles for control. 

The hand position transfers the work to the triceps muscles instead of the biceps, making this an effective tricep cable pushdown alternative exercise. 

5. Skull Crusher

The skull crusher is a triceps cable pushdown alternative that engages the upper body muscles like the deltoids and pectoralis major and minor but focuses on the triceps as an isolation exercise. Heavier weights make this a suitable alternative for bodybuilders and weightlifters to build triceps muscles. Beginners can perform the exercise with small weights.

Skull Crusher
Skull Crusher

The movement gets its name from the dumbbells lifted overhead (over the skull) while lying on a weight bench. 

People who want to perform the skull crusher lie on a bench while holding dumbbells, then extend the arms straight up. They bend the elbows until the weights are on both sides of the head. Then they straighten the arms to lift the weights into the air. 

Letting the weight drop the arms too fast risks an elbow injury or impact on the head. Exercisers should keep the arms immobile from the shoulder to the elbow as they perform the movement. 

A variation of the skull crusher involves lying on the floor if there’s no bench or other raised platform. Perform the exercise in the same way, and never use weights too heavy to control, whether on the floor or a bench. 

6. Triceps Overhead Extension

The triceps overhead extension is a triceps pushdown variation that engages the triceps, latissimus dorsi, rectus abdominis, deltoids, rhomboids, gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus muscles. Athletes and bodybuilders looking for full upper-body strength building and tone can benefit from this movement. 

This exercise is one of the best for beginners or those who have limited equipment. This extension works the muscles identical to a standard triceps pushdown. The difference is that the arms are overhead instead of at the sides. 

To perform the triceps overhead extension, stand with the feet at shoulder width and hold a dumbbell with both hands. First, lift it above the head carefully. Next, bend the elbows slowly to lower the weight behind the head, then extend the arms to lift it.

Exercisers shouldn’t let the arms drops behind them. Instead, they should lower the weight slowly with control and avoid snapping the arms. Slow and controlled movements are what benefit the muscle. 

7. Cable Overhead Extension

The cable overhead extension is the tricep pushdown alternative that engages the latissimus dorsi, gluteus, deltoids, rhomboids, quadriceps, and tricep muscles. This exercise is best for the intense training bodybuilders, weightlifters, and athletes need to build muscle and improve upper body endurance. In addition, the pushdown variation can be a strongman exercise with large amounts of weight. 

Face away from the cable machine with arms above the head and behind it. Users can perform the exercise as a tricep rope pushdown alternative or with a straight bar. 

Move one foot ahead in a lunge position, lean forward, and extend the arms at the elbow to perform the cable overhead extension. Then, be sure to extend the arms slowly and bend the elbows with control to do another movement. Don’t snap forward or let the arms fall back. This common mistake can cause elbow injury or strain the triceps muscles.  

Hold the muscles tight during the movement to focus the intensity on the triceps. 

What to Know About Triceps Pushdown Alternatives?  

The triceps cable pushdown alternative is an accessible, effective exercise for the triceps, arms, and upper body you can do anywhere without expensive equipment. Facts about triceps pushdown alternatives are listed below.

What to Know About Triceps Pushdown Alternatives
What to Know About Triceps Pushdown Alternatives?  
  1. Build bigger arms: Working the tricep muscles in tricep pushdown alternatives helps build muscle mass. 
  2. Make arm exercises easier: Every exercise that targets the biceps will be easier and more effective by working the triceps muscles for better resistance and control. 
  3. Increase upper body strength: The triceps pushdown alternative targets the triceps muscles, but all the upper body muscles work during these exercises, and many also engage back and core muscles.
  4. Reduce injuries: Strong triceps muscles from doing tricep pushdown alternatives protect the surrounding joints like the elbows and shoulders and make them less likely to suffer injury. 
  5. Use little or no equipment: Some tricep pushdown alternatives don’t require any equipment and rely on bodyweight instead. Other variations of the pushdown only use dumbbells or barbells. 

Which Triceps Pushdown Alternative is Beginner Friendlier?

The best alternative to a tricep pushdown exercise that’s beginner friendlier is the tricep overhead extension. This exercise only requires a small dumbbell and no other equipment to do, and unlike some other alternative moments, it’s unlikely to cause an injury. 

The diamond push-up is another of the best exercises for beginners that requires no equipment. Beginners who don’t have much arm strength can do both movements easier than trickier exercises like tricep dips or the skull crusher. 

Which Triceps Pushdown Alternative Is Better for Triceps?

The best triceps exercises, including all the tricep pushdown alternatives, work the triceps muscles and engage all three parts of the muscle. However, the triceps overhead extension is an alternative to tricep pushdown exercises that are the closest to the original exercise.

The triceps overhead extension is the exact movement but with the arms extended overhead instead of in front. Because it’s an identical movement, it’s the best pushdown alternative.  

Which Triceps Pushdown Substitute Is Better for Strength?

All tricep cable pushdown alternative exercises build arm strength. Using heavier weights with dumbbells or barbells makes the movement more difficult as people need more challenging workouts. The triceps overhead extensions or the diamond push-up are good places for beginners to start.

For improving arm strength in more experienced athletes, the triceps kickback, skull crusher, and tricep dips work well. The triceps dips use bodyweight and require core strength and arm strength. The other exercises scale with weight to become more challenging and build bigger muscles.  

When Should an Athlete Use Triceps Pushdown Alternative for Exercise?

More challenging tricep pushdown alternative movements can build muscle faster than a standard pushdown, so an athlete might opt for alternatives to help accelerate the training. 

However, using more than one tricep cable pushdown alternative can ensure that no part of the triceps muscle is left out. A variety of exercises helps athletes make sure the muscles are thoroughly engaged, sculpted, and targeted even if the form isn’t perfect on some of the exercises. 

An elbow or shoulder injury can also benefit from tricep pushdown alternatives that put less pressure on those joints.  

What Are the Advantages of Modifying Triceps Pushdown? 

Modifying the triceps pushdown comes with several advantages. Someone without access to a cable and pulley machine with weights can perform a tricep cable pushdown alternative and work the same muscles effectively. 

People training for muscle gains and size can use exercises like the tricep dip and the skull crusher to make the workout harder and more effective at building muscle. 

Also, those who have injured their elbows previously or need to build strength in the arms before tackling harder exercises can use some of the beginner-friendly modifications like the diamond push-ups or triceps overhead extensions. 

Which Triceps Pushdown Alternative Provides Building Triceps Without Cable?

The tricep cable pushdown alternative exercises covered above build muscle without using a cable except for the cable overhead extension. 

A person can duplicate the cable overhead extension without a cable machine with home resistance cords that hook to the top of a door, so it’s possible to recreate it without a machine. 

Can Triceps Pushdown Alternatives Replace the Triceps Pushdown?

Yes, tricep pushdown alternatives can replace the tricep pushdown. The triceps pushdown is an exercise that targets the tricep muscles in the arms while also engaging the shoulder, back, chest, and core muscles. Any tricep pushdown alternative that targets the same exercise can replace the triceps pushdown. 

People who don’t have access to a cable and pulley machine, like those who work out at home, can’t do a standard triceps pushdown.

However, they can still get the full benefit of the triceps pushdown by using a tricep pushdown alternative that only uses dumbbells, a barbell, resistance bands, or their weight instead of equipment. 

Are Triceps Pushdown Alternatives Good for Elbow Health?

Yes, tricep pushdown alternatives are good for elbow health because most tricep cable pushdown alternative movements take pressure off the elbow to help prevent injury. Many tricep pushdown alternatives make it more difficult to lock the elbow and strain it, so fewer people hurt their elbows when using the modified exercises.

Tricep pushdown alternatives are good elbow exercises to build strength in the muscles around the elbow and help prevent injury while doing other movements. 

What Are the Triceps Pushdown Variations?  

The triceps pushdown variations use the same basic movement as the triceps pushdown with small changes that affect which part of the tricep muscle gets the most intense workout. 

A common variation is the tricep rope pushdown, making each arm work independently. Some people perform this variation with bands instead of a rope. A V-bar triceps pushdown variation uses the V-bar instead of a straight bar, changing the hand position. 

The underhand grip tricep pushdown variation involves gripping the straight bar with the palms facing instead of away. This exercise also works the biceps but puts the arm extension strain on the triceps muscle. 

Finally, the partial rep triceps pushdown variation requires partial movements instead of full extensions. This small movement creates a more intense focus on muscle control. 

These tricep pushdown alternative exercises aren’t variations on the tricep pushdown but different exercises that target the same muscles. 

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